Last month I was invited to the RealStars event: Trafficking in the Real World and in Popular Culture. I was asked to talk about mine and Katarina Gregersdotter’s book: Rape in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and Beyond, in which eleven researchers analyze rape and sexual violence in crime thrillers. During the evening, the audience listened to very powerful stories about women at risk. As a literary scholar, this gave me insight into a world which on one hand is very alien but on the other seems very familiar since I see it in the detective stories I read.
The first part of the event was dedicated to information and discussion about a notorious trafficking-case in Gothenburg. A number of important questions were raised. Members of the audience asked questions about the difficulty of understanding how abuse and prostitution alter the mindset of the victim, and how to get a hold of the customers in order to prevent them from buying sex. I think books can help a great deal in both cases.
There are often complaints about how detective stories glorify violence towards women or constitute some kind of violence-pornography – but it also provides the possibility of giving us insight into the life-situation of women at risk and help us understand behaviors that otherwise could be considered unimaginable. I also want to (perhaps somewhat naively) believe that literature can help change attitudes in society and in the long run, make the idea that someone can buy another person unthinkable.
After taking part in RealStars’ event, I have great admiration for their work and I am extremely grateful for my chance to contribute.
Berit Åström, literary scholar
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