From The Writers' Room Featuring Geek Actually

Cecilia Tan on Writing Geek Actually Episode 12 “System Failure”

Episode 12 is by far the heaviest of all the Geek Actually chapters. Three major breakdowns in sexual situations happen, and that’s putting it mildly: content warning for sexual assault and harassment. I got nominated to be the one on the writing team to handle this one because my writing always deals with issues of consent. Most of that writing is erotica where that consent is clearly stated and honored, a theme that I’ve always felt isn’t emphasized enough in romance and women’s fiction. So-called “classic” romance novels and the “50 Shades” of the world portray women having their boundaries crossed and gaining pleasure from it. I’m fine with readers using those boundary-crossed situations as an escape from the guilt that they associate with sexual agency. But in Geek Actually we have heroines who feel no guilt over their sexual agency. Their inner angst and conflicts about sex are coming from other directions.

In Geek Actually it was my job to portray what goes wrong in three difficult, disparate situations, in each case the breakdown coming down to people’s boundaries being transgressed. Michelle crosses a sub’s boundaries when she makes faulty assumptions about his expectations and her role. Christina thinks she knows what’s out of bounds in her relationship with Vivi, until Vivi moves the goalposts. And Elli doesn’t realize her boundaries are being breached by a con acquaintance until it’s too late.

These were hard scenes to write, not least of which because each of our heroines questions whether it is her own fault that she is in the situation she’s in. Society would dismissively blame each of them automatically. Elli shouldn’t have done this, Michelle shouldn’t have done that, Christina shouldn’t have said this, Elli shouldn’t have said that, worn that, gone there, et cetera. I hope the message comes through that NO, these women don’t “deserve” the suffering they go through. They each have lessons to learn, but that lesson is NOT that sex is evil or that if you get raped/fucked over/dumped you deserved it for not being “normal.”

The women in Geek Actually don’t have society’s support. But they have each other’s. And that’s what makes all the difference.

What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments or leave us a review on Goodreads.
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