Earlier today I came across the following post which caused me to think about whether I, as a writer have a moral responsibility regarding my writing, http://dverted.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/a-writers-moral-responsibility-what-is.html. Do I bare any moral responsibility if a reader of one of my stories takes it upon himself to break the law?
To take a concrete example. In my story, Samantha, http://www.amazon.com/Samantha-K-Morris-ebook/dp/B00BL3CNHI, Sam is date raped and blackmailed into becoming a prostitute. To ensure authenticity I researched GHB (a date rape drug) and included in my story details of how the drug works. Am I morally culpable if a reader of Samantha takes what I have written concerning GHB and employs that knowledge to commit rape? The answer has to be no as the information concerning GHB is freely available online (I gleaned my information from a site aimed at warning women of the dangers of date rape and furnishing information on how to avoid being subjected to it). Most people accessing such information will do so for legitimate reasons (E.G. to avoid becoming a victim of crime). A minority will, however access the information with the malign intent to commit a criminal act. This is deplorable and anyone guilty of rape ought to be severely punished. Rape destroys lives (literally)! Having said that I can not be held responsible if someone uses information contained in Samantha to commit the horrendous crime of rape. Where writers to be held liable for the actions of the mentally ill or the criminally minded we would, as authors be constantly looking over our shoulders (watching what we write) and the creative process would wither and die. Samantha merely reflects what, sadly happens all to frequently up and down the land, the story holds up a mirror to society, it is not responsible for what is reflected back however ugly the reflection may be.
In my story The First Time, http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-First-Time-K-Morris-ebook/dp/B00FJGKY7Y, Becky, a young graduate becomes an escort (a kind of prostitute) in order to pay off her creditors. If a student or graduate saddled with debt reads The First Time and sees in it a way out of their money problems am I responsible in any manner for their decision to enter the sex industry? Again the answer has to be an emphatic no. The First Time does, as with Samantha hold up a mirror to society reflecting it back, warts and all. Students are getting into debt and an admittedly tiny proportion of them are turning to various forms of sex work including (but not limited to) prostitution. It is the financial situation in which female (and a few male) students find themselves, not my writing which acts as the catalyst for their entry into prostitution.
So do we as writers have any moral responsibility? To me the primary role of the writer is to tell a good story without pulling any punches. The writer who Is constantly fearful of the reaction of others will not give of their best. The fact of the matter is that someone, somewhere will be offended by something or other. We can not, as authors be forever walking on egg shells. We do, however have a duty to be true to ourselves, to tell the best tale we can and to behave with integrity.