Fuck this shit: “Take him to my bedchamber.”

A mild trigger warning for discussion of rape.

Just an FYI to anybody who’s creating a story that has heroes and villains and good versus evil and what not in it.

If your villain’s Kick The Dog moment is raping somebody, please edit that shit out before you subject your audience to that.

What the fuck do you expect people to think? “Wow, I knew about the vault of hearts, but I really didn’t think of the Evil Queen as all that bad until she had the huntsman taken to her bedchamber.”

Like, f’real, y’all?

If you’re gonna put it in a story, the least you can do is not trivialize it by turning it into a costume for your bad guy. And for fuck’s sake, if your villain has already been established as doing something really twisted and fucked up like, oh, collecting human hearts, you don’t need to tack on rape like it’s a cherry on top.

I’m focusing on Once Upon A Time because it really pissed me off when I saw that shit. Look, guys, we get it: the Evil Queen is a bad bitch and not to be fucked with. We saw that when she snatched the huntsman’s heart right out of his fucking chest!

Now, I’m not saying “Never have rape in your stories.” Look, I watch and enjoy movies like Once Were Warriors, Rob Roy, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which all have fairly graphic rape scenes. But in all of these instances, rape is an act with consequences both for the victim and the perpetrator. It’s not used as a shorthand for how OMG!grimdark the setting is or how BadEvilWrong the villain is.

For the people who can’t quite grasp that, here’s a shorthand version of whether or not to include rape in your story: if it’s not important to the plot, leave it the fuck out. If your story is not about rape and what it does to people, leave it the fuck out. If your story is not about how rape fits into systems of violence and oppression, leave it the fuck out. And if it still needs to be done, at least have the goddamn common decency not to treat it like a joke.

And, look, I know why that shit was written. A lot of straight dudes fantasize about being sexually dominated by a powerful, beautiful woman. Hell, I fantasize about that! What I don’t fantasize about is being forced to have sex with someone against my will if I want to live.

Don’t get me started on how that plays into a whole lot of fucked up misogynistic shit about women, especially women of color. Not to mention the fucked up shit about what it says about how rape happens.

Nah, I’m going there.

Beyond the hypersexualized woman of color who’s gotta have it (and will take it by force if she doesn’t get it when she needs it; nevermind how that’s been used to excuse or dismiss the rape and sexual assault of women of color)…

Beyond the fact that Regina must be an abomination of womanhood in addition to a flat-out villain (taking power through sex instead of giving up her own power; nevermind how that has been used as an excuse to keep women “pure” by keeping them powerless)…

Beyond taking a wink-wink, nudge-nudge attitude about the sexual assault role reversal (Statistically speaking, the huntsman was more likely to have been raped by the Evil Queen’s guards than by the Evil Queen herself)…

Beyond how the cartoonish, over-the-top way that this is portrayed trivializes the real horror of rape and sexual abuse, and the experiences of real survivors…

It’s the way it perpetuates the Stranger In The Bushes Waiting For An Innocent Victim assumptions about rape. It flies in the face of how rape actually happens in the real world, where the vast majority of sexual assaults happen where the victim knows and trusts the person. A friend, a family member, a spouse, a caretaker, an authority figure, and so on.

Somebody like, oh, I don’t know, an older gentleman–a king, perhaps–who ropes a young woman barely out of childhood herself into being a wife and mother (with all that implies) without getting her consent. As a husband, he’s nice enough. He doesn’t love her, and he doesn’t pretend to. But he sure likes to control where she goes and who she talks to. It’s almost like he doesn’t see her as a person but as a possession. But aside from a few people on Tumblr, we don’t really see people talking about that being rape and abuse, do we?

TL;DR version: if you make your villain rape someone just to prove how dangerous and evil they are, that’s some straight-up bullshit that has implications you may not want to associate with your story.

23 thoughts on “Fuck this shit: “Take him to my bedchamber.”

  1. It’s damned lazy writing (Terry Goodkind I’m looking at you and you thrive be-damned NOT!fantasy series). If you are so utterly incapable of making your villain look evil without a completely unnecessary, disrespectful, gratuitous rape scene then you suck as a writer or you have so little respect for the severity of rape – and the omnipresence of it – that you’re just going to throw it in there for the sake of it

    And I’m bewildered that it has to be there to make them seem “evil”. You mentioned the queen and her hearts but we’ve seen it time and again (especially in Goodkind), a villain can slaughter people left and right, torture, maim – but we need the rape for the seal of evil?

    • Yeah, it got to me too. Regina had already taken away the one thing that really mattered to the Huntsman, aside from the wolves, which was his freedom. Why the rape? It was stupid and needless, as though they were purposely colouring Regina as being deep and evil

        • On Further thought, another aspect of that throwaway line is that it was thoughtlessly added because there is a HUGE power dynamic in how we view men and women, so that when a man threatens rape, it’s much worse than when a woman threatens rape.

          I’ve seen this done in superhero comics too, specifically DC Comics. Green Arrow, Batman, Red Robin, and Nightwing were all raped at one point before DC’s reboot, but it was never treated with the same weight as when any of the women in DC Comics were raped, because hey, they’re men and they had sex with hot women, and all men want to have sex so it’s all okay.

          >_<

          So it works out the same way here, because rape from a woman is not seen as badly as rape from a man, so it's not treated the same. Thus, it most likely seemed like an easy, throwaway line for the writers to toss in to make Regina seem more evil but without any actual thought to the consequences.

          • I’d go even further in that it reflects how men’s sexuality (even when it’s sexual violence) is taken more seriously than women’s sexuality.

            That’s why a man who has sex with another man is GAY FOREVER no matter if he never does it again, and a woman who has sex with another woman is just going through a phase no matter how much she says she prefers it.

          • Yeah, that sounds spot on to me.

            As an aside, IIRC, they didn’t dare say Nightwing was raped, “merely” that someone had sex with him without his consent. Apparently there’s a big differeence if you’re a comic writer.

  2. If your story is not about rape and what it does to people, leave it the fuck out. If your story is not about how rape fits into systems of violence and oppression, leave it the fuck out. And if it still needs to be done, at least have the goddamn common decency not to treat it like a joke.

    *bows to the mistress*

  3. I guess this is the most concise way to put this other than “just don’t fucking write about rape”.

  4. *slowclap*

    and… yet another show i was considering watching that i’ll have to pass on until this round of EMDR is over. rape scenes of *any* set of genders always, always trigger me in visual media. sigh.

    i have to wonder – how much of it is because she’s POC, and how much because she’s a *woman*, and how much [as the combo] is because she’s a WOC? the three different-but-intersecting issues there… *shudder*.

    or was this, in part, because people were asking for the Queen and the huntsman to be shipped? [because any relationship that starts with rape is "good", right? why the hell do people think this? Stockholm Syndrome IS NOT LOVE!!!!!!!] but they feel they have to show the Queen being the more dominate one, and weren’t able to think of ANY other way to show this? [because women can't EVER have the power in a relationship...]

    ok, i’m getting mad again. i stop.

    but thank you for writing about this. and do you and commentors for the smart things already said.

  5. >>Beyond taking a wink-wink, nudge-nudge attitude about the sexual assault role reversal (Statistically speaking, the huntsman was more likely to have been raped by the Evil Queen’s guards than by the Evil Queen herself)…
    Actually, I really question your statistics here. I’ve done a depressingly large amount of reading on this subject, and it seems that (at least in cases of adult victimization) the odds are better that a man will be raped by a woman than by a man. Not to the same extreme gender skewing that women face, but still.

    See, for example, the CDC NISVS 2010 (which is pretty much the most conclusive study on the subject, despite the gross-ass way it calls certain varieties of rape “made to penetrate” rather than “rape”), which found: 1.4% men were the victims of drug-facilitated or attempted/completed physically-forced rape by penetration (i.e. rape wherein the victim was penetrated), of whom 93.3% were victimized exclusively by men, and 4.8% were the victims of drug-facilitated or attempted/completed physically-forced rape by envelopment (i.e. rape wherein the victim was forced to penetrate), of whom 79.2% were victimized exclusively by women. Roll those stats out a bit and it’s over 3:2 odds in a female rapist’s “favor”.

    Source: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/

    • So in a situation where a man is held captive, surrounded by men–let’s call it prison, for simplicity’s sake–he’s more likely to be sexually assaulted by the female warden than by the dozens/hundreds of male guards.

      O…K…

        • sexual activity and rape are two different things. i can definitely see female guards/employees having consensual sex with male prisoners but as far as nonconsensual sex goes, men have that shit on lock.

          • Even counting just “physical force, threat of force, fear of bodily injury, and being pressured or made to feel they had no choice” (what the report defines as “unwilling”): 42.2% of all victims were men victimized solely by women, and another 10.9% were men victimized by both male and female staff; only 23.1% were men victimized solely by male staff (the other 23.8% were female victims). In other words, most (55.4%) male victims were victimized only by female staff.

            • What you are trying to force a discussion about is not the topic of the original post. If you wish to discuss whether or not men are equally at risk of sexual assault and rape from women, feel free to do so on your own blog instead of derailing the point of the post, which is how using rape as a costume for a villain, particularly a woman of color, reinforces sexism, misogyny, and racism.

            • Wait, you’re honestly trying to claim that women do more raping in a male prison than other male guards/staff/inmates?

              Yeah and tell me the statistics of female inmates and the hell they go through.

  6. I had more thoughts about this, so I’m reposting what I wrote on Tumblr.

    What gets me is how it completely decontextualizes rape.

    It erases how rape fits into systems of violence, domination, and oppression and more about how awful and messed up this one person is.

    As long as we associate power with masculinity, rape will always be a particularly gendered violation regardless of the gender of the rapist(s). Yes, men get raped too. But it’s telling that OUAT fandom by and large takes this frankly fantastical representation of rape more seriously than a young woman barely out of childhood being coerced into marriage (and the sexual “duties” that implies) with a white man who wields tremendous political, social, and financial power over her (which I write about over here).

    Of course, having the powerful, assertive woman of color do this to the sweet, passive pretty white boy has all kinds of fucked up implications. Those implications have real-world consequences because they shape our ideas about how rape happens, who does it, who it happens to, whether it gets reported/prosecuted, the chances of seeking help, etc. When it comes to women of color and communities of color, these ideas can make it harder for women of color who experience rape.

    It’s pretty chilling to think about, actually.

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