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.