[Note: I'm writing a series about consent issues in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I will post a new entry in this series every month. In this series, I will look at an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that deals with rape, sexual assault, or consent issues as a main plot point or as a featured event of the episode. I will examine these episodes in chronological order. If, in my writing of this series, you feel that I have skipped an episode that should be a part of this series, feel free to submit a guest post, and I will consider publishing it.]
INCIDENT: Um…invisible sex
PARTICIPANTS: Buffy and Spike
The specifics: The Trio of Doom accidentally turns Buffy invisible. One of the first things she does upon turning invisible is stop by Spike’s crypt. She shoves him and pins him against the wall. He doesn’t know what’s going on until she kisses his neck, and then recognizes her as Buffy. They have sex in his bed while she’s invisible. Then he asks her to leave, saying, “If I can’t have all of you, I’d rather-” then he looks down and says, “Okay, that’s cheating,” implying that she’s now giving him oral sex.
What does this episode say about misogyny and rape culture?
I’m skipping a few categories when writing about this episode because a) I’m not sure this really counts as a consent issue, b) this is the dumbest episode in the series, and c) I need to save up my energy for when I write about “Dead Things” (oy) and “Seeing Red” (OY). But I have seen people talk about this episode as one that makes them uncomfortable because of the way invisible Buffy is sexually aggressive with Spike, so I thought I’d address the issue here.
First of all, I don’t think the writers would have ever attempted an episode where Spike was the one who turned invisible and shoved Buffy against a wall. (They did attempt an episode where he tried to rape her on her bathroom floor, but that’s a few posts from now.) With the genders reversed and Spike’s history of stalking, invisible Spike shoving Buffy against a wall and ripping her shirt open would not be played for comedy. That would come across as assault. That probably would be assault.
Yet I have a hard time categorizing Buffy’s behavior as assault – not because she’s a woman, but because of the history between her and Spike. This seems to fall in the same pattern that she and Spike have established so far. He follows her, she rejects him, he gets annoyed and promises that she’ll come to him eventually, and then she comes to him.
I also don’t see Spike refusing the first time, when she shoves him against the wall. He is an active participant in that sex, even if he doesn’t feel great about it afterwards. When he says that he doesn’t want her unless he can have “all of her,” and she shuts him up by going down on him – well, I’m not sure what to make of that. A part of me wants to question if this is really fair to Spike and if his wishes are being ignored here, or if it’s fair of Buffy to assume that he didn’t really mean that he didn’t want it. The other part of me doesn’t want to talk about this episode anymore because it’s SO dumb, the dumbest episode ever, and would rather let the readers decide.
What do you make of this episode when analyzing the consent issues at play?