So, there is a lot of talk on the Internet this week about a certain piece rife with rape apologia, written by a woman whose friend raped an unconscious woman but totally feels bad about it and didn’t know it was rape, you guys!!!
I’m not linking to the piece because I don’t want to give Those People any more traffic. All you need to know is that a person wrote a really long article explaining why her rapist friend is not really that bad of a guy because he totes feels bad for what he did, and engaged in victim-blaming while claiming she wasn’t engaging in victim-blaming. If you want to read the actual disgusting post in its entirety, I recommend a search engine.
Or, you can read other people’s takes on the article. Melissa McEwan has a fantastic, blunt post about this on Shakesville. Some highlights:
“It is eminently possible to talk about rapists as complex human beings without talking about them (inaccurately) as “good people who just happened to do a bad thing.” Rape is not an act that happens accidentally. Rapists, all rapists, are predators who are hostile to consent and spend plenty of time feeling out, as an explicit or unconscious strategy, how far they can push boundaries (sexual and otherwise) without consequence before they commit rape.
This absurd construct of a “good guy who just happened to rape someone because he hasn’t been taught any better” is comprehensive bullshit. Rapists are predators. And that is true whether it’s a serial rapist who carefully stalks specific victims, or whether it’s a “good guy” who exploits an opportunity to rape an unconscious woman.”
She also went on to say…
“there are two kinds of rapists, and the distinction is not, as the GMP and other rape apologists would have us believe, rapists who intend to rape and rapists who rape accidentally whoooooooops, but is in fact sadistic rapists, for whom the lack of a victim’s pleasure isn’t a bug but a feature, and opportunistic rapists, who are primarily sex-seeking rapists who coerce victims and/or exploit lack of consent by virtue of their victims having borderline or overtly impaired states of consciousness.”
Excellent, important delineation here.
Then I started thinking about my own BtVS and Consent series, and how I frame the discussions of rape in those episodes, and realized that there might be some confusion as to what I’m trying to accomplish in that series. I want to take this time to clear up any misconceptions that might be lingering.
Specifically, I want to talk about my decision to write about both “the mind of the perpetrator” and “the victim’s perspective.”
The reason I write about “the mind of the perpetrator” is to examine the reasons why the potential characters are committing rape or an act that is on par with a violation of consent. Looking at the reasons is NOT, in any way, an attempt to excuse the characters’ actions. In every case I write about, I believe the perpetrator is wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong, full stop.
I write about their reasons because I want to look at whether or not the characters are, as McEwan pointed out, sadistic rapists or opportunistic rapists. Some of them rape because they want to cause the other person pain. Others are not actively looking to cause pain to their victims – they simply don’t care about their victims at all. They want to have sex with their victims, and if their victims don’t want to have sex with them, oh well – they’re going to do it anyway.
I think a lot of conversations about rape, and motivations for rapists, often become unfortunately simplistic. People will either believe that rape is all about power and hurting victims, and ignore the opportunistic rapists who rape because they want to have sex, or they believe that rape is all about sex and ignore the existence of the sadistic rapists. I write about what the perpetrators are thinking because I want to emphasize that not all people rape for the same reasons.
This is also why I write “the mind of the perpetrator” and “the victim’s perspective.” I don’t write about “the perpetrator’s perspective” because I don’t want to imply a “he said, she said” (or, in the case of Faith and Xander, “she said, he said”) dynamic. I never want to imply that the perpetrator’s and victim’s feelings are just “two sides of the story.” I never want to imply that their reasons and feelings deserve equal weight and attention.
One of my goals in this series is to point out that, regardless of whether the rapist is a sadist or an opportunist, the victim is still hurt. The victim is not to blame no matter why the rapist rapes. The victim is still hurt, and affected, and changed, and abused. The victim is probably not going to be comforted to learn that hir rapist was an opportunist rather than a sadist, because it was still a violation of hir body and consent.
Katrina is not less hurt by Jonathan and Andrew than she is by Warren because Warren wanted revenge and Jonathan and Andrew “just” wanted sex. She might be hurt for different reasons, but she is not hurt less.
Riley is not less hurt by Faith because Faith was not actively trying to hurt him, and simply using him as a way to hurt Buffy. He might be hurt for different reasons, but he is not hurt less.
Buffy is not less hurt by Xander because Xander was possessed by a hyena, but…well, actually, yeah, she probably is less hurt. That’s not the best example. After I write about a few more individual episodes, I’m going to write specifically about the way rape/consent issues are portrayed on genre shows like BtVS, because there’s not really a real-life equivalent of “mystical animal possession,” is there?
So far, I haven’t had any negative responses to this BtVS and Consent series. I think people who read this series understand what I’m trying to accomplish. But with all the rape apologia garbage on the Internet and in the world, I wanted to clarify my purpose for this series, just in case someone reading did not understand why I wrote about “the mind of the perpetrator.”
[Blog note: There are only a few episodes left that I plan to cover - "Seeing Red" (the Big Kahuna of consent issue episodes), "Never Leave Me," "Get it Done," and "Chosen," and I'll write a few wrap-up posts after the episode reviews. Next week, there will be three non-Buffy-related posts before I take a two-week break for holiday celebrations/working on my novel. Thanks for reading, everyone.]