Trigger Warnings: References to rape in the media.
I don’t watch TV or movies with rape in it. Period. End of story. That means I am very often disappointed.
I really wanted to like the TV show Vikings, but after the first couple of episodes, with the casual depiction of rape, and rape attempts, I stopped coming back. I hear there might be some sort of story telling point to all the rape, but it’s not something I’m willing to watch to get to.
Game of Thrones? Yeah, no thank you. I’m sure there are ten thousand ravening fans out there willing to tell me exactly how Game of Thrones needs rape in it, but I am not interested.
Hell, after a friend went on an on about how great the Netflix show named Hemlock Grove was I tried watching it. I asked them if there were any rape scenes in it, and was told no. Then I got to the rape-tastic parts. Apparently rape is so ubiquitous in media that they hadn’t really noticed, but were really sorry in failing to warn me.
I avoid rape media, and it’s not always easy because it is so damn prevalent. It’s not like depictions of sexual assault, usually against women, are rare. It’s everywhere. It’s so common, it’s not even announced or warned against sometimes. There is such a steady background count of this kind of media, it’s easy to become desensitized to it.
Even worse, I have to constantly explain this choice to avoid rape in the media I consume to all sorts of people. It’s like they find my extreme aversion to rape media to be a weird personality trait. I am often treated as if I am making too much of things, or that I’m being a bother when it comes time for communal movie watching.
Yet for me, rape and sexual assault isn’t a way to tell a story. It’s just one of countless insensitive stories using a very real problem in some trite excuse for writing. Even if you take out the horror of trivializing an act with such huge impact, I feel that media at large has been beating this dead horse for far too long. It seems like you can’t have a woman on screen without her being sexually assaulted. As if there aren’t any other stories to tell about women.
The worst for me, however, are the people who argue that this pervasive over saturation of rape media is something we should accept. These folks can look me in the face and tell me that this is fine, and I’m making too much of things. The arguments are so familiar to me, I can recount them in my sleep.
There is the argument that if we don’t show rape, then we are stifling creativity in our authors. For some reason the people who argue this with me always want to yell about censorship. That sexual assault isn’t that common, and if we can’t show rape on TV, then what will be left for character motivation?
Another argument that get’s trotted out is that in the time or place of the show, such as Game of Thrones, rape happened, and showing sexual assault is just a reflection of that world. Apparently, these people can envision a world of dragons, but not a world were sexual assault isn’t the inevitable end for a feminine character.
Then there is the media itself that downplays the rapes it depicts. How many romance novels show a woman being taken by force, only to fall for her assailant? This is showcased again and again. How absolutely perverse is it to show the idea that a person can be raped, and it’s justified after the fact because the victim falls in love?
It’s also used as a motivation for the masculine hero. His girlfriend, mother, or sister is raped, and he has to take vengeance. In this scenario the female character is often just a cardboard cutout for the masculine character’s motivation, taking away agency from the victim even further.
For me, it’s very weird that folks react like I’m the one with the problem when I say I won’t watch rape media. This is because I can’t understand why they aren’t sick of it, too. I don’t understand why they accept it, and put their time and money towards products that depict rape. I think it’s perverse to watch countless rapes in countless movies, TV shows, or read it in books. Perhaps even more so to be so jaded that it no longer registers as problematic.
Several years back, I had my fill, and I decided that no movie, book, or show that depicted rape or sexual assault was worth my time or money. I don’t feel I’ve missed a thing. In fact, I feel I’ve gained some valuable perspective.
I would urge an experiment for anyone that reads this. Try for one year to avoid all rape and sexual assault in the media you consume. It’s not forever, and you can always go back at the end of the year, but I guarantee you it will be eye opening just how ubiquitous it is.