There are a lot of people up in arms over the rape scene in Game of Thrones this week. I’m hearing a lot of “how dare they show a rape”. Now, yeah, I get it. Glorifying rape culture isn’t cool, and no one wants to do that. But here’s the thing. Game of Thrones didn’t glorify it. They showed it. And we all looked and said, “Oh, no, that’s rape.”
Now the folks who are up in arms because ‘Jaime wouldn’t rape anyone, and that’s not how it came down in the books’? I gotta say, yes, you’re spot on. But the show characters are, by necessity, a bit different than what’s portrayed in the book, so let’s move on from that, shall we? And look at why the portrayal was actually done well, (and I think that it was very well done), and actually was a good thing.
But Lizette, you’re a woman! How can you say such a thing?
Here’s how I can say that. The truth, the ugly nasty horrible truth is this: Rape happens. It happens, and it can be life-changing, even life-destroying, not just for the victim but for the people in their lives. As writers, filmmakers, and artists, as those who paint portraits of real-life things that happen, we can’t pretend that it doesn’t. We can’t just say, “Oh, no one is ever raped in my stories! Sexual violence is bad!” and pretend that it reflects real life.
According to RAINN (www.rainn.org) in the United States someone is sexually assaulted every TWO minutes! 2 Minutes. Think about that. While you were heating up your frozen WeightWatchers lunch in the microwave, 2 people were sexually assaulted in the US alone. We can’t sweep that under the rug. We can’t pretend that rape doesn’t happen. That sexually icky things don’t happen. That everything is always rosy and peachy and sweet in the world where sex is concerned.
Did you watch Game of Thrones last night and see Jaime rape Cersei? And did you think, “My god, he’s raping her! Why can’t he see that he’s raping her? Why isn’t he stopping? Why isn’t anyone coming to her aid?”
If you did, then you thought the right things. You asked the right questions. Because having counseled enough rape victims, I can tell you that those are the questions that were going through the victim’s head at the time. Why doesn’t he see that he’s hurting me? Why won’t he stop? Why isn’t anyone rescuing me?
And if a scene in a popular tv-show made you stop and ask yourself those questions and then turn and look at the person next to you and ask those questions, and then come to the internet and ask those questions, then it did exactly what it needed to. It got people asking that question.
I write erotica. I play with the boundaries between consent and non-con, but in most of my works, I make a strong conscious decision to never cross that line. My characters tend to be willing participants. When I do portray a rape, it is an actual rape, and it is not glorified, it is not sexually exciting, and there are consequences for everyone involved.
Not having a “rape culture” does not mean not portraying rape. It means portraying rape in such a way that it makes others want to END rape, once and for all. It means to stop asking ourselves, “Why isn’t anyone coming to her aid?” and to start coming to the aid of the victims. To start listening. To start watching. To start paying attention.
Shows like Law & Order SVU and Criminal Minds have been doing this for a long time, but the difference with these shows is that you always know that Olivia and Finn and Munch and Hotch and Spencer and Morgan and JJ are there, and they are on the victim’s side, there to protect, defend, and find justice. With ‘Game of Thrones’, the rapist wasn’t some nameless ‘perp’ or ‘unsub’. It was someone we like- (Face it, we all like Jaime, and all the moreso because he’s played by the amazing Nikolaj.) – and we’re left asking ourselves, ‘How could he not see what he was doing?’
Did you know that most women are raped by, yes, someone they know? Someone they like. And most likely, by someone YOU know and YOU like. Someone who may not think of what they did as rape. A rapist is often not some ‘perp’, but someone’s brother, father, best buddy, husband, coworker, classmate, friend. And Olivia Benson and Aaron Hotchner weren’t there to stop it. Were you? Did you see and do nothing? Or did you think it ‘wasn’t a big deal’? Or maybe you just couldn’t believe someone you know, someone like Jaime Lannister, would rape someone?
The people up in arms about the rape on television aren’t up in arms about the right thing. Stop being angry that there was a rape on your television, and start being angry that there was a rape in your neighborhood, on your street, in your workplace, and in your schoolyard. End Rape Culture by portraying rape as what it is. Until every single person on this planet has someone on their side, protecting them from rape, rape is going to continue to happen.
Be someone’s Olivia & Finn. Be someone’s Hotch and JJ. Look at the ugly, and step up to it. Because until you do, the ‘rape culture’ isn’t going to end.
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