True Blood: A Werepanther Rape is Not a "Sex Scene"

Last night's episode of True Blood contained the usual outrageous plot twists and soap opera-levels of drama, which is great and which is why I (and probably you if you're reading this) look forward to summer Sunday nights. However, it also contained a totally fucked-up gang rape scene which the show's creators (and many media outlets) are calling anything but.

(Trigger warning for descriptions of rape in the rest of this post.)

For those of you who didn't see the episode but don't mind some spoilers, here's a brief recap: Jason Stackhouse is being held hostage by the people of Hot Shot, who are one-dimensional "hillbilly" characters in every way—they eat raw squirrel, they are always inexplicably dirty, they have crooked teeth and exaggerated accents, etc.—except one: They're werepanthers (yep, in Bon Temps that is totally a thing). Because of some serious inbreeding issues, they need to introduce new genes into the werepanther pool so Crystal, Jason's former love interest, drugs him while he's tied to a bed unconscious, and the women of Hot Shot line up to rape him in the hopes of getting pregnant.

HBO sums the scene up thusly:

With Jason gashed, feverish, and tied to a bed, Crystal feeds him Mexican Viagra. As he goes in and out of consciousness, he becomes aware that Crystal is having sex with him, and there is a line of Hot Shot women at the door waiting to do the same. With all the sincerity he can muster, he tells Crystal he wished he never laid eyes on her.

Does that sound like a sex scene to you?

Jason Stackhouse screaming, tied to a bed
Um... no.

Well, most recaps of last night's episode (the Washington Post, the LA Times, Vulture, Rolling Stone) are referring to it as a "sex scene" or a "disturbing sex scene" or even as Jason and Crystal "consummating" their relationship. Now, I know that we're talking about werepanthers, and True Blood is by no means a documentary, but it's upsetting to see so many people dismiss or even laugh at the scene just because Jason is a man who is known for bragging about his sexual prowess. Would they feel similarly lighthearted about the whole thing if Sookie or Tara had been tied to the bed while the men of Hot Shot raped them in the hopes of having werepanther babies? Probably not.

Here's a clip that shows part of the scene and also shows writer Alan Ball and director David Petrarca describing it as Jason getting his "comeuppance" for his sexual history:

Again, True Blood is a show that's full of taboos and has a reputation for over-the-top sex scenes, and I get that (hey, I'm a fan). However, when a rape clearly occurs onscreen and we call it something else, that contributes to a culture that says straight men can't be victims of rape, especially if they're young and attractive and enjoy sex with women. Newsflash, True Blood writers, directors, and recappers: If someone is tied to a bed and drugged and forced to have sex against his will, that's rape. Even if it is with werepanthers.

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Comments

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This is all of the yikes.

This is all of the yikes.

That's really disappointing

That's really disappointing how it's been marketed. It seemed so obvious to me, and I thought they were doing it on purpose. I wonder how they'll treat it from here out...

I really do think that they

I really do think that they did on purpose. epsecially since there was also one moment of domestic abuse (Jessica clearly abuses Hoyt physically and mentally).

I agree, I'm honestly shocked

I agree, I'm honestly shocked that this had to be clarified. It seemed like a straightforward rape to me. He was even drugged with Viagra, to make it clear that Crystal had prepared for him to be unaroused by her decision to assault and rape him. I think the idea of rape as appropriate "comeuppance" for past wrongdoings is fucked up beyond belief, although I guess we have already accepted this as a reality in our jails, so why would I expect better for our TV shows? True Blood seems to have trouble with the idea of rape - sometimes they're right on in clearly portraying the importance of consent (i.e. Sookie accusing Eric of fang-raping her), and sometimes they fall into the same line where if the rapist is attractive enough or the genders are reversed, it can't possibly be rape.

It's straight up slut-shaming

It's straight up slut-shaming is what it is.

I'm really surprised to hear

I'm really surprised to hear that the creators weren't deliberately trying to portray it as a straight rape scene, because that's just how it came across to me. Weird.

"Sort of used against his will" = rape

Soooo disappointed with Alan Ball who claims that Jason was "sort of used against his will." I expect True Blood to be edgy and fun, not stupid.

It never occured to me or my

It never occured to me or my husband that this was supposed to be a rape scene. I don't get the fear of using the term. And Jason being slut-shamed by the writers is frankly a little sickening.

Not tagged for rape

Apparently, HBO didn't give the episode an "RP" tag, either. Incredibly frustrating.

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I'm so glad I stopped

I'm so glad I stopped watching this show. I barely made it through season 1 and it sounds like it just keeps getting worse.

I love the show, but that

I love the show, but that went too far. What if it had been the other way around and Crystal had been tied down, drugged, and then forced to have sex against her will? I'm pretty sure that not only would that not have been shown, but if it had, it most certainly would have been called 'rape'.

Describing it as Jason getting his 'comeuppance' is tantamount to 'She was asking for it.'

Other than that, I quite enjoyed last night's episode.

True Blood

Remember in season one (or maybe two?) when Bill crawled out of the ground and had sex with Sookie, but it was dark and she didn't know it was him right away? Yeah. That was kind of rapey too.

Well to be fair, she saw that

Well to be fair, she saw that it was him when he said "Sookie!" and she turned around and kissed him.

Having finally seen the

Having finally seen the episode, I have to say that yeah it's pretty clear that this isn't sex, it's rape. It looks like the show's going to take this as seriously as Tara being held hostage and raped by the British vampire guy whose name I can't recall.

However, the dancing around being done by the creators and media outlets only reminds that male rape isn't taken as seriously as it should be. By calling it a "twisted sex scene", the implication is that women cannot rape men, which is obviously wrong on so many levels.

Taking a look at a couple of the comments, I have to ask--is Alan Ball slut-shaming Jason really the equivalent of a woman being slut-shamed? That to me implies that men and women are on equal footing when it comes to something like this, which I just don't see as being true. A man being referred to as a slut doesn't carry the same pejoratives as the same being done to a woman.

Also Ball's take on the matter as Jason getting his comeuppance seems like a sort of stereotypical radical feminist story. Oh, the womanizer ends up on the receiving end and maybe he won't be such a womanizer afterwards? Please do go on.

No you didn't...

I have to ask--is Alan Ball slut-shaming Jason really the equivalent of a woman being slut-shamed? That to me implies that men and women are on equal footing when it comes to something like this, which I just don't see as being true.

Excuse me? I think the only remotely civil response is to quote the last sentence of the original post again: "If someone is tied to a bed and drugged and forced to have sex against his will, that's rape. Even if it is with werepanthers."

And it is never, ever acceptable to tell ANY rape survivor that they got their "comeuppance" for screwing around. There is no sliding scale for sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, class or any other damn thing.

Or let me put it in 'True Blood' terms: Slut-shaming a straight, white cis-male gang-raped by women like Jason is no more or less unacceptable than 'slut-shaming' Tara or Sookie or a non-cis gay man of colour like Lafayette. And perhaps I'm more than a little naive, but I'm really sad that an out gay man like Alan Ball needs to be reminded of that.

Yeah you missed my

Yeah you missed my point.

Slut-shaming a woman for being sexually active= Bad.
Slut-shaming a man for being sexually active= Not exactly the same thing.

Forget the werepanther rape (which yes I agree is rape, I said so already) in this instance and any notion of comeuppance. That's not what I'm talking about.

I don't know about you but I see slut as being gender-specific. We live in a culture that has deemed a slut to be a woman who dares to enjoy sex or be sexual in any way. There's no shame for a man when he chooses to be a sexual person. Sure you can call him a slut but do you also think calling white people crackers is going to cause them much harm?

Plenty of slut shaming to go around

I see what you're getting at 1st Anonymous and I had the same reaction that 2nd Anonymous kinda unfairly jumped on your shit. I wouldn't go so far as to say slut shaming is gender-specific, but I do agree that it carries a heavier sting for women than men. I disagree that men are never punished or shamed for their promiscuity (Anthony Wiener?), but I do see the shame and punishment that women receive as often more harsh, especially in the ways their character is attacked.
I think that comes into play when we, as a culture, seem uncomfortable acknowledging that men can be raped, and even more uncomfortable when it comes to acknowledging that women can rape men. Ultimately, the common problem seems to be the idea that certain people can't be raped (e.g. lady sluts or dude sluts, or dudes in general). The problem is the victim blaming inherit in believing that these things about a victim make the incident not a rape. Consent is so glaringly absent in the True Blood example. Why would anyone involved in creating or promoting the show tip toe around describing it as rape?

I got you point, I just don't accept it.

There's no shame for a man when he chooses to be a sexual person.

M'kay. I guess I really missed Alan Ball's point when he wrote Chris Cooper's murderously homophobic (and closeted) character in American Beauty. Or the emotionally shut-down David Fisher in Six Feet Under. There might be no shame in being gay (or trans, or non-cis) in Alan Ball's neighbourhood, and that's a very good thing. If he lives somewhere that homophobic violence, and sexual assault of men, is taken very seriously by the police and courts even better. He just might like to get outside his own privilege, and think about what his show is saying to male rape victims who aren't as luck as he is.

do you also think calling white people crackers is going to cause them much harm?

First, I really don't think you want to get into that with someone of mixed-race heritage - I'm zero tolerance about racist and demeaning abuse directed at anyone. I don't really see the point of the analogy either.

Jumping in...

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to step in and let people know that I moderated some comments on this thread because they were moving toward a "cracker vs. slut" comparison and away from a discussion of the topic at hand.

Thanks!
Kelsey

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Not Rape of Men: Rape by Women

Yes, let's talk about privilege, Craig.

The difference isn't that men can't be raped, it's that rape by a woman carries different cultural and sexual connotations than rape by a man. The kind of moral rank you're trying to pull is a bit more complex than shifting all your "rape is bad" baggage -- as though anyone on earth would disagree with that -- onto a seriously different situation and pretending they are the same.

As "unlucky" as male victims of this female rape are -- which you seem to think of as a widespread scourge, despite female aggressors being named in less than 1% of rapes reported -- I would hate to accuse you of speaking from the privilege of somebody who's never been raped by a man: Even less lucky, as it turns out, than those of us who have been gang-raped by entire towns of panther women.

When you were a little boy, were you socialized with the tacit understanding that every woman in your life might be a possible sexual aggressor? Do you exist in a culture where women are culturally and financially dominant, and capable of misusing their authority to force your sexual consent? I sure wasn't. I was raised to understand the power differential between men and women, and to be wary of my place in it -- and when I identified as gay, my feminist mother was very proud to have taught me those lessons.

Male rape, of men and women, is a cultural fact. We are raised in a society that condemns and condones it, and are raised -- boys and girls -- to fear and protect ourselves against the possibility. We have created our own systems of support and comfort for those who have lived through this trauma. (Not that this has anything to do with gay-bashing, which you seem to have introduced solely as a last-ditch grab at outrage authenticity.)

Not to mention the fact that less than one single woman involved was acting out of her own agency. He wasn't the only one getting raped in that scenario -- it's just that he's the only male getting raped, which somehow seems to be more problematic for some viewers than the fact that you're watching a literal rape culture force children to have sex with adults. Maybe that's too commonplace to even be worth remarking on?

The hue and cry about Jason's female rape trivializes the actual rape by men -- of both men and women -- that happens every day in this country. Hotshot has given us horrible images, horrible acts: But it's greatly oversimplified to equate very different situations as though they were equal. Forced 1:1 equivalencies rarely work, but especially not in the economy of gender -- and it's dangerous, and IMO hinders the project of feminism itself, to act as though things are yet any different.

So, Jacob, I need to STFU

So, Jacob, I need to STFU about sexualised violence perpetrated by women against men because 1) it doesn't happen that much and 2) women have it worse? You might want to sit down and think a little about how rape culture, misogyny,, homophobia, racism and classism are intimately intertwined. I'm very sincerely offended at the idea that there's anything pro-woman about saying, in effect, sexual abuse perpetrated by women against men is not really that serious.

BTW, you might want to get on Google and check out what I've had to say about True Blood's generally fucked up treatment of rape, full stop and period. (IMO and YMMV) About the only think you can say in favour about this season of TB is at least the only woman of colour in the regular cast has got a plotline that doesn't revolve around being physically and sexually tortured. Yet.

I don't want to get too much

I don't want to get too much in your shit but...
Your comment is very dangerous because it implies that a man being a slut is almost always a desirable thing.

Lets see, "a slut" is someone who enjoys sex with lots of different partners, In that context that would be the same as "a stud", as Jason was described as, with the social problem being the common belief, someone can't be raped if they enjoy sex too much.

On this context(as in an after rape event) they are basically the same thing. If you "stud shame" Jason you are essentially refusing to recognize him as a victim.(Or is it "Stud priding"?).
Just imagine him going to the police to report this: "So i was gang raped by all this women...", "oh Jason you stud, way to go". Or So it would go...

By thinking male "studs" in an almost positive light you are doing the same thing as slut shaming, and why partially Hbo doesn't consider this rape.

Yes, it is the same to

Yes, it is the same to slut-shame Jason. He's not calling him a whore because he sleeps with girls he meets at a bar. No one believes people when they call guys that for promiscuity, or believes that they really see them as "dirty" as women who do the same.

However, he is saying a rape victim "sorta, kinda, am I right, guys?" deserved it, which is incredibly inappropriate and harmful.

I think that this is

I think that this is disgusting. I read all of the books and let me tell you..this is not in the book. Infact Jason is attacked by a random werepanther. This is the second rape like scene that this series has done. Season one had Jason with a ski mask over his head acting as though he broke into character Dawn's apartment.

Which was a rape fantasy,

Which was a rape fantasy, totally not the same thing. It was consensual between the two. If I recall correctly.

They did call it rape here on

They did call it rape here on the Inside True Blood Blog. (I can't post the link because it is triggering the spam filter.)

What I'm hearing/reading ...

... is that what's inappropriate here is the way the makers of True Blood tried to diminish or trivialise the scene (as not being "rape-rape" to quote Whoopi) rather than an objection to the scene itself. I hope this is correct.

This is the first True Blood critique I've read since I started watching/reading Sookie's stories. I wasn't aware of the reaction to Tara's rape by Franklin, but i never thought of it as anything BUT rape.

The world of True Blood (and in fact the books), however, projects an entirely different reality and norm than "real life". I have no problem with the show depicting the violence of other "races" (really other races; the concept of different human races is biologically bogus-- we're all ONE race, the human race) that are vampires and were-animals and shifters is, I think, part of the social commentary.

We can't expect the same or even comparable moralities when dealing with such creatures. In fact, this is an issue that Sookie struggles with much more in the books than in the show.

So I'm glad to see that the criticism is of the makers' seeming desire to lessen the impact rather than against the show itself-- if I'm correct in my interpretation?

The world of True Blood and The world of Rape Culture

The world of True Blood (and in fact the books), however, projects an entirely different reality and norm than "real life".

And here's where I'm not swallowing that argument. If you want to be a smart-alec about it, no television drama is "real life". Not Battlestar Galactica - which has a arc in its second season revolving around the gang rape-torture of two (female) Cylon prisoners. Medical soaper Private Practice is hardly a documentary, but had a plotline about a doctor refusing to report being raped by a patient. Sons of Anarchy, you could argue, presents an "entirely different reality and norm" from the experience of most people. But Gemma's brutal kidnapping and rape wasn't presented as deserved "comeuppance" for her white-trash sluttiness as the matriarch of a bikie gang.

Hell, when you get right down to it how many police/forensic procedurals are on air that wouldn't exist without an endless parade of victims of sexual and physical abuse?

Alan Ball - and the writers of True Blood - aren't vampires, or were-anythings or fairies. They're real live human beings in a world where rape culture is real and damaging. And as a geek, I'm not giving them a pass on perpetuating that culture because, hey, it's a fantasy show and a pretty raunchy one at that.

IMO, this isn't the first time True Blood has dished up rape culture as entertainment and I'm sick of it.

A Boy and his Dog - Harlan Ellison

Nobody remembers the past?

Don Johnson has the same thing happen to him in the movie version of "A Boy and his Dog", in 1975!

Except they were extremist survivalists instead of werepanthers, but they still needed a boost to the limited gene pool.

Unfortunate

It's unfortunate that the creators don't feel like standing by this a rape scene. Jason is clearly a victim show and no behavior shows that he finds his situation in any way positive. It's disturbing that gender keeps people from seeing or acknowledging this as a rape scene.

It's strange, even, that they would have Jason "play this straight" and then talk about it as though it's no biggie, not a rape. As far as I can tell, Jason is not a rapist... so he's not getting "comeuppance." This is beyond being "objectified" and it's not appropriate to laugh at someone being "used against their will." Also, the way it is phrased makes it sound like people who use their sexuality or care about their sexuality too much, or are just "too sexual" by whatever standard they are being judged on, deserves what they get if they are raped.

I love Alan Ball's shows, but when I listen to the motivation, I am sometimes turned off.

Kelsey, I agree with you

Kelsey, I agree with you 100%. I thought the same thing. It's very wrong the way society thinks if this as a "sex" scene. Rape is rape, and it is nerver justified.

why are you all mad?

So much shit happens on this show and on TV in general, then rape happens and all of yall get mad? calm down seriously... oh wait this website is called bitch magazine, I guess you all have the right to bitch, never-mind.

Please tell me that was in

Please tell me that was in jest.... rape happens and all of us get mad? Of course we're going to get mad! Rape is a BIG deal! And on top of it the double standards between men and women, how people perceive men to be unable to get raped, and then Alan Ball pretty much confirming that double standard.

And this blog is a criticism of pop culture. It's not bitching, it's giving criticism and analyzing pop culture. I don't know why you wasted your time coming to a blog about criticizing pop culture, and then whine when we *shock* criticize pop culture!

WTF?

Why is there always someone yelling because we're doing exactly what was in the "About" page? Seriously, no one is forcing you to be on this site, so go away. Unless of course you're scared that we might actually affect others' views and thus threaten your status quo by decreasing sexism.

And FYI, people are annoyed that the rape scene keeps getting referred to as a "sex scene" rather than calling it what it was, i.e. rape. If you had read the article you might have noticed that. This is a real world problem, people often refuse to call something rape if it doesn't confirm to gender stereotypes, if the victim wasn't a virgin, is the victim had been drinking, or wore make up. What we ask is that people call use the proper term for non-consensual sex, rape.

Hardly surprising given that

Hardly surprising given that prison rape, which is now at epidemic levels in a country where >2m men are in prison, is still the subject of levity on late night comedy. I find this article a little nonsensical and hypocritical though. A program which is directed at young people, that makes violence, killing and cannibalism look glamorous and engages in a persistant level of pornography that is now considered mainstream could hardly now be condemned for their ethical choices. The metaphor of cannibalistic creatures feeding on each other is of course understandable and relevant in this day and age, but rather than using this metaphor to expose the lowest, most debased aspects of humanity, these creatures are elevated to the level of romantic heroes who are admired for their power and eternal youth, only doing "what has to be done" to survive. It is a justification of our society's worst excesses. It is this that should be discussed and not nitpicking about what particular aspects of this heinous programming are "unacceptable."

Why do so many people not

Why do so many people not understand what punishment means? Punishment does not mean that if you sleep around and "use" some women physically and maybe break some hearts, you deserve to be TURNED INTO A DIFFERENT SPECIES*, tied to a bed, drugged, and GANG-RAPED BY A HALF-DOZEN WOMEN (or more).

Sorry to scream, but...sheesh!

Jason "getting his comeuppance" would involve him falling in love with some woman, sleeping with her, and then finding out she doesn't give two shits about him and getting his heart broken. This is, maybe, slightly, fucking WORSE than that?

It pisses me off to no end that the creators are saying this shit. Alan Ball, you're better than this. I've long since accepted that True Blood will never be Six Feet Under, but maybe you can at least acknowledge when your characters are raping each other? Jason Stackhouse himself used the word, one of your writers had to put it in his mouth.

*(spoiler alert)
Yes, I know that didn't really happen, but that's not what Jason thought or what the weres thought either, so the intention and the psychological damage was there, at least for awhile.

Rape is Rape is Rape, Opposite Sex or Same-Sex

I hardly find this alarming. I think it's fucked up and it's also something that doesn't surprise me. I'm a male survivor of rape. If it's not laughed at, it's totally dismissed. The prospect of a male, gay or straight, getting raped is something most people choose to ignore. Thank you, Bitch, for speaking out about it.

An additional comment

I just wanted to add that appreciated the scene, because society usually never thinks of men being raped by women, which does happen.

My two Cents

I feel like people are nitpicking at words here. Just because they did not use the word rape does not mean that they considered the scene consensual. Rape is nonconsensual sexual activities with a person. They clearly described that he was tied up and people were having sex with him without his consent, which is the definition of rape. The show was not condoning rape at all. Speaking as a rape victim I had no issue with the way the scene was described in the clip above or on the show. I actually appreciate that they showed that men can be raped by a woman. I think some people just like to complain about anything.