In Chris Lynch's 2005 young adult novel Inexcusable (2005 National Book Award Finalist – Young People's Literature, 2005 School Library Journal's Best Books, 2006 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults) is a disturbing tale of the effects of rape culture from the inside. In narrator Keir Sarafian, high school senior and football star, Lynch has created a sickeningly realistic embodiment of a teen rapist.
I spent most of this past spring and summer rolling my eyes every time I heard a news story about the swine flu. Almost every day local reporters got hysterical about 5 or 10 or 20 confirmed cases. Entire schools closed in response to a handful of kids with fevers, and as if there were no war in Afghanistan, no economic crisis, and no other epidemics claiming ten times as many lives, newscasters talked about H1N1 (the proper name for swine flu) for hours.
I have a degree in public health and my work focuses on preventing rape and other acts of violence and supporting survivors in healing from abuse. When I see all the attention swine flu is getting, I'm jealous. Other than intermittent news stories about sex offenders on the loose or why women who accuse professional athletes of rape are lying, sexual violence rarely gets any widespread coverage. Certainly no state of emergency declared by the President of the United States.
What would our media, our public discourse, and our institutional responses look like if people cared as much about rape as they do about H1N1?
Pete Campbell is a rapist. On Sunday night's episode, he met a young au pair living in his building and helped her out of a difficult situation with her employers. He propositioned her; she refused. Later that evening, undeterred, he knocked on her door, forced her to let him in to avoid a scene, followed her into her bedroom, closed the door, and kissed her, leading her towards the bed. Apparently, for some people, this wasn't clearly a rape. I'm here to tell them: it was.
Pete Campbell is a rapist. I've heard some people say that Mad Men is a show about nuance, shades of grey, and therefore Pete Campbell Cannot Be A Rapist. (As if there was no such thing as a rapist in serious, well-developed drama.) I think these people are doing a very superficial read of Mad Men. I don't think the writer or director of this episode was the least bit confused. The au pair is slightly afraid of Pete throughout. She doesn't want him in the apartment. She recoils when he kisses her. That she submits, ultimately, is irrelevant to the question of whether Pete rapes her. She didn't want to sleep with him; she made it clear; he didn't care. He wanted to have sex, and she was there, and she owed him, in his mind. So he raped her. End of story.
Pete Campbell is a rapist. What Mad Men is being subtle about, when it shows us an episode in which a character rapes someone for no reason better than boredom, is the fact rape doesn't just happen in alleys. It doesn't just come from total strangers who leap from bushes. It doesn't involve kicking and screaming and clawing his eyeballs out, because that would only get you in even more trouble.
Roman Polanski raped a child. Let's just start right there, because that's the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in "exile" (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never -- poor baby -- being able to return to the U.S.).
Ah, the VMAs! Pop spectacle at its finest! If, by "finest," you mean "most spectacularly overhyped and therefore ripe for viewer disappointment." Which is what I mean, actually, so I'm good. And today, in my quest to provide you with the least timely post on the VMAs EVER, I present you with three defining moments. Which is most disappointing? That is for you (by which I mean "me," since I am writing this blog post) to decide!
Those of us who watch HBO's True Blood would have a hard time denying the show's sex appeal (or at least, sex). After all, Bon Temps, Lousiana (the fictional setting for the show) is one seeexxxy town. Vampires banging humans? Check. Humans banging shape-shifting farm animals? Check. A racy sex website hosted by a main character? Check. A crazed ancient goddess who makes everyone around her bang each other? Check. But female rape fantasies realized by gentlemanly Civil War-era vampires? Um, no, actually.
The current issue of Nylon Magazine features an interview with Anna Paquin (main character Sookie Stackhouse), Stephen Moyer (her boyfriend Vampire Bill), and the show's creator Alan Ball. Much of the interview revolves around Anna Paquin's nipples and hair color (thanks, Nylon! I guess blondes really do have more fun!) but this final quote from Stephen Moyer has me sharpening my stakes (and not just because I think Vampire Bill is kind of a douche):
Epilogue: Stephen Moyer, on Vampire Sex:
The thing about vampirism is that it taps into a female point of view – you have an old-fashioned gentleman with manners who is a fucking killer… it's an interesting duality, because in our present society it would be an odd thing for a woman to say, 'I want my man to be physical with me.' How, as a modern man, can you fucking work that? It's one thing to be polite and gentle… But when do you know it's OK to crawl out of the mud and rape her [as Bill does in one scene]?... It's difficult stuff for a bloke, but a vampire gets away with it…. I think that's the attraction of the show – it's looking back at a romantic time when men were men, but they were still charming."
Behold, Sookie Stackhouse living out every modern woman's fantasy (or... not). Image via Icons of Fright
WTF, Vampire Bill? Was raping women a "gentlemanly" activity when you were growing up during the Civil War? (Yes, he grew up during the Civil War.) Do you think that forcing yourself on a woman and sucking her blood is the "romantic" realization of every frigid, non-Vampire-dating woman's fantasy? And am I the only one who read that coming-out-of-the-grave scene as completely consensual (if a bit unhygienic)? Let's discuss.
Since 2004 CouchSurfing.org has provided a way for budget travelers to connect with people across the world to take advantage of free hospitality—from a place to sleep to acting as a tour guide to simply meeting for a coffee. But do the site administrators go far enough to ensure its members aren't sexual predators?