I haven’t watched it. I don’t plan to watch it. But I have been hearing about it, of course, since the SF/F community has exploded over it, and rightly so. And I’ve read several descriptions of it by now.
A recap of the scene and the director’s, writer’s, and actor’s words about it may be viewed here.
We have, in a nutshell, a scene that clearly conveys rape, and the writer and director and actor saying that to portray rape wasn’t their intent; that the fact that the victim was kissing the perpetrator before the rape indicates consent; that it wasn’t rape so much as “forced sex.”
The sound of a million facepalms should be reaching their ears by now.
But I’m not interested in vilifying these guys. I don’t think that’s necessarily the correct response (though mileage may certainly vary). These dudes’ perspectives are products of their culture, of the rape culture that we live in. For how can anyone say, “It’s not rape, but forced sex” (paraphrased), and not be struck immediately dumb by the cognitive dissonance of that statement? How can anyone think that kissing someone is an automatic invitation to sex? That gripping a table means that it couldn’t possibly be rape? That the fact that these characters are erstwhile lovers (alluded to in various commentary) means that sex between them is inevitably consensual?
The only answer that I can think of — how three intelligent men can not just view but create a fictional event of rape and be confused with the audience response that it is actually rape, that their response to this criticism is that it is “just forced sex” or “a sexual event in which someone is not consenting” but not, y’know, rape — is that the cultural landscape rendered it impossible for them to think of rape as rape. To think of rape as we do. Or at least as I do. As the reality of what rape actually is.
This is the biggest problem. It isn’t Game of Thrones, or the writer, director, or actor. It isn’t this scene.
It’s that people are so often unaware of what rape actually is. Forced sex is rape. Sex without consent is rape. And it doesn’t matter whether the rape victim had previously had consensual sex with the perpetrator, or whether they were kissing before the rape occurred, or whether she had an orgasm, or whether she’s a villain or a “wanton” or a “hussy” or what-the-hell ever. Rape is rape, and whether or not a sexual event is rape is determined by consent.
And now for the meta-question:
We’ve heard from the director of the scene, the writer of the scene, and the male actor who plays the rapist in this scene.
Where are Lena Headey’s words about it? Where are the words of the actress who performed the role of rape victim in this scene?
And why don’t we care more about those words than those of the menfolk involved?