Fictional Portrayals Of Sexual Assault

Well YOU find a better image to go with this headline that’s neither upsetting nor NSFW.

I don’t exactly keep it a secret that I am an enthusiastic fan of strong female characters. Whether they’re high-powered businesswomen, vampires, mothers, superheroes, sorceresses, or commanding armadas of interstellar warships, I love these characters. I love identifying with them (the vast majority of my favorite fictional characters tend to be women) and watching their stories unfold.

Unfortunately, part of the grim reality of our world is sexual assault. It happens and, unfortunately, not everyone who commits sexual assault is immediately fed to sharks and/or set on fire (if I were running for office, changing that would be one of my campaign platforms, though).

Sometimes, to create drama, to help readers or viewers to sympathize with one character (or to detest another), or as a part of character development, storytellers will put a sexual assault (successful or otherwise) into a story. A character’s backstory may involve being a survivor of sexual assault, or having witnessed it (especially happening to a family member). Or, a sexual assault may happen during the course of a story.

There can be very good reasons for having this as an element of your plot—I understand that. But I think that it is completely valid and usually preferable to have a female character be in physical danger that is not inherently sexual.

There are a few rules that I would like for everyone to please, please follow if this happens in a story (whether it’s a book, a show, a film, a video game):

1) Sexual assault is not sexy. It should not be sexy. It should not be titillating in the least. No one, including a preteen for whom anything related to sex is potentially exciting, who follows your story should find anything about the scenario appealing.

2) Why is the sexual assault happening? I mean this from the perspective of character-driven storytelling (why does this person want to rape this other person?), but I also want to know how and why this serves the story. If it’s purpose is to provide motivation for a male character to rescue and/or avenge the female character, then please stop being an ass and maybe stop writing. That may sound like I am overreacting, but that kind of story in which female characters lack agency and seem to exist only to provide various types of motivations and goals for male characters is not only overdone—it is toxic.

3) I hate to even mention this one, but it needs to be mentioned—please look at what sorts of people are involved. If you are having, for example, a black man sexually assault a white woman (literally or symbolically—though the use of certain alien species or fantasy races to represent different human ethnicities is a rant for another day), you probably should not. That kind of scenario obtains a gut reaction from certain readers or viewers because it plays into some disgusting racist beliefs and fears.

Beyond those three rules, there are a few things to consider when you wonder if you should write that into your story:

1) It is almost inevitable that sexual assault survivors will be exposed to this story. If this is going to be a widely-consumed work (like a major motion picture), millions of survivors will be exposed to it. Trigger warnings exist online for a reason. Do you really want to do that to your readers? Even if you include the event in your story, there are ways of including a rape in a story that will be easier on certain readers.

2) Is this going to change the way that viewers see the character who is sexually assaulted? I do not mean readers or viewers who will victim-blame or see the survivor as “dirty;” those people can go jump into a volcano. But will readers, viewers, and even other characters see this character in a new way, possibly wanting to baby her, or seeing her as less powerful because they have also seen her in such a vulnerable state? Is that really something that you want?

It is important to note, however, that a storyteller who has a sexual assault, even one that is not handled as well as I would like for it to be, is not necessarily a bad person. At all, even.

In fact, have you guys seen Hansel And Gretel: Witch-Hunters? It’s not the best film in the world, but it’s a thrilling and goofy film with a lot of easy gore (some films are gore films and undesirable, but I did not once cringe or wince at the blood and guts in this film—it was pretty fun).

There’s an unsuccessful sexual assault during the film. It was completely unnecessary and decreased my enjoyment of the film.

But it was not a remotely titillating scene. It’s a really upsetting and violent one.

However, and I won’t spoil who or how, but the way that the sexual assault is interrupted is the best. And I honestly think that that was a big part of why the scene was written into the screenplay. Because we get to see a bunch of rapists get beaten up and killed in various ways, including one whose head just gets crushed.

That I could watch all day long.

And a lot of writers will put people who commit horrible acts into stories with the intention of destroying those people within the story. Sometimes it’s a little unsophisticated and juvenile, but unlike a rape depiction, a scene of revenge against a rapist is always a treat to read or watch.



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Elizabeth Smart Lives Up To Her Surname

Okay, so the title is a wince-worthy.

You guys remember Elizabeth Smart, right? As a teenager, she was kidnapped from her bedroom as a teenager and held for nine months until she was rescued—about ten years ago (sorry for being super old, but I was also a teenager at the time and I followed the story). She was sexually assaulted during her time in captivity.

Since gaining her freedom, she has done work (starting the The Elizabeth Smart Foundation) to educate children about sex crimes and to use comprehensive sexual education to give young people the vocabulary to recognize when they are being sexually victimized as well as the comfort to report what is happening them without misplaced guilt or shame over having engaged in sexual activity.

Elizabeth Smart has spoken about how she, having been raised in a strict Mormon household, felt deeply ashamed—with a sense of being dirty and used up—after being sexually assaulted by her abductor.

She has spoken about how when individuals raised in sex-shaming environments that praise chastity and virginity become victims of human trafficking, sexual assault and exploitation, and other crimes, they may not only blame themselves for what has happened to them, but actually be less likely to try to escape. What would be the point, then, of escaping, when they and, in their minds, those who know them would no longer see them as valuable or possessing any worth.

People who define a person’s value by what he or she does with his or her own body are shameful—but knowing that their words could discourage someone from fighting to survive is truly horrifying.

Speaking at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum, Elizabeth Smart described how, when she had become a victim of sexual assault, the words of one of her teachers within her abstinence-only curriculum haunted her—words in which a teacher compared sex to chewing gum. No one wants to chew gum that has already been chewed.

Awful.

It reminds me of the misogynistic analogy: A key that open many locks is valuable; a lock that can be opened by many keys has no value. Sickening, right?

One of my favorite things that I have ever seen in my life was a reply to that (I do not know the original source, as it is everywhere). Because, well, humans are not locks and they are not keys—you can make an analogy with whichever objects you like if it suits your agenda. For example, the response that I read:

A pencil-sharpener that sharpens many pencils is valuable; a pencil that has been sharpened by many pencil-sharpeners is small and almost useless.

Obviously, neither analogy works for human sexuality because we are not any of those things. Whoever first conceived of the pencil-sharpener analogy was not trying to argue that men and only men should avoid polyamory. It simply points out the absurdity of the keys-and-locks analogy.

I hope that Elizabeth Smart’s efforts are successful—slut-shaming, sex-shaming abstinence-only education does harm to people in so many ways. I would love to live in a world in which children no longer suffer for the sake of politics.

And it would be nice to live in a world in which children were no longer the victims of physical or sexual violence.



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I’m Sick of Teachers Banging Their Students

I used to work at a content aggregation site, which that means I would sit on the Internet and find lists of things then repurpose them for our site. I’m not proud of it, but every once in a while we’d come up with an original idea and make a list all our own. Surprising, right? Anyway, one day we made a list of the hottest teachers caught sleeping with their students. The list is currently at 51 teachers. I bring this up because yet another young, attractive female teacher has been caught having an affair with one of her high school students. This got me thinking—what the f*#k?
I understand an older male high school teacher, or even an early twenties male high school teacher having some attraction to his students. Let me explain, I do not think it’s okay for high school teachers to hook up with students but I do understand a man in his early twenties having an attraction to high school girls. High school girls look like they’re in their twenties and most men don’t lose attraction when a girl isn’t intellectually on the same level as them. Men would see a young, supple, attractive girl and be sexually aroused that’s normal and biological. Women are a bit more complicated. I cannot understand a grown woman being attracted to a fifteen year old boy—even an eighteen year old boy. Actually, wait. No. That’s not entirely accurate. I can understand being attracted to an eighteen year old boy that you aren’t around for eight hours a day. Models, actors, singers … sure, they’re attractive with their ripped abs and strong Photoshopped jawlines, but most real eighteen year old boys are gross, immature, and annoying. Why would a twenty-three year old woman be attracted to that?

Moreover, why are there fifty-two known cases of women sneaking fifteen to eighteen year old boys into their homes—homes that they sometimes share with a husband—or their cars to have sex with them? Is an eighteen or fifteen year old that good in the sack? From my memory the answer is no, but then again I’ve never slept with a fifteen year old in my entire life. Seventeen and eighteen, I can vouch for, but not fifteen. What is it, anyway? It can’t be the “affair” aspect, because why wouldn’t you choose a co-worker? It must have some deep psychological root that no article has ever discussed. The articles always focus on the ages, the places, the details (oral, DNA on cushions, in the car, in the bed etc) and how attractive the woman is. I think this proves my theory that it’s hard to understand why an attractive woman, capable of getting with a man her own age, would choose a high school boy.

Maybe they had really great high school experiences and want to relieve it, or maybe they had really bad experiences and want to live a different version of it—but how do you reconcile doing that when you’re twenty-three? Or thirty-one? What is the draw? I couldn’t wait to get out of high school and always dated much older boys because the ones in high school were insufferable. My knickers never dropped for a high school boy. In fact I shudder when I think about the guys I did date when I was in high school, if I could wipe that from my history I would. Can some …

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Review: The Invisible War

photo of the invisible war pictures
The documentary “The Invisible War” should be mandatory viewing for everyone currently living in the United States of voting age. “The Invisible War” talks about sexual assault in the U.S Military and the system that protects rapists and punishes victims. This documentary is disturbing it is heartbreaking it is disgusting. It is by far one of the most important documentaries that any American can see. This is happening to people that serve our country. This is happening to men and women who are willing to give their life for our freedom and we’re not protecting them.
Let me share a few facts from this documentary:
• Over 20% of female veterans are raped while serving.
• 47% of homeless female veterans have been raped while serving.
• 25% of servicewomen don’t report their rape because the person they would report it to is their rapist.
• Women who have been raped in the military have a PTSD rate higher than men that served in combat.
• The Army Criminal Investigation Division is told to treat victims like criminals and told to interrogate until you “got the truth out of her”.
• Air Force Security Police says rape cases were only given to men not women they were told women were too sympathetic and couldn’t see what was really going on because woman always take a woman’s side.
• 200,000 women in the military reported being sexually assaulted in 1991.
• 15% of incoming recruits have attempted or committed rape BEFORE entering the military.
• According to the Department of Defense 3,230 women and men reported assault 2009 the DOD admits that 80% of assault survivors do not report because of retaliation.
• Single women who report rape, if their rapist is married, will be charged with adultery.
• 1% of males had been victims of sexual assault in the last year that equals 20,000 men.
• In units where sexual harassment is tolerated rape rates triple.
• Most rapists in the military are heterosexual males.
• According to the DOD 3,223 active members reported being sexually assaulted, out of those only 175 did jail time in 2010.
• Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office campaign slogan is “Don’t risk it…ask her when she’s sober”.
• In 2008 the Department of Defense instructed the Director of SAPRO to not testify before congress.
• The final decision in sexual assault cases in the military lies with Command. Not with legally trained experts.
• AN assailant was awarded the Air Force ‘Airman of the Year’ award during his victims rape investigation.
This documentary focuses on the fact that once a victim is raped they are raped again by the system. Watching this documentary I was blown …

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