(Trigger warning: in case you couldn’t tell by the title, we are discussing sexual violence in this post and it’s portrayal in entertainment. My prayers are with all who have suffered this horrific crime.)
Rape and sexual assault are serious crimes plaguing us in these times. We hear about it at our universities (Penn State, UVA), by celebrities (Bill Cosby), as being allowed when perpetrated by popular student athletes at the high school level (Steubenville) and as an act of war (Congo). And those are just some of the most recent ones.
In the midst of all of this, rape and sexual assault do play out in our “entertainment.” There is an entire series (Law & Order: SVU) based on it. And last night, the historical drama Reign showed Mary, Queen of Scots being viciously attacked and raped on it’s show. The rape itself was only a brief minute or less done in slow-motion and hardly considered graphic by our standards today. Mary was able to fight off her second attacker and get away to the protection of her mother-in-law Catherine de Medici who herself confessed to being a victim and took Mary under her wing despite past differences. Francis, Mary’s husband, the king, was informed after returning to the castle.
After the end of the show, there was a message about sexual assualt and rape and information for RAINN. Online, there was a PSA from Adelaide Kane who portrays Mary on the screen.
This is, by far, the most controversial episode in the short series’ history. The show’s creators have been castigated by fans and the media for using rape as a plot device. In reality, at some point in her life, Mary, Queen of Scots was raped. She ended up marrying her rapist to save her young son’s life. Romantic, huh. Guess what, her story has played out thousands of times before and since. The show’s creators have never been ones to hold back, so the restraint of what was shown on screen was surprising. Watching it last night though, I began to feel physically ill. And I’m not a victim of sexual assault or rape.
But that’s the point. Victims or not, we should all feel gut punched when a woman or man is brutally violated in this manner. While it may not have been the most graphic portrayal, you could NEVER call what was depicted artful as I’ve seen many commenters online claim. Some who purport to be victims stated they felt the show made rape “not as bad as it is” because it was not more graphically portrayed. Although Mary’s reactions in the aftermath are clearly textbook. She does not want Catherine to touch her or Francis to look at her. She doesn’t think she can stand in front of her court and portray strength which Catherine tells her, they (her rapists) cannot take from her.
Rape is as old as the Bible. In Genesis, Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah, was raped by Canaanite men. According to some theologians and scholars I have read, David may very likely have raped Bathsheba as she certainly would have had no way to escape him or his advances. Rape is an act of power through use of sexual domination and most often committed these days by attackers who know their victims. And it is evidence of just how far we’ve fallen into sin. We have become a culture that glorifies men who attack women (Ray Rice, anyone?). We give special privileges to those with special talents and allow them to assault innocent victims without justice and with victim blaming (Steubenville, again).
Gina, from My Broken Fiat, recently shared this on facebook. Just in case you thought rape was only for popular actors and athletes alone. For those who have followed this story know that in recent days, some of the other mothers have responded in defense of their sons. Yes, they are defending their sons’ threats of rape to a woman. Do we need to stop victim blaming and start teaching men and women not to rape? According to these mom’s we don’t. God help us all.
Rape cannot be portrayed in entertainment artfully, but that doesn’t mean it should never be portrayed. As many survivors pointed out, a trigger warning would most definitely have been helpful, but this is a show highly popular with teens who need to know it is not a joke and it is serious business. And not just to protect yourself from being raped but to not perpetrate it. Period. The fact that it was not more graphic does not diminish the horror and violence that happened. And if you were sickened by it, that’s the whole point, you had the appropriate reaction.