I was having a discussion on my LiveJournal with Gategrrl and an off-shoot came out of that conversation:
When a filmmaker ditches a female character in the hands of a really icky male captor, are we supposed to infer rape or not? I know we aren’t supposed to talk about these things. We’re also not supposed to talk about whether or not The Odd Couple were gay, or how Rob and Laura Petrie got it on in those twin beds. So I apologize for shocking folks.
But what are we supposed to think? Are we sick to wonder? Or are the filmmakers having it both ways? Implying something they’re not allowed to say out loud, then blinking innocently: “Rape? Gay? Marital sex in the ’50’s? Get a life, you perv. I’m just trying to tell a story!” cue the swelling violins.
First of all, fear of rape doesn’t fall under the classification of “dirty minded”. If you’re projecting consensual sex between every pair of characters you see, that probably does mean you’re preoccupied with sex (which some classify as dirty-minded). But if you’re wondering whether the icky captor who’s already shown himself to be abusive toward women somehow kept his hands off our fair heroine, that doesn’t make you a pervert: that makes you the kid who shouted out that the Emperor wasn’t wearing any damn clothes.
I wonder about it with male characters, too. Anytime it’s inferred that some guy has been a P.O.W., I wonder if we’re supposed to assume sexual torture along with other forms. After all, we know that sexual torture is practiced by the American government when it feels the need – and American filmmakers tend to portray the US as the most enlightened nation on earth (and then some – gag).
So if anyone’s being pervy, in my book it would have to be the filmmakers, not the audience. They’re implying rape without showing the consequences, and that suggests there aren’t any. What could be more perverted than that?