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Rape Culture

ComicCon (more formally known as San Diego Comic-Con International) is an annual event that showcases comic books, sci-fi/fantasy films and television, and related popular arts. In recent years, along with being a geek “mecca”, Comic-Con has become particularly important to Hollywood, acting as a kind of testing ground for up and coming product.

Comic-Con 2011 hosted a panel discussion featuring rising star Jason Momoa. He portrays a medieval warlord in the television series Game of Thrones and jokingly commented that one of the joys of sci-fi/fantasy television was the opportunity to “rip someone’s throat out and rape beautiful women”. The comment was both idiotic and insensitive.  And the audience roared with laughter.

I’ve watched the clip on Youtube several times and find it more troubling with each viewing. Because Mr. Momoa’s poor choice of words and the strange laughter that followed only served to remind me of a nauseating fact; we live in a rape culture. If I were to take leave of my senses and tell a rape joke in a room with only five women, according to statistics, one of those women would be a rape survivor. So clearly, there were several victims of rape present in that Comic-Con audience.

I’m hardly surprised that most men fail to understand the horror of rape. Objectification and dehumanization of women is part and parcel of many cultures all over the world and has been since the beginning of time. I’m far more confused by the thoughts and actions of many women. Consider the fact that not one woman was courageous enough to boo or heckle Mr. Momoa for his comment. And the audience laughter sadly seemed more boisterous than nervous. Strange indeed.

Strange also, the number of women I’ve met over the years who genuinely enjoy Stanley Kubrick’s “masterpiece”, A Clockwork Orange. I distinctly remember the gleeful ad campaign that described the film as “Being the adventures of a young man whose principle interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven”. I’ve seen the film only once. Once was more than enough. Whenever I find myself in discussions about pornography, I use A Clockwork Orange as the most obvious and odious example. Anything that gloriously sexualizes sexual assault the way that film does is most surely pornographic. Alex, the “rapist/hero” of the film is generally considered to be a pop culture icon. It’s bad enough to see men dressed as “droogs” for Halloween, but when I also see women dressed as those rapists, it makes me want to puke. But it also reminds me that we live in a rape culture.

Perhaps the most incomprehensible example can be found in the beloved soap opera, General Hospital. Most women (and many men) are well acquainted with the tender love story of Luke and Laura, a story often referred to as one of the greatest love stories of all time. Even the grand dame of television herself, Oprah Winfrey, once hosted a special “reunion” to celebrate the cultural phenomenon that was Luke and Laura. And it really was a cultural phenomenon. For those unfamiliar with the basic plotline, Luke raped Laura, they fell in love, got married and lived happily ever after. Truly, the ultimate fairy tale for a rape culture.

One need not be a woman to be horrified by rape. And clearly, one need not be a man to find it unobjectionable. The larger, more important issue is this. As long as our culture continues to treat rape as anything other than the horror it is, it will never go away. And history will continue to repeat itself as the headlines continue to scream.

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