cisheterophobic asked: You know you're whole little attitude that i need to be "mature" to be taken seriously is gross, first of all. Second of all, yes, the idea that sexual agency in women is important (although this issue is not exclusive to them but also dfabs and trans feminine dmabs) but calling a rape scene feminist is never a good idea. There are other ways sexual agency can be shown. You're entire article screams second wave, but then again what about you doesn't?
Well, yes, if we’re going to have a conversation about something as sensitive and deeply personal as this, I do expect more maturity than “u fucked up.” I don’t think that’s asking a lot.
Anyway, thanks for clarifying. I’m with you: I strongly believe that popular media should work to eradicate myths about consent and rape, and emphasize the importance of sexual agency. This is an important and valuable message for everyone - women, especially trans women, given the frighteningly high prevalence of transmisogynistic violence. It’s an important message for non-binary trans people. It’s an important message for trans men. Hell, it’s an important message for cis men - I’m a firm believer in the idea that teaching men not to rape, to borrow the popular slogan, should be a primary goal of anti-rape advocacy.
And I understand your reservations with calling a rape scene feminist. You’re under no obligation to consider the Divergent scene to be feminist. It’s scary. It’s intense. It was, as I wrote, triggering for me. I’ve placed trigger warnings on every single one of my posts about it, and I don’t condone my article being used to shame or silence those who are triggered by rape. I’ve gotten some feedback arguing that it’s more feminist for sexual assault not to be depicted at all, and I understand that.
But here’s what I was getting at in my piece: we are a culture that suffers from rape illiteracy. This is largely due to popular portrayals of rape as being a woman’s fault, and to the social expectation that women must make themselves sexually available to men at all times. Popular media reinforces these harmful messages constantly and consistently. Think about CNN crying over the Steubenville rapists. Think about Daniel Tosh joking about a patron at one of his shows being gang-raped, and how the public response was largely to shame the patron and tell her, loudly, that she had nothing to complain about. I could listen a million more examples. You’re as familiar with the harmful narratives of rape culture as I am.
In my view, Divergent flouted those narratives in a really powerful way. Tris is given plenty of opportunities to articulate consent and set her own boundaries, in contexts both sexual and non-sexual. In the rape scene, she unapologetically says no, fights off her attacker, and is roundly, unanimously congratulated for doing so. There’s no shaming. No, “Tris, he’s your boyfriend, you owe him sex.” No, “Why did you punch him, Tris? Don’t you think you’re overreacting?” No, “Well, Tris, maybe if you hadn’t been wearing that tank top…”
None of that. Tris defeats her rapist and is congratulated for it.
I think that’s important. As someone who once found herself in a situation where saying no and fighting back were impossible, I found the scene to be tremendously powerful. Cathartic, even, because Tris was saying and doing all the things that I couldn’t say and do. And it made me feel good to look around the theatre, at all the teenage girls seated around me, and know that they were absorbing the message that it’s okay to say no and defend yourself.
The scene isn’t perfect. One person I spoke to this morning made the point that the scene takes place in a simulated environment, a test, where if she doesn’t say no and fight back, she fails. That’s a very valid point. The implication is that anyone who can’t say no or fight back has failed in some way, which is an insidious bit of victim blaming that I really take issue with. It doesn’t, at least in my view, nullify the value of Tris unapologetically fighting back and saying no, but the scene could have been framed differently to avoid this problem.
There are ways that sexual agency can be depicted and promoted without actually depicting rape and sexual assault. Tris’s articulation of her boundaries to Four is one, and it’s a good one. But I hesitate to say that sexual assault and rape should never be depicted or discussed, especially in media marketed toward young women, and I think that I’ve done a sufficient job of articulating why both in my original article and in this response.
I really, really take issue with the “calling a rape scene feminist is never a good idea” line. Yeah fine let’s just pretend rape doesn’t happen, good call.