I watched the most recent episode of Game of Thrones yesterday. Those who say the rape of Sansa Stark was gratuitous and unnecessary are only partly right.
All rape is gratuitous and unnecessary.
I have written one story about the aftermath of a rape/murder; the rape was over before the story began. I wrote one song about a woman who foils an attempted rape. Both were written thirty years ago. It was a good story and an okay song. But I’d do it differently today. Particularly the song.
I can’t issue prescriptions or proscriptions for others’ work. I can tell you my own thoughts on the matter: rape is gratuitous, unnecessary, and wrong, in life and in art.
More thoughts below.
ETA 2: I’ve edited the comment below, brought it up here, and made a couple of additions:
In my opinion, women and men in our culture know rape* is wrong—morally and legally. No one needs to experience rape, in person or through art, to be aware of this. The law is very clear. Potential abusers don’t need to understand it on a visceral level, they need to fucking behave.
That rape is physically and emotionally harmful is no more a secret than the horrors of child rape or animal torture. We don’t show child rape or animal torture in art and/or entertainment. Why? Because many acknowledge that it’s not suitable for entertainment.
The constant experience of rape in art and/or entertainment does not, in my opinion, prevent or reduce rape. On the contrary, it increases its weight and effectiveness as a tool of intimidation.
I am not saying we should stop talking about rape, I am saying we should stop showing it. I’m not entirely sure, yet, regarding showing (i.e. giving the art consumer the experience of) the consequences of rape.
Every artist must make up their own mind. But I will no longer be an audience for rape.
* For the sake of argument: “Our culture” = those who are most likely to be an audience for my writing or Game of Thrones. “Rape” = non-consensual sex mostly of women by men (common in all art and entertainment), sometimes of men by men (rare in art or entertainment, particularly visual media), and very rarely of women or men by women (very, very rare in any art or entertainment).