Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Spike and Rape Culture

A bit ago, someone gave me cause to write a brief thing about Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and particularly the way in which his character is handled after the moment he sexually assaults Buffy towards the end of Season Six

Here, for me, is the interesting thing about Spike. And I don’t think this is quite the reading that Whedon intended for Spike, but I think it’s close, and makes Spike an astonishing metaphor for rape culture and what it does. And, actually, the sort of approach to rape culture that could only really be pioneered by a feminist man, which interests me on several levels.

I mean, let's be unambiguous here. Rape culture, as an idea and a critique, needed to be developed by women. Men are a support class in feminism, and this is as it should be. That's the point. But equally, there are perspectives within the discussion that are both male and relevant. And I think the depiction of Spike is one of them.

The key thing, to me, about the bathroom rape scene is what Spike does next, which is to go on an extended quest for his soul. Because this ties into an important thematic narrative about vampires in Buffy, which is that they are true monsters. There are clearly shells of people wrapped up in them, but they’re explicitly irredeemable. Angel, somewhere or other, describes the demonic aspect of vampires as taking everything you are and twisting it, and fine, but let’s dig deeper here and note that the overall sense is that vampires are slaves to some external narrative about what vampires do.

Because it’s not just hunger in Buffy. It’s not just that vampires feed on innocents and have to. It’s not just temptation. These are the usual themes of vampire fiction, but Buffy mostly avoids them. Vampires in Buffy are visibly compelled into a larger narrative of evil deeds. They seem unable to resist becoming servants of powerful overlords with schemes for, at best, world domination, and at worst, things like the complete destruction of the planet. The state of soullessness means enslavement to a particular cultural narrative.

This is the recurring narrative for Spike. Even when he starts to redeem himself in Season Four, he’s redeemed by external force: by a chip in his brain that keeps him from indulging in the worst aspects of the narrative that his demon prescribes for him. It makes him less bad, but only in an instrumental way, in the same way that criminalizing rape sometimes locks predators up before they harm a second or third or fifth or twelfth person, but does fuck all to actually stop them from their first rape.

But somewhere in the course of his story, in looking in horror at what he’s done to Buffy, he changes. He rejects the narrative prescribed for him and seeks the power to write his own narrative. With Angel, the soul becomes a binary switch. Have one and you’re good, don’t have one and you’re not. But Spike, after getting his soul, barely actually changes. There’s not the Angel/Angelus dichotomy - there’s still one person. Just someone who, after the end of Season Six, has decided that he’s going to have agency beyond the mindless execution of culturally prescribed narratives.

In other words, that’s the moment when Spike decides that he is going to reject rape culture and be someone else. And here’s an ugly truth: if you are a man, you do not have another option. You are not going to be raised without the cultural narrative of rape culture controlling you. You are not going to come out of childhood and being a teenager as a good person.

You’re never going to be, actually. That’s what your privilege means. That there’s a wealth of cultural weapons that you have to continually and actively disarm yourself of. Ones that, every time you put them down, jump back into your hand of their own free will. If you live your life on autopilot as a male, you will become a rapist and an abuser. There is not another way this plays out. Because you live in a culture that will let you be a rapist, and will tell you it’s OK. No matter how many other narratives you add, you cannot actually erase that one. And that narrative is loud and pernicious and has to be consciously, willfully, deliberately fought against every fucking day.

I’d compare it to addiction, but it actually gets to why I’ve always been uncomfortable with the standard twelve step model for addiction. Because you don’t get a higher power to protect you here. You get you. You get the option to live your life as a struggle against the violence implicit in who you are. You don’t get to be powerless in the face of it. You have to find a way to be stronger than it. You have to make a sense of self that’s bigger than the role carved out for you.

And that, for me, is what makes Spike interesting. Because he seeks real redemption. He seeks the ability to fight against his ingrained cultural narrative. And spends the rest of the Buffyverse narrative doing that, and deciding who he wants to be if not the rapist that he is if he just submits to the powers that be around him.

And he’s never allowed forgiveness. He’s never allowed the “oh, you’re better, congratulations, you are now an official Good Man” badge. He remains problematic and ugly and trying to be better than the monster that is always and always will be his starting point.

There is an entire rhetoric pushed by the idiotic MRA movement that suggests that this is wrong and emasculating and a form of cultural violence against men. That the idea that you have to constantly struggle to disarm yourself of privilege’s weapons is somehow an edict that makes men weak. And I categorically reject it, and I’ll point to Spike as the obvious counter-example. Spike is a monster and a hero at the same time. He’s a character who exists to disprove the idea that the two categories are mutually exclusive. He even suggests that, perhaps, at the end of the day, one is necessary for the other. That it is only monstrosity that gives us something to be heroes against. Not in some bullshit “evil and good each require the other to exist” way either. Evil exists. It doesn’t need good to exist. It does just fine on its own. Until you accept that evil is a completely pre-existing condition in your life and identity, you don’t even get to start developing a concept of good.

And that's what Spike demonstrates in his late-career switch to being "one of the good guys." That a hero is just a monster who's decided to tell a different story. And if that is upsetting - and I agree that Spike is an upsetting and problematic character - then there's an obvious reason for it. Being upset is a reasonable - indeed, the only reasonable - response to living in a world defined by rape culture.

42 comments:

  1. Souls are very important in the Buffyverse, but we never really get a feel for what they actually are. Spike certainly seems to have a certain amount of agency even before he decides to get a soul, a decision which itself sprang from some kind of self-awareness.

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  2. I really enjoyed that bit towards the end of season 2 where Angelus is off on some world destroying thing, and Spike sides with Buffy because he likes the world.

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  3. I have to take issue with "If you live your life on autopilot as a male, you will become a rapist and an abuser". I don't feel like I'm fighting each day to stop myself raping and abusing people any more than I feel like I'm fighting each day to stop myself eating glass.

    What the fuck? As generalizations go, that's monstrous.

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    1. Maybe this is how Phil goes through life, his inner monologue going "do not rape do not rape do not rape" and if he stops for one second, someone's getting raped.

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    2. It's a sort of religious thing - maleness as original sin. The simplest response is just to do what Jesse Pinkman did, and accept yourself for what you are: a bad guy. It's a slightly more enjoyable form of self-loathing than the strategy suggested here.

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    3. While the specific framing of the concept in terms of rape culture can be alienating, as your critique depicts, Phil's essay reminded me of something that happened to me in my university years that I think could help. It's not literally a constant, self-flagellating drumbeat in your head to keep yourself from committing horrible acts of sexual assault. Here's something that happened to me and my friends a few years ago.

      When I was 20, I was having some beers with one of my best friends at a pub one night. And we ended up talking about our moral beliefs. And I told him an idea that's remained central to my thought. This was before I really knew anything about the concepts related to rape culture at all. And I told him that I believed that everyone was capable of terrible acts, actions that we would normally consider horrible. I told him that the central condition of committing a horrifying act is convincing yourself that you could never commit such a thing, that you were too horrified by it to believe that you ever could in some circumstance. My friend disagreed strongly with me: he said that he knew he could never commit an act like rape because he understood how horrible it was, and he knew he was a good person.

      A few months later, my friend was out drinking with a co-worker (he had actually just been promoted, so my friend was now her boss). It was just a social event: we worked for the university media, so alcohol regularly lubricated our workflow. And this co-worker had long had feelings for my friend. That night, my friend and this co-worker went back to his apartment, and she woke up on his couch, having been sexually assaulted. Over the next few weeks, we all agreed that my friend should no longer work for our company. Also, he was no longer my friend.

      The concept of rape culture that Phil discusses in this essay is a fascinating and deeply true moral principle: Those who believe that they could never be horrible are the most likely to commit horrible acts because they lack the self-consciousness to catch their moral slips before they become moral catastrophes.

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    4. It's a loathsome thing to say. Over 20 years ago I wound up in a psychiatric hospital following a breakdown triggered by the guilt and self-loathing that resulted from persistent exposure to similar messages. I still suffer from some of the side-effects today.

      Rape is appalling - I don't deny that. But generalizations like the above are not going to help eliminate it.

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    5. I think there's a difference in emphasis between 'I am capable of morally horrible acts' and 'I have to struggle not to commit morally horrible acts'.

      I feel Phil's essay comes a bit too close to 'admire how my struggle not to take advantage of my privileged status grants me moral brownie points'. In our society at least refraining from raping people doesn't qualify you as a moral hero; it qualifies you as a minimally decent human being. It's not as if the dominant culture is monolithic in its attitudes. (No social codes could be; see Bakhtin.) Any man who so chooses can be aware of moral codes by which rape is not OK. Any man reading blogs like this can be aware that rape is not limited to violent or stranger rape. One doesn't gain moral credit for not choosing to be unaware.

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    6. I'd rather assumed Phil was writing for rhetorical power and/or using definitions of rape and abuse that stem from a certain moral perspective rather than the literal letter of the law. The weaker statement that if you live your life on autopilot as a male you are going to cause harm to woman would be how I'd want to phrase it, but YM, as ever, MV.

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    7. I wasn't specifically responding to Adam's comment there - it wasn't up when I started composing mine.

      Those who believe that they could never be horrible are the most likely to commit horrible acts because they lack the self-consciousness to catch their moral slips before they become moral catastrophes.

      That is a valid point. But the way in which the argument is framed makes a big difference. There's a massive difference between what's possible and what's highly probable or even inevitable. And the message tends to be expressed in terms of 'will' a lot more often than 'could', which makes it more harmful than helpful.

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    8. My above comment followed on from Adam rather than from Ed. On reflection its tone is too critical about Phil's post.

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    9. Personally, any harm or hurt I as a man might take from a comment like Phil's pales in comparison to the harm rape culture itself does and continues to do.

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    10. "I feel Phil's essay comes a bit too close to 'admire how my struggle not to take advantage of my privileged status grants me moral brownie points'. In our society at least refraining from raping people doesn't qualify you as a moral hero; it qualifies you as a minimally decent human being."

      But that point's built into the analogy. When Spike tries to suggest that the fact he's not drinking blood is itself deserving of praise, Buffy reacts, quite rightly, with contempt -- it's the page quote for the TVTropes page Wants A Prize For Basic Decency.

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    11. I think what Phil's saying is partially that if you were to follow the societally accepted path as a man you'd end up on the side of rape culture and abuse, not that you'd necessarily end up a literal rapist. The rest of what he's saying, I think, is about how it's very easy to fall into doing exactly that.

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    12. I think Phil got tripped up by his failure to define "rape culture" in this article.
      One example of rape culture is the 'tacit condoning' of prison rape. And that's EVERYWHERE. "That fucker, look what he did! I hope he enjoys being someone's bitch in prison!" That mindset -- that rape is an acceptable form of punishment, even for prisoners -- is kinda appalling when you think about it, but America tends to treat it like it's PART of the sentence. We have, literally, institutionalized rape, and it's widely and PUBLICLY cheered on.
      That is rape culture. Rape is wrong and even our prisoners deserve to be protected from it, counceled about it when it happens and protected from their attackers -- not sent back to the cells they share with them. But when was the last time you heard about a big anti-rape initiative in prisons?

      Ask yourself; have you ever cheered for prison rape? If so, you are part of rape culture; part of the system which normalizes, trivializes and condones rape. The system which says it's possible for someone to 'deserve' to be raped.
      It's either right or wrong. Which side are you on?

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    13. The prevalence of the attitudes Phil describes has been extensively studied by experimental psychologists.Phil's absolutist statements are not consistent with the data. Not all men have these attitudes.

      However, a startling proportion of men do buy into some or all of the cluster of attitudes generally referred to as the "rape myths" - women in short skirts are partially to blame for their rape, if you buy a woman dinner she owes you sex, all that kind of thing. Measurements vary, and I haven't done any kind of systematic literature search, but broadly speaking somewhere of the order of 50-60% of men can consistently be found to have these attitudes (along with a smaller proportion of women). More ballpark figures: around 20% of men will admit to some kind of sexual assault (generally in questionnaires phrased so as to describe the acts as innocuously as possible), while around 50% reckon they would do it if they thought they could get away with it.

      By any standards, these are shocking numbers, and point to the real and significant existence of large-scale cultural attitudes that encourage rape.

      (A keen-eyed skeptic might object at this point: it's all very well measuring these attitudes, but can you show that they lead to sexual crime? I've come across one study which supports this link - I dare say there are others, as I say I haven't been systematic about this. The rate of rape and sexual assault is considerably higher in the US than in Scotland. This study investigated the hypothesis that this would be correlated with the rate of rape myth acceptance, and found that indeed a lower proportion of Scots accept the rape myths than Americans.)

      What these studies do not support, however, is the claim that all men harbour these attitudes, or that having these attitudes instilled in oneself is inevitable if one is raised male in Western culture. Which can at least give us some hope.

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    14. Iain has it right. Rape culture is a part of a larger cultural environment. It isn't a monolith, and there are significant countervailing social strands—strands that have radically changed that cultural environment since people started talking about "rape culture" as a concept four decades ago. Both law and convention surrounding rape have been dramatically altered since the '70s, and the great majority of those changes have for the better. And the effect has been noticeable: Rape rates have fallen steeply. (There are multiple causes for that, of course, and it's part of a general decline in violent crime. But I think it's fair to say that there have been rape-specific effects tied to these feminist cultural changes.)

      I get aggravated when I see people arguing (not here) about whether the U.S. is "a" rape culture. It's not a switch you flick on and off. It's one set of signals among many. It's less powerful here than in som parts of the world, and less powerful here than it was in the past; at the same time, it's still more powerful here than it should or could be. (And evidently it's more powerful here than in Scotland—I'd love to see that study, Iain.)

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    15. Jesse:

      Journal of Social Psychology. Apr1996, Vol. 136 Issue 2, p261-262.

      On the decline in rape, there is some evidence that pornography has a substitution effect on sexual crime. This would suggest that the vast increase in the availability of pornography brought about by the word wide web has played a role in the decline in sexual offences. I'm not aware of any study that has specifically investigated that, but if anyone knows of one I'd be interested to read it.

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    16. By the way, given how much lower the American rape rate is now than it was in 1996, I'd be curious to see a follow-up study that looked at whether rape myths are less prevalent as well.

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    17. @Iain Coleman

      Not sure if you've come across this study, but it looks at that issue (in Japan, not worldwide):

      http://www.hawaii.edu/PCSS/biblio/articles/1961to1999/1999-pornography-rape-sex-crimes-japan.html

      A relevant quote is:

      Within Japan itself, the dramatic increase in available pornography and sexually explicit materials is apparent to even a casual observer. This is concomitant with a general liberalization of restrictions on other sexual outlets as well. Also readily apparent from the information presented is that, over this period of change, sex crimes in every category, from rape to public indecency, sexual offenses from both ends of the criminal spectrum, significantly decreased in incidence.

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  4. I've just started watching True Detective--a fascinating show that interrogates masculinity in ways similar to your description of Spike. In the second episode, one of the main characters is arguing with his wife, and tries to justify his bad behavior by invoking the home as a man's refuge, his reward for a hard day's work, the place where he can do as he pleases. His wife responds by basically saying "That's not how it works. Who told you that's how it works?" In the Buffyverse, we were told from the beginning that vampires behaved in a certain way because of a certain lack--this was a law of nature and nothing could be done about it (Angel being the exception that proves the rule). Then Spike comes along and pulls back the curtain, saying "That's not how it works. Who told you that's how it works?" It does what Buffy has always done so well--use monster tropes as metaphors for our lived experiences. But and not sure if it doesn't also break the narrative.

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    1. Buffy's "canon" on vampires is very messy, and much of that is because of their use as metaphors. For each vampire, the presence or absence of a soul will mean a different thing. When Darla gets a soul through pregnancy, for example, it’s about motherhood. Many times the different “canons” will crash in confusing ways, though. The way Harmony is treated as a confused young adult/recovering addict makes Buffy slaying (almost) every vampire she sees seem cruel, although her eventual betrayal of Team Angel kind of corrected this. But I think the most interesting case is Angel's himself. His good/bad dichotomy was a metaphor working entirely for his relationship with Buffy, and when he spinned-off this left him broken. In other words, "I slept with my boyfriend and he turned evil" makes sense, but "I can't sleep with anyone or I'm going to turn evil" does not. Later in the series, they just started ignoring the sleeping with people part and make it more of a "darkness in me" kind of thing, but this still felt kind of weak when you just had the same in Spike's (or even Faith's) narrative, and it was much more well-done. In the end, this broken-ness in him only worked in Angel’s fifth season. When Angel and Spike are fighting to see which one in the vampire with a soul in the Shanshu prophecy, the problem was finally admitted and used in the story's favor, instead of just being lazily changed into something it's not.
      The dumbest case of this is when the vampires come out, True Blood-style, in the comics. So that created a situation which says that either Buffy, the feminist allegory girl we have all been rooting for, is actually some kind of hate-group member or that the Vampires, this big group that claims to be a persecuted minority, actually really just want to eat your babies and should die, which wouldn’t really be far from what hate-groups say in real life. But it’s just the comics, so I guess everyone can just ignore this.

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  5. Wow! Phil's dug pretty deep into the human condition here, and has touched on some areas that I find very interesting. Sadly I think he's got some hackles up with his terminology of "rape culture", though I know where he's coming from. I think what we're talking about here is the attitude that young males in the west grow up with towards women, which basically takes the form of treating them as possessions and sex objects at different times. As an English male I have of course been guilty of treating women in a less than equal manner in some of my relationships - as Phil says it's something you have to not only consciously fight against, but even consciously be aware of. The problem is that it permeates society not only in tacit acquiescence, but in humour, in advertising, in pretty damn much everything. Now I'm 52, I've been married for 20 years, and tried to treat the opposite sex the right way for longer than that. But I've got a 16 year old son and although I have always tried to instill the correct attitude towards girls in him, I now see the results of society and his peers on him. He doesn't treat girls in a bad way, but he does join in with, and propagate, the jokes that keep the stereotype going. Girls are still a bit of a mystery to him, but instead of trying to treat them on their own terms, he does tend to follow the crowd a bit, although he would definitely stop short of forcing himself on a girl.

    I heard a joke a while back that says a helluva lot about the way men see women, and I appreciate the irony in it very much. Sadly humour is a two-edged sword, and a lot of people I tell it to also find it funny but in the wrong superficial way.

    What's the difference between a slag and a bitch? A slag sleeps with everyone. A bitch sleeps with everyone except you.

    See what I mean? Sometimes I'm not sure what's worse. being a man in a Man's world, or being a woman.

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  6. "That there’s a wealth of cultural weapons that you have to continually and actively disarm yourself of. Ones that, every time you put them down, jump back into your hand of their own free will."
    This makes all men sound like Elric. Which is, I think, a Good Thing.

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  7. LIke some other posters, I'm initially resistant to the idea of men being almost automatically monsters because of rape culture, the quoted line about being on autopilot makes one a rapist or abuser.

    As a gay man, my perspective on what healthy heterosexual relationships and sexual negotiations should look like is hazy. I'm one of those gays who hasn't ever slept with a woman at all. But given all the discussion we've been seeing lately about rape culture, "nice guy syndrome" and the like, I want to defend men a little bit, and actually Buffy illustrates a lot of what I take issue with. Namely that, if Spike and Angel are monsters, what does it say about Buffy that the two men she's most sexually drawn to in the show are monsters and the personification of rape culture?

    Just as women have to navigate the false dichotomy of the virgin or the whore, it seems that more and more young men have to navigate the "nice guy" or the "player." "Nice guys" don't get laid; "players" do. And there's the problematic existence of women who are often drawn to sexually aggressive men. LIke it or not, a lot of players are very successful in talking women into having consensual sex.

    Or, if we're talking about Nice Guys, why wasn't Riley good enough for Buffy? Sure, he started cheating on her with vampire whores and he must own that, but part of it was his desire to explore the darkness that seemed to be an aphrodisiac for Buffy. While SPike's rape of Buffy is shocking, it was also pretty shocking when earlier in the season she gave in to her urges and had incredibly violent, passionate sex with him. At some point, it really does seem like she wanted to be dominated by Spike.

    It reminds me of a suitemate I had in college. He was the stereotypical football player who bragged about his sexual conquests and would do shady things like talk about it after, get his conquests on speakerphone while other guys listened in, revealing how much they enjoyed their exploits. He had a reputation on campus as a player, as a guy who would love them and leave them and mock them.

    And there were girls who were incredibly drawn to this sexual charisma he had. And when other guys see this aggressive pursuit of women as being rewarded with sex, they imitate it, and the cycle goes on.

    I know for me, as a gay man, I've been told to be ashamed of what gives me sexual pleasure, so I have often been attracted to our equivalent of "the player" because it's nice to feel desired by someone "in demand" and it's a way to escape slut shaming. I don't need to take responsibility for enjoying sex if I've been pressured or talked into it.

    But Buffy being almost the archetypal "Good girl falling for bad boy" character is an aspect of this, I believe should be addressed. I'd be very interested in hearing Phil's thoughts on why she's so attracted to these monstrous beings.

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    1. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate you weighing in from your perspective, and how interesting I found your comments and observations. That sounds more clinical than I intend -- as a bisexual man I relate to many different aspects of the issues you brought up -- but without wading deeper into the discussion (which I have no intention of doing), I wanted to at least give a brief but sincere thumbs up. :)

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    2. This comment saddens me as both a woman and as a fan of the show.

      Someone obviously forgot that Buffy has been dumped nearly every time. Riley dumped her, even after cheating, Scott Hope also dumped her, as did Angel. And you clearly weren't paying attention in Season 6 when the only reason Buffy hooked up with Spike was b/c she was in extreme emotional distress and trying to hang on to anything. Been there, I have.

      And I find it fascinating that instead of holding these "players" responsibile for being crappy human beings, you manage to blame women for being stupid enough to sleep with them - despite the fact that these guys are clearly master manipulators. Bravo for also partaking in the behavior of sleeping with players while simultaneously having such a convinient excuse as to why you do so - b/c you've been shamed of your sexual behavior. I'm sure no woman ever anywhere has been shamed for having sex... oh, wait...

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    3. I'm not sure why being dumped is relevant or not. I was discussing why Buffy was drawn to them in the first place. And, I don't think the *only* reason she was drawn to Spike was emotional distress. You said "Been there, I have" so with all respect, maybe you're bringing your own experiences into your interpretation? I agree her distress is certainly a component, but I doubt it's the only reason. It's often said in S&M communities that often people who are drawn to be submissive in the bedroom are ones who have great responsibility in their public lives (CEOs, politicians, pastors, etc.). I read Buffy's rough sex with Spike as that and there are times where she seems to be enjoying it purely on a carnal level.

      Regarding your second paragraph, I certainly wasn't trying to blame any victim, but I don't think that all attraction to "bad boys" is necessarily born out of emotional damage either. One thing I find so compelling about Season Six is that it's all about how we're drawn to dangerous escapes--whether it's Willow's addiction to magic/drugs, Buffy's involvement with Spike, or the Trio's dalliance with Things Better Left Untouched. It's all about temptation and I wasn't trying to be hypocritical by mentioning my own experiences, but rather to show how I could relate on some level.

      But, I do think there's a grey area when people actively seek out others who are known to be dangerous. Yes, some players are "crappy human beings" but actually, I'd argue that most of them are screwed up individuals who've been navigating mixed signals about masculinity from our culture. As I said, women have to navigate the "virgin or whore" dichotomy and men have to navigate the "friendzoned nice guy or player" dichotomy...and I think it's clear from this discussion that none of these extremes do either gender any favors.

      As far as your last few sentences, I was actually trying to explain that women might have the same reasons for going for players as I did--but not being a woman, I didn't want to make that claim. So I wasn't trying to show a double standard; I just didn't want to speak for a gender of which I'm not a member. I theorized that something similar was going on with women who are drawn to bad boys, but I didn't want to be met with the "You're not a woman, so how dare you assume you know how they think!" thing.

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  8. I'm not sure we should see Spike's arc in the last two seasons of Buffy as something primarily designed by Joss Whedon. Marti Noxon was the day-to-day showrunner in that period, and my understanding was that the Spike plot arcs, in particular, were much more of her design than Whedon's. We shouldn't write female creators out of their own works.

    (This actually speaks to the one big area where I think feminist critiques of Moffat are totally valid - why in the world hasn't he hired a single female writer in 3+ seasons with the show? Davies was barely better on Doctor Who itself (there were more women writing for Torchwood), but, seriously, if "find a couple of female writers" can't be a priority, what the hell is up with that?

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    1. Totally. Where are Catherine Tregenna and Helen Raynor (just to name two who've already written Who or Who-related scripts)? It's a scandal.

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    2. Well, Helen Raynor is probably not there because Moffat has seen the stories she wrote.

      I haven't seen Tregenna's Torchwood episodes (S1E2 of Torchwood will have to wait until I've caught up on True Detective and Girls, at minimum). Hopefully they were better.

      But I agree with the sentiment wholeheartedly. Is Barbara Clegg still with us?

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    3. I don't remember Torchwood to have any clue myself, but our host seems to like Raynor's Torchwood scripts better than her Doctor Who ones. At any arte, given that Moffat invited Matthew Graham and Tom MacRae and Chris Chibnall to write Doctor Who scripts after rather lacklustre efforts under Davies, and continues to commission scripts from Stephen Thompson after a similar maiden effort under him, it's weird he's not asked Raynor to do the same.

      MacRae's second script seems like a good reason to see if Raynor can do better than her first two stories. Like MacRae, Raynor was asked to contribute lame monster runarounds. MacRae showed, I think, that he can do much more interesting stuff with "The Girl Who Waited," and Phil's analysis of Raynor's work on Torchwood suggests that the same might be true of her, if she's allowed to write a story she's interested in, instead of being given "Bring back the Sontarans, and also Martha and UNIT (be sure to make the Doctor as much of a dick to the UNIT people as possible) and Donna's family and have some kind of environmental theme, but also deal with satellite navigation" and having to write a script about that.

      Beyond that, I imagine a lot of this has to do with the fact that very few new writers *in general* have written for Who under Moffat. I believe that besides Thompson, the only new writers under Moffat have been the very very famous (Neil Gaiman and, to a lesser extent, Richard Curtis) or else well-known showrunners (Simon Nye and Neil Cross).

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    4. ...Matthew Graham...TomMacRae...Chris Chibnall...Stephen Thompson...

      That is a very good point. I didn't mind 42 as much as everyone else seems to have, but the others...yeah. I'd definitely be interested to see if Raynor could hit one out of the park if she were unencumbered by arbitrary requirements.

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  10. if you are a man, you do not have another option. You are not going to be raised without the cultural narrative of rape culture controlling you.

    That isn't how culture works.

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    1. So if you're raised Christian that isn't going to be part of the narrative that controls your life unless you act actively to reject it?

      Because that kinda is how culture works.

      Phil's not talking about "you will rape," he's talking about "you will be part of the problem by perpetuating, directly or passively, a system which condones or trivializes actiona and creates an atmosphere where they are tolerated." In Christian culture those actions include anti-semitism and homophobia or other forms of ostracism, shaming or exclusion.
      If your friend tells you he got a girl drunk to get into her pants and you don't tell him he's wrong, or you justify this by saying she was responsible because she was drinking with him, or she was tacitly asking for it... congratulations, you're part of perpetuating rape culture because you either think that's acceptable or don't speak up to say it isn't.

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    2. So if you're raised Christian that isn't going to be part of the narrative that controls your life unless you act actively to reject it?

      You will not be "controlled" by a narrative, no. And there are all kinds of ways you can move away from Christian belief (and, even more so, from Christian practice) without actively rejecting a Christian outlook. Churches put a great deal of effort into trying to police such movements.

      Of course it is also true that your upbringing will leave imprints on you that are very difficult to remove. And that speaks to Phil's point about Spike. But it is a rather different claim (and it doesn't necessarily port over well to conversations about rape culture).

      In Christian culture those actions include anti-semitism and homophobia

      Christian culture is considerably larger and more varied than you give it credit for.

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  11. I would be interested in seeing Phil's thoughts on this subject relative to the comic, with its cosmic fracking- was Buffy sleeping with her abuser, or was she having sex without providing consent due to the influence of Twilight and cosmic forces? And then extend it to Dollhouse...

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  12. I think you're over thinking it. That scene, for which there has been so much teeth gnashing over the years, was less about character than plot. It happened because of an exchange like this:

    "Y'know, if we're planning on using that Macguffin to end the apocalypse next season, Spike's gonna have to have a soul. So, what would motivate him to think he needed one?"

    "Well, if he hurt Buffy, blah, blah, blah..."

    That's the bottom line. The writers foresaw the corner they we destined to write themselves into. They took action.

    The show was running on the 'surprise you just got a couple of extra seasons' program. It was slated to run five years. That never makes for tight TV. I can name show after show that's gone on to make many a mediocre episode after getting the gift of extra life. So, everything after Buffy's swan dive in The Gift is pretty much plot mush. Now that's not to say that there aren't some fabulous episodes in seasons six and seven. It was a great gift that we were given. I just don't think we should take the plot mush too seriously.

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    1. That an extradiegetic explanation exists does not negate any discussion of diegetic explanations. There is always an extradiegetic explanation--everything in a story happens because its authors decided it would--which is why extradiegetic explanations are usually not very interesting.

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  13. Hi, I don't know if you know that Whedonesque has this post on its front page right now. http://whedonesque.com/ I've written two essay-length comments on rape culture over there ... in case anyone is interested.

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