What happened when I wrote about the rape scene in Russell T Davies’ gay drama Cucumber

In the first episode of Russell T Davies’ new drama Cucumber, middle aged Lance finds a much younger man in a nightclub who has no money and nowhere to spend the night. ‘You can stay at ours if you want to fuck,’ Lance tells him. ‘No hassle. Just sex with the both of us. And then you can stay the night.’

‘Yeah,’ the younger man replies, ‘that’s cool’ – but it’s clear, including to Lance’s uncomfortable partner Henry, that he’s ‘off his head’ on some substance or other, wide-eyed and slurring out fantastic images of kings and cowboy-men and nodding in and out of consciousness during their taxi ride. At their house, he appears not to register most of what Lance and Henry say; he walks off-balance and seems to have trouble standing up, sitting down at the first opportunity and collapsing half-asleep minutes later onto Lance’s bed. By the time Lance performs out-of-shot what looks and sounds like oral sex, he can no longer speak coherently. Five to ten onscreen minutes later, presumably once Lance has had anal sex with him as he says he means to (‘[He’s] gonna fuck my arse’), Henry brings police officers to the scene. The younger man, now fully naked and seemingly unaware of it, is no more lucid when they confront him, gripped in a haze of drug-induced visions with no idea what’s going on.

The above scenes, if anyone contests this description, can be viewed here.

There are two ways to argue what they show isn’t (at minimum attempted) rape. The first is to say the man Lance has sex with is lucid enough to consent to it – in which case, you’ve the narrative above to explain. The second is to say consent doesn’t require lucidity – in which case, the Sexual Offences Act disagrees, deeming consent impossible if ‘by reason of drink, drugs, sleep, age or mental disability [someone is] unaware of what [is] occurring’. The Crown Prosecution Service further acknowledges meaningful consent to ‘evaporate well before [someone] becomes unconscious‘ if mind-altering substances make them incapable.

Is someone who can’t tell where they are – who can’t continuously stay upright or awake – aware of what’s occurring? Is someone who can’t hold a coherent conversation capable of saying no? And how would we react if Davies’ drama had shown this happening to a young woman? Last September a friend of mine, Maria Marcello, made headlines describing her experience of being raped while drunk: ‘unable to talk or stand up,’ she wrote, ‘I cannot have been capable of agreeing to sex.’ The piece was widely shared, read hundreds of thousands of times and reprinted at countless newspapers. Why then, amid critical praise for Cucumber, has no one blanched over its casual portrayal of what amounts to rape among gay men? What does its uncontested inclusion say about Davies and his audience of middle aged, middle class gay men?

In my own incensed and none-too-pleased review of Cucumber, I write:

When someone is so intoxicated they struggle to remain awake – WHEN THEY ARE SO OFF THEIR FACE THEY DON’T KNOW WHERE THEY ARE, WHAT’S HAPPENING OR WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING, and when they seem to have difficulty staying upright, IN WHAT SENSE IS INTERCOURSE WITH THEM NOT RAPE? HOW CAN THEY POSSIBLY MEANINGFULLY CONSENT TO SEX OR SAY NO TO IT?

Guy Lambert, BBC producer and fan of Davies’ former franchise Doctor Who, turned up in the comments.

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In my defence, I tend to lose patience with commenters who argue inaccurately, ignore how their points have been addressed, defend and deny sexual violence and act like they’re entitled to my time – Venn diagrams exist for arguments like this. If Lambert so urgently craves a response to what he states, he can scroll to the top of this post. Admittedly, it’s largely a rehash of what I’d already said. Funny, that.

Judging by comment #6, he seems to think sex with somebody drugged out of their wits is only rape if you’re the one that drugged them – I don’t remember when I last banned someone from this blog, but horse shit of that nature will do it. Based on the resulting barrage of outraged tweets, many coming my way, he seems not to’ve reacted well.

The struggle is real.

You know, it might.

I’m 23. (The rest holds up.)

This is the same Gareth Roberts who’s penned multiple episodes of Doctor Who since 2007, including one together with Davies.

While I’m not a student, was homeless before I was a year old, grew up on benefits and earned about half Britain’s minimum wage last year, several times being unable to buy food, it sure helps having a middle aged, financially secure regular scriptwriter on a globally successful multimillion pound flagship BBC show explain to me how middle class I am, brainwashed with the arcane, elitist goal of not treating rape as funny or fine. (Adjectives. I can do them too.)

This was when more notifications came.

I bit.

It was a tempting prospect at first, I’ll admit.

Then again, Twitter’s tag feature is designed to make something appear in someone’s updates. Tagging someone when you slate them in the third person is harassment: it is designed to force them to read whatever hostile things you say about them. (I tweet vitriol about people I dislike all the time. I don’t send it to them and force them to read it.)

Telling someone to block you so you can keep tagging them in rage-tweets is like telling someone to curtain off their porch so they don’t see the turds you post through their letter box. I’m all but done enabling that behaviour. Why should I be the one to change how I use Twitter?

Guy Lambert seems to’ve found that last tweet a ‘very aggressive‘ move. Well yes – it can’t have been at all nice having his username rage-tweeted out to my followers, exposing him to a potential volley of attacks. He’d never do such a thing, of course.

But really, though – someone not leaving you alone when you don’t want to talk to them. Imagine that.

I think so too. Complete troll behaviour there, I’ll admit. (He wouldn’t when he did it.)

He seems to’ve blocked me.

000

I’d like to think I’m dealing with it better than he did.

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What happened when I wrote about the rape scene in Russell T Davies’ gay drama Cucumber

6 thoughts on “What happened when I wrote about the rape scene in Russell T Davies’ gay drama Cucumber

  1. 1

    These exchanges on Twitter like you one you provide between him and his friends/colleagues/acquaintances are so interesting. Because they’re people just talking with those who agree with them, they can draw out the hateful, reactionary attitudes that are usually below the surface. But because they’re on Twitter, they’re public for all to see.

    It’s fascinating that someone whose friends are calling you elitist insists that a situation in which someone without money or shelter is offered a place to sleep in exchange for sex is not unconsensual “in any way.”

  2. 2

    Maybe I you’d addressed his arguments instead of just repeating yourself, he wouldn’t have been able to accuse you of trolling.
    He specifically claimed that no intercourse occurred
    I haven’t seen it, so don’t know if this might have been the intent that didn’t come across,, he is being hyper specify about “sexual activity” or just lying

  3. 3

    @2
    The scenes linked in this post clearly show an attempt at oral sex and there are heavily implications of further attempts at sex, given that the character is completely nude and there was a prior agreement for sex.

    Oral sex is intercourse. This doesn’t even have to go into “self-defined” or “community defined” sex, the way that some people want to play with the definition for encounters between two people with vaginas. There was a penetrative act that was very much implied by the structure of the show. Under every law I’m aware of (both in the UK and the US as I’m most familiar with, as well as in Scandinavian countries and Canada, which I’m less familiar with) this is rape. It’s practically textbook rape.

    In summary; his points didn’t need to be addressed. Alex addressed them already in his post. His points were superfluous to the conversation and were designed only to incite a response and to dismiss Alex’s claims. They existed only to inflame the discussion and to rile up Alex. Clearly shown by his response to Alex exactly mirroring his own behaviour on Twitter.

  4. 4

    The rape apologies are kind of mind blowing. That scene has everything – drugs and alcohol, someone who’s barely conscious, someone else who really doesn’t want to have sex and keeps trying to defuse the situation, coercion from another party. The only thing missing is a neon sign that says “RAPE! RAPE!”.

    If these people ask themselves if they’d feel the same way if the young man was a young girl. If not, why not? And if so.. well at least they are consistently horrible.

  5. 5

    @shockwaver
    It’s also mind blowing that people justify the scene as not being about rape by stating that no “intercourse” occurred. So rape only occurs when a person is penetrated?

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