10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O Hara in Gone with the Wind

“Well, sure, he raped her. But it’s not a big deal. Rape, shmape. All friendships and relationships have their ups and downs. They can still be friends, or get married. Heck, maybe the rape could be the start of a beautiful love story.”

Does this sound like an absurdist attempt at ghoulish humor? It’s not. This trope is all over pop culture, and has been for decades. In some stories, rapes happen while characters are friends, lovers, or married, and the relationship goes on as if little or nothing happened. In others, rapes are the beginning of a happy relationship.

Here are 10 characters in pop culture who voluntarily stayed friends, lovers, colleagues, or spouses with the people who raped or tried to rape them.

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Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists. To read more, read the rest of the piece.

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10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists

12 thoughts on “10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists

  1. 1

    “Heck, maybe the rape could be the start of a beautiful love story.”

    Rape is an abomination of the worst sort. The above statement is utterly stupid and so dangerous. There are some men who may actually believe this kind of CRAP. The very best sex I have ever had is when the lady truly indicated she wanted to have sex with me. Rape is against human nature and may psychologically damage a woman for life. It is the worst kind of imposition on a woman. Every woman must have the final say about having sex, not the man. So men, no matter how much you may desire her, she has the last say… so get over it. If she refuses you, then you have no other alternative but to accept her choice not to have sex. Try another woman and another. One of them may say yes.

  2. 2

    Every woman must have the final say about having sex, not the man.

    Chuck Brown @ #1: Actually — both partners, of any gender, have the final say about having sex. (Or all partners, if it’s more than person having sex.) Rape is most commonly perpetrated by men against women, but it can and does happen to people of all genders, by people of all genders. Men have the right to say no, too.

  3. 3

    This list is especially difficult because many of the examples listed are productions that I really enjoy for other reasons. It can be difficult finding a balance between enjoying something while also recognizing its problematic elements. And I don’t really know exactly where that line is between being able to accept something as a whole because of its overall value, and having to reject it because the problematic parts overwhelm the redeeming aspects.

  4. 4

    It seems like most cultures have valued women far less than a good horse. Breeding stock . . . that’s what women have been for tens of thousands of years. And women who didn’t give birth to boys? Not even good breeding stock.

    Is it any wonder that societies still dominated by nomadic bronze-age dessert dogmas value women so little? That women are treated like livestock?

    “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.” (Leviticus 12:2)

    “But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.” (Leviticus 12:5)

    Giving birth to a girl is twice as “unclean” as giving birth to a boy.

    “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

    How far does “submit yourselves unto your own husbands” go? Does it include rape? Silly question! Of course it does. We’ve only very recently made marital rape a crime, and it’s almost impossible to enforce.

    You want to eliminate rape? You want women treated with dignity and equality? Not until the last believer in primitive patriarchal herder mythology breathes his last.

  5. 5

    You want to eliminate rape? You want women treated with dignity and equality? Not until the last believer in primitive patriarchal herder mythology breathes his last.

    Sporkfighter @ #4: That’s not going to cut it. As years of ugly experience have taught me, way too many atheists are active participants in rape culture: committing rape themselves, or denying/ trivializing it. The misogynist harassment and threats — including threats of rape — that I get from atheists who hate me because I’m a feminist are far more prevalent and persistent than any harassment and threats I’ve gotten from believers who hate me because I’m an atheist.

    I’m all in favor of a world without religion (although I don’t care for the violent imagery — I want to persuade believers out of religion, and create a world where people don’t need it). But atheists need to not fool ourselves into thinking that a world without religion will somehow magically be a world free of sexism, misogyny, and rape culture.

  6. 6

    “That’s not going to cut it. As years of ugly experience have taught me, way too many atheists are active participants in rape culture: committing rape themselves, or denying/ trivializing it. The misogynist harassment and threats — including threats of rape — that I get from atheists who hate me because I’m a feminist are far more prevalent and persistent than any harassment and threats I’ve gotten from believers who hate me because I’m an atheist.”

    You must converse with a different group of atheists than I do, and being male, I’m unlikely to be threatened with rape. Be that as it may, it’s undeniable that much of our societal norms are descended from and strongly influenced by the religion that permeates our common culture. It’s an undeniable fact that more religious countries are more violent, more religious countries treat women worse in every way.

    I agree that the extinction of religion will not eliminate all our problems, but getting rid of religion will make it possible to address our other problems.

  7. 7

    In some cultures, it the woman who initiates sex. It would be great if the women her would be the ones who initiate intimacy! It is too bad that in our Christianized culture that we still follow the deeply flawed teachings of Augustine of Hippo (400AD).

  8. 9

    You must converse with a different group of atheists than I do, and being male, I’m unlikely to be threatened with rape.

    Sporkfighter @ #6: Being male, you’re less likely to even see the sort of behavior I’m talking about. I’m not just talking about threats, either. I mean that men often don’t see sexism and misogyny even when it’s right in front of them — and the more egregious behavior happens less when other men are around.

    As for your other points: I agree that many bad ideas are perpetuated by religion, including bad ideas about women and about sex. But not all of them are. And I have had a bellyful of atheist men insisting that religion is the source of sexism — and that therefore, there’s no sexism in atheism and they don’t have to worry about it or listen to women when we talk about it. I am entirely in favor of persuading the world out of religion, but I’m not willing to pretend that rape culture is religion’s problem when there’s so much of it in our own community.

  9. 10

    Greta Christina @#9

    I mean that men often don’t see sexism and misogyny even when it’s right in front of them — and the more egregious behavior happens less when other men are around.

    I’ve taken pains to reduce sexism and misogyny in my home and in my classroom. (I’ll tell you how sometime if you want.) I know it exists, and I’m in a position to do some small amount against it, so I do.

    It seems strange to me that men will behave worse towards women if no other men are present. I’ve heard this before, but I have no explanation.

    I appreciate a frank discussion. Thank you for providing a forum for difficult issues.

  10. 11

    Not exactly the same trope, but something related:

    In El Topo the protagonist, played by Alejandro Jodorowsky, rapes a woman, played by Mara Lorenzio. However, the sex is unsimulated: Jodorowsky actually raped Lorenzio on the scene.

    From Wikipedia:

    In his book about the film, Alexandro Jodorowsky says about the rape scene: “When I wanted to do the rape scene, I explained to [Mara Lorenzio] that I was going to hit her and rape her. There was no emotional relationship between us, because I had put a clause in all the women’s contracts stating that they would not make love with the director. We had never talked to each other. I knew nothing about her. We went to the desert with two other people: the photographer and a technician. No one else. I said, ‘I’m not going to rehearse. There will be only one take because it will be impossible to repeat. Roll the cameras only when I signal you to.’ Then I told her, ‘Pain does not hurt. Hit me.’ And she hit me. I said, ‘Harder.’ And she started to hit me very hard, hard enough to break a rib…I ached for a week. After she had hit me long enough and hard enough to tire her, I said, ‘Now it’s my turn. Roll the cameras.’ And I really…I really…I really raped her. And she screamed.”

    This made me feel very uncomfortable. It looks a lot like rape, but it is consensual I guess, but what does “consent” mean in a situation like this? Not that I want to discuss the meaning of the word “consent” but I was wondering how Lorenzio feels about it. Jodorowsky hesitation “I really…I really…I really” may indicate that he feels bad about it. I couldn’t find anything about Lorenzio though.

    Any thoughts?

  11. 12

    Any thoughts?

    Yeah . . . sounds like plain old rape to me, the kind that deserves punishment. In my world, each participant must consent to sex each time. Getting married in 1988 is not consenting to sex in 2005 or 2016. Consenting to sex at 9 in the morning is meaningless at nine that evening. A “contract” does not change this.

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