I don’t watch Game of Thrones. Whenever anyone asks me about it or it comes up in conversation, I tell them “I can’t handle sexual violence.” This is true. I don’t watch or read or listen to things with sexual violence in them. Because they keep me up at night when I’m alone ruminating over them and because when my friends are around to listen I have full tail mental emotional breakdowns about them. Not just because I feel personally threatened by depictions of sexual violence (I do.), but also because they’re often presented in ways that are not transformative and only serve to perpetuate (not critique or deconstruct or interrupt) our cultural glorification and acceptance of, or apathy towards, sexual violence. As someone who has only ever had over-the-top-consensual sexual experiences, I often doubt my own authority to speak out on this topic, but I’ll speak anyway, and I think it’s important that I do. In a weird perfect storm of interactions, this topic has been on my mind a lot the last few weeks, and just today it was announced that the Fifty Shades of Fucking Terrible will premiere on Valentine’s Day 2015 and its absurdly rape-porn-y trailer was released; so, yeah, I’m worked up about it and I’m gonna rail against it now. At the bar earlier this week, a couple of friends and I talked this topic out quite a bit. We talked about how it’s important to resist pop culture products that depict sexual violence, because those depictions are so often rape-porn-y and work to glorify sexual violence. And because we have enough REAL LIFE examples of these crimes against women (and men) that we would do well to work within the terrible reality of sexual violence and rape than to pile on fictional depictions of it. We also acknowledged the viewpoint (held by lots of women we know and respect) that pop culture depictions of sexual violence help to make the reality of sexual violence more apparent to people who might not see or acknowledge its presence in our day to day lives. Or that pop culture depictions of sexual violence might do some kind of healing work for victims of sexual violence. I acknowledge those viewpoints and respect them. And I do think there are some transformative depictions of rape and of sexual violence in pop culture products. Happy to talk about those transformative depictions with anyone whose interested. But my argument is: you need a conglomeration of all these viewpoints in order to create change. People who are willing to work within the system to change the system and people who are standing outside the system saying “ABSOLUTELY NOT AND HERE’S WHY.” People who are willing to encounter depictions of sexual violence and talk with others about them in ways that are transformative and people who refuse to watch them at all and will talk with others about why that is. The risk being that, there are also others who will watch depictions of sexual violence and not interpret those depictions as transformative and will not engage with conversations about them at all. The risk being that, depictions of sexual violence will continue to glorify rather than interrupt the terrible reality and prevalence of sexual violence in our day to day lives. Don’t be these people. If you’re a person who is willing to watch or hear or read depictions of sexual violence, please do so in ways that are transformative. Think. Make Decisions. Is the thing I just encountered glorifying sexual violence? Then I will not choose to encounter it again, and I will tell others why I think it is a glorification of sexual violence. Is the thing I just encountered doing some sort of transformative work? Will it help others to see our dangerous culture of apathy towards sexual violence? Then I’ll talk with others about it and why I think it’s transformative. Will the thing I just encountered potentially offer some sort of healing to victims of sexual violence? Then I will talk about it and why I think it might be healing in some way. Again, we need a multitude of viewpoints and a variety of action to create change on this pervasive, scary, dangerous, terrible issue. But please, please, please develop a viewpoint and take some action. Don’t be apathetic. And on that note, I will say again:
2 thoughts on “Sexual Violence. I will not watch you. Here’s why.”
This is the first time reading your blog and it will not be the last. Thank you for your words on sexual violence and the conversations necessary to highlight its pervasiveness in our culture (and others). This topic is one that many people do not feel comfortable picking up and I appreciate the eloquence and courage shown in this post.
Thanks so much for your comment, Samantha!