I detest characters who think that no means yes [fuckin’ Lovelace… >_> ], but I must admit I have a special depth of hatred for characters who manipulate others’ ambivalence.
For example, in no particular order:
- Christian Grey. As I’ve discussed ad nauseam [most recently here], Ana thinks Christian’s pretty hot. However, he also terrifies her. Christian gives exactly zero shits about Ana’s terror. He assumes that her lust for him means that she wants him. He equates the presence of her lust with consent to sexual activity. Thus, in his mind, he is perfectly justified in raping her.
- Frank from Rocky Horror. In my discussion of rape scenes I’ve missed, there are successive parts of RHPS in which Frank rapes both Brad and Janet. Both of them express distress in these scenes, as well as some indications that they’re turned on. Some twisted logic in Frank’s mind, same result.
- That pervert in that movie who’s obviously watching that girl’s house, just waiting for her to give him an excuse to break, enter, scare her, and wangle her into his mind games. [Which movie? Find out below the cut.]
I have a particularly violent loathing for scenes according to the following template:
Protagonist [all by herself]: Hmmmm, should I do make this statement?
Protagonist: I really shouldn’t.
Protagonist: I mean, it’s not very nice…
Audience: Don’t say it!
Protagonist: But what the hell — I’m feeling angry, so I’ll say it.
[The Protagonist SAYS IT.]
[The Antagonist APPEARS.]
Protagonist: Hoooooooo shit.
Antagonist: You’re welcome.
Protagonist: That thing I said back there — that wasn’t really, uh…
Antagonist: Yeah, but you said it.
Antagonist: Nope. Suffer the consequences.
Protagonist: I’m not interested in suffering or consequences.
Antagonist: Well, I am.
Protagonist: So…you won’t go away?
Protagonist: Okay. Fine. I guess I’m forced to play your puerile mind games. What are the rules?
Antagonist: There really aren’t any. I move the goalposts whenever I feel like it.
Protagonist: You despicable shit!
Antagonist: Mmmmmm, the sweet savor of suffering…
This is, of course, a rough condensation of chapter 12 of 50 Craps. It’s also a fair summary of a scene in Labyrinth that goes something like this:
Yay! I love uncritically presented rape culture…especially in kids’ movies! Especially in my favorite movie of all time!
This sort of scene is equivalent to someone allowing a traditional pop culture vampire, who can only enter with permission, into their house. Then the vampire attacks them and drinks their blood. The person says, “Ow, wtf?!”
The vampire says, “You let me in.”
The person says, “I let you into my house, you dipstick, not my aorta!”
Consent to one thing doesn’t necessarily entail consent to all the subsequent things. Nor does wishing for something automatically mean that one wants it to happen. Nor does ambivalence justify the exploitation of one’s partial or fleeting interest in something and actually going ahead and doing the ambivalent thing. All of this is to say that avoiding a no is not the same as securing a yes. Enthusiastic consent, people [discussed in a sexual context by Dr. Nerdlove at the link]!
Tangentially speaking, I think there’s an opportunity here to write about vampires who need explicit enthusiastic consent before drinking people’s blood. If they do get it, both the vampire and the person they’re drinking from feel sensations of pleasure [broadly construed, depending on the individuals involved, not necessarily sexual]. If they don’t get it, both the vampire and the person experience acute bad pain and sickness.
Long ago, the requisite explicit enthusiastic consent was codified into a ritual verbal exchange, known as the Conversation. Everyone accepted this as status quo until recently. Now there are vampires and people working to translate the Conversation into non-verbal forms: manually written, typed, signed in types of sign language, yes/no [i.e., indicated by nodding or shaking head]. This movement is called the Voice, its adherents Speakers. Convinced that the Voice is developing alternative forms of the Conversation solely to exploit those poor, defenseless, nonverbal people, people who can speak decry the Speakers. Those against the Voice are known as Quietists.
Contrary to what the Quietists assume, the Voice as a movement arises from a collaboration between vampires who can’t have the Conversation as it stands and people who also cannot. For these Speakers, the translation of the Conversation means accessibility, inclusion, safety, and equality. So actually most of the Quietists suffer from paternalistic ableism, and they should for once live up to their names and just shut up.