Warning: This may be be difficult for some to read. If discussion about rape is too much for you, please go ahead and pass on this. I will always support mental health and taking care of yourself.
The anime adaptation of Goblin Slayer has come out this season and it’s raised a lot of discussion in the community due to some of the material in it with one scene in particular I’ve heard about. I haven’t seen the scene in question, nor have I sat down to watch a lot of shows this season but I wanted to take time to post my thoughts on rape scenes in general in media because I feel there are a couple of important things to think about when it comes to this discussion. Once again, this isn’t a direct commentary on this anime as I can’t do that. I’ve not seen it so I won’t say Goblin Slayer is completely acceptable or to burn it as filth or anywhere in-between.
So to get into it, while I think there are a ton of other factors to consider, I believe there are two big questions to always ask when creators put a rape scene in a series like this.
The first is: Is this glorifying this type of activity?
This could be showing that rape is an okay action but it’s more than just having the story explain away the character’s actions or excuse them. Glorifying rape can also be how the scene itself is handled, how the creators are presenting it. The show could show that “Oh, isn’t this bad?” but do so in such a way as to fetishize the rape itself. This can be through the cinematography, editing, or other ways. There are, and this is fucked up to think about, whole genres of non-consensual content from different types of media that all are for the purposes of someone getting off to it, even if the scene paints itself with an “Oh, isn’t this tragic?” idea to it. As such, it’s not enough to simply say that since it doesn’t congratulate the rapist, it’s not glorifying it. If the intent is to arouse or just plainly get off on it, then it’s still not okay, whether or not the story shows the person being raped expressing actual horror and distress.
The second question is technically two but they’re linked: What purpose does this scene give to the story and is rape a necessary element or can the purpose of this scene be achieved through other means?
Many times in a story that includes this type of scene, the story passes the first question easy. It’s not glorifying the act and it’s not being made to get off to. Thank fucking goodness. The intention is to actually show something really fucked up, to drive home the evil at play in this story. However, there are a plethora of media that jump to rape in order to show this. The creators think possibly, “We need to really show how evil our character(s) are. What is the most fucked up thing they could do? Oh, I know! Rape!”
Rather than considering the implications of putting legitimately one of the most messed up things in existence in a story, they jump straight to using rape as a device to show how evil their characters are. These creators aren’t actually considering rape as the very real and very messed up thing it is, they just see it as a easy plot device to show how bad their bad guys are.
This is an issue. There are so many ways to show evil in a series. I’ve watched countless horror films, even the really graphic and gory ones that never once had rape nor needed it to get across the genuine terror that their evil expresses. In the realm of video games, holy hot literal damn is Doom (2016) filled with some real evil shit, but rape is never needed to express this and honestly would get in the way of the game the devs are trying to express.
So for so many creators in general to jump to rape, sometimes without any reason at all for it to be in the story besides “plot device”, that tells more about how uncaring these creators are in considering the reality of this terrible and disgusting crime that happens too often in real life. 1 in 5 women have been raped in the United States, roughly 22 million women, and that’s not even including the amount of men and transgender individuals who have suffered as well. This is a massive issue and, even worse, it is still not being taken serious by the courts and police, at times. Because of this, rape is extremely under-reported, with over 80% of cases never being reported at all.
There is a reason why people take rape in media seriously far beyond the idea of being understandably triggered from past experience. Creators should take just as much caution and seriousness to this issue and clearly, that is not the case for many shows that rely upon rape. You can tell your story, and you can tell it even better, without relying on a rape scene to get your point across. If it is an integral part of the story, and sometimes it genuinely can be, then you must, MUST, treat it with the respect this discussion deserves given the extremely real evil that this is.
So ask these questions when these types of scenes come up in media. Is this media glorifying rape? And also, is it necessary to the story being told or can it be replaced? If you ask either of these questions and the answer doesn’t come up great, or even a little borderline not good or wishy-washy, then it should never have been done in the first place.