Aug 11, 2011 @ 10:06 am | By TheFeministGriote | 6 Comments
There was a time when I would watch hours of the show Law & Order SVU. On holidays when USA would play SVU marathons I would watch upwards of 5+ hours. I would even live tweet the show. I was part of the SVU occult I loved to see how Stabler & Benson would catch the disgusting rapists and set the rape victims on the road to healing and recovery. As a feminist I loved the way in which the character Benson played by Mariska Hargitay is written. Benson is smart, strong, and is able to hold her own in a male dominated department. Her character is compassionate and tender without seeming like a damsel in distress. I also appreciate the way in which the writers diversified the rape narrative. The show drove home the point that anyone can be a victim of rape from a rich socialite, refugee woman, a child, a man, transperson, or lesbian and rapists were just as equally diverse.
I learned a great deal from SVU. It was during an episode of SVU that I learned about the rape kit backlog disaster that our nation currently faces. There is more than 200,000 + rape kits that are sitting in police warehouses that have never been tested. This means there are rapist in our community that are living hassle free and that also means there are possibly innocent men in jail accused of rape. I for one was thankful that SVU raised awareness on such a travesty concerning rape victims.
There was no doubt that I was hooked on the show until very recently. I had a conversation that challenged my whole perception. Our society seems to get off on sexualized violence. Hence the popularity of cop shows. Cops shows are always trying to outdo each other on how gory and violently a woman can be violated on network television and we the public love it. We make appointments weekly to bond with each other over our collective love of sexualized violence against women. But in real life when women are raped we scrutinize them to death and put their sexual history on trial as if that will justify the rapists crime. As many cop shows that we consume as a society we seem to all forget that rape is a crime that has everything to do with power and little to do with sex. We seem to always question the woman. What was she wearing, why was she with him, why did she have a drink, and why was she breathing?
The Dominique Strauss-Kahn case has again reminded me that a woman who dares to speak up and say she was raped will be forced to undergo a series of many evasive public probes, akin to the actual rape that she endured. In real life there is no Detective Stabler or Benson to make us care and call us out on our callousness. We love to romanticize rape in shows, but when women come forward unless they fit the bill for the perfect victim we assume that these women simply got what they were looking for. We expect rape victims to be semi virginal women of impeccable moral standing and if she so happens to be a poor woman, sex worker, stripper, or the wife of the accused the court of public opinion will just label her a “hoe” looking for sympathy or a pay day.
In an effort not to become desensitized I have stopped watching SVU. In all honesty I don’t think that I can ever truly become desensitized by rape because as a woman I live under the constant real fear of not becoming a victim myself. I am turned off by the way our society treats victims of sexual violence. One is either part of the problem or solution. Watching hours of rape stories being recounted and reenacted no longer seems like suitable entertainment for me.
Do you think our society is obsessed with romanticizing rape in TV drama’s, but vilify rape victims in real life?!
Categories: Mind Over Chatter