Tag Archives: sexual violence

Tyler Perry’s Rape Problem

By Guest Contributor Carolyn Edgar; originally published at CarolynEdgar.com

**TRIGGER WARNING**

From the trailer for Tyler Perry's Temptation

A week after rapper Rick Ross found himself in hot water over a lyric that was said to promote date rape, producer and director Tyler Perry found himself facing questions about a scene in his latest movie, Tyler Perry’s Temptation, in which a character appears to be forced to have sex against her will.

Except–oops. That hasn’t happened. And probably won’t.

While the Internet continues to explode with commentary about Ross’s offensive lyric, almost no one is talking about the disturbing “seduction” scene in Perry’s latest movie. In fact, of all the reviews I read of Perry’s latest–including several that were scathingly contemptuous–only one characterized the scene as rape, and even that reviewer dismissed the movie as camp.

(Spoiler Alert–spoilers to follow)

In the film, Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) is wooed by Harley (Robbie Jones), a  super-rich playboy who is obviously the Devil. We know this because Harley drives a red car and runs shirtless regardless of outdoor temperatures. But we really know Harley’s the Devil because Judith’s preacher mama (Ella Joyce, whose pinched facial expressions deserve their own billing) exclaimed, “That’s the Devil!” in an effort to drive Judith into Harley’s arms–I mean, discourage her from further contact with the man.

But I digress.

Judith and Harley are on Harley’s plane when Harley, in the most unsexy manner possible, lets Judith know that he wants to make love to her. Judith rebuffs him, saying they should keep things strictly professional. Harley grabs her, and Judith says “no” forcefully, a few times, which turns Harley on even more. He pauses long enough to say, “Okay, now you can say you resisted,” and then appears to rape Judith.

The next time we see them, Judith is snatching away from Harley and telling him she wants nothing more to do with him and never wants to see him again–all signs that the encounter on the plane was, indeed a rape. However, in the next scene, Judith sees Harley at her job and becomes angry when he does as she asked and ignores her. (Women are fickle, y’know.)

Suddenly, Judith is at home on her cell phone, berating Harley for not paying her any attention–while her oblivious husband (Lance Gross in dweeb drag) watches a basketball game in the next room. Harley demands to know if Judith’s husband is better in bed than he–and instead of saying, “Of course, since he’s not a rapist”–Judith flashes back to what passes for steamy lovemaking in a Tyler Perry movie. We’re then made to understand that Judith did indeed consent, or at least, gave in. Harley tells her he’s coming to get her, she invents a flimsy work-related excuse and leaves. Her preacher mama is shocked, but her husband doesn’t even look up from the game.

We next see Judith and Harley in a bathtub surrounded by about eight million candles–he’s the Devil, you know–and the proliferation of burning candles and steam means we’re supposed to imagine that some kind of hell sex happened, creating a whole different kind of fire hazard.

There are obvious differences between Rick Ross’s lyric and Tyler Perry’s film. Harley doesn’t slip a molly into Judith’s Champagne–he drugs Judith with bad lines. She is fully conscious–so conscious, she says “no!” several times, in fact.

The woman who half-heartedly resists the hunk’s advances until she can no longer deny her own desires and gives in, is, of course, a hackneyed and familiar trope of romance novels and soap operas.

Problem is, we don’t see Judith giving in. We do see her saying “no,” and Harley forcing himself on her. We don’t understand that she eventually acquiesced until the flashbacks.

And this is why Perry deserves some backlash–backlash he won’t get from mainstream media–for this scene.

Perry could have easily made Judith’s consent obvious. A breathless “Yes!” wouldn’t have completely removed the “ick” factor, but would have made Judith’s desires clear. Instead, Perry inexplicably chooses to leave the audience in suspense–briefly–as to whether or not an actual rape occurred, all while promoting the dangerous idea that a woman’s “no” is not really “no,” but merely part of the game of seduction. This scene puts Perry in such fine company as men’s rights advocates who argue that date/acquaintance rape is simply buyer’s remorse, and men who argue–as one man did on Twitter last week–that a man has to push to make sure a woman’s “No” is really “No.”

In real life, people who are sexually assaulted sometimes stop resisting to avoid further physical injury. Relenting, or giving in to what feels inevitable, is hardly the same as consent. As many people have said in the wake of Steubenville, “no means no” needs to be updated to “anything other than yes means no.”

Of course, Perry also is out to punish Judith for turning her back on the Lord. Judith’s downfall is foreshadowed when she starts dressing like Kim Kardashian and drinking alcohol. In this sense, it may not matter to the film’s overall morality message whether Harley rapes or seduces Judith. Either she consented, or she asked for it. Notably, Perry screened this film for 100 pastors prior to its release. They gave him their blessings. That fact may be more troubling than the film itself.

I admit Tyler Perry’s films are not for me. Perry has achieved tremendous success by making films that are not only not aimed at people like me, but which are derisive of ambitious, professional black women like me.  I’m sure many excuses will be made for how this pivotal “seduction” scene isn’t rape, or how I’m just a hater–the usual response to those who criticize Perry’s movies. Whatever.

Still, if we’re holding entertainers to account for their words and images, we should be consistent. Perry is as responsible for the images he puts on film as Rick Ross is for the words he puts on a record. And both deserve to be called out for promoting a patriarchal view of sex in which a woman’s consent is irrelevant.

Very Smart Brothas’ Fauxpology, Too $hort’s “Advice,” And Muffling About Intraracial Sexual Violence

By Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Honestly, reading some of the analyses about the fauxpology from Very Smart Brothas about their “rape prevention advice” and rapper Too $hort’s “fatherly advice” to boys and young men condoning sexually assaulting girls and young women is making me fidgety. Not because they’re not on point—most make points I agree with, if not co-sign with, and some are wonderfully written.

However, a fact remains that seems to hang on the edges of these commentaries, implied, like a family secret. And, like a family secret, that fact keeps those quiet in order to, if nothing else, “keep up appearances” in front of friends, neighbors, co-workers, and “society.” (In this case, the “white gaze” that judges Black people’s behavior monolithically, culturally pathological.) And, while it seems like everything may be OK, that fact—like a family secret—destroys…and deeply.

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I’m Not Your Habibi: Thoughts on Craig Thompson’s Graphic Novel

By Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

Sir Richard Burton is most famous for sexing up The 1,001 Arabian Nights. Two centuries later, Craig Thompson has graciously provided some accompanying imagery.

I feel like I have no choice but to hate Thompson’s latest graphic novel, Habibi. I’ll admit that it was beautifully drawn, though some of the panels seem needlessly garnished with alchemy symbols or random Arabic letters. But I’ll let Robyn Creswell’s review for The New York Times handle the fact that Thompson clutters his story—my beef with Thompson is about his staggering Orientalism, which I’ll get to shortly.

Themes of longing and survival permeate Habibi. The protagonists, Zam and Dodola, long for each other, likening this to a yearning for the Divine – Middle Eastern poets have done this for centuries. Zam and Dodola endure horrible events in the name of survival, perhaps tying in with Thompson’s conservationist theme by implying that our disregard for the earth is tantamount to rape and castration of the planet. These themes, however, are often drowned out—no matter how much Thompson underlines them—by the towering gaffes of his misrepresentation. The country of Wanatolia may be fiction, but the cultures it mimics and clumsily muddles together are real.
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Because Amber Cole is Just a Kid and Boys Learn to Be Boys

It ain’t no fun/if the homies can’t have none. – Snoop Dogg

You know, there are a lot of people weighing in on this Amber Cole thing. But most of the conversation is about her, as is par for the course in our culture. The boys involved are still anonymous in the eyes of the world. For me, I always wonder why there aren’t open letters to these kids? There are tons to Amber Cole – people saying they could be her father, people saying STFU with all that victim-blaming and feminist-scapegoating madness – but no one seems interested in writing letters to the boys involved.

But hey, maybe it’s just me. I guess when one of your friends – along with a person who sexually assaulted you – ends up in jail for gang rape, you start thinking about things a bit differently.

After I wrote the Not Rape Epidemic, right after I submitted the essay, but before it was actually published, I ran into an old friend at my local library. I hadn’t seen this friend in a decade – indeed, I didn’t remember her name until I left the library. Yet somehow, we both happened to be in the same library, at the same time, on the same day, after not seeing each other for ten years. We say hey, make small talk.

And then she asks me: “Did you know T got out?”

We both were silent for a second. We hadn’t talked since before the incident. She didn’t know that I had been to that trial. She didn’t know I had seen the girl. And I had forgotten she was far closer to him than I was. When T and the other kids were sentenced, we calculated they would get out when we were in our 30s or 40s. We didn’t realize how the system works, and how a lot of people end up released early. T had been incarcerated from age 14 to about age 24.

“His sister called me,” my friend continued. “She asked me if I wanted to come to his his welcome home party.” She looked at me, stared hard so I could feel the weight of her pain.

“How am I supposed to look at him after he did something like that?” Continue reading

I Haven’t Actually Been Called a Slut

By Creatrix Tiara, cross-posted from Creatrix Tiara

Not that I know of anyway – no one’s said that to me in my face. I don’t even know if I’ve been called a harlot or a whore or any other synonym for a loose promiscuous woman.

People don’t often tend to associate me with sexuality, at least when they just see me and don’t really know about what I get up to. “Unattractive” or “ugly” would probably be more common insults, asides from “you Bangla”.

But the biggest reason though is because I spent all my life in a society and culture where people didn’t even talk about sexuality. That thing about how women are sexualised in society through ads and media and all that? Not where I came from! You were meant to be pure, innocent, untouched, sweet…”sweet” was actually a word that got used a hell of a lot as a compliment, come to think of it.

If you wanted to denote someone as slutty, trashy, harlot-like, you know what you’d call them?

Sexy.

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Time Magazine on Gender, Migrant Work & Rape

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

Time Magazine reports on women migrant workers who have been raped, and the resulting pregnancies:

While globalization has turned much of the world into a wide-open labor market, it has also created complex human and societal dramas. Women account for up to 50% of the world’s 100 million–strong migrant-worker population — and there is no effective entity to protect their rights and dignity. In 2008, Indonesians working abroad, commonly as domestic staff in the Middle East and parts of Asia, contributed about $6.8 billion to their national economy via remittances, according to the World Bank. And while statistics are difficult to come by, there are increasing reports of many who are physically abused, raped and — in some cases — killed by their employers…

…female migrant workers are raped and then dumped on the streets by their employers, who refuse to give them their passports after discovering that the women are pregnant. The women are then arrested by police and placed in jail. Sometimes they are deported before the child is born.

Normawati says there are dozens of children who were abandoned by migrant workers in homes throughout Jakarta and surrounding areas.

I really appreciate the way this article draws attention to the intersection of gender and workers’ rights.  The article focuses on Indonesian women working in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but their stories are an illustration of a wider problem — those hit hardest by callous economic policies are almost always poor women of colour.

But it must be said that I do not care for the way Time Magazine characterises the women migrant workers.  The article doesn’t interview any actual migrant workers;  as a result both the mothers and the children they leave are painted as voiceless victims, when there is definitely a lot more to their existence than that. (For example, the women are referred to as “raped migrant mothers” – not “women who were raped while doing migrant work.” Potentially a small difference, but the first phrase reduces the women to the word “raped.”)  As well the article repeatedly emphasises how these women have ABANDONED their children; leaving the reader with a rather crude and over-simplified picture of women in unimaginable situations, forced to make terrible choices.

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