Rape depictions on the TV

There's been some discussion recently in the feminist blog circle about the trend of cop shows (CSI, Law & Order, something called "Killer Instinct", and more) using the rape and murder of women as typical fodder for a storyline. No, there's nothing new about this trend, but evidently this season's shows are particularly gruesome. Maureen Ryan describes a scene from Killer Instinct where a woman is paralyzed by toxins from a spider bite, then raped and murdered. How creative.

The thing that has always bothered me about these shows, prior to the creative twists, is the fact that the rape part is always a given. "She was raped and murdered." Say it out loud, it rolls right off the tongue. Call me naive, but I've never understood why, in entertainment or in news, that rape is a given when violence is committed against women. Of course she was raped, the stories seem to say. What criminal in his right mind wouldn't go to town on a female victim ripe for pickin'?

Explanations come from the Washington Post, saying that the rape and murder of (often attractive, young) women is attractive that oh-so-elusive demographic: the 18-to-34 year old male. Amanda Marcotte says it's like de Beauvoir says, that we all empathize with men more, so watching women get victimized is easier to stomach.

Any way you slice it, it offers clues to me on why rape still happens in our culture. With all our hand-wringing and paternalistic shepherding, we condone rape with our framing in our media. By recreating the rape scene in ever more explicitly gruesome ways, we create that car crash scene for rubberneckers galore to cluck and tsk -- the same rubberneckers who can't peel themselves away from, or even admit to, their own perverse voyeurism.


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