has, for about the fifth or sixth time that I recall, a secret involving Once Upon A Time
character Regina Mills aka The Evil Queen and the fact that back in season 1, she had a non-consensual sexual relationship with a male supporting character (he was the one non-consenting). Now Regina did a lot of other villainous things (including ordering massacres), but I don't think any of them, with the arguable exception of her gaslighting her son, is brought up and argued about more. (I may be wrong about that, since I try to keep away from most OuaT fannish discussions unless I know the people in question.) Cue usual "oh no she didn't!"/"oh yes she did", as well as "if she was a male character, this wouldn't even be a question" (both from the "oh yes she did" side in the sense that a male ruler ordering a female prisoner who is revolted by him into his bedchamber would not be interpreted as anything but a rapist, and from the "oh no she didn't" side (which argues that male fictional rapists get excused all the time). In between, someone points out that Regina did a whole lot of other stuff which doesn't get argued about, and why is rape treated as the ultimate crime? Good question, and not just regarding Regina. It's the crime most often named when people argue why they can't root for the redemption of character X and/or the crime most argued to not even have been committed by X from people who want said character redeemed (or see him, and in rarer cases her, already as good).
Now I think that "more/less evil" isn't a criteria you can put on rape versus, say, murder. They're both heinous actions. But it's still worth noting that as far as fannish discussions are concerned, the killing score of sympathetic villains/morally ambiguous characters seems to bother fans a whole lot less than if their canon shows them committing, or trying to committ, a rape. At a guess, part of this is that fantasy violence (especially if the canon avoids showing much of the resulting dead bodies and gore) is easier to dissociate from real life, while rape is not. And then, there is probably the fear: "I like this character, maybe I even love him/her or fantasize about him/her, I want this character to succeed, to win, to be loved - but this character committed rape. What does this say about me? Therefore, this character hasn't really committed rape. The fantasy surroundings make it not count. Or I take the Doylist appraoch and declare it was the writers (whereas the character's other actions which endeared him/her to me in the first place were of course Watsonian and only the character). Or: the character was himself/herself a victim and so traumatized that she/he can't be held accountable for their actions. Or the ever popular: hero X did something just as bad, so there!"
I decided to do some self inventory and see which of the characters whom I like (in varying degrees ranging "mildly fond" to "love and adore") comitted rape in their canons, and how fannish discussion (if it exists at all) handles that. Let's start with the Romans, because if you are in a slave owning society, and among the owners, and also not in a show that deliberately avoids the issue, chances are that you're guilty as charged, but even so, some characters go above and beyond: Rome
: Mark Antony, definitely. One of his very first scenes shows him having sex with a peasant woman against a tree mid-travelling. I doubt he bothered to ask her first. There is also an episode in which he wants to have sex before getting out of bed, Atia is not in the mood and orders one of her slaves to accommodate him. Which btw means Atia is enabling said rape. Also a rapist: Pullo. Who is in love with his slave (later freedwoman, even later wife) when having sex with her but doesn't bother to ask for her consent, either and is shocked
when finding out that upon being freed, she wants to marry a fellow slave (cue death of male slave). I'm fond of Mark Antony, Atia and Pullo. I think the only one whose actions get debated in this context is Pullo, with the argument being "but he thought Eirene was already in love with him!" and/or "different times". Well, yes, different times, and presumably he did think she was in love with him until disabused of the notion. He still didn't ask, and she was his property at the time, to do with as he pleased. The scene as shown also had her enduring, not responding, to his caresses. Spartacus
: nearly every Roman character, sooner or later, but re: the topic in question, let's stick with Batiatus and Lucretia, both of whom use their slaves as sexual toys for themselves and for other people. I don't think I've seen anyone saying Batiatus isn't guilty, but I did some some debate around Lucretia, specifically, her relationship with the gladiator Crixus. (The debate nexter brings up all the other slaves Lucretia and Batiatus use to turn themselves on at all.) The "oh no she didn't" argument usually goes thusly: she developed genuine feelings for him, then she thought he also loved her, and then there was that one time where she didn't have sex with him when he didn't want to because she was concerned for his life (plot reasons). This ignores that Spartacus
isn't subtle about the whole ownership point: Crixus and Lucretia first start to have sex because she orders him to, he is her property, and the fact she doesn't insist that one time doesn't negate all the other times. (Not to mention Lucretia's reaction once she finds out Crixus loves someone else.) Lucretia is played by Lucy Lawless, and she was one of my favourite characters on the show. She's also, no question about it, a rapist. (Ditto, of course, her husband, whom I was also fond of, horrible person who he was.)
Moving on to contemporary shows with long lived characters:Highlander
: Methos, obviously. Universal fannish favourite, and for quite a while, he was mine, too. (Then Amanda overtook him.) (I still like Methos a lot, though.) He's also, no question about it, a rapist, over a really long time. And wouldn't you know, while fandom never tried to explain the pillaging part in "rape and pillage" away, or the massacring of "tens of thousands", au contraire, thought that Methos' Bronze Age raider past made him even more interesting than he'd already been, it solved the "rape" part by vilifying the surviving victim of same and/or write stories in which Methos was the one raped (by other characters), which made him so traumatized that he, da capo, al fine. Oh, and of course times were different. Buffy
: oh, the can of worms to dwarf most others, and I really don't want the discussion to end up in a reiteration of the Spike Wars, but it would be cheating not to bring the Buffyverse up. So: Angel(us): definitely a rapist, and not just in a metaphorical bloodsucking vampire way. (There are the servant girl in the Amends
flashback and Holtz' wife, and the implication is certainly that there were others.) (And driving mortal Drusilla into insanity culminated in Angel and Darla having sex in front of her before Angel turned her; what do you want to bet they left it at taking her blood?) Spike: see above re: Spike Wars, avoidance of same. But even leaving out Seeing Red
, he mentioned multiple rapes in Never Leave Me
, which however often gets dismissed as "he just wanted to get Buffy to stake him on that occasion" (well, yes, but that doesn't mean he made that up; over at AtS, near the end of Damages
, a key Spike self realization is his admittance that while he wasn't Dana's tormentor, he did do similar things to a great many other people). Darla: while we don't see her having on screen sex with an unwilling victim, she certainly gets a kick of watching her darling boy doing so. Faith: when about to strangle Xander, she sexually assaulted him as well (and he did say no repeatedly). I do like Angel, Spike and Faith, a lot. Darla is my overall AtS favourite. Torchwood
: my own assumption when watching the Torchwood
pilot, in which, among other things, Owen uses a alien pheromene McGuffin to make himself sexually irresistable when going out) was that when he used it on the boyfriend of the girl he'd been hitting on, he made a quick getaway as opposed to having a threesome, so that on this particular occasion, no sex took place. However, the original intention
certainly had been to have sex with the girl, who showed no inclination to respond to his overtures before he used the pheromene McGuffin. Which, yes, makes Owen an attempted rapist (and since I doubt this was the first time he used the McGuffin, I'd be ready to drop the "attempted".) Owen was my favourite TW character during the first two seasons. Being Human
: Mitchell and Hal, step forward. Definitely, like Angelus, guilty of rape in the literally sexual as well as the blood taking vampire sense. Neither of them were my favourites in their canons, but I definitely had times of being fond of both, and my Mitchell issues weren't due to him having raped people (also my Mitchell issues were brilliantly resolved by canon, but that's another story). Once upon a Time
: and we're back to Regina. Who isn't my favourite, but I like her and am certainly on board with her current storyline. In addition to being a multiple murderer, guilty of mental and physical torture on various occasions, and the kidnapper to dwarf all other kidnappers (it's hard to beat transferring everyone in Storybrooke from one dimension to another in order to play out her fantasy scenario, but Regina is also a kidnapper on the mundane literal level, see also: Hansel and Gretel, Owen), she is most definitely a rapist.
And now for the future - including the wretched Prophets of DS9 would be cheating, because while they do committ rape I never could stand them, and they're not fannishly popular, either, so they don't qualify. Babylon 5:
I was going back and thro whether or not to include this example, because it's not sexual non-con, and if you start to include fantasy metaphors, you don't have to bother to differentiate with all the vampires between literal rape and blood taking to begin with. But still: what happens in the episode Dust to Dust
is a mental assault/violation which gets textually, on screen, called a rape (Bester, who ought to know, explains the effect of Dust that way in the exposition scene early on), so I'll include it. Anyway, the perpetrator, G'Kar, who hits rock bottom here, followed by enlightenment, is most definitely among my favourite B5 characters.
In conclusion: I seem to be fond of a lot of fictional rapists. (Or fictional versions of historical characters, in the Roman cases.) The fact they raped people isn't why I like them, obviously, but neither did it stop me from liking them (or prevent me from ever developing sympathy, in the cases where the rapes happen early on). Whereas I don't think there is a rapist among the few fictional characters I have a visceral loathing for, come to think of it, which presumably goes to show rape isn't one of my triggers, at least not in the sense of reacting with "I no longer like this character" or "I have to explain this away in order to continue liking this character". I think my own inner self justification for this, beyond "but they're interesting", is to keep their victims in mind (and in both Methos' and Spike's cases, write fanfiction from their pov). (The other day I came across yet another variation of "but how rude and horrid are the Charmings and the rest of Storybrooke for not wanting to have dinner with Regina mid season 2" . Err. Just about anyone from the Enchanted Forest, with the exception of Rumplestilskin who did his share to form her and besides is guilty of centuries more crimes, is justified in not wanting to socialize with Regina for the rest of their lives. ) (Though since Regina has interesting interactions with other characters, I'm glad some are around her anyway.) And not to prettify anything they've done. Especially
when/if I want them to redeem themselves.