Last night's episode of True Blood contained the usual outrageous plot twists and soap opera-levels of drama, which is great and which is why I (and probably you if you're reading this) look forward to summer Sunday nights. However, it also contained a totally fucked-up gang rape scene which the show's creators (and many media outlets) are calling anything but.
(Trigger warning for descriptions of rape in the rest of this post.)
For those of you who didn't see the episode but don't mind some spoilers, here's a brief recap: Jason Stackhouse is being held hostage by the people of Hot Shot, who are one-dimensional "hillbilly" characters in every way—they eat raw squirrel, they are always inexplicably dirty, they have crooked teeth and exaggerated accents, etc.—except one: They're werepanthers (yep, in Bon Temps that is totally a thing). Because of some serious inbreeding issues, they need to introduce new genes into the werepanther pool so Crystal, Jason's former love interest, drugs him while he's tied to a bed unconscious, and the women of Hot Shot line up to rape him in the hopes of getting pregnant.
HBO sums the scene up thusly:
With Jason gashed, feverish, and tied to a bed, Crystal feeds him Mexican Viagra. As he goes in and out of consciousness, he becomes aware that Crystal is having sex with him, and there is a line of Hot Shot women at the door waiting to do the same. With all the sincerity he can muster, he tells Crystal he wished he never laid eyes on her.
Does that sound like a sex scene to you?
Well, most recaps of last night's episode (the Washington Post, the LA Times, Vulture, Rolling Stone) are referring to it as a "sex scene" or a "disturbing sex scene" or even as Jason and Crystal "consummating" their relationship. Now, I know that we're talking about werepanthers, and True Blood is by no means a documentary, but it's upsetting to see so many people dismiss or even laugh at the scene just because Jason is a man who is known for bragging about his sexual prowess. Would they feel similarly lighthearted about the whole thing if Sookie or Tara had been tied to the bed while the men of Hot Shot raped them in the hopes of having werepanther babies? Probably not.
Here's a clip that shows part of the scene and also shows writer Alan Ball and director David Petrarca describing it as Jason getting his "comeuppance" for his sexual history:
Again, True Blood is a show that's full of taboos and has a reputation for over-the-top sex scenes, and I get that (hey, I'm a fan). However, when a rape clearly occurs onscreen and we call it something else, that contributes to a culture that says straight men can't be victims of rape, especially if they're young and attractive and enjoy sex with women. Newsflash, True Blood writers, directors, and recappers: If someone is tied to a bed and drugged and forced to have sex against his will, that's rape. Even if it is with werepanthers.