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Rape Portrayed As Redemption
aka: Rape As Redemption
"Anyone who watches soap operas knows that the quickest way to turn a bad girl into a sympathetic heroine is to have her raped.
One day a bad girl traipses into town. She could be a snotty trouble-making type, a Femme Fatale
, or just a woman with overly healthy appetites for sex, power, or both. She spends the next few months making life interesting for the guys and infuriating for the parents/good girls.
And then she is raped
. Or perhaps in a "child-friendly" version, just
Who does the rape is not important. What's important is that, rape being one of the most horrific crimes in the world
, the girl is completely broken by her experience; she begins along a slow, steady path to recovery, often aided by a gentle male soul, who sometimes charms her. However, when all is said and done, she is no longer a "bad girl"; she has become the sweet heroine at the center of the show. Even if the dialogue goes out of its way to say that the woman isn't at fault, the personality changes that result in making her more docile are a big reason why she goes from bad girl to beloved. In short, getting raped was the best thing that ever happened to her
. Could also be related to The Woobie
Alternatively, either a specific man or the entire male gender (or both) need to be taught a lesson
. If the man is being raped by a woman, it is often used to make a statement for sexual equality, sometimes for strange values of "equality"
. If the man is being raped by another man, it's usually punishment for being a rapist or not being sufficiently sympathetic to female rape victims.
One particularly disturbing version is so-called "curative" rapes, where a Heteronormative Crusader
rapes a lesbian, justifying his crime with claims that the sex act will "cure" her of her homosexuality
. Modern works will usually cast the rapist as a villain, but in earlier works the rapist may very well be the hero
, and (due to contemporary misunderstanding of what lesbianism was) the cure may very well work.
Regardless of how well the story is told, this trope has rather disturbing undertones
. There is a sense that the man/woman is being punished and that he/she needs to be "taught a lesson", in regard to his/her sexuality or assertiveness.
The female version is also very popular in Anime Fan Fic
, especially with the Alpha Bitch
of any show as the victim.
This trope is rife with Unfortunate Implications.
You have been warned. No Real Life Examples, Please!
Rape of Women by Men
- A rather strange variation takes place in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, of all places, where Anzu is depicted as hostile to Joey and Yugi, until she gets blackmailed into going to the school gym where a perverted gym instructor starts video-taping her. After she gets knocked unconscious against a wall, Yugi shows up and stops the situation by mind-crushing the man. After this, Anzu becomes a lot nicer. In the US version, it is depicted as Yugi rescuing her from a mugger... probably a good place for a Macekre if there ever was one.
- In the manga, she was always Yugi's friend and nice to him. She defended Yugi from Jonouchi when he picked on Yugi. She was more concerned about Jonouchi/Joey telling everyone since they didn't get along and she thought of him as a blabbermouth punk. Although, if this is the case in the anime (that she was already nice to Yugi) is hard to tell.
- The Rapeman, a Black Comedy manga, took this to its logical conclusion: A superhero who raped female criminals in order to make them peaceful, law-obeying women. Though it only ran for 9 issues before being canceled (though it remarkably spawned both an anime and four live-action movies), the sheer absurdity of its premise nonetheless earned it a sizeable cult audience in the USA — including music producer Steve Albini, who named a noise rock band after it.
- There was a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode where The Rapeman series was brought up in a trial and was at one point considered as the cause of the defendant's deviant behavior.
- It was a fairly idiotic bit in an episode during the first season (wherein they would show at various points in some episodes the detectives testifying in trials unrelated to the main case of the episode). The defendant was a man arrested for a rape that was committed by his 13 year old son (not only was the man at work at the time, he had never even met the victim). The detective arrested the man due to the claim that he was raising his son in an "atmosphere that condoned rape". The idiotic bit was that not only was the man's possession of issues of Rapeman the only evidence for such a claim, but the fact that the detective didn't actually know what Rapeman was about (she admittedly didn't know Japanese, so she had to guess the premise (which she got wrong) from the images).
- Happens in a surprisingly high number of Fan Fics involving Bellatrix Lestrange.
- Also occurs in Shinji and Warhammer 40K in the prologue, with Shinji's childhood crush as the victim.
- In the Galaxy Rangers Fan Fic Isn't Life Strange, this hits Daisy O'Mega. While she was on her way to exchange information on an impending Crown attack for a pardon of her impressive rap sheet, being caught and brutalized by her former partner-in-crime Macross along with being tossed in the Psychocrypt was enough for her to give up crime and go back to bounty hunting for the good guys after her pardon went through.
- A few fanfics giving this treatment to Daria's rather bitchy sister, Quinn, were famously a source of much controversy within the fandom.
- In Goldfinger, James Bond's triggering of the mandatory High Heel Face Turn comes dangerously close to this.
- That it merely comes close to this is a softening from the book, since in the original he essentially rapes Pussy Galore out of her lesbianism.
- This is one of major weak point of the movie Hounddog. The director clearly stated that the movie is about Lewellen (9-years-old girl) "overcoming" her rape, but the effect is not that. Rather, she becomes a much more wholesome character (including not being fixated on her body anymore) and generally looks like a better person.
- A very common occurrence both in 19th century underground erotica and in 20th century pulp fiction. In most cases the victim is a lesbian who is "cured" through being violently raped by the brave, brave hero.
- Flannery O'Connor was a big fan of this one. Although few instances of rape exist in her fiction, she nonetheless typically regarded extreme acts of violence against prideful, self-righteous people as acts of salvation — something to snap them out of their foolishness. See "Good Country People" and "Revelation", for examples.
- The term 'rape' is used rather casually in BDSM literature, such as Anne Rice's Beauty series and John Norman's World of Gor. Though they're not exclusively depicted as non-consensual sexual abuse, such depictions are there, and in both cases is said to 'improve' the slave. In fact, the entire principle of slavery, humiliation, and sexual punishment in the Beauty series was to discipline and refine the ruling class before permitting them to rule.
- However, the BDSM community by and large takes consent extremely seriously. The looser Gorean views have lead to many people disowning the group, if not the books, altogether.
- Diana Mayo, female protagonist of The Sheik. While it's not as blatant as the Rape Is Love, it's not-so-subtly implied that her repeated rape and the subsequent Stockholm Syndrome that cause her to become more subservient and feminine are karmic retribution for being so "unnaturally" cold and "unfeminine".
- This was a common trope to Germanic epic narratives. The Nibelungenlied plays this straight with Brunhild, who needs a Cyrano figure not only to woo her, but to rape her into submission, as well. This theme is played more subtly in Beowulf, which includes a side-story about an evil princess named Modthryth who tortured people for looking at her the wrong way. Naturally, she becomes a fantastic queen, after being married off.
- Of course, once Brunhild finds out what happens (from Siegfried's boastful wife), she is out for blood and sets in motion the plot to assassinate Siegfried, and once that is achieved, she disappears from the story, leaving Gunther without a wife but with a sister now hellbent on avenging Siegfried. In some versions, e.g. the Fritz Lang/Thea von Harbou film, Brunhild commits suicide once Siegfried is dead.
- Subverted in Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, which has Lisbeth Salander playing the bad girl doing bad things bit perfectly. She ends up being raped by the person designated as her primary caretaker — twice. Instead of reforming, or ending up a broken bird, she submits her tormentor to the same torture he put her through and then tattoos "I am a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist." on his chest and stomach before threatening to destroy him if he ever crosses her again. She never tells anyone about the rape (until it comes up in her trial), and she doesn't soften up.
- In Death: Carly Landsdowne from Witness In Death arguably gets this. She starts out as rather hedonistic and a Jerkass. Then Eve ends up revealing to her that her birth father is none other than Asshole Victim Richard Draco, who she had sex with. Carly displays appropriate Squick reactions to that revelation. The last that was seen of her, she was having sessions with professional psychologist Dr. Mira.
- Michael Moorcock's Gloriana ends with the titular queen being raped by her sometime-lover and sometime-enemy; this is portrayed as a spiritual cure for a lot of things that have been plaguing her life, and they marry and live happily ever after. When a feminist friend pointed out the Unfortunate Implications to Moorcock, he agreed, facepalmed, and rewrote the ending so that Gloriana's redemption comes from her standing up against her would-be rapist, asserting her power, and making him realize that he loves her and doesn't want to hurt her, and then they have mindblowing consensual emotionally-healing and curse-breaking sex. Subsequently Moorcock became a crusader against gratuitous violence against women in fiction.
- A standard plot of many Soap Operas:
- Promiscuous troublemaker Marty Saybrooke on One Life to Live was the centerpiece of the multiple Emmy-winning gang rape Umbrella Story back in the early 1990s. While the show was abundantly clear that her drunken state and previous hook-up with the lead rapist did not justify what happened, Marty still did a Heel Face Turn in the aftermath.
- Elizabeth Webber on General Hospital. Originally, she came to town as the overlooked younger sister, seething with jealousy over her seemingly perfect sister, Sarah. At first, the show started a Betty and Veronica with brunette troublemaker Elizabeth, golden girl Sarah and nice guy Lucky Spencer. Fast forward to the Valentine's Day rape and Lucky finding the brutalized Elizabeth in the park. Within months, Sarah is gone, Elizabeth and Lucky are bonding, and Elizabeth becomes one of the show's central heroines.
- Averted the first time, but played straight the second time with Days of Our Lives Sami Brady. In 1994, Sami was already developing a reputation as a troublemaker (having switched a paternity test on her baby sister and then kidnapped said baby sister, as well as trying to steal Austin Reed, her older sister's boyfriend). When the character was raped, the character became even worse and ended up being the show's secondary villain. In fact, less than a year after her own rape Sami was resorting to drugging Austin into sleeping with her. Fast-foward to 2007 and Sami is forced to have sex with EJ Welles in order to save her fiance Lucas' life. This time the rape is used to complete Sami's Heel Face Turn. Though this later turned into a Rape Is Love situation as Sami was later forced to divorce Lucas in order to marry EJ, but then eventually chose EJ over him.
- Similarly with As the World Turns Emily, a scheming vixen who was eventually raped by her partner-in-crime when she expressed disgust as some of his actions. Although she did spend several months dressing very conservatively and shunning romantic relationships, it wasn't long before she returned to her old ways, eventually pursuing the husband of a woman who had befriended her after they met at a rape crisis center.
- Gloria Marsh on All My Children came to town as a scheming, conniving, lying con artist who blackmailed her former partner and lover into resuming their affair by threatening to tell his wife Dixie about his past. Although we'd begun to see hints of her humanity before, we got a full Heel Face Turn once she was raped. Several years later, a similar character, Kit Fisher showed up in town as an already reformed con artist whom no one wanted to give the benefit of the doubt. Sure enough, she became the town heroine once she was raped.
- Paige on Degrassi The Next Generation. Lampshaded by Boycott the Caf.
- Number Six on Battlestar Galactica. All the many Six duplicates start being portrayed more sympathetically after we're introduced to one of them named Gina, who was gang-raped by the crew of the Battlestar Pegasus. Before that, they were typically hard-core in their evil blonde robotness. Nicely addressed in an essay here.
- Gina is sympathetic but not necessarily "good". She did still blow a bunch of people up in the end.
- Bree Van De Kamp in Desperate Housewives continued her downward spiral of taking random men home from bars every night only to encounter a not-so-friendly prospect in the parking lot. She is rescued by Orson, immediately drops the habit and returns to her former conservative demeanor.
- On Veronica Mars, with Parker is an annoying ditz and seen as promiscous until she's raped. Afterward, she's more mature, and becomes a good friend to Veronica and Mac.
- While it was merely an Attempted Rape, the 'going after' of Elizabeth Patterson in For Better or for Worse has undertones of this, since this is the main impetus that got her back into the arms of her high school sweetheart Anthony, who saved her. Considering Anthony's the Creator's Pet, though.... (also considering he asked her to wait for him, as his divorce hadn't gone through yet...)
Rape of Women by Women
- A variant of this trope happens in Infinite Ryvius: Kozue whose boyfriend counts as privileged on the ship, infuriates people around her with her spoiled and selfish behavior (she's not doing it on purpose, though, but fails to read the warning signs). In the end a group of girls assault her and it's implied that she's raped as well. After this, her behavior does change dramatically, but she doesn't really recover from the trauma — especially as the incident makes her boyfriend react in a way that has horrible consequences for everyone on the ship.
- Seems to be a subversion for the most part. While Kozue does display (unintentionally) bratty behavior, much of it is in response to the bullying she receives from other girls. In addition, she changes from being perky to angry and reclusive, so as mentioned above, she does not "improve" after the incident.
- The Vagina Monologues includes a section ("The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could") where the speaker reminisces fondly about getting drunk and being seduced by an older woman (statutory rape rather than non-consensual rape). This section proved controversial for this reason and the victim is commonly either aged up in productions, or the scene is skipped entirely.
Rape of Men by Men
- There are like a million "Light gets raped" fics.
- The movie Sorority Boys combines this trope with Disguised in Drag, where circumstances force a sexist fraternity brother to dress in drag and pretend to be a woman. One of his fraternity brothers feeds him a roofie and anally rapes him (believing him to be a woman throughout).
- This is arguably one way to interpret the climactic scene of Marsellus Wallace being raped in Pulp Fiction.
- American History X: After Edward Norton's character is prison raped by his "comrades" for associating with a black inmate (ironically, the man who rapes him deals with a Mexican), it's one of the turning points for him abandoning his Neo-Nazi ways.
- The rape occurs because Edward Norton's character, as a Neo-Nazi who got his start before going to prison, disapproves of the prison Neo-Nazis associating with non-whites. They later rape him to teach him a lesson.
- Extremely bizarre subversion: The award-winning short film series The Puppet Rapist has the titular puppet rapist find redemption by, well, raping a puppet (but this time for the right reasons). You really have to see it yourself.
- Prominent in prison dramas.
- The character of Beecher in season 1 of HBO's Oz probably sums it up, as well as others that followed. The most direct approach occurred in later seasons with the character of Beecher's acquaintance Adam Guenzel and his friend, as their own crime was gang raping a stranger woman.
- This could be the point of the Carver arc in Nip/Tuck: The Carver selects beautiful models (both female and male), brutally rapes them and disfigures their faces. In one memorable case, the Carver rapes a male victim, hinted to be a jerkass prior to the rape, making him pathetic, broken and emasculated.
- In The Rape of Richard Beck, the titular character is a detective who thinks rape victims bring it on themselves, but has a change of heart.
- Niall's backstory in the Wicked Lovely series. The rape showed that he did, in fact care for the mortals, and his self-sacrificing (perhaps overly so) nature. His attitude towards being a survivor is also largely responsible for him being a good-ish person.
- We never find out *all* the details of what The Bastard of Bolton did to Theon, but it is very heavily hinted that there was at least some kind of sexual abuse involved (not even counting what we see outright on Jeyne's wedding night). Sure enough, Theon, who spent the last book where we saw him being thoroughly loathsome, becomes the Woobie. The torture helped, but the sexual abuse was the horrible icing on the cake.
Rape of Men by Women
- Wedding Crashers is about two friends who crash weddings and have sex with women they find at said weddings, theory being that watching a marriage makes women much easier targets than, say, in a bar (open bars help too). One of Vince Vaughn's conquests turns out to be a nutcase who won't let him go and does increasingly insane things to him. And keeping in line with the trope, he goes from being an unrepentant womanizer to falling madly in love with her and marrying her by the film's end.
- The Most Fertile Man In Ireland: when the most fertile man in Ireland refuses to use his newfound ability, a woman whose husband is sterile and whose religious beliefs deny her artificial insemination, sneaks up to his room in the middle of the night and starts graphically raping him in his sleep. The incident is served only to make him realize he can't deny his potential. He decides to at least grant his consent from then on by charging money from the other willing local women.
- In an episode of Law & Order: SVU, Detective Stabler is unsympathetic to and dismissive of a male stripper who had been raped by three female clients, refusing to believe that a man can be physically overpowered by women. Later in the episode, two of his female coworkers demonstrated how two of the women worked together to disable and murder the third woman, using Stabler as the victim. While he was not raped, the disquieting demonstration was clearly meant to teach the unsympathetic alpha male a lesson about gender equality.
- In Weeds U-Turn has Clinique give Sanjay his first taste of woman more or less at gunpoint. Doesn't help that Sanjay is gay.
- Jason from True Blood gets kidnapped and gang raped by at least a dozen women. He seems to think of it as punishment for all of the casual sex he was having. It also doesn't help that the payoff for this storyline was him getting together with Jessica.
- Occurs in Family Guy with the use of shadows, in which a sex deprived Lois forces herself onto Peter (taken to abstinence). It doesn't take much for him to give in. It Makes Sense In Context. Peter had missed the point of why some people choose abstinence, and so it was Played for Laughs.
- In the third season episode "Lethal Weapons" where Lois, extremely confident and violent due to practicing martial arts, rapes Peter, who is visibly traumatized the next morning. When Stewie strikes Peter with a baseball bat, a horrified Lois declares that she will renounce violence. This leads to the bizarre scenario of Lois being redeemed as a result of raping someone (she is never called out or punished for having done so).
- In a later episode where Peter's boss is sexually harassing him, Lois doesn't believe him because men can't be abused. Both in this episode and "Lethal Weapons", it is expressed as something that Peter does not want to do, but it probably wouldn't matter if they were called out on it, cause they don't see it as something wrong.