The Invisible Rape

I just watched James Gunn’s dark comedy SUPER, starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page, and I have to say, I’m surprised at the rape scene between the two leads. I’m surprised not because it’s in the movie, in a comedy, but because I now realize exactly how woman-on-man rape happens.

*Note: No, the video linked below is not the rape scene.

[[[SPOILERS]]]

For those who haven’t seen the film, Rainn Wilson (Frank/Crimson Bolt) plays a troubled man who thinks he sees things and has gotten a call from God to become a masked crusader for good. He’s married to a woman who has serious drug problems and has left him to be with the big local drug dealer.

In researching comic book heroes, he meets Ellen Page’s character (Libby/Boltie), who works at the comic book store. After finding out Frank is the masked vigilante being talked about in the news, she gets excited and pushes herself into his hero activity and forces him to take her in as a side-kick, Boltie.

Libby finds the whole thing exhilarating, to the point where she’s completely bonkers. Frank is a troubled man, but Libby is clearly completely insane. In the thrill of it all, she becomes sexually attracted to Frank and Crimson Bolt, wanting to have sex with him. He refuses her once, as he’s still married and considers it a sacred vow. The second time she propositioned him, he was in a vulnerable state and he refused her again. She argued that Frank and Libby cannot have sex, but Crimson Bolt and Boltie aren’t married, so it would be OK. He still refused, but did not deny he likes the way she looks in her costume.

In the heat of passion, Libby mounts Frank, forcing herself on him, and rapes him. He repeatedly tried to fight her off, but even though he was a much bigger man than the tiny Ellen Page, he couldn’t. It was quick, but it was disturbing nonetheless. I’m sure a lot of people would still laugh at the rape, considering it was a woman-on-man rape, but it’s no less disturbing than it should be seen. Once Libby stops forcing herself on him, he pushes her off and runs to vomit in the toilet.

Those who would laugh at the scene or dismiss it as unrealistic don’t seem to realize the entire scope of the situation. Perhaps there are two types of men in the world, those who are not fearful of hurting a woman and those who are. I know women aren’t all delicate flowers, but as a husband and father, I am always aware of how I handle the people close to me. Whenever I play wrestle with my wife, I’m always the loser because I fear a good defense could lead to bruises and lasting damage. I’m a big man; she actually is much more delicate than I am. I know my own strength. Perhaps others don’t mind their strength.

When I watched that scene, I couldn’t help but empathize with Frank. As he struggled to stop her, I could feel the anxiety in his hands whenever they met her arms and her body, trying to stop her but also trying to avoid hurting her. The reality of the rape was clearly in his mind, but so was his sensitivity toward an overbearing woman who he clearly could break in half if he willed it.

Some people argue that scenes like that don’t belong in any movie, but that’s completely wrong. As a matter of fact, there was a bit of a row about the rape scene in the film (one of three depicted in it). I think a scene like that is incredibly useful to convey the fact that woman-on-rape is possible, and it happens. It’s nowhere near as prevalent as man-on-woman rape, and definitely not as stigmatized, but it does occur. I don’t dispute the reasons why man-on-woman rape is more strongly and rightly stigmatized, as women are still a vulnerable class in a society which objectifies and marginalizes women, but it’s foolish to trivialize the other rape. Never hearing about it, or seeing it, doesn’t make it less real and less possible. As a matter of fact, awareness of its possibility is the first step to help people recognize woman-on-man rape.

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