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Zinzikhrome

Dead or Raped

152 posts in this topic

I have always wondered why many people prefer death over rape. This is even common is pop culture. Have a good character dead and you will get sad and emotional response. Have a good character raped and you will see cries of terror and eruptions of rage. Yeah some may think that being raped can damage a person's dignity and "worth", thus they would rather want that person dead. That way, they can preserve that person's "beauty" and "sacredness". But think about it, dying is worse than rape. Yes, your body can be violated but at least you're not dead. Being dead means losing everything. I've always wondered about this. Still, I might be wrong in this whole notion and I'm aware of that, so please don't violate me so much :embarrassed:.

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Well, there are several aspects to this.

First, about this notion that many people have that "rape is worse than death". Some people who feel that way may be actual victims and therefore speak for their own experiences and perceptions. But all too often people who say that are talking for others, for the reasons you've mentioned and because they imagine life after it wouldn't be worth living. For instance I've met a man who told me he'd rather his daughter was murdered than raped. From his own perspective he was speaking out of love for her. But it's deeply twisted, imo, to think and say this. What is a victim supposed to understand when they hear that? "You should be dead", "Your life isn't worth anything anymore", "You can never recover"? Clearly that's the sort of things that could cause a victim to keep it a complete secret and to feel ashamed and so on. This idea relies in large part on sexist beliefs about a woman's worth and strength, as well as on ignorance about what sexual assault is and what survivors go through.

Now, in fiction... I don't have time for a lengthy response plus I don't know what examples you are thinking about. But from my perspective, the issue is that writers often really, really screw up their depictions of rape on screen. It's fine to include such an event in a story, but if they do so poorly, I can get enraged indeed.

 

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53 minutes ago, Zinzikhrome said:

 Being dead means losing everything.

Who told you, you had something to lose ?

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9 hours ago, Seablue said:

Well, there are several aspects to this.

First, about this notion that many people have that "rape is worse than death". Some people who feel that way may be actual victims and therefore speak for their own experiences and perceptions. But all too often people who say that are talking for others, for the reasons you've mentioned and because they imagine life after it wouldn't be worth living. For instance I've met a man who told me he'd rather his daughter was murdered than raped. From his own perspective he was speaking out of love for her. But it's deeply twisted, imo, to think and say this. What is a victim supposed to understand when they hear that? "You should be dead", "Your life isn't worth anything anymore", "You can never recover"? Clearly that's the sort of things that could cause a victim to keep it a complete secret and to feel ashamed and so on. This idea relies in large part on sexist beliefs about a woman's worth and strength, as well as on ignorance about what sexual assault is and what survivors go through.

Now, in fiction... I don't have time for a lengthy response plus I don't know what examples you are thinking about. But from my perspective, the issue is that writers often really, really screw up their depictions of rape on screen. It's fine to include such an event in a story, but if they do so poorly, I can get enraged indeed.

 

When people heard that Batgirl may be raped in The Killing Joke, a lot got angry and said that it was "too dark". It's as if being slaughtered and butchered isn't dark. 

 
 
...... added to this post 0 minutes later:
 
8 hours ago, MINTJF said:

Who told you, you had something to lose ?

Well, dying means losing your life. Losing your life means not being able to do and feel anything.

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The people who I know believe this mainly attribute it to themselves.  They'd rather die then go through the experience.  I've never heard them speak for anyone else or suggest a blanket "everyone should choose death over being raped" and they certainly aren't trying to retroactively imply that a rape survivor would be better off dead.  In their perspective, the ordeal of the rape itself would be worse than having to go through death.  I can't really speak for any sort of broadly held popular belief though because this isn't something I've talked with a lot of people about.

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Depends on the exact rape and the exact death. I'd rather die in a fire than be bludgeoned over the head repeatedly, raped, and launched into a vegetative state. I'd rather be raped than tortured and starved to death for countless days. Just depends on the circumstances, although, let it be clear: I don't want either.

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Rape is about control.  If someone takes away your sense of agency, especially relative to your body which is the only thing that you can truly call your own, what's left to live for, as one of the walking wounded locked into survivor mode? That's one side of the argument.

The other side of the argument is that people sometimes heal from rape but can never recover from death.

So, what underpins the difference appears to be psychological trauma vs. physical concrete world views. This divide underpins a lot of the world and its problems.

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10 hours ago, Zinzikhrome said:

Have a good character raped and you will see cries of terror and eruptions of rage. Yeah some may think that being raped can damage a person's dignity and "worth", thus they would rather want that person dead. That way, they can preserve that person's "beauty" and "sacredness".

This idea just evidences the comeback of an old idea: that a raped woman is damaged goods. Plain and simple. Emphasis is on victimhood, and it's being adopted by male rape "survivors". The idea is extrapolated to include families etc. They all had their lives ruined.

Since rape is a crime of degradation and humiliation to serve dominion over others - and wartime rape of both women and men is exactly that - how can we go on to believes it's intrinsically traumatic when for many it's not?

Do our attitudes to rape send toxic signals like "Your life is ruined" and "You would be better off dead"?

11 hours ago, Zinzikhrome said:

But think about it, dying is worse than rape. Yes, your body can be violated but at least you're not dead. Being dead means losing everything. I've always wondered about this.

Why would anybody need to think about it? No value for human life?

10 hours ago, Seablue said:

Now, in fiction... I don't have time for a lengthy response plus I don't know what examples you are thinking about.

Tarzan of the Apes...Jane carried off  by a great ape ‘toward a fate a thousand times worse than death’.

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I used to think like that.

 

Then I got cancer and suffered both a severe loss-of-agency along with more pain than any rapist could inflict upon me, yet survived.

 

Now I know I could survive rape with comparatively little issue. There are worse things.

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Everyone dies. Not everyone gets raped. We accept death because it's inevitable. Rape is not inevitable. Ideally one would live a life of dignity never having been raped. Rape ruins that story, or so many believe.

That said, I don't see how a "sad" response implies something is less "bad" than an "angry" response. The latter seeks retribution. Not all deaths represent a violation, but all rapes, by definition, do.

I'm unsure, however, if we're comparing murder to rape, or simply death in general to rape. How someone dies tends to matter to us.

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I think there's a difference between what a person would rather have happen to themselves, and how shocking something is to observe or hear about.

I would imagine most people would personally rather be raped than die (though either situation is terrible). But someone being raped is much more shocking to hear about than someone dying, since, as Expansion said, not everyone gets raped.

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Take a look at what happens to characters sexually assaulted in movies.  

That single event is the central element of that character for the remainder of the film.  It converts fully human characters into zero-dimensional points:  RAPED.  That is what they become, and that is what they remain.  It is always there, more significant than any other characterizing plot point.

In older movies, it is often the case that a sexually assaulted character has no more, or very few, lines for the rest of the production... they are defiled, and their mere presence has somehow become obscene.  It's as though they have been reduced to the level of a dumb animal... literally.

We seem to hold some of these same perceptions IRL.  The way we view these victims is a reiteration of their objectification... holding them in a state of perpetual minimalization.

 

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Hm, this is just to hopefully expand the view presented by @Monte314. Knew two females who were raped.

Female A, within the first month of knowing her, had already shared about her rape experience, police investigations (still leading to nowhere), struggles related to that experience, etc, to her course mates at work (job training). I'm not sure whether it's the emotional impact of her sharing (so soon) or that it's an unfortunate norm of society that I personally think of her as a victim of rape before any of her other qualities. 

Female B, a childhood friend, didn't confide about her rape experience till few years after it happened. We've lost touch and I still have no idea whether she lodged a police report, or whether anyone else has any clue that happened to her. She is a successful lawyer, and is known by that to most of her peers. 

She may hold your point of view that rape victims might end up being identified first and foremost by their rape experience, but I doubt she'd prefer death over rape (if she was forced to choose). I think of her first and foremost as a tough person (she has always been strong, even before the rape) rather than as a rape victim. 

Edited by zonsop

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1 hour ago, Monte314 said:

Take a look at what happens to characters sexually assaulted in movies.  

That single event is the central element of that character for the remainder of the film.  It converts fully human characters into zero-dimensional points:  RAPED.  That is what they become, and that is what they remain.  It is always there, more significant than any other characterizing plot point.

In older movies, it is often the case that a sexually assaulted character has no more, or very few, lines for the rest of the production... they are defiled, and their mere presence has somehow become obscene.  It's as though they have been reduced to the level of a dumb animal... literally.

We seem to hold some of these same perceptions IRL.  The way we view these victims is a reiteration of their objectification... holding them in a state of perpetual minimalization.

That's a very astute analysis of the fate of the raped.

The problem with rape in entertainment is that it's rarely ever used as anything but a plot device to advance a story about somebody else. It's a great excuse to ramp up violence to the level of vigilantism. It's also a great excuse to show some skin in the name of titillation and reinforce the idea that rape is entirely about sex.

While some TV shows like CSI: SVU tread very carefully (leading lady herself a product of rape) a rape is the platform from which to launch a plot-line which serves another story - that of the heroism of investigators under the duress of dealing with the "heinous". Are we more or less sensitized to what rape is by our participation in the exercise?

 

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I agree there's a lot of romance involved in proclaiming rape to be worse than death. 

In general it's clearly far more desirable than dying.

Yep bring on the rape.

 
 
...... added to this post 1 minute later:
 

We are so tireless in our posturing.

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I was raped at knife point by someone I thought I could trust in my teens. He threatened that if I did not comply, he would kill me and then kill my family. I did what I had to do to survive.

For roughly six years, I thought that I was "dirty" and that I could not outgrow the abuse that had been done, and I find this happens to a lot of people who have been raped or sexually assaulted. It is a weird sense of self-branding that occurs, and I think it has a lot to do with how it is portrayed and discussed. Blanche Dubois's final meltdown in A Streetcar Named Desire is an example that comes to mind. I wrongly assumed that this would happen in all of my sexual encounters, and it caused a schism between my fiance and I for the first two years of our relationship. The experience was the catalyst for many fears and for that thought that it was worse than death.

That was until July 2015 when I forgave my attacker and let go of the influence he had over me. It was one of the hardest steps for me to take, but it was worth it. From that, I learned that being raped is an unfortunate and horrible event, but it does not define me as a being or what I do in life. 

The lowest experience was surviving an alcohol binge with the intent of suicide back in October. There is nothing more humiliating than waking up in dirt, blood, and your own vomit and then having to go through treatment where your privacy is out the window (understandably so, but still horrible). I would not wish that upon anyone.

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In countries where rape is common, say South Africa, the women regard it just one of those nasty things that happen. Prostitutes suffer rapes a fair bit too. The thing is that when we imagine bad things, the fear from the imagination is always worse than the actual event. If I were blinded say, then after a few weeks in the dark I would gladly trade an ass reaming for the return of my eyesight. It is not events in themselves that make us unhappy, it is our perception of them that does.

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18 hours ago, Zinzikhrome said:

Being dead means losing everything.

including suffering.  

i suppose, for some, the suffering they would feel after rape seems worse than no suffering at all.

i think what's worse probably depends on the person.

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13 hours ago, Cord said:

The people who I know believe this mainly attribute it to themselves.  They'd rather die then go through the experience.

Frankly, even if you'd rather this or that, it has little bearing on what you would actually do anyway. Even people who have been raped once have no guarantee that they know what they'd do if it happened again. Instincts kick in. Some people who think they'd rather fight to the death than let it happen again end up paralysed by fear/shock, and can't do anything. Other people who are convinced they'd rather be raped than murdered still end up fighting off the perp because they go into "fight mode".

12 hours ago, eagleseven said:

I used to think like that.

 

Then I got cancer and suffered both a severe loss-of-agency along with more pain than any rapist could inflict upon me, yet survived.

 

Now I know I could survive rape with comparatively little issue. There are worse things.

While the loss of agency, pain, fear for your life are certainly common points (the two latter ones not even necessarily there with sexual assault), one other aspect of S.A. is that it is interpersonal harm. What happens to you is not "natural" (as awful as that aspect of nature may be) or bad luck, it's purposeful and malevolent. It's one reason interpersonal violence causes much higher rates of PTSD than catastrophes like car accidents or tornadoes. (I suppose interpersonal harm could occur during cancer treatment if doctors treated you in an abusive, dehumanizing way.)

Not trying to imply your self-assessment is off, just giving a perspective on why various bad experiences don't "match" each other neatly.

 

5 hours ago, thod said:

If I were blinded say, then after a few weeks in the dark I would gladly trade an ass reaming for the return of my eyesight. It is not events in themselves that make us unhappy, it is our perception of them that does.

You're setting up a scenario where you trade sex against a great prize. So in that scenario you can choose not to have sex, and be no worse off than you were before, or you can choose to have sex for a gain: that's not rape, it's prostitution. And since the benefit is greater than the cost, it's hardly a convincing example that it's "not events in themselves that make us unhappy".

Now imagine an event where the damage is greater than the benefit, or there is no benefit in any way, such as an actual rape by surprise/force/coercion, and maybe you'll have a harder time to come up with a "perception of it" that doesn't make you unhappy.

Which is not to say that our perceptions don't play a role in how we react and heal after a traumatic event. But the comparison is absurd.

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At least, the pain ends when you die. In rape, the terror is prolonged by your psychological trauma.

But then again, if you were talking about Hollywood, it would be the fact that death could be easily romanticized. The society has long been desensitized by how often it happens around us; and thus it's easy to insert our own beautified version of it. Rape, however, is still a taboo topic and the public will always relate rape to tragic things. And thus, death sells more than rape.

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I gather that rape is extremely common in prisons.

Wonder how many people in prisons commit suicide, rather than continue to be raped.

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Neither seem like particularly attractive options. How did this false dichotomy get conjured up?

Any sensible person would want to avoid both.

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13 hours ago, eagleseven said:

I used to think like that.

 

Then I got cancer and suffered both a severe loss-of-agency along with more pain than any rapist could inflict upon me, yet survived.

 

Now I know I could survive rape with comparatively little issue. There are worse things.

I agree with Seablue on this.

You can't really know that a rapist wouldn't be able to inflict more pain on you. But even if we pretend that you can, you can't apply it to everyone.

I've been dealing with cancer as well. For over three years, and there isn't an end in sight. And I don't believe it's nearly as bad as the trauma and pain others have gone through from their experience of rape. So, you're not the only one who's gone through trauma, and yours isn't the worst just because you experienced it.

One would hope that after going through cancer they'd have a better grasp on empathizing with the nuances of different traumas for different people.

And I say all that because you said, "there are worse things" as if that were an objective statement.

---

To answer the OP regarding fiction, sometimes rape is used as a shock factor without any real character development. Instead, the victim is just a prop to evoke emotion from the reader or it's used to develop a male character who is outraged that it happened to the victim. And that's what happened to Barbara Gordon. Her rape and crippling was done simply to break her father, Commissioner Gordon. And in fact, people were more upset about the crippling because it killed Batgirl. Barbara lived, but she could no longer be Batgirl. And for what purpose? A "dark" story? So in that sense, Batgirl's death was actually perceived as worse than her rape.

Overall, I think people are afraid of suffering any kind of trauma. People want to take the path of least resistance, and some go as far as imagining that they'd rather be dead than deal with the suffering of trauma. But more often than not, the worst is suffering trauma in isolation. So I'd suspect those who believe rape to be worse than death likely aren't imagining that people would be there to support them.

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13 hours ago, Zinzikhrome said:

When people heard that Batgirl may be raped in The Killing Joke, a lot got angry and said that it was "too dark". It's as if being slaughtered and butchered isn't dark.

I'm not very familiar with that example, but what little I've heard about it is in line with what @Plato said: that the rape was "unnecessary" and that her character was anhilated for the sole purpose of eliciting emotion in the male characters.

The female character's story of trauma becoming a mere backstory for the male characters is something that happens frequently.

People criticized a similar aspect of the rape(s) of Sansa in the TV show Game of Thrones for instance: that the event did not contribute anything to her character arc, but instead was used as a motivation in Theon's arc ; and that during the scene the camera was pointed at Theon, making it all about his feelings about what is happening, rather than on Sansa.

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