rape culture

Of Star Trek, Spring Break, and Sexual Assault

Trigger warning for mention of rape/assault especially of inebriated persons, and of sexual slavery.

Hello! I’m Maggie, usually called Wednesday hereabouts.

My first post here at SGB will be on the subject of media and rape culture. For those who don’t know me, I am a student in a field related to media analysis, and I’m a rape survivor, so these are both issues in which I have really strong interests. Specifically, I’ll be addressing the rape-apologist ‘Spring Break’ T-shirts marketed by the Star Trek franchise.

(Fellow non-American peeps not familiar with North American culture: spring break refers to the term break for college students right about this time.)

Context: the Star Trek online store advertised ‘Get your exclusive Spring Break gear featuring Orion Slave Girls and Romulan Ale at the Starfleet Academy Campus Store.’ (source) The Facebook page is saturated with misogynistic comments, and there have been reports of survivors being harassed and threatened when they criticised the publicity material.

If you’re not a Trekkie (and goodness knows I’m not, though because of my fannish interests I have some favourite lady characters), you might be wondering what this means in terms of canon. On Star Trek, the Orion are a species who can emit emotion-altering pheromones. Their first appearance was as a race whose women are frequently sold into sexual slavery, although retcons later suggested that they could control their owners using their pheromones.

Using this justification, I have been told – and apologists have been saying – that the T-shirt is alright, and that the concept of ‘Orion slave girls’ is alright, because the Orion are in control, anyway.

I’m going to unpack this very, very briefly here: Who created these characters? Whose gaze is served and fulfilled by the notion of always-sexually-available women being owned? Who gets to invent a back-story that magically makes it ‘acceptable’ and puts a veneer of consent upon the female body?

Maggie Gordon's picture

A Practical Education on Rape

TRIGGER WARNING: Discussions of rape and sexual assault

rabbitwhite's picture

Gray Areas of Sexual Consent


FilthyGrandeur's picture

Presentations of violence and gender in Twilight


Note: While I do not give a full plot summary, some of the analysis may touch on topics that reveal the plot.  Also, I embrace "the author is dead" perspective, since I do not know anything about the author or her motives.  This analysis is strictly an analysis of the novel in question, and is not a criticism of the author, though I do criticize the author's writing, which I consider to be two different things.

I recently finished Stephanie Meyer's vampire romance, Twilight. While it wasn't the most fantastic novel (certainly it took a lot of reading before reaching anything remotely climactic), it wasn't all that horrible. But it wasn't all that good, either. I didn't have high expectations for a romance novel as it was (admittedly I have read few, not having acquired a taste for the genre--yeah, studying literature makes you elitist. I'm no exception). This post will examine gender roles and gender presentations in the novel, as well as other problematic themes. 

arvan's picture

Prison Guards Make Money Selling Rape in DRC

Former inmate describes how corrupt jail staff collude in sexual exploitation of female convicts.

By Heritier Maila in Lubumbashi (AR No 235, 5-Nov-09)

A former inmate of Kasapa central prison in Lubumbashi has claimed that rape and sexual abuse of female prisoners is widespread, leading to many women becoming pregnant and giving birth while in jail.

Masudi Sangwa, who spent nearly five years in Kasapa for embezzlement and assault, said that male inmates often pay prison guards to provide them a female prisoner with whom they can have sex. The women frequently do not have a say in the matter, he said.

Towards the end of his time there, Masudi was made head of his prison unit, a role that entailed taking care of other inmates and their belongings, and helping the guards to maintain discipline.

Sangwa says that this gave him a perspective on prison life not usually available to other inmates, and allowed him to see how corruption and poor prison management play a role in the sexual exploitation of female prisoners.

As a unit head, Sangwa explained that he was able to stay outside the prison buildings later than the other prisoners, who had to be returned to their cells by 5.30 pm.

“It is during these night hours that many things happen outside,” he said. “Unit heads meet with guards from 7 pm in the waiting room of the prison hospital, which is turned into a nightclub.  Lutuku (traditional alcohol) is widely served.”

Merda DArtista's picture


I hate the whole either/or dichotomy when it comes to creative persons. Someone is either ENTIRELY good, or ENTILRELY evil.

FilthyGrandeur's picture

Rape of the Heroine: examining rape as a tool in Sara Douglass' fantasy novels

SPOILER ALERT: This post will examine parallels in Sara Douglass' various fantasy series, including The Wayfarer Redemption, The Troy Game, and DarkGlass Mountain. Though I do not give a plot summary of any of them, I discuss events in the novels that can be considered spoilers. I will try to maintain "the author is dead" examination since I know nothing of Douglass' personal convictions; thus I will only discuss the "facts" as presented in the novels--any topics I challenge or take issue with will not reflect an opinion on the author.

I've been a fan of Douglass' work for some time now, having read all six books of Wayfarer, the first three of Troy, and two of DarkGlass (note that the third has not been released yet).

What all of these series have in common is rape and violence against women. It makes me uncomfortable each time I pick up a novel because each one in the series involves rape and violence. Granted, the novels describe epic battles, and fantastic wars against such enemies as demons, wraiths, and even beings with no real "life," as in the pyramid in DarkGlass, or the labyrinth in Troy. These enemies commit horrific atrocities against the characters (of course, because they're enemies), but we also have characters on the same side hurting one another.

Think of how Axis beat Azhure when he thought she might betray him, nearly killing her. Think how Axis used Faraday for his own gains, which ultimately cost her her life.

Think of how Brutus raped Cornelia, an act that made her his wife.

FilthyGrandeur's picture

Drowning in rape culture: victim-blaming and women's bodies as sexual objects

I have written previously about the atrocities committed by George Sodini, and as difficult a subject as this is to address, I thought I'd delve back into it, given the comments I'm still receiving from the first post.

A cursory glance through George Sodini's online diary is nothing less than disturbing. The support of Sodini's actions by other men is frightening.

First off, the victim-blaming is just...astounding. Sodini knew none of the women he murdered, and somehow we're to believe that if a woman does not give men the sex they apparently deserve, any woman can be justifiably killed as retribution.

What this effectively does is remove any semblance of autonomy from women. We have to consistently state that "no means no"; we have the same conversations over and over regarding consent, and what is and is not rape. And just when we think we've gotten somewhere, something like this happens and we're reminded of how little the world thinks of us and our bodies.

arvan's picture

Rape culture

This youth-made documentary was created by Hard Cover Chicago and Community TV Network (CTVN) is a non-profit organization that empowers Chicago youth with training in video and multi-media production.

It shows the relationship between street harassment and rape.  Women discuss their fears in public spaces and how the acceptance of that culture of fear empowers rape and disempowers the targets of rape whether they be male or female.

h/t to Stop Street Harassment

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