I'm not saying Buffy is at fault--I'm not a person who would ever blame the victim, and that scene in the show was adequately horrifying and realistic. She could have definitely done some things differently to help prevent this situation though. She put herself in a bad situation, and confused the hell out of someone who was already confused. Not her fault, but not entirely his either.
My main issue is with the Angel-adoring fans who hate Spike.
OH MY GOD you are so right i am a total Spike fan but i do love Angel and how you made the argument is fantastic when you said about how even when angel loses his soul and angelus is released he is the definition of evil but most of the series spike is soulless and he might be evil but he still has some emotions. a vampire can still express even if they are alittle twisted i love you forever ¬_¬
So, because she put herself in a bad situation and sent a guy the wrong message...that justifies Spike trying to rape her?
I'll quote President Obama on this: "Let me make a simple proposition. Rape is rape. It is a crime."
Soul, no soul, what Spike did was unforgivable. And frankly, her letting him back into her life afterwards in Season 7 was kind of unrealistic. Friendship and love is built on trust, and nearly raping someone is the ultimate sign that "Okay, maybe this isn't someone I should trust anymore."
I'm not at all saying that it justifies his actions. I'm saying that 1) he wasn't TRYING to rape her (not that it wouldn't have been rape, just that he misinterpreted the situation which makes him less responsible, though STILL responsible), and 2) what Angelus did was worse than what Spike did, yet Spike was mistrusted after he regained his soul while Angel wasn't.
I completely agree that rape is unforgivable. I completely agree that rape is a crime because it's horrible, and that there is no justification for it. I think that Spike himself would agree with you.
I absolutely think that Spike should be held accountable and responsible for his actions just as much as anyone else in the show is. But that's the problem. People in this show jump from good to evil and back to good all the time, and nobody ever gets blamed for their "evil deeds" once they're "good again" except Spike. If he had stayed soulless, and hadn't done anything about his rape attempt except grovel, that wouldn't have ever been enough and I could completely understand everyone being disgusted by him.
The fact is, though, that most people went "Oh, you're good now? Okay, all's forgiven" to Xander when he was no longer the hyena and after the musical episode, to Anya when she stopped being a vengeance demon (1,000+ years of torture, slaughter, murder, and probably plenty of orchestrated rapes, all forgotten because she... no longer had powers. She wasn't even good, she just didn't have the capabilities to do bad on that scale anymore), when Angelus turned back into Angel (despite everything he had done in just the few short months he'd been Angelus again, from murdering Miss Calendar to trying to destroy the entire world--and this isn't even mentioning who Angelus used to be, or what he'd done in the distant past, or the things that Liam and Angel himself did that the main cast would think were abhorrant if they knew), Willow (I know she had to work for it, but that was more to get it under control than for her friends to forgive her), even Buffy any of the times she's betrayed her friends under magical duress, the one time Tara almost got them all killed.
Plenty of those things are either on par with or go far beyond a confused attempted rape that he stopped doing before he really started and then almost died trying to make better in any possible way. That's my view at least. I'm not saying that what he did wasn't horrible or that he shouldn't be held accountable for it within the parameters of accountability already displayed in the show. Faith tried to rape and murder Xander and if she hadn't been brained with a 2x4 by Angel she would have succeeded, and yet later in the same day they were all still talking about how they wanted to help her get better (except for Xander who was sitting apart from the group and not saying anything at all). So this isn't a new concept for this show, but it is a new way of handling it, and I feel that the show is being hypocritical with it's condemnation of Spike.
About the crappy little sketches of Buffy and Spike's relationship... I know they're overboard. It's supposed to be exaggerated, and I know that that last one is pushing it. I wasn't intending to offend anyone, because it wasn't meant to be taken very seriously. Still, it illustrates a sliver of my view of her. My point (that I was trying, and I guess in some instances failing to make) was this: when you have an ongoing sexual relationship with a man who you KNOW has a sketchy (at best) grasp on the concept of consent, and in your relationship you are constantly saying "No" and "We are never having sex again" and "Stop it" and then YOU actually actively and enthusiastically participate in the sex that transpires... The message that you are giving is that "no" and "stop" don't mean anything. When that sex also often involves fighting, you are giving the message that fighting also doesn't mean "stop". These are all messages Buffy gave to Spike, who was already struggling with what was and wasn't okay, and who no longer had his chip warning him about going to far. There's a point at which I can see how Spike would have misinterpreted the situation to such an extent that I have a hard time seeing how Buffy didn't.
This is such a hard conversation to have, because I NEVER think that the victim is to blame. I NEVER believe in that crap about somebody "asking for it" and I can't stand the implication of anything like that. I am NOT saying that Buffy should have seen it coming, I'm not saying that Spike isn't responsible for his own actions, and I'm not saying that it wasn't about to be rape. What I am saying is that I think EVERYONE should be held accountable for their actions. Buffy's actions placed her in a bad situation. If it weren't for a fundamental flaw in Spike (soulless, and less capable of understanding consent) the bad situation she put herself in wouldn't have amounted to anything. So I'm not blaming her, but I also don't feel like she is in a position where she can 100% put the blame on Spike, which is what I felt happened.
My main issue that I think got channeled into the perhaps distasteful depiction of her yelling "victim"... is that it was never adressed that she put herself into a bad situation. I feel very strongly about fiction being treated with the respect of reality (you treat characters like people and they will be better, more interesting characters for it; treat your fantasy world like a real one and it will make a lot more sense and you'll have fewer loopholes) but I also feel very strongly about sending the right messages to your audience with your fiction. I think a lot of people could have learned a lot about HEALTHY relationships, and how NOT to put yourself in a dangerous position, by seeing that adressed in a show like Buffy. I was disappointed that it wasn't adressed more directly, and that people had to either infer it, or just take Buffy's and Xander's and Dawn's and SPIKE'S word for it that Buffy was 100% not to blame at all, and Spike was evil, the end.
In a situation like this, where Spike's intention wasn't to hurt her, I actually disagree with you about it being unbelievable that she allowed him back into her life. He went and got a soul because of it. He actively sought it out, and he was 100% willing to deal with the guilt and the pain and the consequences that it placed in him because he wanted to change and be the type of man who would never misunderstand something like that again. I've seen people forgive accidental violations of trust and safety for much less. It's not unrealistic for someone to want to move forward and forget, especially if situations have changed and the danger is gone, and ESPECIALLY in situations that can be equated to wartime. Necessity is a strong motivator. Buffy felt like they needed Spike, and because of that, she pushed her issues out of her mind and tried to move on.
The established parameters of accountability within this show would normally allow her to move on fairly quickly once Spike regained his soul, and my issue is that she never truly did move on from her trauma with Spike, whereas she immediately moved on from her traumas with Angelus once he was Angel again. It's the hypocrisy that I don't like, as well as the missed opportunity for exploration of an important message about relationships and safety.
Aside from the context of the scene, where he was clawing and tearing at her robe, in season 7, he admitted it himself that he tried to rape her. Those facts are irrefutable, no matter how much Spike fans may want to cover their ears over it (and I've seen enough arguments from them to know that they do.)
"People in this show jump from good to evil and back to good all the time, and nobody ever gets blamed for their "evil deeds" once they're "good again" except Spike."
The idea behind those themes is about testing the bonds of love between people, be it lovers or close friends or family. THAT'S why it's different in those instances. It's about the bonds between people being stretched to the brink, and sometimes beyond, and seeing how strong those bonds are. If friendship can overcome anger, if love can overcome hate.
Spike was never accepted as a part of the Scooby gang, and with good reason. For the better part of two years, he tried to kill them all. Then he was a reluctant ally, who wouldn't hesitate to stab them in the back and did on occasion (ie siding with Adam). Then he only played nice because he was trying to impress Buffy. And afterwards, it got into a gray area in Season 7. He pays the price because he didn't fit into that dynamic. Angel, for all of his faults, was able to fit in with the Scoobies because they understood that as Angel, he's an okay guy (Xander's words, Season 4). Spike took a VERY long time before he could be truly seen as an okay guy, even in Buffy's eyes. Hell, she didn't think he was an okay guy when she was banging hips with him in Season 6.
The issue of him getting a soul really hasn't been a great selling point for me. I really don't think he knew what getting a soul entailed. Spike probably figured that Buffy loved Angel only because he had a soul, and if Angel could take it, so could he. It wasn't a matter of him wanting to change, it was a matter of him being so desperate for Buffy's acceptance that he was willing to do something that he didn't fully comprehend the consequences of. It's one thing to know that fire can hurt you, but it's another thing entirely to know what it feels like when it sears your skin. Spike had no idea of how radically it would alter him, and how painfully; and if he did, I'd see him having some second thoughts.
On the subject of Buffy able to move on from the Angelus incident with Angel, she had the understanding that Angel and Angelus are two separate beings. A point that has been illustrated repeatedly in the Buffyverse. Yes, what Angelus did was terrible, but it took two to tango, and Angel was not responsible. He didn't know about the curse; no one did. Not to mention, she felt responsible for what happened to Angel in that time; in giving in to a moment of passion, she (unwittingly) hurt the person she cared for most, and had to hurt him even WORSE when she sent him to hell. There isn't anything hypocritical about that; love is love, it compels you to forgive and love. Since Buffy didn't love Spike, I could see how it's harder to forgive when your tentative trust is broken in a vile, horrible way.
You make very good points, and you're the first person who's been able to explain to me why Spike is held to such a higher standard than anyone else. Thank you for taking the time to respond and give me your two cents; I really love discussions like this.
I disagree with you on a few points though.
Anya was forgiven for what she had done, despite them not knowing her. There were a handful of monster-of-the-week characters who were just arbitrarily forgiven for the shit they caused, many of whom ended up showing up later and continuing to do evil. I'm not saying you're wrong about the Scoobie's reasoning for why they don't trust Spike, and are harsher critics of him; I'm saying that they are being biased in doing so. Objectively they've forgiven people who have done much worse than Spike for much longer than Spike (mostly right now I'm talking about Anya), and who they never knew until after that person was a monster-of-the-week. It's the fact that Spike's actions had been in their faces for a while that convinced them he wasn't worth it.
Personally, I disagree that Spike didn't want to change. I know that he didn't understand 100% what getting a soul would be like, but where you seem to think he only comprehended about 10% of it, my bet is on something closer to 50-75%. He watched Angelus become Angel, and that wasn't an overnight process. Angelus received his soul and then tried to stay with Darla and continue being the vampire he'd been for so long, but he couldn't. There was a period of time where souled Angel was pretending to be soulless Angelus, and living with Darla, Druscilla, and Spike. He watched that, and he saw it fail, and he's seen the back and forth recently, and he's fought with Angel over it, and he's listened to Angelus about it. He's aware of how drastic a change it would be. I fundamentally think that that's what he wanted. He saw himself as being horrific for having almost hurt Buffy that way, and he hated the fact that he was the kind of person who could have done that to someone he loves, and he wanted to not be that person anymore. He wanted Buffy to love him, and I'm sure you're right that he thought maybe she could love him if he were more like Angel, but he also just wanted to be a better person.
I know we're probably not going to agree about that one; I get that that one is personal views and speculation, so I'm just stating that that's how I see it.
Finally, and the biggest one for me, Spike's intentions with regards to the almost-rape.
Buffy and Spike's entire ongoing sexual relationship was based in violence and false negatives. Spike has a sketchy (at best) grasp on the concept of consent, and Buffy knows that. She's known it since before they started having sex. The entire situation was based on the foundation that if Buffy wanted him to stop, she'd physically stop him. Her words lost any form of weight because she repeatedly contradicted her words with her actions, saying "no" "never" "ew" "you disgust me" "you're beneath me" and then forcefully and enthusiastically fucking him against a wall so hard the building fell down around them, with heavy implications that they continued fucking throughout the night. Then she says "We are never having sex again" and "Stop it" and "it was a mistake" "it wasn't good" "I hate you" etc. and then has sex with him in a public place, and then continues having sex with him all over the place, every single time saying "no" "stop" "I hate you" "don't touch me" and then enthusiastically participating in rough sex, much of which involved ripping each other's clothes off and literally fighting.
We were shown that their version of consensually rolling around in bed involved scratching and biting and hitting and fighting and dominance play. The message that she gave him is that "no" and "stop" don't mean anything, and neither does fighting, or yelling, or hitting, or ripping at clothes. None of those things imply rape to Spike, because all of those things have been consensual in the past. Every single one SHOULD be a red flag, but NONE of them are to him because of past experiences, and the fundamental flaw within him that is his lack of a soul.
Spike was already struggling with what was and wasn't okay, because up until this point he'd settled somewhat comfortably into the position that his chip would stop him from being bad. His chip showed him the line that he couldn't cross with the scoobies, which he-- as a soulless vampire-- couldn't deduce for himself. In their first sexual encounter, she proved that she's stronger than he is, and that if she wanted to stop him she could, which says to him that he doesn't NEED his chip telling him where the lines are with Buffy, because Buffy herself will enforce those lines.
It's obvious from his dialogue in that scene that this arrangement isn't actually sitting as well with him as he pretends that it is. He's saying, essentially, "every time we do this, you hate me until we're actually having sex, and then you act like you love me--" (remember that his ONLY experience of romantic love has been with Druscilla, and their sex life was not exactly normal. Spike's had sex with other people, but his experience of LOVE came from Druscilla) "--so can we just skip the hating-me part right now, because I really need you to love me right now."
I get that he was out of his mind at the moment. I get 100% that if he'd gone through with it it would have been rape. But in his mind, she wasn't unwilling, she was just doing the same song and dance that she always did, and he was trying to skip the foreplay (which he only really ever did for her sake, and which always hurt him) for once. Let me be clear that I'm not romanticizing what happened. It makes me kind of nauseous to think about, because it's terrifying. To me it's actually MORE frightening because it wasn't straightforward. Their warped relationship warped his comprehension of that situation.
As for him admitting it later, 1) he was admitting to and owning up to what had almost happened. 2) he was in full on guilt mode, and in that mindset everything you've ever indirectly caused becomes your direct fault. 3) the fact that Buffy blamed him meant that he blamed himself. He took her blame and her hate and her disgust and he internalized it. This is a thing that happens. I know a guy, who is an all around good guy, who got into a sexual situation that seemed completely consensual in the moment, and then afterward he was informed that the girl he was with stopped being comfortable with it about half way through, but didn't tell him. It wasn't by any means rape, but it wasn't a great experience for her, and he didn't know that until afterward, so he hadn't had the opportunity to make it okay for her. She had some previous trauma that made it hard for her to articulate her needs, which is also something he didn't know about until afterward. All around, this wasn't a case where anyone was to blame, it just sucks that it happened. He, however, blamed himself greatly and couldn't bring himself to have sex with ANYONE again for around five years, because he internalized the blame. If someone asked him about it, he would describe it like he'd been at fault, implying heavily that he'd assaulted her, which is not what happened. I can't take Spike's "confession" as law, because he's not a reliable source at that point, and because there is a high likelihood that he would have internalized the blame for that incident, especially considering his guilt-ridden state.
I'm not putting the blame on Buffy, but I also don't find myself capable of-- after looking at all the evidence-- saying that Spike knew it was rape and was doing it anyway.
I am interested in your views about this, and it's fine if you disagree, but on the subject of "was he intending to rape her?" unless Joss Whedon and James Marsters both say "Yes, Spike was doing what he was going with the full knowledge that he was about to rape her" you probably aren't going to be able to convince me to agree.
You have condensed my thoughts on the whole S6 Spike/Buffy arc perfectly; Buffy's own (understandable) prejudices aside, the fan reaction to Seeing Red was, I feel, founded out of shock and denial. Rape is a bit of a taboo topic for any series, even in fanfiction - TV tropes will tell you that much - but what irritates me the most is the manner in which some fans simply refuse to accept the bathroom scene as canon.
I've watched the series several times and I keep going back to that scene. Why? Because I think you hit the nail on the head. When Buffy initiated a sexual relationship with Spike, it was a violent, destructive one (literally). She established a ritual of coercion and secrecy that Spike quickly picked up on - he referred to it as a "tune" in As You Were, that he had "the sheet music" to, which is why he pursued her even after she broke things off. To his mind, she did have feelings for him and did want to be with him; the only thing holding her back was her own shame and vehement denial of this fact (hence why he was telling her to "let go").
While I do think he had intentions to coax more out of Buffy than just the "talk" he claimed they needed (colour me paranoid, but no one approaches another person and closes a door behind them, in an otherwise empty house, just to talk) I don't believe for one second that he intended to rape her. He anticipated the fight as foreplay, but always expected a willing lover in the end - one who would match his passion and compete with him for control.
They both badly misread each other in that scene, even from the beginning.
Certainly Spike mistook her rejection for the first steps of their ritual (her resistence and apparent disinterest) and Buffy mistook Spike's desperation to "make [her] feel it" as a declaration of assault. I don't blame her at all for panicking; given their history as enemies, her unique genetic bypass of the chip's safety assurance and her weakened state, I think it finally registered with her how little there was to stop him from overpowering her. Hypothetically you could say that about most people in your life - it's all down to trust - but at that point she'd just had what tentative trust she had in him shattered from discovering his affair with Ahnya. She'd ceased to view him as a person and regressed to her What Measure Is a Non-Human prejudice upon seeing him enter the room.
That little glance upwards Spike made as he muttered "you should have let 'em kill me"? That glance said it all. He came over, Dawn's words about hurting Buffy fresh in his mind, to search for something - anything - to signal that Buffy cared about him. Because her caring about him would render her break-up argument about "using" him null and void, and they could live consensually ever after. The way he pounced on her admittance to having feelings for him "because you love me" is also telling. It was only then that he began to close the distance...
Thank you! I'm really glad that the drawings help rather than hinder my points. I want to be a comic/graphic novel artist, so I feel like this is a first step. Learning to illustrate my thoughts even in this small way is working toward that.
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`anmari has been spreading her infectious positivity throughout our community for over 6 years. Throughout this time Ana has been at the core of all things devious, passionately developing an eclectic gallery, helping organise devmeets, participating in chat events and also recently completed dedicating her time as a Community Volunteer. We are absolutely delighted to bestow the Deviousness Award for May 2013 to `anmari, congratulations! Read More