Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s Animal photos of the week.  Now that’s what I call a photobomb!

Malte Woestefeld, a 24-year-old business administration student, was on a day trip to Zoo Safaripark in Holte-Stukenbrock, Germany

How do my stripes look? A visitor to a wildlife park seemed to make a new friend when a zebra stuck its head through his car window – and posed for a ‘selfie’. Malte Woestefeld, a 24-year-old business administration student, took the snap while on a day trip to Zoo Safaripark in Holte-Stukenbrock, Germany.Picture: Malte Woestefeld/REX Shutterstock

Game of Thrones and the meaning of rape

So, I’ve been too busy lately and not getting in good blogging.  But I have not been too busy to watch the (terrific, in my opinion) finale of Mad Men and the latest Game of Thrones.  And to do plenty of reading about them both on-line.  One thing that keeps coming up, is spousal rape (e.g., this).  On Mad Men, we haven’t seen Greg (Joan’s ex-husband) in a long time, but most references to him on-line refer to him as a rapist.  Meanwhile, GOT this week saw the rather unpleasant consummation of poor Sansa Stark’s marriage (and, honestly, I find most every scene With Ramsey Bolton far too unpleasant– the stuff last year with Theon went well into gratuitousness).

Anyway, what strikes me about so many responses is that they all use post 1970’s conceptions of what “rape” is.  Now, don’t for a second pretend that I am arguing that it is “right” or acceptable to force sexual intercourse on an unwilling woman, but the simple fact is that throughout most of history, this was seen as perfectly legal, if not appropriate, behavior, if that unwilling woman was one’s wife.  Here’s a nice summary from a laywer:

Marital rape was a term that was viewed by the law as an oxymoron until shamefully late in U.S. history. Until the 1970’s, the rape laws in every state in the union included an exception if the rapist and the victim were husband and wife…

While it has generally been illegal at all times for a man to force sex upon a woman other than his wife, a husband could force sex upon his wife without violating the law until very recently. The justifications for this marital rape exception were:

  • the British common law view that the contract of marriage includes the husband’s “right to sex”—the wife having given consent for all time by entering the contract
  • the traditional view of wives as the property of their husbands with which they could do as they pleased under common law

So, did Greg “rape” Joan on Mad Men?  According to the laws in New York at the time, certainly not.  Did Ramsey “rape” Sansa in GOT (or Kal Drogo and Danaerys for that matter)?  Okay, I’m not sure of the legal code in Westeros, but I’m pretty sure it is not more progressive towards gender that British common law.  It seems to me, Sansa did not even conceive of the idea that as a wife she could do anything except submit?  Within the universe of GOT I have absolutely no doubt, Sansa was not raped.  Now, there is something worthwhile in emphasizing that women should never be coerced/forced into sex against their will, but I also think it actually just serves to muddy the picture when we apply our modern understandings of rape (especially the spousal exemption) to times and places where such conceptions are completely alien.

%d bloggers like this: