More on Rape and Dollhouse

This thought occurred to me, and I’m curious to see what other people think, because I’m struggling to understand where people draw the line on Dollhouse and rape. Alas, my influx of Whedonesque viewers has largely vanished, but hopefully enough of y’all watch Dollhouse that we can get a conversation going without them.

I’ve got a multipart question:

1. Do you think that the activity which occurs between Sierra and her handler in “Man on the Street” is rape? Why/why not?

2. In “Needs,” we learn that Sierra is in the Dollhouse because she had the audacity to refuse a very powerful man (Nolan). He references hiring her for engagements, and it’s made clear that sexual activity occurs during these engagements. Would you consider this rape? Why/why not?

3. In several episodes, we see scenes in which Echo and clients engage in sexual activity. Would you consider this rape? Why/why not? What is the difference between the sexual activity between Echo and clients in these engagements and the activity between Sierra and Nolan?

4. What about Victor and the Mysterious Ms. Lonelyhearts? Are these engagements rapes? Why/why not?

2 Replies to “More on Rape and Dollhouse”

  1. 1. Sierra explicitly expresses her fear and, er, nonconsent, so that’s unequivocally rape. (Yes, I can’t think of the antonym for “consent”. My brain, I love it.)

    2-4. An interesting way to look at it: it’s not a rape of Sierra, Echo, or Victor. However, it might — depending on how aware they were of what their dollselves would be doing — be rape of the original person, e.g., Caroline. (Can’t remember the others’ real names at the moment, so I’ll refer to the original personality by using quotes around their doll names.) So in the case of “Sierra”, it’s definitely rape of the original person even if it’s not a rape of Sierra or Sierra’s current personality, because “Sierra” was doll-ized against her will.

  2. 1. An unequivocal yes, that is rape. The handler is abusing his power and doing things far outside of the contract “Sierra” signed. That cold and clinical assesment aside, it was essentially child rape, so I think it is horrific and disturbing enough that no one would contest that it’s rape.

    2. I would say that yes, it’s rape. Nolan essentially engineers a situation in which Sierra cannot consent (or dissent) and then uses it to take sexual advantage of her. It’s pretty much an elaborate, sci fi version of roofies and date rape.

    3. The situation surrounding Caroline’s choice to sign up for the dollhouse doesn’t seem 100% clear as of yet, but I think it’s fair to say she was heavily coerced into joining. I think that coercion makes it fair to say that Echo’s sexual engagements constitute as rape.

    The situation is even more convoluted and less cut and dry than Sierra’s, however. Echo’s clients aren’t directly responsible for her placement in the dollhouse. They may honestly believe that Caroline fully consented. Also, Caroline was less coerced than “Sierra” was. At some point, it stops being coercion, and it becomes pressure that affected but was not solely responsible for the person’s choice, no?

    4. I don’t think we know enough about the circumstances surrounding Victor’s joining of the dollhouse to say for sure. If he made the decision of his own free will, is it still rape? That’s kind of hard to say, I think.

    This is an interesting question. Did you intentionally list the items in order from most likely to least likely to be considered rape?

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