The case of Spiderman rape-rape

Posted at 12:23 PM Sep 30, 2009

By Andrea Grimes

I always knew Peter Parker was a whiny weenie, but a rapist? I mean, he's such a good guy! (Then again, that's what they say about Roman Polanski.) Okay, I'm being intentionally misleading: because while someone posing as Peter Parker did (maybe?) rape a girl in in a recent issue of the comic The Amazing Spiderman, it wasn't THE Peter Parker. Seems Villain Chameleon posed as Peter, then seduced Peter's roommate, Michelle, under false pretenses. Nina Shen Rastogi over at DoubleX explains:

In this issue, Chameleon/Peter comes home and finds an irate Michelle--and decides to defuse the situation with a kiss. The scene ends with the two sinking to the floor, out of the frame, with a speech bubble from Michelle that reads, "GIGGLE," covered in little red hearts. When the real Peter comes home, he's confused to find Michelle wearing his T-shirt and boxers, demanding cuddle time, and generally acting like a pushy girlfriend from a cringe-worthy sitcom.
Courtesy of io9, here's a scan of the scene:

spideyrape.jpg
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But was it rape?
Not according to the storyline writer, Fred Van Lente, who was asked by a fan:

My understanding of the definition of rape is that it requires force or the threat of force, so no. Using deception to trick someone into granting consent isn't quite the same thing. Which is not to say it isn't a horrible, evil, reprehensible thing that Chameleon did. He is a bad man. He insults parapelegics and dips people in acid too.

Van Lente backpedaled once fans got irate, with one blogger noting that in Britain at least, pretending to be someone you're not and having sex with someone because they think you're the aforementioned someone else actually is rape even if you didn't hold them down. This is also true in Andrea-land. But Van Lente said:

First off, while I believe he had the best of intentions, the poster "DrSevarius" wrote me under his real name and asked me a question I thought I was answering in private, to him. He posted my response without my permission and without telling me beforehand it was supposed to be for public consumption.
In a later issue, Van Lente has defended his original response by saying it's going to be revealed that Chameleon/Parker and Michelle only made out, and didn't have sex. So do we downgrade to a sexual assault by deception? I mean, the real Peter Parker comes home later to find Michelle prancing around in his underwear. That implies sex to me. And even if they didn't screw, Michelle was deceived, certainly, into some kind of sexual activity.

I don't know much about comic production schedules, so maybe ya'll can enlighten me: could the "they just made out" argument be backtracking to avoid controversy?

Comments

Susan said:

I've used that one to avoid controversy with my mom, for sure. Also with boyfriends.

Paul said:

Thank goodness there are no real superheroes or villains, or the legal system would be overrun. As for it being rape... Oogh.

While a person points out that this would be rape by UK standards, this event occurs in NYC. (Comparatively, see the current parental dispute between a father from Tennessee and Japan, there's another "whose legally right" headache) There's nothing there to imply that the victim had sex against their will. There is no "no".

Let's take a scene in a bar:

Person X looks similar to a famous individual. Person Y is attracted to Person X. Person Y believes that Person X is the famous individual in question and Person X does not dissuade that belief. Persons X & Y go to a location and consensually fuck like bunnies in heat. Person Y later finds out that Person X is not the famous person, proceeds to head to the police, and says that they were raped by Person X.

Now, is Person X a rapist?

I can't say they are. I can see them being a fraud, or a con-artist, but not a rapist.

Did Person X sexually assault Person Y?

Yes. With analogies again to theft, rape is more of a mugging, while this incident is fraud.

All that said, I'd say this would rank on the middle of the character's evil scale. Worse than insulting paraplegics, but not as bad as dipping a person in acid. And I'd say the writer did a good job in getting the fan base to hate the character.

The Admiral said:

She probably would have consented to the actual Peter Parker. Since this person isn't the actual Peter Parker, she didn't consent. Sex without consent is rape. Just my two cents.

DJRM said:

They are totally saying "they just made out" to avoid controversy. The story itself may play out differently now that the word rape has been used.

As for how evil this act was, now that they are saying there was no sex it is not a rape story. It was probably not intended to be a story about a villian raping a woman even though that is what happened.

When it comes to posing as a celebrity so a woman will have sex with you I have to wonder how the woman would react to that. When she realizes this man is not really a famous person will she truly be traumatized by it or will she just think he is an asshole or both.

I'm sure that Michelle would be horrified to find out that she had sex with a villinous master of disguise and not Peter Parker. But since "they just made out" now we will never know what her original reaction would have been, judgin by the way the writer reacted it probably would not have been portrayed in a realistic manner.


And remember...
we all live on a yellow submarine.

Calvin said:

I appreciate the conundrum, Andrea, though I should be doing homework.

I have to agree with Paul. However, if someone is sleeping or passed out drunk and you have sex with them, that is rape, though they wouldn't say "No" or resist you. Even so, I agree with the fraud analogy and would put The Chameleon's act in a different category than rape.

What about if person X did not pretend to be famous or look like a famous person? What if s/he just lied completely and said s/he was rich and lived on a yacht? Person Y sleeps with them, thinking they are someone, and then finds out later that Person X is not really the person Person Y thought they were. Is that rape? No. Although rape is often thought of as an emotional violation rather than something merely physical (which makes sense), in this case the physicality trumps the psychological.

(shrug)

Mjx said:

If you just make out, you don't end up in your man's underwear. Even if your man isn't, in fact, your man, but someone whose taken on his identity.

The issue behind rape is consent. If she did have sex with whoever the hell it was, it is clear it was consensual. Unfortunately, she consented to have sex with someone who was not who he appeared to be, but still; just as consenting to have sex with someone revolting while drunk (and I DO mean CONSENTING, not being unresponsive, or unconscious, or unable to put up any real resistance) is still consensual, if regrettable, and calling THAT rape, is, in my opinion, one of the worst thing women can do, since it undermines the credibility of anyone claiming to have been raped, rather than embarrassed by a bad choice.

A giggly willingness to roll about on the floor looks pretty consensual to me.

Mjx said:

ARGH: 'who's', not 'whose'

LaRue said:

I think we're getting too bogged down by this "rape" thing and nobody's focusing on the bigger issue here:

Why the hell did Marvel decide to do a Chameleon story? He's easily the lamest of Spider-Man's enemies, and there have been some LAME ones.

Eye-Roller Lass said:

La Rue: Chameleon's biggest power isn't shapeshifting, but "super plot-device". He's the classic quick fix for lazy writing.
Hero written out of character? It wasn't him, it was Chameleon.
Need a bad guy to justify Obama's cameo in the comic? Cham is you guy!

Whatever, Van Lente. Or may I say... CHAMELEON! Yes, he was the one who wrote the story about that not being rape at all, not Van trying to build some ham-fisted controversy! No, siree!

operations said:

Hello, usual reader of your sister (brother, boyfriend, fiance?) site, just started checking this site more about a week back.

Neat article, I just have one question. I have not actually had time to read Spiderman (or X-men, or Batman, or much any comics) in about 6 years, so um, who the hell is this Michelle person and why does she want to boink Peter who is married to MJ, and for that matter, where is MJ?

Pete said:

It would a bit much to use use the words parable or allegory. But I've always seen comic book characters as representations of some aspect of people in society, mostly from a dudes point of view. I've also seen women who I'm pretty sure are completely ignoring deceptions big and small in favor of physical attraction. C'mon, they'd have to know better!
Is it possible the character could have deceived herself since it "fulfilled" a fantasy she had. Surely the writer had heard of women's intuition. And the shape shifter couldn't possibly resist the urge to make the chamelo-dong bigger than she had seen before then. Y'know, while walking to his room after a shower.
Why would someone ignore such a "raging clue"!? Speaking as a whiny small-dicked nerd who's had to listen to girls "vent" about their shitty lying boyfriends, I'd have to empathize with Mr. Parker's state of confusion when she wanted to continue the fantasy. Maybe it's not women who do that sort of thing, only girls. Or maybe I'm being intentionally misleading, like wallflowers at masquerade balls.
Now that scene in Revenge of the nerds with the darth vader costume; that was rape.

P.S. I'm also ugly

P.P.S only on the inside, girls. You could fix me

P.P.P.S. Polanski is a lech

sexyloser1128 said:

It's not rape when she enjoys it.

Anonymous said:

OMG!! HOW BORING!! IF ONLY IT SHOWS HIM NAKED AND A WOMAN NAKED!!! SERIOSLY!! 0:

KIMMY BARREISONASAINOPIA said:

FUCK U PEEPS!!!! =(

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