Rape Is Normal: The Tudors Edition

There's a big discussion going on over at Feministing about the "King Takes Queen" image at left being used to advertise Showtime's series The Tudors. Vanessa described the image as suggestive of spousal strangulation and also posited it was possibly meant as "a precursor to Anne Boleyn's beheading."

Now, I don't watch The Tudors, so I had no clue that the people pictured were supposed to be King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. (Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII? Seriously? Especially during his marriage to Boleyn, at which time Henry was in his 40s? Oy.) So my immediate reaction was free of the context of the show or the history associated with the people portrayed—which is perhaps why I was (to try to break down an instinctive response into its infinitesimally quick parts) drawn primarily to the spilling red wine she is holding right in front of her crotch, and secondarily to the violence implied by his expression and by his hands at her throat and sliding down her abdomen, and translated the image as quite strongly suggestive of rape.

What I find amazing is that none of the nearly hundred commenters at Feministing appear to have come to the same conclusion, despite the placement of the goblet and the spilling wine alluding so clearly to vaginal bleeding, not a slit throat. Merely moving the placement of the goblet not only illustrates quite clearly how a beheading might better (ahem) have been suggested, but also makes plain what really is being suggested in the original:

Were there no suggestion of violence, one could charitably interpret the goblet and wine in the original image as a reference to losing one's (female) virginity, but this image is hardly that innocent.

As ever, there underlies the image the idea that rape is both: A) a compliment; and B) the inevitable result of men's unfettered lust. He just can't help himself; she should be flattered that her bewitching beauty compels him to grab her throat and force himself upon her. And, naturally, no thinly veiled rape imagery used to promote a TV show or film would be complete if it didn't also portray the symbolic rape as totally hot.

That many women and men will look at that image and think it's sexy, without ever considering the disturbing implications of that tipped goblet and spilling wine, no less his hands ominously poised to choke her and force apart her legs, exposes the profundity of the rape culture more certainly and shockingly than anything I write about the image ever could.

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