The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Monday, June 4, 2012

More Misogyny Among Geeks

Back when season three of "Justice League Unlimited" was airing, two things happened. One of them caused major controversy, and the other went with barely anyone saying a word.

1. Shayera Hol aka Hawkgirl slept with a man she had just met on the first date.

2. The Flash, for all intents and purposes, raped Tala.

Guess which one of these caused an uproar.

Come on, guess.

41 comments:

  1. I thought Tala seduced Flash... Granted, she didn't KNOW that he was Flash, she believed he was Lex, but that doesn't make it rape if he took advantage (and we don't know for sure that he did).

    The Hawkgirl thing was baffling because she had been warned that Carter Hall was stalking her (and presented with proof that he had been). Why would she ignore warnings of that kind?

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    1. Thanks for proving my point...

      To quote Merlin Missy:

      "This is long. Most of you will want to skip it.

      No, it's actually like Clark dating Selina when he was pretending to be Batman in "Knight Time." Your example is like when Lois dated Bruce, only to find out he was actually Batman, too. When dealing with secret identities, there's always going to be the question of "Which guy does she like?" (Format chosen because Huntress seems to be the only female Leaguer with a solid secret identity.) This is why some of the best stories about superheroes include them fighting that internal dichotomy. Arguably except in the case of Cap and Mary Marvel, the secret identity of the hero and the heroic identity are virtually indistinguishable except by conscious acting choices. For most of the heroes, the two personas are parts of the same personality, and thus any action done by one is done by the other. For all that "Bruce Wayne" is merely Batman's creation, Bruce and Batman are the same person; Bruce dating Lois without telling her may be questionable in a long-term relationship, but it's not dissimilar from dating someone who later turns out to be gay. Same person overall, additional info.

      This isn't a case of secret identity vs. heroic persona. Wally is not Lex, just as Clark was not Batman. There's a fundamental difference of identity involved, just as there's a fundamental difference of identity between you and me. Wally is responsible for his actions when he is in Lex's body, just as Lex is responsible for crashing the Javelin, beating up the extras, and threatening to scramble the guy's brains.

      Bringing up other examples of the same situation, as referenced in the previous thread: "Revenge of the Nerds," "Anansi Boys," and the Buffy episode "Who Are You?" The first two were side-stepped with the same "She liked her new lover better anyway" out, and the third dwelt entirely on Buffy's reaction to finding out her boyfriend slept with Faith rather than his reaction to same.

      The definition changes from state to state in the U.S., and there are still plenty of places in the world where spousal rape is legal and so is stoning a rape victim to death. We're not discussing a legal case, we're discussing an ethical one.

      Was it self-defense? That argument's been raised. I submit once again that he could have told her to go make him a sandwich, or to just go away and let him think ('cause he's an evil genius). I also submit that any life-threatening situation that could be resolved with a trip to the bathroom claiming diarrhea is insufficiently perilous to justify a self-defense argument.

      There are plenty of options Wally could have taken, but we were presented with two: scrabble or sex. A lot of people are trying to justify scrabble, and that's fine. It was left ambiguous on purpose, probably so the CN folks (and the parents) wouldn't object. There's an out. The rest of us aren't taking the out. We're looking at what was said and making the inference that the fade to black was a Fade To Black *insert imagery of rockets launching, trains, and old ladies hitting Jackpot*.

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    2. Is it out of character? Certainly not. Wally is young, inexperienced in the ways of women, and here's a hot chick ready to jump his bones. In his mind, this may not be the ideal situation, but rare is the man who's going to turn down a chance at what he sees as completely consequence-free canoodling. Again, the word "enthusiastic" comes into play, as well as "attentive." Once given the offer, hey, he might as well roll with it, right?

      Except this isn't a normal offer, because it's not one that was made to him. And he knows that. He knows who Tala thinks he is, and by choosing not to divulge his identity OR to find a different option, he denies her a fundamental piece of information she needs to consent to what happens next: the identity of the person she's sleeping with (there are people who enjoy anonymous mating; as far as anyone knows, Tala does not and she never gave up her right to know that in this situation). While it does not occur to him to look at it that way, and most likely never will, this is what he does, this is the action he knowingly chooses to take, however passive that choice. In visual fiction, action defines character. Intentions might be stated, but the only thing we have to go on to determine who's a hero and who's a villain is by the actions each character takes. (see "Starcrossed" discussion)

      Weirdly enough, I keep coming back to the Biblical term "to know." Adam "knew" Eve and begat, etc. Know what someone is like when she or he is at the most vulnerable. Know what it's like to be there with that one person at that moment. It's a useful term here. In an ideal world, every person gets to decide who does and doesn't know them. Toonworld? Usually close to that ideal. Not here. Wally "knew" Tala, and so he knows her, still has that for the rest of his life. But she wasn't his to know. She didn't choose Wally to know, she chose Lex (not a good idea under any circumstances, but her choice to make, just as *shudder* Grodd was). Wally was aware of that, was aware that she'd rather kill him than sleep with him, and that there was no way she would walk up to him at the Watchtower or a bar or anywhere else, wanting him to "know" her. He did it anyway.

      Finally, since no one has taken me up on my mental exercise, let me take the reverse one offered: had it been Shayera or Diana in Tala's body, and Lex (or Grodd) tried to get cozy, either one would have said, "We're breaking up now, dear," and had he pushed the issue, she would have broken his jaw (among other things). Had the option been to Leap into Vixen or whomever Batman's seeing, this might be a different answer, but since that hasn't come up yet, we can't say for sure how the women would choose or how the males would react in turn. We can say how Flash would choose, because we saw it. That's how we define characters, who they are, what they're like, what they would and wouldn't do.

      Your mileage may vary. Mine probably won't."

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    3. And...

      "Or, for more of the gentlemen here (those higher on the Kinsey scale may want to sit this one out) think of it like this. You come back to your house or dorm room to find your girlfriend there, and you initiate ... a lively game of Scrabble in the dark, which turns out to be much better in fact than your previous games with her. The next day, you find out it was not in fact your girlfriend, but the guy who crashed into your car last month and twice tried to shoot your dog. (It was really dark in your room and you focused on the double letter scores so you didn't notice. And while he knew whose name you were saying, he pretended to be her.)

      What would your reaction to this discovery be? Would it be disappointment to find out that your girlfriend was back home and the guy was gone? Would you (and I'm back to fricking "Revenge of the Nerds" for this one) decide that the scrabble was so good that you'd leave your girlfriend to spend your life with the guy who'd pretended to be her? Would you tell anyone? Would you expect your friends to call you a twit for not noticing it wasn't your girlfriend? Would they say it didn't matter because you've played lots of scrabble before?

      Would you say you consented to scrabbling with him, or would you say that your consent only applied to the girlfriend you thought he was?"

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    4. "I thought Tala seduced Flash... Granted, she didn't KNOW that he was Flash, she believed he was Lex, but that doesn't make it rape if he took advantage (and we don't know for sure that he did)."

      If he takes advantage then by definition that makes it rape.

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    5. She was none the wiser really... Anyway, we're talking about a short off-screen gag here. You have to bear in mind the producers' intentions for it to be an amusing gag and that Tala wasn't really a pleasant person anyway. This would have kicked up a stir if it had happened to a good person. Everyone would have been disturbed if it had happened to Lois Lane or someone like that. But it happened to Tala, a villainess. The scene was blatantly meant to come across as Tala making a fool of herself and Flash potentially (and comically) profiting as a result. Plus it was still Lex IN BODY, right? :P And maybe Tala was only after his body - in fact, given how she seemed weary of Lex's personality at the end of the episode when Flash and Lex were switched back to normal, surely that goes to show that she was genuinely happier with Flash-as-Lex than she was with Lex. Given how she went back and forth between Lex and Grodd over the course of the season, I'd say she was a user and not worth sympathising with (aside from when she met her end in "Alive!"). If anyone's a rape victim here, it's Lex. He wouldn't have wanted Tala to have sex with his body. He'd be fuming if he found out what had happened while Flash was in his body...

      This is why I've never really given a second thought to what MAY have happened off-screen in "The Great Brain Robbery" (for all we know, she was just massaging him :P). Sound reasonable?

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    6. Really? Rape is ok if it happens to a bad guy?

      And yes Lex is also a victim since his body was used in ways he hadn't consented to. Doesn’t make Flash any less guilty or it any less of a rape, it just adds another victim to the list.

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    7. It was easy to overlook in Tala's case. I don't feel bad for her that she got a completely different deal to what she was expecting. This is Tala we're talking about: if she found out the truth, she'd probably look shocked for a moment, then shrug and smile while saying, "Worked out better for me then, didn't it? I got a man who actually cared about me".

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    8. There's a nuance that is missing from this interpretation, Wally made his action UNDER DURESS. He doesn't know these people on any deep level, so he was walking on eggshells in regards to his actions around the villains, if he rejected talas advances or did anything out of the ordinary for luthor, he might think his behavior could be suspicious to others.

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    9. As opposed to every single other thing he said or did as Lex.

      No, the rape was only there because someone thought it would be funny.

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    10. "As opposed to every single other thing he said or did as lex?"

      Just cause he approached things in a dumb manner doesn't erase that he was still trying

      Also can you prove Wally would've done that in lex's body if no DURESS was involved?

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    11. There's a flaw in your "under duress" idea, that it would look suspicious if Luthor said "I'm Lex Luthor and I have more important things to do right now!" because he was doing that shit all the time in Lex's body. There was not "duress" because Wally didn't try to stop it, didn't make an excuse to leave, didn't assert his authority as Lex as he'd been doing in the rest of the episode, didn't do anything other than say "yeah sure, let's have sex." It would've been perfectly in character for Lex to just say "Not now, woman" so turning her down wouldn't lead to any suspicion. Hell I could say Luthor letting her take him away from planning the heist to have sex is more suspicious that something is wrong, like we see in Alive and even at the end of this very episode. Luthor isn't the most intimate person.

      But it was a gag, a stupid joke they slipped in without thinking how it would make the characters look or how out of character it would be for Wally. No one thought "well Wally wouldn't do it unless he was under duress, so let's force him to rape Tala." There was no duress because no one put it there, no one thought Wally would turn down having sex with Tala. They just wanted to put a sex gag in there, that was all their line of thinking.

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    12. @Reaf: Your operating under THE ASSUMPTION that Wally knows how Lex acts around THIS SPECIFIC GROUP OF PEOPLE, and there is nothing on screen to show that that is the case. Sure you and I would know what would constitute as suspicious behavior for Lex in front of these people, Because WE HAVE THAT CONTEXT. Wally DOES NOT HAVE THAT CONTEXT.

      Duress is not just about simply whether someone says or does something in response. Duress in this context is about if someone (Wally) had a reasonable fear about the scenario they are in, in that what they do or don't do could cause them grave harm.

      Duress, qualifies IF these four guidelines are met:

      1.)The threat must be of serious bodily harm or death
      2.)The threatened harm must be greater than the harm caused by the crime
      3.)The threat must be immediate and inescapable
      4.)The defendant must have become involved in the situation through no fault of his or her own

      From Wally's point of view, there is enough reason to believe all four of those guidelines qualify to his grave situation.

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    13. Wally met Lex, he knows him enough to know Lex doesn't speak in the third person. Yet every other sentence was "I, Lex Luthor..." so those must be some pretty thick eggshells he was walking on. He could have easily said "I, Lex Luthor, have more important things to do" and avoided the entire thing, like he was doing in every other part of the episode. Duress is why he let the train robbery happen, but even then he still said "don't worry, no one's going to hurt you" to the train workers which is 10x more suspicious than telling Tala he can't have sex with her. Let's also not forget Tala's description afterwards, "So different, attentive, caring, enthusiastic" yup he was totally scared for his life and trying so hard not to be found out as a fake, nothing says 'I was forced to do something I didn't want or else I'd die' like "enthusiastic."

      Let's not forget this was a comedy episode. The writers were doing this for comedy and not a 100% serious character study. There's no way they thought "Wally is going to die if he tells Tala he can't have sex with her." I would bet anything that if the scene had moved to the bedroom Wally would have made some excuse to leave that would've been funny and we'd be left with a shot of Tala's disappointed face, because that's the comedy beats the writers would've hit.

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    14. "Wally met Lex, he knows him enough to know Lex doesn't speak in the third person. Yet every other sentence was "I, Lex Luthor..." so those must be some pretty thick eggshells he was walking on."

      Can easily be chalked up to nerves on his part, you'll notice that there's alot of pauses in Wally's (as Lex) dialogue when he is speaking.

      "He could have easily said "I, Lex Luthor, have more important things to do" and avoided the entire thing, like he was doing in every other part of the episode."

      And what reason did he have to believe that THAT excuse wouldn't dry up eventually? The villains would just go looking for him again, like they did. He had no clue WHEN Fate would get Flash back in his body.

      "he still said "don't worry, no one's going to hurt you" to the train workers "

      Can be chalked up to heroic first instincts on his part, also ties in with him being nervous throughout the whole ordeal.

      "Let's also not forget Tala's description afterwards, "So different, attentive, caring, enthusiastic" yup he was totally scared for his life and trying so hard not to be found out as a fake, nothing says 'I was forced to do something I didn't want or else I'd die' like "enthusiastic."

      REALLY? That's right up there with "You're not a rape victim if you got into it/went along with it/had an orgasm."

      I've counseled many rape victims, some of them felt obligated to go along with it BECAUSE THEY FEARED FOR THEIR SAFETY if they didn't. Some thought it didn't make them a victim, some knew they were still victims DESPITE THAT CIRCUMSTANCE.

      It is far from a stretch to imagine that Wally could've made a snap judgement in THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT while in the closet to go along with it, because he felt the obligation to play the role of Lex Luthor WHILE IN HIS BODY, because not keeping up the charade might arouse suspicion of others.

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    15. "And what reason did he have to believe that THAT excuse wouldn't dry up eventually? The villains would just go looking for him again, like they did. He had no clue WHEN Fate would get Flash back in his body."

      So you're saying the reason Wally raped a woman is because he didn't want to use an excuse as he MIGHT need it later? 'I could just not rape her, but I've only got 10 excuse points and I might need them later so I can't waste a single one.'

      "Can be chalked up to heroic first instincts on his part, also ties in with him being nervous throughout the whole ordeal."

      Those heroic instincts don't seem to count when it comes to not raping a woman. You're really bending over backwards to try and justify Wally raping Tala, 'oh he can't raise suspicion when he's in very little immediate danger or he'd die! But he can raise suspicion when literally surrounded by supervillains who clearly hate Luthor and wouldn't hesitate to kill him.'

      "REALLY? That's right up there with "You're not a rape victim if you got into it/went along with it/had an orgasm.""

      Except Wally's the RAPIST here, not the victim.

      "I've counseled many rape victims, some of them felt obligated to go along with it BECAUSE THEY FEARED FOR THEIR SAFETY if they didn't. Some thought it didn't make them a victim, some knew they were still victims DESPITE THAT CIRCUMSTANCE."

      So WHY are you determined to convince us his rape was unavoidable? You're arguing for a rapist to be let off because "he did it in the heat of the moment" and you say you're a rape counsellor? You've only argued reasons why Wally couldn't stop himself raping her so it's safe to assume you think he is a rapist here, just one who couldn't help himself, so why defend his actions? Why are you acting like Wally is the victim here?

      Why is this so important to you that you'd dredge up a 3 year old post and try to rules lawyer a rape away from a cartoon that aired 9 years ago?

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    16. "So you're saying the reason Wally raped a woman is because he didn't want to use an excuse as he MIGHT need it later?"

      No I'm saying he made a decision that can be deemed as controversial, but is small by the perspective of the danger looming over him. Your putting words in my mouth.

      "
      "Those heroic instincts don't seem to count when it comes to not raping a woman."

      Your avoiding the nuance that HIS LIFE and staying alive was his FIRST PRIORITY. Not a rape by technicality.

      "You're really bending over backwards to try and justify Wally raping Tala"

      And your bending over backwards in failing to realize that this was a complex situation that wally was not in complete control over.

      "'oh he can't raise suspicion when he's in very little immediate danger"

      Wally had no crystal ball over what danger level might rise over his actions from THAT situation.

      "But he can raise suspicion when literally surrounded by supervillains who clearly hate Luthor and wouldn't hesitate to kill him.'"

      I missed the part where Wally is a human being and NOT A COLD LOGICAL COMPUTER who makes the right decision every time in complex circumstances.

      "Except Wally's the RAPIST here, not the victim."

      Irrelevent, you wouldn't be saying it's not a rape just because Tala enjoyed it. It's equally ridiculous to claim Wally enjoyed what he did because he was enthusiastic. Because being eventually enthusiastic over something you didn't want to do, apparently means he wanted to do it. It's still victim shaming.

      "You're arguing for a rapist to be let off because "he did it in the heat of the moment" and you say you're a rape counsellor"

      No I'm arguing the idea that Wally is a clear cut rapist, because this situation was anything BUT clear cut. Wally's actions had mitigating circumstances that made him an unwilling participant.

      "You've only argued reasons why Wally couldn't stop himself raping her"

      No I'm arguing that there would be alot of things going on in wallys mind where his decisions can be clouded because of the fear of the situations he is in.

      "so it's safe to assume you think he is a rapist here"

      Again your putting words in my mouth.

      "so why defend his actions?"

      Because these comments for the most part fail to understand the nuance that Wally was in a grave situation where fear for his life hanged over his head. Again, many people that I've counseled have expressed they did questionable things when they feared for their safety. Wally was definitely in a situation where the fear for his safety can definitely cloud just about anyones judgement.

      Many people out there seem to think that rape situations are clear cut (even the ones that are rapes by technicality) and have only perps and victims. They don't always; and it terrifies me that alot of the world out there doesn't seem to realize that.

      "Why are you acting like Wally is the victim here?"

      A guy who was unwillingly put into Luthor's body, and into a situation where he might have to do things he might not want to, because a potential threat hangs over his head depending on what he does or does not do? That's a victim.

      "try to rules lawyer a rape away from a cartoon"

      What?

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  2. Was it the rape? It's got to be the rape, right? I mean there's no way a man impersonating another man and having non-consensual sex with a woman would ever get overshadowed by outrage over a woman and a man having consensual sex, right?

    (Urg. I hate the "if a man does something sexual its MANLY, if a woman does something sexual its slutty." misogyny that exists in our culture.)

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    1. Sadly, our culture can be kinda dumb about these things.

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  3. "2. The Flash, for all intents and purposes, raped Tala."

    According to the court's, she consented. :p

    In all seriousness I don't think Wally commited rape, nor do I think Shayera acted like a slut. Did she do something questionable? Perhaps but that's HER RIGHT, as a fully grown single woman who went on a date with a single man.

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    1. Those courts are fucked up.

      Okay, take your parents for example. Your mom goes to bed with your dad... then you all find out your dad switched minds with that skeevy creepy guy at the gas station.

      Is it rape then?

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    2. Do you hate me THAT much that you have to put my parents in a sex analogy in my head? :(

      Well truth be told I'm not sure if there was ever a court case that's ever dealt with a freaky friday incident that involves Dr. Fate.:p Though I'm sure that some sleazy lawyer would argue that since Tala led Luthor/Flash to the closet, she consented.

      The worlds a gray place. I guess we don't always have the answers for everything. For some of us, we just figure it out as we go along.

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    3. You know I don't hate you. But, I think a lot of the people who defend Flash in this instance are letting their affection for the character cloud how dark what happened there was.

      Do I think the production team meant any harm? No. I think they thought they had a funny gag there and put it in without thinking of the unfortunate implications.

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    4. She consented to sleep with Luthor, and that was not Luthor. Rape, by definition, is non-consensual sex and Tala did not consent to sleep with Flash.

      Rape is a very heavy word and we associate certain actions with it, such as physical violence, so when there's rape without violence or a clear-cut non-consensual partner people might not associate it with rape. Which is why the JLU creators did without thinking of the implications.

      OK here's a proper real world example: an identical twin sleeps with his brother's girlfriend while making her think he's his brother. Rape, yes or no?

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  4. Obviously Shayera's night of sex is the hot button. Though is there any particular reason you did a blog of this today, or just came to mind?

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    1. Anyone who has a problem with what Shayera did is a fucking retard.

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    2. I still think what Shayera did was baffling given the circumstances. I don't have a problem with it, so to speak, I just think it was a bit odd of her to throw caution to the wind like that. (Fair enough if she didn't give a damn about what John and Batman said, but she had seen video evidence of Carter following her around the globe.) Now does that sound like a retard's opinion?

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    3. ShadowStar: Well, if the genders of Shayera and Carter was reverse and Shay (whatever his male name would be) did the exact same thing, would your opinion still be the same or would you be less troubled by it?

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    4. I guess my opinion would still be the same. Getting involved with someone who's been lurking in the shadows, watching you, for some time doesn't seem like a smart move whatever your gender. I'd think that the male 'Shay' would be playing a no less dangerous game than Shayera did in the episode. There would be every chance that the person in the shadows was just a shy fan with benign intentions, but getting that close to a potential stalker is not a risk worth taking.

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  5. I guess, ultimately, the only thing I find remotely troubling about the Tala/Flash/Lex thing is the way Lex's body was used for sex without his consent or knowledge, and how Flash presumably didn't give a second thought to that. I don't see Tala as a victim in this scenario.

    Shayera's POV is just more interesting than Tala's POV, which is perhaps why Shayera's situation proved more topical. I don't think Shayera was smart to do what she did given what she knew at the time. It turned out all right in the end because Carter was more like a sheep following her around than a stalker, but it initially seemed like a careless move on Shayera's part. Her carelessness made her seem 'easy' where Carter was concerned, but NOT sluttish. She didn't give a damn what Batman and John thought; she just wanted to enjoy herself with Carter. Which would be perfectly fine... But given what was known at the time, she was potentially risking her safety recklessly. Bottom line: I thought her judgment was a bit lacking. That's my opinion, and it's not misogynistic.

    The context is everything. The contrast between that scene from "Shadow of the Hawk" and that scene from "The Great Brain Robbery" isn't as simple as 'Man and woman have sex lives but only the woman gets bashed for it! Misogyny!'

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  6. You know, it occurs to me that Flash kinda raped Luthor too. Considering he was using Luthor's body for sex without his knowledge or consent.

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  7. Eh, not really, Algernon. :P Unless you were being sarcastic.

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    1. No, I'm being totally serious. If you define rape as forcing someone to have sex without consent, then Luthor's as much a victim as Tala. It was still Luthor's body.

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  8. The thing about Shayera and Carter was that, as far as she knew, he was an ordinary human, she was an alien superhero. Her choice to sleep with him is odd, but it's not *dangerous* for her, and more importantly, all parties apparently consented.

    I was there at Toonzone when this episode aired, and many of the backlash not-so-subtly called Shayera immoral for daring to sleep with a man on such short notice. So no, I'm not going to buy concern for Shayera's "unsafe" behaviour as the only reason fans went nuts over that moment.

    With the Flash and Tala, there wasn't true consent, and getting sex by deception is still rape. It's true for mythology, it's true for a superhero cartoon.

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    1. I don't think many of the fans who cried foul about what Shayera did had the same perspective as me, but, well, I've explained why it made me raise an eyebrow.

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  9. I don't know much about the situation, but I assuming that a lot of the people complaining about Shayera's actions were parents of kids watching the show, in which case the issue might not be about ethics but about replicability. Parents don't want their kids (particularly daughters - hard to deny there's some sexism here) to sleep with men on first dates, and it's something that parents might genuinely be concerned by. Parents are probably less concerned that their kids will swap bodies with other people in sexual relationships and take advantage.

    Of course, if the people complaining about Shayera weren't parents, then this explanation is completely wrong.

    Another example to show how wrong the Flash/Tala thing is though: What if Flash had been in a relationship at the time (with, for the sake of argument, Fire)? What if Lex-in-Flash's-body had slept with her? Would anyone be giving him a free pass?

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    1. I think that their son taking advantage of someone sexually or being "up for it" even in an inappropriate situation should be a concern for parents too. The body swap element doesn't diminish that.

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    2. I've never heard a single parent complain about what Shayera... just a bunch of nerds.

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    3. There are parents who watch/watched JLU who AREN'T nerds? (Other than the ones who were presumably forced to by their little kids.)

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    4. I've never heard anyone who says they're a parent complain.

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