“On All Fours.” (Hokay. So. Did the new “Girls” episode feature a rape scene?)

For a recap of what happened, and more, please see Amanda Hess on the subject.

This episode made a lot of people very uncomfortable, with good reason. I thought this was excellent television, because I fully believe that TV *should* make us uncomfortable. Obviously, I cringed as well.

What I took from it is a nice reminder that consent doesn’t necessarily equal great sex. The elephant in the room here is that sometimes, sex sucks. Some people are bad lovers. Others have the capacity to be good lovers, but, at one point or another, reveal themselves to be capable of seriously messed-up behavior.

Bad sex can be violating. It may not necessarily cross over into sexual assault in the legal sense, but it can be more than just unpleasant, it can be profoundly hurtful. It can leave emotional scars, physical scars, you name it.

I didn’t see a rape scene in the latest “Girls” episode, but I did see a woman clearly unhappy with how her new boyfriend was treating her. And I saw said boyfriend using her body to prove something to himself. It was very ugly, and it was very real. This stuff happens, even if people hardly ever talk about it. Who wants to admit they were treated like dirt by someone they had trusted?

The fact that Adam is an alcoholic who has just had a relapse is a crucial factor. He seems disgusted with himself, and it’s as if he is trying to make his girlfriend feel similar disgust. The scene starts with her making a few light-hearted, but somewhat critical comments about his apartment. He clearly seems insecure about having her over at his place. Insecure enough to punish her for it, in fact.

Dude, you have no idea.
Dude, you have no idea.

For me, the key to this scene comes immediately after Adam is done. His girlfriend, Natalia (a “cool girl name,” obviously) tells him that she “really didn’t like that.” What does he do? He gets sad and angry. He’s concerned about whether or not she will leave him now. It’s all about him, you see. If he gave a crap about her in that moment, he would comfort her, or at least apologize. But he isn’t thinking about her. He was trying to work on his insecurities through her, and that has failed, and all that worries him is possible rejection.

That’s the other thing about bad sex – it happens, and you can’t take it back, but there are different ways of confronting it. If your lover complains to you afterwards – something that Natalia did immediately – you listen and discuss, understanding that they just did you a favor. If your lover is in distress, you comfort them, or give them space, should they need space. You absolutely do not get to make it all about you, jackass.

Emily Heist Moss wrote that “On All Fours” was a reminder that most men are way more physically powerful than most women out there – and terrifying things happen when that power is not used for good.

For me, that has always been just another dull fact of life to contend with, but lately, I’ve been thinking about how little is actually said on the subject. We tend to gloss over the amount of trust a woman puts into them every time she allows herself to be vulnerable with a man. And in many ways, we set women up to lose. Too vigilant? She’s obviously a “psycho” then. Get hurt? Well, clearly, the bitch had it coming – stupid enough as she was to trust the wrong person.

I hate to go all “Spiderman” on you guys, but great power? Great responsibility? Hello?

4 thoughts on ““On All Fours.” (Hokay. So. Did the new “Girls” episode feature a rape scene?)

  1. My immediate response was “yes – he does not obtain consent”. But I couldn’t find anyone else who took that view (guess I didn’t look hard enough!), so I thought: okay, perhaps we are to take her compliance in assuming the title’s pose as a form of initial consent. By that token, though, we surely have to take her (interrupted/ignored) “I haven’t showered” as a “no, stop”.

    “He’s concerned about whether or not she will leave him now” – I thought that, to some degree, he was trying to get her to leave. (Hopefully that doesn’t sound sympathetic to him.) He felt inadequate at the party, and seeing Hannah threw him, so he drank – “I want to be able to show you a good time”. When Natalia criticises his apartment, he initiates a “game” Hannah would have enjoyed but Natalia won’t, to confirm to them both that he’s not good enough for her, and seal his alienation (as well as for the reasons you give). He does make it all about him – horrifically, to complete his self-destruction, he’s willing to destroy another.

    I’m very curious to see how the show presents Adam from now on.

  2. This kind of thing really has been something that’s in a horrible place. And I don’t just mean it’s bad subject matter, I mean people are only aware of it enough to know it’s “a bad thing”, but not aware of it enough to take creative and substantive lengths to bring it to light.

    Great post; like the Spider-man ref at the end, but also well-written.

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