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Buffy/Spike, Consent, and S6

Trigger warning! This post deals with the AR in SR as well as other examples of questionable consent during S6.

From the AR to consent issues in S6, in general. This post is gonna lay out the instances of questionable consent in the Buffy/Spike relationship of S6. Some of these examples are often-discussed by fans. Some aren't. I want to try to analyze them, put them in context, examine the pattern and the development of their relationship through these incidents of questionable consent.

Let's set the ground rules here: This post isn't intended to launch a Buffy vs Spike: Who Hurt The Other More? debate. This post isn't attacking either character, nor, on the flipside, is it attempting to exonerate either character. It's also not an attempt at "proving a point". In this post, I am pointless.

Okay, that out of the way, it might be helpful to be familiar with this post of mine about consent. If you don't feel like reading that long entry, let me sum up as best I can:

Consent isn't something we, as objective viewers, can easily determine from our couches while watching the show. The only person who knows if consent was given in any situation is...that person. Barring the more violent cases of rape, it can be difficult to determine whether an incident "counts" as rape or not unless we get clarification from the parties involved. There's no One Size Fits All answer. One experience may be a violation to one person but a kickin' good time for another. In the former, it's rape. In the latter, it's not.

This leads to a couple definitional issues I need to get out of the way:

Implied consent: Kinda a tricky thing. It's the standard between couples in a romantic relationship, even though it probably shouldn't be. It's when one partner initiates sex with the assumption that the other is consenting, usually because of their already-existing relationship. Sometimes, they're be right. The other person does consent, and everybody's fine. The failure to obtain consent doesn't necessarily mean that a particular incident is rape. It can. But it doesn't always.

Questionable consent: As used in this post, it refers to a situation wherein one partner's nonconsent is indicated but their partner continues their actions anyway. The reason it's "questionable" is because of the traditional seduction patterns the incident may otherwise fall into.

Right, I think that's all the disclaimers I need. I hope.


The Offender: Buffy

The Context: Having discovered that his chip doesn't work on Buffy, Spike initiates a knock-down drag-out to release his two year's worth of pent-up aggression on her. In the middle of the fight, Buffy begins to kiss Spike, thus launching the S6 Buffy/Spike relationship.

Analysis: This is a fairly "traditional" ravisher/ravishee scenario, just with the genders reversed and with them beating the shit out of each other beforehand. Buffy has the new knowledge that Spike can hurt her, so the imbalance created by the chip is not an issue. However, there is no clarification of consent on anybody's part. Buffy initiates the sex rather violently without concern for Spike's go-ahead.

That being said, this incident fits best in the "implied consent" category. After their bespelled kiss in OMWF, Spike has been harassing Buffy about wanting more, going so far as to call her a tease when she wasn't willing to smooch him again. As such, Buffy's assumption that Spike wants sex with her doesn't come from nowhere, and once the kissing starts, it proceeds from there with both of them enthusiastically participating. Implied consent is, by nature, a shady area because that is something that should be discussed between a couple beforehand. The fact that it isn't, and that their sexual relationship is kicked off with such an act, heralds the even more questionable consent to come. Their relationship is based off assumptions.


The Offender: Spike

The Context: This is the morning after Smashed. Buffy wakes up and is immediately disgusted. She wants nothing more than to leave, and she says so explicitly many times. While she's searching for her boots, Spike grabs her and pulls her into his lap. He reaches his hand under her skirt and fondles her while she tells him to stop.

Analysis: This shows a far more traditional take on the ravisher/ravishee scenario. Buffy's lack of consent is disregarded by Spike, and her eventual capitulation reveals the push-pull nature of their relationship. This ain't a healthy thing.

From the shooting script:

Spike's expression hardens and he sits up and catches Buffy by the wrists, yanking her toward his naked self. She holds herself away from him.

SPIKE: Don't say that.

BUFFY: What do you think is going to happen, Spike? We're gonna read the paper together? Play footsie under the...rubble?

Spike's hand disappears below frame, starts caressing her. She looks affected, despite herself.

SPIKE: Not exactly what I had in mind.

Buffy weakens for a beat. Then she finds her resolve, HITS HIS hand away.

BUFFY: Stop-

SPIKE: Make me.

He moves to touch her again, she hits him away again. They end up in a tussle, sexual tension building until they can't take it. They kiss - it heats up faster than a microwave. Goddamn. She lies on top of him - feels him respond - which SHOCKS her back to herself. She pulls away.

BUFFY: No. No. I have to...

SPIKE: Stay. I'm stuck here. Sun's up.

They're both drunk with it. Hot, pressing against each other. They kiss again.

This is much closer to a nonconsensual situation than the Smashed sex. Buffy explicitly tells him to stop. Spike doesn't. She hits his hand away, physically evading his advances. He keeps at it. Indeed, he persists in his attempt to "seduce" her until she gives in. This plays very much into the traditional models of sex that perpetuate rape culture where the women are the gatekeepers and the men are required to do whatever necessary to get to the "goods". As rape culture dictates, the woman wants this to happen. She enjoys it. At the same time she's saying, "No", she wants the man to succeed and force her to give in. If this sounds disturbing, it's because it is.

It is notable that Buffy does eventually make him stop, but only when he verbally crosses a line (mentioning fucking a Slayer) rather than when he crosses any physical boundary. His persistence in disregarding her refusal to consent is problematic, and will establish a pattern.


The Offender: Spike

The Context: Spike drops by for an unexpected visit while Buffy and Willow are cooking breakfast. Willow quickly bows out to go back to bed, and Spike corners Buffy against the sink and proceeds to fondle her. She tells him to stop it. He does, but only because Xander enters.

Analysis: We're, again, seeing what we saw in Wrecked. Despite Buffy's instruction to "stop it", Spike persists and is rewarded with her lustful moan. It's very much "her words say no, but her eyes say yes".

From the shooting script:

Buffy squints at him. His other hand reaches below frame.

BUFFY: Um, what the hell's that me-- ohh.

Against her will, she lets out a slight, soft moan.

SPIKE'S HAND rubs her thigh, moves up toward her hips.

BUFFY: (hushed) Stop it.

ON SPIKE as he reacts to something and glances down. Then, looks back to Buffy with a somewhat bemused expression.

XANDER (0.S.): Good Godfrey Cambridge, Spike...

ON XANDER, standing in the doorway.

This is, presumably, their first encounter after their initial sexual experience in Smashed. Spike is itching for another go. Buffy is playing the good girl, putting on an act of resistance but continuing to succumb to Spike's seductions. Again, like the Wrecked interplay, this establishes a pattern of "no" not meaning "no" between the two, which will lead to badness later.

The Offender: Buffy

The Context: Buffy's newly invisible, and is eager to live it up as much as possible. She goes to Spike's crypt, throws him against the wall, then proceeds to initiate sex with him.

Analysis: This is actually very similar to the Smashed sex. Some have said that Spike seems scared in this scene, but I've always read him as being largely confused.

From the shooting script:

The TV is suddenly switched off.

SPIKE (cont'd): Ghost, is it? Go haunt the living, like a good spook.

STEADYCAM CLOSE ON HIM, circling. He seems to sense the presence and suddenly moves to strike out.

NEW ANGLE as his attack is blocked, he's grabbed and thrown up against a wall, hard. Before he can respond, his shirt's ripped open, buttons fly. Looking down at some sensation on his chest, his expression softens, conveying deep confusion.

SPIKE (cont'd): Buffy?

BUFFY (V.0.): I told you... Stop trying to see me

Before Spike can say another word, he's thrown OUT OF FRAME.

Buffy's failure to secure consent is, again, reminiscent of Smashed. However, there's also the incident earlier in the episode, as detailed above, wherein Spike made clear his own desires. As such, this is more of an implied consent situation than the more dangerous questionable consent that has characterized the incidents in Wrecked and earlier in Gone. Despite the less-than-ideal nature of implied consent, it is the standard in real life between couples in a relationship. Had Spike not visited and fondled Buffy earlier in this episode, this incident of sex would be far more problematic. Instead, it's more indicative of the way we, society, view implied consent as the standard than anything else.

The Offender: Buffy

The Context: After their sex is interrupted by Xander, Spike gets frustrated and tells Buffy to leave. Instead, she attempts to give him a blow job. The next scene has her on the street, kicking a can and complaining about Spike booting her out. We're given no clarification as to whether she finished the blow job and then was kicked out or whether Spike stopped her from the get-go and kicked her out.

Analysis: From the shooting script:

SPIKE: Fun's over. Just go. Get dressed, if you can find your clothes and push off. 'Cause if I can't have all of you, I'd rather--

He stops, suddenly surprised, and looks down at his below-frame nether region.

SPIKE (cont'd): Okay, that's cheating!

This is actually frightfully similar to the scene in Wrecked, discussed above. In both, one party wants to end things. In both, the other person makes a sexual overture in an attempt to get them to change their mind. With Wrecked, it was Spike grabbing Buffy and fondling her. In this episode, it's Buffy performing fellatio on Spike. The main difference is that in Wrecked, Buffy explicitly told Spike to stop, which he ignored. In Gone, he notes that she's "cheating", which is an ambiguous response.

Just like Spike uses sex to attempt to entice Buffy, Buffy does the same right back to him. Gone marks their second sexual encounter and shows that they're firmly in the realm of questionable consent.

Dead Things

The Offender: Spike

The Context: Unable to properly hang with her friends at the Bronze, Buffy wanders up onto the balcony where Spike meets her. He proceeds to have intercourse with her, despite her telling him, "Don't".

Analysis: From the shooting script:

Spike appears out of the shadows. Buffy doesn't turn around as he slides in close behind her.

SPIKE: What would they think of you? If they found out all the things you've done.

His hand moves down her body.

SPIKE (cont'd): If they knew who you really were...

BUFFY (a whisper): Don't.

SPIKE: Stop me.

She doesn't. His overcoat swings in, obscuring the action as he gets her skirt up. Her breathing quickens. She gasps. Spike moans, his face consumed in the moment. Buffy grips he railing, her knuckles white.

Suffice to say, "Stop me" is not an appropriate response to someone's refusal to consent. This is in the same questionable consent category as Wrecked with Spike persisting in his seduction despite Buffy's telling him to stop.

Seeing Red

The Offender: Spike

The Context: Buffy and Spike have been broken up for many episodes at this point. Spike's given a glimmer of hope that he may be able to get back together with Buffy so he approaches her in her bathroom to talk things over. Things progress badly, and Spike, in his desperation, attempts to force her to have sex despite her numerous pleas for him to stop.

Analysis: From the shooting script:

He moves to kiss her. She gently tries to stop him.

BUFFY: Spike --

SPIKE: Let yourself feel it...

He's becoming more forceful.

BUFFY: Stop it...

It's quickly escalated into a very real, very ugly struggle.

SPIKE: You love me...

BUFFY: Don't --

She stumbles back. She grabs onto the shower curtain, falling. The shower curtain rings pop off like gunfire as she goes down, WHACK! She gasps in pain as her back cracks against the edge of the tub, then her head as she stumbles more, dazing her.

Spike is on her, pinning her against the back of the tub, oblivious to her pain. His kisses are desperate, forceful.

SPIKE (kissing her): Let it go... Let yourself love me...

BUFFY (over): Stop it... please... stop...

He doesn't listen.

Buffy struggles with Spike, pain shooting through her injured back. He's on top of her, desperate, hungry.

SPIKE (kissing, touching): I know you felt it... When I was inside you...

BUFFY: Don't...

She manages to push him off. She scuttles for the door like a wounded animal. He catches her leg, scrambling back on top of her and pinning her wrists down.

SPIKE: You're going to let me inside you...

BUFFY: Please...

SPIKE: You'll feel it again, Buffy...

BUFFY: Spike, stop...

He tears at her robe, getting it open.

SPIKE: I'll make you feel it...


She shoves him back, exploding. He flies across the room, smashing midway up the opposite wall, cracking the plaster and crashing to the floor. Buffy stands, trembling with rage, fear -- and reclaimed power.

This is like Wrecked and Dead Things turned up to 11. It starts in familiar territory with the push-pull. However, this is not in the context of an already-existing relationship. Moreover, Buffy displays none of the guilty enjoyment she had previously. It wanders out of familiar territory once Buffy falls over. Then we get an extended struggle that involves Buffy crawling away at one point only to have Spike pull her back and pin her down. This is unequivocally an attempted rape.


Why's Seeing Red different?

Put simply: it isn't. The bathroom scene in SR is a tricky demonstration to the viewership of how disturbing those previous seduction scenes are. They contain the same basic elements: Spike makes an overture, Buffy refuses, Spike ignores her and keeps doing it. However, SR amps this up so that it's hard to deny that this is fucked up - that this is an attempted rape.

What does this mean for the earlier scenes that displayed this pattern? Honestly, that's up for debate. I think the SR allows us to view this as a commentary on how harmful the seduction trope is. Are those scenes - such as the DT balcony scene or the Wrecked fondling scene - sexual assault? Again, that's up for debate. It depends on if Buffy's consent was ultimately there or not (which isn't necessarily immediately evident on the basis of what she says). What is apparent is that the act of ignoring a person's nonconsent, as Spike did, is wrong. No matter if that person "really wanted it" or not. Best case scenario, you get something like DT where consent is questionable and even Buffy may not be sure if she truly wanted it. Worst case scenario, you get SR which would have progressed to rape had Buffy not kicked him across the room.

The Buffy of It

Buffy's not devoid of power in this relationship. Most of her infractions involve taking advantage of implied consent, which she does quite enthusiastically. She's using Spike, as she admits to him in AYW. It's hard to say that she's disregarding his consent because we never get a clear case of Spike refusing consent. The closest we come is the fellatio attempt in Gone, and that is more of an act of appeasement rather than taking her own pleasure.

So, then the question: Was Spike raped or sexually assaulted by Buffy in Smashed or Gone? Again, it's hard to say. Just like Buffy's consent in DT and Wrecked, we can only make guesses as to Spike's consent in this particular episode. In both cases, Spike's later shown actively participating, so that lends support to the idea that Buffy's assumption wasn't off the mark. What we can tell, though, is that Buffy was wrong to assume that Spike's consent was implicit. That's something that should be discussed between a couple before launching into it, and Buffy was vehemently against any sort of talking with Spike. This can easily lead to a nonconsensual situation. Whether it actually did or not is dependent on Spike's ultimate mindset, which we can only make guesses at.

The Spike of It

Likewise, Spike's not devoid of power. He's offering himself up as "a willing slave" for Buffy to use, but he also exerts his own desire over her. His multiple instances of disregarding her consent take the form of him challenging her to "stop [him]". She never effectively does until SR, but that doesn't mean consent was ultimately there. In Dead Things, Buffy says, "Why do I let Spike do those things to me?" That implies that Buffy's not even sure of her own consent in this. Spike's definitely taking advantage of her mental illness, and it isn't until she's recovering at the end of the season that she's able to fully stop him.

The Discussion of It

I expect comments of awesome on this one. As I said, I don't have much in the way of a point. I'm just laying out the different scenes with an eye on the feminist view of consent so that patterns and such can be more easily seen. What does this say about the larger Buffy/Spike dynamic? Does this prove Buffy or Spike was absolutely "the abuser"? What about Spike's soullessness? Does that have any relevance? Is consent a non-issue between superpowered beings?


Again, I have no point. Discuss at will in the comments. Formulate your own theories and conclusions. Be brilliant.


Dec. 9th, 2010 03:04 am (UTC)
Ms SB is saying above that clearly Spike does like indulging in cunnilingus, because he'll even go down on a robot.


The One Who Isn't Chosen

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