When the writers say it’s not.

I’m not talking about Margo’s rape on As The World Turns, where we saw two masked criminals shove Margo in the back of a van to “teach this cop a lesson” and heard her scream “NO!” Or Marty’s violent gang rape on One Life To Live, led by disturbed frat boy Todd Manning. Or when Michael Cambias forced himself on sweet Bianca on All My Children.

Digest Cover, January, 2014

Digest Cover, January, 2014

I’m talking about the murky dance that writers script for love interests who wind up together after one has forced himself on the other – like DAYS’s Sami and EJ when she slept with him in a car to save an injured Lucas from freezing to death. Sami removed her own clothing and warned that EJ was “only getting her body” in exchange for his promise to lift a beam off Lucas’s legs, which is not technically rape. Sami agreed to the deal. EJ, being the gross pig that he was at the time, promptly reneged on it once the deed was done.

Sami: “You promised you’d help me!”

EJ: “Pillow talk, sweetheart.”

I bring this up now because of the fan uproar about how EJ “raping” Sami was much worse than his more recent infidelity with Abigail. That would be true if the writers hadn’t backed off that incident, had Sami forgive EJ, and then scripted a twisted love story that included EJ hiring a felon to impersonate Rafe (to sleep with Sami) and Sami shooting EJ in the head.

Ah, love.

Before you start furiously writing angry responses to my hypothesis here, let me be clear: In real life, “no” means “no.” EVERY time.

But on soap operas, “no” means “no” only until the writers revise the “no” into a “maybe,” and then have the two people fall in love.

The most famous example of this, of course, is GH’s Luke and Laura. Thinking he was about to be killed, Luke forced himself on the married Laura (whom he loved) as Laura clearly cried out, “No.” But those scenes were later re-termed a “seduction” when GH realized how popular Luke’s portrayer Anthony Geary had become. Two years later, 30 million people watched them get married, and they remain Daytime’s most famous couple to this day. Did the controversy help propel them into superstars? Probably.

Death isn’t forever on Daytime, either. Shows routinely rewrite characters’ deaths when the actor wants to come back, storyline dictates, or even just for the shock value. In a medium where hitting 10,000 episodes is the norm, stories have to constantly shift to sustain momentum. If moving forward means “un-raping” or “un-killing” a character, so be it. We’ve certainly seen plenty of “un-vasectomies,” “un-comas” and “un-heart transplants.” B&B’s Katie, DAYS’s Jennifer, GH’s Maxie and Y&R’s Victor don’t even have scars on their chests or take anti-rejection medication! It’s a damn miracle.

Soap operas are fiction. They’re entertainment. Holding a grudge against a show for a crime a character committed 3,000 episodes ago is counterintuitive to watching and enjoying that show for 30-40-50 years – especially when the writers downgrade that crime into misdemeanor. Or, sorry, a consensual act.

Besides, who’s to say Sami won’t ultimately get revenge for EVERYTHING that EJ did to her? She may say she put him in jail and took his company because he cheated on her with Abigail, but we know that it’s also because of the awful thing he did to her that snowy night in the car.


19 Responses to When Is A Rape Not A Rape?

  • Heather says:

    Comparing something like a natural vasectomy reversal, which can happen in real life, to writers putting a new “seduction” slant on what was originally depicted as a rape is both insane and offensive.

  • Esther says:

    On soaps it always depends on who the people are that determine whether it’s rape or not and how it is written. Luke and Laura for instances. I saw a Laura who was liking Luke and looking for his attention and she didn’t seem like she was being violated to me (this is just how I saw it ladies so don’t go nuts). After, I think it was more guilt of betraying Scott and what she had done than actually believing it was rape. She wanted Luke and didn’t want to admit it to herself. As for EJ and Sami, I never feel sorry for Sami because she has hurt so many people when she is hurt I think she deserves it and I’m really not sure that scene in the car was raped just because it was Sami (I know I know). What’s worse Abby sleeping with EJ or Sami shooting EJ? Seriously, EJ was with Abby to do anything he could to protect Sami, once again, for going to jail and, he was also kicked out of Sami’s bed which probably led to this whole mess. I’m not even an EJ fan and I still don’t feel sorry for Sami. I think so many bad people (Sonny, Sami to name two) are constantly forgiven by people for horrible things they have done (Sonny shot a cop in the chest and I don’t care that he didn’t know it was his son, that is totally unacceptable) and I just want the bad people to pay at least by not being idolized by the town (if I here one more time that Sonny is a good father I think I’ll scream – he still kills people for a living folks). The bottom line is it is a soap and not real life and we all see what we want to see and what the writers want us to see whereas in real life it is a disgusting crime and my heart bleeds for the person who is raped.

  • Kim says:

    Under no circumstances do I think rape should be rewritten as seduction. There are far to many women and men being raped across the world with no help or outlet or help. The idea that someone then turns to their rapist as a love interest is disgusting and very socially ignorant.

    Making rape survivors fall in love with their rapists is showing a limited writer is at the helm. There are many stories to tell. That isn’t one of them.

    Marty and “Todd” now Victor went over like a lead balloon for a reason. Because it is disturbing.

    To further talk about your comments Sami and EJ did not make a deal. It is not a deal when a man or woman tells you the only way to save a human life is to have sex with them. That isn’t a choice. It is a force of hand. Rape most of the time is about power. Sami had no power. In order to save a man’s life she had to give her body not by choice of her own but by force to keep a man from dying. That is not a deal. That is rape.

  • AliciaE says:

    EJ asked for the opportunity to earn Sami’s forgiveness and then later asked her forgiveness. She granted it and shared her story of raping Austin. She was able to relate to the reasoning. Both knew it was a wrong choice. That was made clear. I prefer this approach, but I also loved Luke and Laura growing up. It’s not an issue for me.

  • Kay says:

    I have to ask what century you are living in. No offense meant but times have changed. What was perhaps acceptable years ago, should no longer be accepted today. It makes me sad when a genre that was a trailblazer at one time when it came to issues like abortion and incest, seems to have taken a step back in terms of rape.

    Years ago there were still novels written where it was considered romantic to be dominated by a man. A man forced himself onto a women, she said no, but then she allegedly gave into passion. Today we all know NO means NO. And perhaps the reasons soaps have lost so many viewers over the years is that the industry just refuses to evolve, this being an example. And those books don’t get written anymore at least not under the heading of “romance”.

    And it doesn’t matter to me how much chemistry a couple has. If you push the rape card, then deal with it accordingly and stop writing rape-mances. There is more drama in dealing with the fallout and ramifications of the act itself then whitewashing a character and putting the rapist and rape victim together.

    It’s no wonder there are only 4 soaps left.

    • Marcia says:

      as to what century Carolyn is living in, it’s this one, honey, just like me, and no one knows better than she does that there are only four soaps left. Rape is rape. No means no. We agree on this.

      Soaps do need to drop this “bodice buster” novel approach, where a good girl always says no until his manhood presses against her heaving bosom (which can be seen on the front cover of those trashy books), and then she abandons herself to passion.

      What soaps are doing with characters like EJ and Sami is, essentially, taking the intimacy out of sex. If a man is cold, give him your sweater and wish him well, don’t sleep with him.

      I’d be more likely to abandon myself of common sense and find hidden passion if a tall, handsome man changed all of my light bulbs that I can’t reach any more than if some stranger presses his manhood against any part of me. If that should happen, the next thing pressed would be felony charges, and it’s not romantic.

      I don’t enjoy rape storylines at all, and soaps would do well to consider that most of their audience are female, the usual victims of rape, with occasional victims of Viagra like Jack Snyder on ATWT. that was just dumb. well, ok, Viagra and being tied to a chair, as I recall. How awkward would it be to have to play that scene???

  • mfarris70 says:

    I get and agree with everything Carolyn is saying. What I don’t get is why the writers flush this dramatic story potential down the drain. Many rape victims suffer severe consequences, from post-tramatic stress to the inability to enjoy sex to seeing their attacker set free to being blamed themselves and even in some cases having to live in the same town with their attacker and see them on the street. There are years of dramatic and informative story to play out in this horrendous act but the shows always take the clean, easy way out.

  • AmyRose says:

    Having (thankfully) never been a victim of rape, nor personally known one, it’s hard for me to judge. Yes, it’s a heinous crime, but depending on how it’s written, I suppose the writer could go back and change the viewpoint. We, the viewers, saw it as rape, but maybe the character didn’t feel the same way. As Aidan pointed out, Luke does admit it was rape. Laura chose to forgive (because of the circumstances? I’m not clear, I was still a kid when it happened. A fan! But a kid.) and circumstances let it grow into love. Luke has never claimed to be anything more than an irredeemable scoundrel and a con. But we love him all the same, because Anthony Geary is *that* amazing. And good Lord, the look he gets on his face when he’s looking at Genie Francis’ Laura? Truly, I kissed a lot of frogs trying to find a scoundrel with a heart of gold who looked at me the same way he looks at her. Still. If she were to come back next week (and Fluke were gone) he would still look at her that way, even though he does love his Spanky.

    My point is, it’s a TV show. Yes, it’s nice when they are responsible and we can learn something from them, but I watch to be entertained. Everyone’s definition of “entertainment” is going to be different, Jenn is offended by Sonny and Ava’s situation, I’m just grateful to see Maurice’s dimples again. Taunting Ava gives him pleasure, and I enjoy seeing him smile again.

    You can’t re-write some rapes, as Carolyn listed above, but others may be subject to that little thing called “poetic license”. As long as my show is on the air and I can still watch it, I will forgive their foibles.

  • wolfy says:

    Another “famous” rape-turned-love-story on DAYS is the old Bill Horton/Laura Horton rape. Laura was married to Mickey, Bill’s brother, when Bill raped her. She became pregnant with Michael, a son Mickey always thought was his until years later when Michael was hurt in an accident and needed a blood transfusion; Mickey’s didn’t match and Laura and Bill had to explain why to him. He basically lost his mind, and his memory, and ended up at Maggie’s farm, where another love story came about (as we all know).

    And, there’s the infamous “rape” of Christine Williams by her then-ex-husband, Paul, when she was engaged to Michael Baldwin. Paul was upset that Chris was marrying Michael, went to see her, wanted to reconcile, she said no, he forced her (off-camera) into sex, we then see him apologizing and buckling his pants and her lying on the bed, crying, yet the two of them get together again later and the show tells us that it never really happened.

    Are these stories of people who end up married to each other, yet have had forceful sex (or out-and-out rape) of their partner crazy to get together and live as though the sexual “incidents” never took place, that the characters involved, and we the fans, are to forever forget and believe that it was only a mistake and all has been forgiven?

    I don’t think so, but it would be nice if at least ONE of these shows would re-visit the acts and have the two involved (or at least one of them) sit down with someone and actually TALK about it, saying whether or not THEY believe it was “just sex” or “rape.”

    I know that Brooke Logan would love to give Stephanie what-for for Steph’s involvement in Brooke’s rape by a man she set up Brooke with on a date. Who knew that was going to happen? I don’t think even Stephanie knew it was going to go that far, but it would have been GREAT if it was the one thing Brooke kept throwing back into Steph’s face whenever Steph said or did something mean to her afterward…

    Just my thoughts on the subject, Carolyn. Hope they were okay.

  • June says:

    Well, just reading what EJ did to Sami makes my blood boil. IMHO, when your choice is taken away from you . . . it is rape. Yes, Sami may have taken her own clothes off, but she had no choice . . . do this or let Lucas die.

    I forget the details of what happened with David Hayward and Amanda, but I remember thinking at the time that it was rape and I couldn’t believe AMC went there with the David character.

    If a man takes your choice away . . . IT IS RAPE!! IMHO

  • nisha says:

    Let’s first be honest here, this is not a genre of television that is considered successful. We are talking about going from 11 soaps to 4… So saying hey it’s soaps might be one of the reasons that people stopped tuning in. While soap industry has many reasons of why people stopped watching, one of them is that women got smarter. Soaps are a form of entertainment, and we all know this would not fly in primetime (you know where all soap actors drool to go) or movies, why should this be allowed in daytime? You want to un tell story’s yet soaps are about legacy characters and family. The Newman’s, Quatermaines, Forresters, and Brady’s are continuing on, as are the stories they have been a part of. So why un tell the past, when soaps rely on the past? Why would it have been so awful to have had EJ pay for the rape? Because James Scott was good looking (let’s be honest James Scott at that point was a new character)?
    Soaps are shown daily unlike many other shows, with that brings viewers attachment to these characters, why would you show that it is ok to fall in love with your rapist, is there no moral obligation to women everywhere who have to deal with sexual harassment, Sexual abuse, and most importantly sexism? Are women not the main demographic of soaps? This year alone what happened in the world with bring back our girls, and yes all women movement, the question is Carolyn are you living in this century or the era of Gloria Monty?
    PS reading the responses and seeing the poll results makes me happy that there are smart soap viewers.

  • Dana says:

    I loved Dr. David Hayward on AMC, too, but thought it was disgusting when he “convinced” (blackmailed) Gillian to sleep with him for money she needed to help Ryan & when he “convinced” (again, blackmailed) Amanda to sleep with him to make another baby. No, this was not technically rape, but it was not really wanted on the female’s part – they felt forced & if they had no choice. There’s a fine line there in my eyes.

  • fanny says:

    A great column! And yes, rape is rape and “no” MEANS “no”, in real life! But on soaps, it is true that it changes with writers, doesn’t it? I absolutely love and enjoy the chemistry between Sami and EJ on DAYS, but unfortunately NOTHING can erase the toxic relationship these two had and the harm they have done to each other. And that is why there is so much division among DAYS fans, when it comes to Sami & EJ, because they NEVER were a truly loving couple.

  • Jenn says:

    Is it okay when soaps rewrite rape into seduction? That’s really a hard question to answer. Honestly, I don’t think modern audiences want to be put in the position to have to forgive and forget that sort of thing. Sex and relationships are looked at a lot differently nowadays than they were before. I think soaps should try to get to the point where rape is not called a seduction. Females on soaps are often mistreated and I’m not sure that should be okay with the audience anymore. On GH for example, Sonny has imprisoned a pregnant Ava so that he can kill her after she gives birth. While Ava is not a nice person, I find this disturbing & I just want her to knee him and run. Should we really be rooting for Ava & Sonny? Does passion and romance need to be violent?

  • Aidan says:

    Sorry, but no. There is no such thing as “unrape.” Soaps might have undeaths and unabortions and untransplants, but there is no unrape, not even where Luke and Laura are concerned. Laura finally confronted Luke about it after Nikolas spilled the beans to Lucky. Years later, Luke admitted to Lulu he had raped her mother.

    EJ raped Sami. The end. Personally, I’m rather bothered that almost every female character on DAYS has been raped or the victim of an attempted rape, yet NONE of them every speak of it.

  • Penney Adams says:

    Is it okay to rewrite a rape? I have a hard time answering this question. I agree with your hypothesis, but it is hard to justify making rape okay. Why? Even though it is on a soap opera where reality is rarely considered by the writers it still leaves a bad taste. So many women who are raped in the real world are subjected to all kinds of terrible things even beyond the actual act. Defense attorneys turn on them and make their lives miserable. The have to live with the consequences for the rest of their lives, often ruining their current and future relationships. Knowing that I think it is a slap in their faces, the true victims, to reverse a rape and make light of it. To show the victim falling in love with their rapist. It is something so repugnant that it is hard to swallow, and yet we are expected to by the short sighted writers.

    I think sometimes the writers get weary and struggle to come up with something new, something shocking so they just barrel ahead without thinking about what they might want to do with the characters long term. Characters are routinely forgiven, or get away with various crimes. Many of those crimes are really bad! But somehow turning a rapist into a lover just seems to go over the line. Much like if they had a child molester have their victim fall in love with them. We wouldn’t allow that, we wouldn’t be able to stomach that. It would give too much credibility to the child molesters out there, it would send the wrong message. The same is true with rape. If they write the scene to be a rape, it should stay that way. If they write the scene as a true seduction, then that can be redeemed.

    The writers should realize when they write the scene that once they have a character rape a woman then that “couple” can never be a couple again. Unless, of course the woman is faking it in order to eventually get revenge on the rapist because he got away with it! That would be true soapy stuff, and the rape would be acknowledged and the rapist would not really get away with it.

    One thing that would be nice on soaps is if the bad guys had to work harder to get away with stuff! It would be great if they didn’t immediately get away with their crimes. They should suffer at least a little bit before they are allowed back into the story. For instance when Britt and Obrecht got away with stealing the embryos in just a day or so! That should have been dragged out for at least a few weeks before they were back at the hospital as if nothing happened!

    Just my two cents worth.

  • MissyLady says:


  • Maddi says:

    Just FYI, I read an interview a little while back where Heather Tom said she makes a point of the make-up dept putting on the scar every time her chest is revealed, whether it’s a love scene or just a low cut top. Since then, I look for it every now and then to see if she held up to her word, and funnily enough, on yesterday’s show I could clearly see the scar on her chest.

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