Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time’s Lack of Sensitivity to Rape is Hugely Problematic

The two-episode sign-off before the three-week hiatus featured yet another male character being raped without so much as an utterance of the assault. This lack of sensitivity that Once Upon a Time has shown — multiple times — is majorly problematic, especially since a huge part of the fanbase is made up of children.

The fantastical element of Once Upon a Time can sometimes blur the lines with situations that are next to impossible in the real world, making it a little harder to see things as they are. That doesn’t change the fact that the series has now used women disguising themselves as other women to lure men into their beds for the mere purpose of a baby, twice.

This is called rape in the real world. Yes, men can get raped, too. Consent requires knowing who it is you’re about to sleep with.

Neither Robin nor Hook gave consent to have sex with Zelena nor Gothel, respectively. Now, I get that this is a little hard to imagine because you can’t just magic yourself into someone else in real life. So, to help explain, imagine you’re dating a woman who is an identical twin. Both sisters look exactly alike and sound exactly alike. It’s very difficult to tell them apart. Now, imagine that the other sister pretends to be your girlfriend, and the two of you have sex. You later realize that you were not actually in bed with your girlfriend. You didn’t give consent to her twin; she took advantage and raped you. That’s what happened here.

Of course, these aren’t the only two cases. As much as I love Regina/Evil Queen, she did her fair share of terrible acts — including raping Graham, over and over again, in season 1. He couldn’t consent without his heart. She was making him do whatever she damn well pleased. Zelena did the same thing with Rumple. They didn’t go all the way, but sexual assault still occurred.

While we’re at it, Regina didn’t exactly accept Leopold’s proposal and whatever else might have insued during their marriage. She was forced into this, and if — and we’re expected to assume that this did happen — that marriage was consummated, there is a 99% chance she did not consent to that. This was a case of a woman being raped, which was also completely ignored by the powers that be.

Right now, the media is flooded with sexual harassment and assault cases of men in power taking advantage. Women are coming forward left and right. The #MeToo campaign filled social media feeds, showing that nearly every woman you know has been assaulted or harassed in one way or another.

But women are not the only ones that can be attacked. Men can be sexually harassed and assaulted as well. The fact that Once Upon a Time has shown cases of men being taken advantage of by women in power, then turned a blind eye, is disgusting.

How are you going to claim that you’re a show about hope and love and not bother to even bring up the fact that you’ve now had multiple characters raped?

This subject is not one to make light of. This is a problem that is happening all over the world and has been swept under the rug for far too long. It’s time that we start holding people accountable for their actions, and that includes those on-screen. Just because this is a Disney show, and it’s fantasy, doesn’t take away the fact that these characters not only dealt with assault — but their assault was swept under the rug and laughed at, more or less.

For a series that has proven to be something that has helped people get through hard times, this is not acceptable. What message are you sending? There are children that watch this. Their subconscious mind is picking up on this: a television series sending a message that rape isn’t to be acknowledged or discussed. And that’s problematic on so many levels.

Do better, Once Upon a Time. Do better.

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Published by

Anam Ahmad

Anam is a self proclaimed TV nerd who loves all things TV. Anything with a fantastical or SciFi twist, a drama, or a show produced by Shonda Rhimes usually catches her eye. She’s a DC native so naturally she’s an activist when she’s not sitting in front of the television.

12 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time’s Lack of Sensitivity to Rape is Hugely Problematic

  1. I am not really a fan of this writer as i have seen her other work or mocking others whilst praising one character from the show (since she already has mentioned who she actually likes)

    I do not want to see that imagine of any version of Hook being like this. When we just only lost real Hook like four or five episodes ago and Emma, and the couple.

    Also this show is going so downhill. Disappointed fan of season 7 as a whole and also the wish version of the arc i never liked in season 6 either.

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  2. i certainly do not think regina was raped, who was about to make snow’s life hell. please! thats just you making an excuse for your fave!

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  3. I agree with most of what you said, however, when it comes to Regina raping Graham, that was answered by the writers. People without their hearts exist on autopilot and tend to their basic needs. They can consent to sex and Regina was only able to to control him with his heart while holding it and even then it was obvious when she killed him she hadn’t been down in her vault years. Adam said more than once in writing that Regina and Graham were consenting adults. They even go as far as to have Graham in the one episode offering to come over and showing up times Regina wasn’t expecting him and essentially jumping her…if she held all the cards wouldn’t that be impossible? If you want to compare Robin to Hook by all means but since they didn’t shirk from or make excuses for the rapes of Robin or Hook I do believe them when they make a point to put it in writing that that isn’t one of Regina’s many crimes.

    Also, the fact that children watch the show isn’t the fault of the writers when the show is clearly rated PG, recommending parental guidance and suggesting the show is not appropriate for children. It is the job of the parents to censor their children and decide what they want them seeing, or in this case not seeing. If I had children they would NOT be watching Once until they were at least 12 and they’d be watching it with me so I could answer any questions or turn it off if it got too intense. It’s called responsible parenting. That said I DO hate that they put rape in the show, even more so now that they did it twice and my stomach turned when Zelena was mocking Robin in front of Regina about raping him…but you can’t say it’s not ok because kids might see it when it’s not necessarily rated for kids. It’s not ok because it’s vile and disgusting and a trigger for too many people and they should show a little class and just not go there.

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    1. I do agree with you on the parents responsibility for what the kids watch, however, they should put a disclaimer up if they were going to show rape in any way, shape, or form. Plenty of other shows regardless of their audience have put disclaimers up when something that was explicit or controversial was going to be shown. The lack of a disclaimer reinforces that TPTB didn’t even bother with it because they thought that this wasn’t a case of rape. Which is what I was trying to go for not that don’t do anything, but address it if you are.

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  4. Rewatch season 2. Regina banished her mother through the mirror and was escaping before her wedding but SHE CHOSE TO GO BACK AND GET MARRIED because of the power (lured by Rumple, admittedly). She was never forced to marry. And in canon, Leopold didn’t want her sexually (actually he was a neglecting husband), he just wanted her to be a mother figure to Snow. So let’s cut this speech (purely based on victimizing HEADCANON BY FANS) that Regina was forced to marry and thus raped in her marriage. She was not.

    Why don’t you talk about an actual female rape in canon? That would be EMMA SWAN, who was a minor when she had sex with Neal (who was in his 20s but actually was centuries old by that time), thus it being statutory rape.

    It would be very nice if you edit your (otherwise excellent and very on-point) article to correct your Regina-the-rape-victim headcanon and mention Emma-the-actual-statutory-rape-victim canon info.

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  5. Regina was not a rape victim. And not forced to marry. That is just headcanon, but so widespread and strong that most people take it as canon.

    Emma is a victim of statutory rape. Belle is a victim of rape by deception (by Rumple). Snow, Dr. Whale, David and Abigail were victims of rape by deception (had sexual relationships without consent as they were cursed by Regina).

    Please add these info to your article to make it more accurate.

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  6. Emma was also a victim of deception at the hands of walsh and zelena which almost everyone in the fandom mocked and ridiculed her for. So Zelena is behind two major consent issues. It is fine to focus o your fav but ouat has had dubious issues with sexual consent towards multiple characters and a horrible history not addressing it

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