Song Title/Vid Title: Supernatural Type Thing
Artist: Stone Temple Pilots - Sex Type Thing.
Characters: Sam and Dean Winchester
Warnings: This vid is about sexual assault - so, yeah...enter at your own risk
Summary: An exploration of sexual assault against Sam and Dean so far.
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Notes: There aren't any songs out there about sexual assault against males, so I had to make do. Though, by using this song, I did get an awesome opportunity to compare Sam's body to a sexy dress.
Male Sexual Assault in Supernatural
One of the things that first drew me to Supernatural (other than the fantastic characters, actors, and story) was the fact that it had this subtheme of sexual assault against males. Not many shows go there, or at least, not any shows that I’ve ever watched. Supernatural doesn’t shy away from it, and, if anything it’s become increasingly important over the years.
Come with me, while we explore some of the major events of this theme throughout the series...
Note: For the purposes of this meta, I’ve taken the position that rape can only occur when there is a soul present. This means that Ruby’s empty vessel used in S4 is not an issue. And although Sam might still have issues with what happened to his body in Swap Meat, for the purposes of this meta, I’m ignoring that episode (also, I just didn’t like it very much and I like to ignore it anyway.)
The Woman in White
Supernatural dives right into the theme, when Sam is sexually assaulted in the PILOT! The Woman in White forcibly locks Sam in the car, commanders the vehicle, and when Sam still refuses to bend to her wishes, she straddles him and begins to grind against him and kiss him – whilst Sam winces below her. In this case, as the woman is a Supernatural being, we do not actually know the strength of the force she is holding Sam down with.
Sam eventually tries to use her distraction to his advantage and reaches for the keys, which, of course, is when the ghost decides just to kill him and Dean comes to the rescue.
Next we have Meg. It’s true, when Sam first meets her and thinks she is human, there is some flirting; however, I hardly think that gives her consent to tie both Sam and Dean to posts and then molest them (Sam especially), once they discover she’s a demon.
Again, in this instance, Sam eventually uses her distraction to his advantage – making her focus on him instead of the fact that both he and Dean are trying to cut through their bonds.
Devil’s Trap and the YED
We have the good old Yellow Eyed Demon, who takes over John – and this marks the first time that Dean is the focus of the attack, and also the first time it is a case of male>male “sexualized” violence. Now, granted, this isn’t an overtly sexual attack. It’s more of a leering threat. You could argue that the YED just likes to stand really close to whoever he is talking to – but in my opinion, there’s more than just that going on.
Possession in itself is part of the theme. In Supernatural, Sam and Dean always speak of the possessed and the act of being possessed in sexual terms, “riding” being the most frequent verb. The entity is inside the person against their will (in the case of demons), and is controlling their body without their consent – it very much is a form of rape, where the person no longer has a say in how their body is used or treated as they are held at bay by a much stronger being (in cases of both demons and angels.)
Usually, possession is used as a metaphor for man’s darker-side or alcoholism or mental illness – however, in Supernatural I’ve always interpreted it as a metaphor for sexual assault and I think that it symbolises the loss of control of one’s own body, and more importantly, the use of one’s body by a stronger sinister force for their own pleasure.
So, in Devil’s Trap, we not only have John’s invasion of Dean’s personal space while they talk and his rather sinister leering, we also have John himself as a victim as well.
Of course, Season 2 gives us the crossroads demon kissing Dean in Crossroad Blues. This doesn’t really count, as Dean doesn’t realize that this is how deals are sealed, and there’s not necessarily a sexual threat of anything else happening. Still, we get Dean’s great line of:
I usually like to be warned before I'm violated with demon tongue.
Meg in Born Under A Bad Sign
Season two also gives us the return of Meg – and this time, she takes her treatment of Sam to the next level, by possessing him. As I said above, possession in Supernatural, is akin to rape.
In this episode, we have another scene of assault where both parties are in fact being assaulted simultaneously by a third, unseen, party. This is the scene between Meg!Sam and Jo at the bar in Duluth. So, we have female>male>female violence. Sam, under seemingly varying stages of consciousness, must witness as his body not only murders a fellow hunter, but assaults Jo and shoots Dean.
At the end of the episode, we get more talk of possession in a way that likens it to sex:
DEAN: That sounds vaguely dirty, but uh, thanks.
DEAN: Dude, you, you like, full-on had a girl inside you for like a whole week. (laughs) That's pretty naughty.
In this episode, our boys end by laughing about the sexual-component of possession. This isn’t to make light of it, but rather doing what people do best and using humour and laughter as a defense against the darker aspects of what had just happened. In this case, Dean does it specifically to let Sam know that everything is going to be okay, to give Sam permission to “laugh it off” rather than deal with it – in later seasons, Dean does the same thing in order to put up walls and shields around his own experiences.
Jus in Bello
Season 3 stays relatively sexual assault free. We do have a massive possession-themed episode in Jus In Bello, however, and that still ties in with our theme. In the same episode, we have Henriksen commenting on what he thinks he knows about the Winchesters:
HENRIKSEN: Oh, yeah. I forgot. You fight monsters. Sorry, Dean. Truth is, your daddy brainwashed you with all that devil talk and no doubt touched you in a bad place. That’s all, that’s reality.
In this case, although Henriksen’s assumption is wrong, I think it’s interesting that this line occurs within an episode that features possession heavily.
No Rest for the Wicked
Here, we see Lilith for the first time since Jus In Bello. Once she takes over Ruby’s meatsuit, one of the first things she does is kiss Sam against his will.
Season 4 is when they take everything to the next level. So, instead of going through episodically, I’m going to talk about two major events, but first...
Again, with Dean’s trip to the past, we have the YED getting very up close and personal. He restrains Dean to a chair and then leans into his personal space – smelling him, and then just staying there and leering. Also, poor Samuel Campbell is being possessed and forced to kill his wife, himself, and make-out with his daughter.
Now, the two major topics...
Dean’s Experience in Hell
When Dean returns from Hell, he lies to Sam and says he can’t remember any of it. However, we slowly see that all is not right with Dean – he drinks more, he sleeps less, he’s moody and irritable and despite a light moment here and there, generally unhappy. Dean finally admits to remembering, and eventually tells Sam a little about the experience.
Dean talks about the torture, and how he turned torturer himself; however, people, particularly men, will sooner admit to being victims of physical violence than admit to being victims of sexual violence and, I believe, this occurs with Dean. Furthermore, I think, over time, that Sam comes to realize this (I’ll get to that later.)
Season 4 is very much about emasculating Dean, and putting him in a more vulnerable and less “manly” position than we are used to seeing him in: In Yellow Fever, he gets a sickness that makes him extremely frightened; in Monster Movie, he’s dressed in a ridiculous costume (to American standards) and restrained to a table; in After School Special we see him in another ridiculous costume. Furthermore, more, we see him (in Wishful Thinking) having nightmares in which he cries out “No!” (one could assume it’s a denial against turning torturer, but one could also assume it’s a denial of any number of things.) All of these things, plus Sam’s previous failure to save Dean, lead Sam to take a more actively protective role towards Dean, which both complicates their dynamic and causes Sam to make bad decisions.
When we do meet Dean’s torturer, Alistair, his dialogue to Dean speaks just as much to sexual assault as it does to physical. In his first scene, Alistair introduces himself:
ALISTAIR: Come on, Dean. Don't you recognize me? Oh,I forgot -- I'm wearing a pediatrician. But we were so close... In hell.
More telling, however is in On the Head of a Pin, when Dean enters the room Alistair in which Alistair is imprisoned, and Alistair begins to sing:
Heaven, I’m in Heaven, and my heart beats so, that I can hardly speak. I seem to find the happiness I seek, when we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek
A song that is far more fitting for a lover than just a torture victim. And throughout the torture session, the allusions to sexual violence continue:
ALISTAIR: But daddy's little girl, he broke. He broke in thirty. Oh, just not the man your daddy wanted you to be, huh, Dean?
Of course, the act of turning Dean into a torturer is a kind of rape in itself – as basically it is forcing Dean to consent to do something he would not ordinarily consent to. We also don’t know if, in Dean’s turn as torturer, he may have used sexual violence on his victims as well. When Dean tells Sam about it, he describes it vaguely, referring only to “The things that I did to them.”
Further evidence of Dean’s time in Hell comes to use in Season 6, and I’ll discuss it more under that heading.
Sam and Ruby
Sam and Ruby are having sex throughout Season 4. We can infer this after the very first episode. We find out later that Sam is also using Ruby as a drug source. Before we discover Sam’s addiction however, we first learn how him and Ruby came to be in a relationship – through Sam’s own retelling.
This is important: what we see is NOT consensual sex, even though Sam himself has recontextualized it by the time he tells the story – in no way was Ruby morally in the right during their first sexual encounter. When we think of rape, we tend to think of someone using physical force to restrain and violate another person. More often than not though, rape does not occur in that form – especially when rape occurs within the confines of a pre-existing relationship. It can also come in the form of someone who is emotionally/mentally vulnerable being manipulated into acts that they would not agree to otherwise.
This is what Ruby does to Sam in the flashbacks of I Know What You Did Last Summer. Sam, riddled with suicidal grief, is drinking heavily, and Ruby takes full advantage of his compromised emotional state. Dean calls it out for what it was immediately after Sam tells him, saying:
Okay, well, uh, brain-stabbing imagery aside... So far, all you've told me about is a manipulative bitch who, uh, screwed you, played mind games with you, and did everything in the book to get you to go bad.
Sam hastens to tell Dean about how Ruby then subsequently saved his life, as though this forgives her for “playing mind games” with him. Dean makes the same mistake as Sam, and this seems to make a difference in his opinion of her. We all know of course, that just because your lover is kind to you the next day, doesn’t mean you should forgive them for emotionally/sexually abusing you – sadly, Sam doesn’t seem to know this. Instead, he decides to continue the relationship as though it were his choice to begin with – instead of admitting that Ruby took that choice away from him through her manipulation.
The Siren, and the introduction of “The Supernatural Roofie”
Season 4 also gives us the first Supernatural Roofie – this time, in the form of Siren venom, which the Siren slips into Dean’s flask, thus bringing Dean under his control. While the Siren seems intent on playing a platonic bromance scenario, instead of a sexual scenario – the imagery is still one that is highly sexualized.
Sam walks in to find the Siren sitting on the bed – in a red hotel room, I may add – at which point, Sam is tackled and restrained by a “roofied” Dean. The Siren then sprays Sam’s face with a bodily fluid that is ejected from a “stinger” type appendage in the Siren’s mouth. Sam himself is then roofied – the Siren, at this point, probably could have had sex with both of them (fanfic pwp!) but instead has them fight each other to the death.
Angelic possession is the dub-con of the Supernatural world. The human must give consent, but hardly knows what they are getting themselves into. Furthermore, once they give consent, any further choice is stripped away from them. Did Uriel’s vessel know that he was going to be an agent of Lucifer? I doubt it. When Jimmy was without Castiel in The Rapture, we discovered that the once devote man was now embittered towards his religion and that he resented Castiel. His only reason for consenting yet again to Castiel at the end of the episode was to spare his daughter the horrible fate. Although Jimmy was not able to be aware for most of his time with Castiel, I would still say that had Castiel had sex while Jimmy was there, it would be a rape of Jimmy (in addition to the metaphorical rape of already being a vessel).
Now, post S4, we cannot be certain whether Jimmy still resides inside his body. Presumably, both Castiel and Jimmy were destroyed by Raphael in Lucifer Rising/Sympathy for the Devil. Castiel was then resurrected by God. It’s not clear whether Jimmy was resurrected as well. In My Bloody Valentine, Castiel’s craving for hamburgers is blamed on his vessel, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Jimmy’s soul is still present. As we see in Season 6, Sam’s body still has cravings as well and can function, even though his soul is not present.
In Season 5, we deal mainly with the issue of possession – specifically angelic-possession. With the main storyline being that Lucifer wants to ride Sam and Michael wants to ride Dean, we are treated to a cornucopia of male rape innuendo, mostly, of course, coming to us through Dean’s reactions:
“Oh, yeah. Life as an angel condom. That's real fun. I think I'll pass, thanks”
“...and there's an archangel there wanting me to drop the soap”
...are the two examples that spring to mind immediately.
Meg arrives as she means to go on. One of the first things she does is forcibly kiss Dean for absolutely no reason – or, just to remind us that she likes to molest the boys. In Abandon All Hope, she also has some heated interaction with Castiel.
Also, I should mention that Bobby gets possessed in the first episode of Season 5 as well, making Dean the only character not to be possessed, until the Khan worm in Season 6.
Sam Tied To Cots and Tables!
In Sam, Interrupted (5x11), Sam is tied to a cot in a padded room, while a female wraith licks the sweat off his forehead and then brandishes a phallic-like spike – though, she wants to stick it in his brain, not anywhere else. Also, I forgot to mention in Season 4, that Sam was tied to a table while two ghouls poked holes in him and then licked the blood from his skin. Really, I think “Sam tied down” could be a theme in and of itself.
This is a storyline that spans three seasons – and it is really when they start getting more blatant with the theme.
In Season 5, Lucifer introduces himself to Sam while in Sam’s bed disguised as his dead girlfriend. Sam, not realizing who it is, kisses “Jess” tenderly on the neck when he wakes to find her there. Lucifer, as Jess, then pets Sam gently while Sam talks to “her”. After Lucifer reveals himself and Sam leaps from the bed, Lucifer leaves the unmade bed, only to corner Sam against it.
At the end of the season, when Sam says yes to Lucifer in order to defeat him. Lucifer continues to mention the sexual connotations of the possession, by telling Sam that they were “MFEO” (made for each other) – a term that is used for lovers.
The Lucifer/Sam storyline gets a hiatus, as Sam first is soulless, and then cannot remember the tortures of the cage. Instead, the focus in this theme is brought back to Dean, and we get a further exploration of his experience with assault. That being said, we do get references to what might be happening to Sam's soul in the cage, and I think Balthazar puts it the most succinctly in Appointment in Samarra (6x11):
SAM: My brother found a way to put it back in me. I don't want it.
BALTHAZAR: No, you don't. No, no, 'cause Michael and Lucy are hate-banging it as we speak.
But, back to Dean - There is a great meta about Torture and Rape in Season 6 by amonitrate, and I think she is far more articulate than I am – so I suggest you check it out.
Most importantly, I’d like to draw your attention to the following from amonitrate’s meta:
- The references to rape have been made mostly by or about Dean. In 6.09 they are played primarily for laughs (the lines about alien probing and “servicing” Oberon), but in my opinion the jokes are muddied by the fact that Dean's reactions, his anxiety and revulsion, are played fairly realistically and straightforward and without the over the top slapstick humor of some of the other episodes which poke fun at his averse reactions to an event, such as the first half or so of “Yellow Fever.” [...]Instead, Dean comes off extremely defensive when he makes them, especially to Meg's lackey (“Are you gonna kiss me?”) and to the two ghouls sent to eat him (the Shawshank line, which is the second reference to rape and showers in the episode and the third between 6.09-6.10)....
- I think we can easily throw in "Live Free or Twihard," 6.05. Not only is the entire opening sequence played like a seduction followed by a rape, but we have Dean making references to how "rapey" the twilight-knockoff books are; Dean being violently assaulted, held down, and turned into a vampire against his will after being called "pretty;" the later subtext of sexual coercion between Dean and the vamp who turned him in the "private tour" line; the allusions to trafficking in the way the vamp in charge of the nest treats the women he's "recruited;"....
- I am probably oversimplifying by stating that some of the rape references are not being played as jokes, and I realize many people will disagree with me as to the writers' intentions. For the most part they do occur when Dean is making a joke; but it seems an odd coincidence that suddenly most of Dean's defensive jokes are rape-related. And most of these jokes barely come across as jokes, per se; instead they seem to be the result of Dean covering discomfort or anxiety.
I think amonitrate has a point about how Dean’s defensive jokes become rape-related, especially in the first half of the season, when he returns to Hunting after a year of healing at Lisa’s.
From the first episode of Season 4 to the last episode of Season 5, Dean didn’t stop hunting nor take a break – the stakes were too high to focus on himself. He threw himself more into the work in order to avoid dealing with his own issues – as Sam points out at the beginning of Family Remains (4x11). I would imagine, that once Dean arrived at Lisa’s and did not have anything to distract him, there was a very large crash that occurred. Dean would have been forced to deal with at least some of the trauma of the past two years.
That being said, I think his constant defensiveness when it comes to rape – his reaction to the assault in Live Free or Twi-Hard (which, was another blatant sexual assault) – is part of Dean trying to deal and recover from what happened to him in Hell.
He also alludes to it in All Dogs Go To Heaven (6x08), when he suggests that they make sure that Mandy is indeed a werewolf before they hand her over to “an eternity of demon rape.” Now, Dean knows that they are handing monsters over to Crowley for “torture”, yet Dean specifically uses the term “rape” here, as though the two are synonymous...and because Dean has the experience of being tortured by demons, this only leads me to believe that they are in fact one and the same.
Furthermore, in the very next episode, Clap Hands If You Believe (6x09), a line of Sam’s tells us that Sam could very well know full well about Dean’s past experience with being raped in Hell. When Dean gets back from his “alien abduction” – he tells Sam about in an extremely agitated state. Sam, being soulless, is not the most comforting presence, though he attempts to be. He tells Dean that it’s a “safe room” and when he mentions a possible “probing table” and Dean tells him “don’t say that out loud!” he doesn’t question why. After Dean is finished his story, we get this exchange:
DEAN: I should take a shower. I’m gonna, I’m gonna take a shower now.
Dean’s reference to needing a “daily rape shower” in the next episode comes into play here – where Sam already knows that having a shower will make Dean feel better. To me, this all indicates that by the time Season 6 occurs, without having to be told, Sam has already logically figured out the full extent of his brother’s time in Hell.
As I said, the theme of rape and sexualized violence is extremely heavy in the first half of the season, and relatively light in the second half. I think this is also deliberate. While Sam’s soul is still being continually assaulted in the cage, Dean is being continually assaulted on earth – it might be a stretch, but I think it fits with the mirror theme of that season.
Season 7 (so far)
We get a return to “The Supernatural Roofie” in Season 7, Time for a Wedding (7x08) – when Becky drugs Sam into falling in love and then marrying her. This episode was mostly for laughs and no sex took place, the fact remains that Sam’s state of mind was forcibly altered in order to make him do something against his will. Not to mention the part where he is tied spread-eagled on a bed without his pants. Certainly, not something you want to do to someone who just returned from being raped by Lucifer for a year and a half...
A Return to Lucifer/Sam
Season 7 starts off with the bluntly stated fact that one of the boys has been raped. This comes courtesy of Sam’s Lucifer hallucination. In the carry-through scene bridging Meet The New Boss (7x01) and Hello Cruel World (7x02). We have ‘Lucifer’ say the following lines:
LUCIFER: You’re still in my cell. You’re my bunkmate, buddy. You’re my little bitch, in every sense of the term.
In this case, we do not have to rely on inference. We have it as fact, from Sam’s own memories and mind, that Sam was sexually assaulted by Lucifer while he was trapped in the cage for a year and a half.
And that brings us up to the present. I have to wonder if Sam will ever outright TELL Dean about that part of his torture. Or perhaps, given Dean’s own experiences, Sam (and the audience) can safely assume that Dean already knows.
It’ll be interesting to see where they take this theme in the future – is Sam as fine as he seems to be? Is this shared trauma between the Winchesters something they even need to talk about? Is the fact that both of our protagonists are PTSD-suffering rape victims of any plot importance whatsoever? Only time will tell.
ETA: Some Follow Up Reading:
blubird_pie has a meta on Sexual Objectification of Males on Supernatural. Including, in comments, a great paragraph about angel possession and Michael as representative of rape culture.
chasingtides has a two part meta. The first, about possession and sex in Supernatural, and the second, thorns and stings, clarifies her original argument, talks specifically about angel possession as well as depictions of male rape in media.