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Why I Don't View the Spike/Buffy Bathroom Scene as Attempted Rape (a short essay by @jamie_marsters)
I know I could be opening up a can of worms here, so let me start this off by first stating that the following is solely my opinion & is by no means meant to be an incendiary piece to start any kind of fandom "war." It's also not meant to diminish anyone's differing opinions. I don't expect everyone (or even all that many people at all, really) to agree with me. If you DO view this scene as attempted rape/assault/whatever, then please don't view this piece as any kind of apologist/redemptionist answer to that; that's not what this is. I will never excuse that kind of behaviour in either fandom-life or real life.

I also, in no way, mean for this to devolve into a Spuffy vs Bangel argument; that's a completely separate argument (I ship them BOTH, FYI, with an overwhelming love of the OT3: Spuffangel FTW!) and it's an argument I'm well & truly over. Also, comparing Spuffy to Bangel in relation to this scene does no one any favours, as far as I've seen.

My main reason for sharing this is because, while I see many members of the fandom have a wide variety of different opinions in regards to this scene, very few have come close to how I view it. And how I've always viewed it, right from the very first airing.

I don't believe, nor have I ever, that Spike was attempting to rape Buffy, in the (now very much so) infamous "bathroom scene" from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Seeing Red" (#6.18). I believe Spike was simply following the "pattern" of every previous sexual encounter he & Buffy had ever had. The main difference being that when Buffy said "No" this time, she actually meant it.

Let's look at some of those previous sexual encounters for comparison:

Starting from their very first sexual encounter in the Season 6 episode "Smashed," (#6.8) Buffy & Spike's sex life has followed a very recognisable pattern. First violence (they beat the crap out of each other)/verbal abuse (they verbally beat the crap out of each other); Buffy declares her hatred/disgust for Spike and/or actually uses the words "Stop" & "No"; & then they, enthusiastically & consensually, bone (usually also very violently).

Even the morning after, in the next episode "Wrecked," (#6.9) follows that same pattern. Buffy declares her hatred/disgust for Spike, tells him it's never gonna happen again; actually uses the words "Stop" & "No" & then proceeds to initiate one hell of a sexy make-out session; which then ends with Buffy declaring further disgust & a threat to kill Spike should he tell anyone about the aforementioned sexy times (see the end of the above clip, or the transcript below).

Buffy pushes his hand away, struggles against him.

BUFFY: Stop!
SPIKE: (grinning) Make me.
BUFFY: No! No!

She continues struggling for about another half second and then grabs his face and kisses him. She puts her arms around his neck and moans. They kiss for a moment.

Cut to later that same episode & Buffy comes running to Spike for help in finding Dawn; while looking for Rack's cloaked hideout they bicker, with Buffy eventually declaring she wants Spike completely out of her life; & then, when they do find Dawn, she turns to Spike to help her get Dawn to the hospital, leaving him to take care of Dawn on his own while she confronts Willow.

This pattern of conflicting "get out of my life"/"wait, take care of my sister" back & forth is another continuing theme of their relationship, that can be nothing but confusing & frustrating for Spike. (I raise this point, not to excuse any kind of behaviour, but because it's a direct comparison to their sexual encounters; that constant "No, I don't want it"/"Violently enthusiastic sex" that occurs throughout their relationship during this season)

The following episode "Gone" (#6.10) begins with the very same type of encounter: Buffy tries to initiate violence, Spike gets to groping, Buffy (again) says the words "Stop that" while sighing in pleasure & this time, just for something different, they're interrupted by Xander (see clip below).

It's, interestingly, later in this episode where their roles are virtually reversed. After having invisible sexy times, Spike is the one who tells Buffy to "Push off" after realising she was only there because he couldn't "see her," she then proceeds to ignore his protests & initiates some more sexy times (see below):

In the next episode "Doublemeat Palace" (#6.11) we see Spike visit Buffy's new place of work where she, again, tells him to "Go away" & then proceeds to screw him against the alleyway wall.

"Dead Things" (#6.12) begins in Spike's crypt where we see the aftermath of Buffy & Spike's most recent sexy times (the violent beginnings are only heavily implied here, we don't see it; although we hear the end of their violent sexual encounter). We also get to see Spike & Buffy "have a conversation" that actually results in them both pointing out how violence plays such a huge part in their sex life:

SPIKE: Well, isn't this usually the part where you ... kick me in the head and run out, virtue fluttering?
BUFFY: That's the plan ... (embarrassed) ...soon as my legs start working.

Again, later in this episode, we see yet another sexual encounter follow the usual script. Buffy says "Don't," Spike tells her "Stop me," & then they bone, while Spike whispers not-so-sweet nothings in Buffy's ear about how she "belongs in the dark" with him:

This episode also shows us, arguably, the least violent sexual encounter between Spike & Buffy, but which proves only to be a nightmare of Buffy's. The most violent aspects of her nightmare tend to be directed at Katrina (the girl she accidentally kills in the episode), not Spike.

In "Older and Far Away" (#6.13), whilst there isn't any actual sex in this episode, we do see the pattern continue:

Spike walks up to her, smirking. He tries to take her hands but she pulls them away. But she is smiling too.

BUFFY: Stop it. Someone's gonna see.

She walks toward the kitchen. Spike follows, stops her at the doorway, putting one hand on the wall beside her head to block her way.

SPIKE: Mm-hmm.

He puts his other hand on her shoulder, runs it down her arm, takes her hand and pulls it onto his thigh.

"As You Were" (#6.14), again, sees the episode begin with a very familiar pattern. This time Buffy says "No" before Spike can even make the suggestion of sexy times; & continually says variations of "No" throughout the conversation, until they (you guessed it) bone!

BUFFY: No, Spike.
SPIKE: No? What kind of answer is that, you haven't even heard the question yet.
BUFFY: I don't have to. We both know what you're thinking.
SPIKE: (grins) And we both know ... that I'm not the only one thinking it.

He puts his hand out as if to grab her coat collar, and leans in as if to kiss her.

Buffy slaps his hand away.

BUFFY: No! Not here.
SPIKE: Why not? (pouting)
BUFFY: Dawn. (looks toward the house) She's inside waiting for dinner, she's counting on me. I'm not letting her down by letting you in.
SPIKE: So it's the fear of getting caught, then, is it?
BUFFY: Reason number one on a very long list. (turns to go)
SPIKE: Needn't be an obstacle.

He takes her hand and pulls her toward the tree. Longer shot of the two of them moving along the side of the building.

BUFFY: (sighs) Spike, I mean it. Come on.
SPIKE: I hear you're serious. So am I. I want you ... you want me...

Cut to a closer shot as Buffy has her back up against the tree and Spike is right in her face.

SPIKE: ...I can't go inside, so ... maybe the time is right ... for you to come outside.

Buffy sighs, looks at the house, then back at Spike. He slowly leans in to kiss her.

Cut to a long shot again. They kiss, Buffy drops the paper bag on the ground, and Spike pulls her around so that the tree obscures them from our view.

Another interesting sidenote, the sex scene we see later in this episode (The "Tell me you love me" scene) is the first & only time we see any sexual encounter between Spike & Buffy that doesn't contain some variation of Buffy (or Spike) saying "No." Seven episodes (or several months in show time) & this is the first & only time that happens!

The end of this episode is where we see Buffy call off her relationship with Spike, and to seemingly actually mean it this time. And we see Spike realising that she actually means it this time.

"Entropy" (#6.17) has no sex between Buffy & Spike, but it does have an exchange between them where Buffy admits she knows Spike would never willingly hurt her. Which speaks volumes, really:

SPIKE: (quietly) I don't hurt you.

He walks a few steps away.

BUFFY: I know.
SPIKE: No, you don't. I've tried to make it clear to you, but you won't see it. (pauses) Something happened to me. The way I feel ... about you ... it's different. And no matter how hard you try to convince yourself it isn't, it's real.
BUFFY: I think it is.

Beat. He looks at her.

BUFFY: For you.

Now we get to the actual episode "Seeing Red" (#6.18) itself.

After Dawn confronts Spike about his dalliance with Anya, asking him how he could do that if he really loved Buffy, Spike's prompted to go & apologise to Buffy. Which, after asking after her well-being (she's obviously hurt), he does:

SPIKE: (softly) I'm sorry. Not that it matters any more, but I needed you to know that.
SPIKE: Because I care about you.
BUFFY: Then you might want to try the not sleeping with my friends.
SPIKE: I didn't go to Anya for that. I was looking for a spell.
BUFFY: (outraged) You were going to use a spell on me?
SPIKE: (sighs, exasperated) It wasn't for you! I wanted something . (puts hand on his chest) Anything to make these feelings stop. (angrier) I just wanted it to stop!

That's his motivation for going to see her. His only motivation. Further into the conversation & we get Buffy admitting, for the first time, that she does have feelings for Spike:

BUFFY: (calmer) I have feelings for you. I do. But it's not love. I could never trust you enough for it to be love.
SPIKE: (laughing) Trust is for old marrieds, Buffy. (Buffy rolling her eyes) Great love is wild ... and passionate and dangerous. It burns and consumes.
BUFFY: Until there's nothing left. Love like that doesn't last.
SPIKE: (pacing) I know you feel like I do. You don't have to hide it anymore.
BUFFY: (rolling her eyes) Spike, please stop this.
SPIKE: (whispers) Let yourself feel it.

This is obviously what prompts Spike into believing a return to their usual history of sexual encounters is the way to go. Buffy's just admitted that she cares about him, & given their previous sexual encounters have been predicated on Buffy declaring the exact opposite, getting back to sex seems the obvious answer to Spike. Also, given that all of their previous sexual encounters have begun with Buffy saying "No," sometimes repeatedly, this, to Spike, seems to be following the usual script. Even the violence with which this encounter takes place is completely following their previous pattern.

We, as an audience, are aware that the previous times Buffy has said "No" she didn't actually mean it; just as we, as an audience, having seen what Buffy has gone through earlier in this episode (& in the preceding episodes, such as her complete mind-fuck in "Normal Again"), understand that this time when Buffy says "No" she does actually mean it. But Spike has no way of knowing that. All Spike has to go off of is their previous violent, verbally abusive & consensual sexual encounters, which all started the exact same way this scene does. Buffy says "No" & then they bone.

Spike's above expression is often interpreted as Spike's horror at realising what he's done, and I don't disagree with that, but I think it's not just that. This expression is Spike realising that Buffy actually means "No" this time, and then realising, with horror, how his actions will be construed by Buffy as a result of her actually meaning it. He had no way of knowing prior to Buffy physically kicking him off of her & looking so upset, that his actions were anything other than their usual means of initiating sex.

Further to that, when Spike realises that Buffy actually meant "No" this time, he backs off; he stays backed off. And then afterwards, he leaves to regain his soul; which I think gets glossed over quite a bit. The fact that a soulless evil being chooses to go through torturous trials in order to regain his soul is actually a huge deal! He's (to our knowledge) the only one to ever do that. There can really be no greater sign of remorse than that, & yet he goes so many steps further in order to never be that kind of monster towards Buffy ever again. Because he's never been that kind of monster before. In all of the tales of Spike's previous history, rape or sexual assault were never a part of it. He's killed, maimed & tortured, sure, but never rape.

[You'll notice I've not brought up the "Spike doesn't have a soul" argument, & that's because I believe that even soulless Spike would call "bullshit" on that. I don't think any version of Spike, soulless or not, would ever intentially attempt to rape, or sexually assault, anyone. I believe violence has likely always played a huge part in his sexual encounters, but never rape (at least not with him being the rapist). I think Spike's soulless nature is what lends itself to the violent nature of his sex-life, but even soulless, he would draw the line.]

So, in conclusion, no, I don't view Spike's actions in that scene as attempted rape. With all the evidence available to him, he was simply initiating a regular (for them) sexual encounter with someone who had repeatedly told him no & then had sex with him.

P.S. I've ummed & aahed over sharing my opinions on this for years, but for whatever reason, I've finally attempted to put it in to words. This is my first time ever writing anything like this, & I tried to be as concise & clear as possible, but I may have gotten rambley at certain points, so I hope it all makes sense. Also, if you see any typos, let me know!

Credit to BuffyWorld for the transcript excerpts

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It felt like rape when I was watching it. Made me so uncomfortable. Poor Buffs

Ditto. It's not an easy scene to watch by any stretch of the imagination.

Definitely one of the hardest of all the series I watch because at that point, the audience really knows and understands Spike, we care about him, against all odds but we do, but...Buffy...sigh. It was just awful for the both of them. She's a victim there but you see his pain, too.

This was a great read! Thanks for writing/sharing.

: )

Totally agree. It was awful and painful for both of them

I completely agree with your assessment on this issue.I have always disagreed that it was attempted rape. He was devastated that she ended the relationship and he wanted her back. And as you stated, once he realized she didn't want him back, he looked horrified and backed off.I've always felt sorry for him on how this relationship went.

And with Dru, though he loved her too, there was some kind of violence in there as well. There had to be. With Harmony, well, we all know how he acted with her non sexual wise so... even though he advanced on her like a feline and his prey... you know... there was always violence. It's in the nature of the vampire. And, with Buffy, it was always no but com here so we bone like bunnies and such.

My opinion on this scene is kinda weird. I believe the rape part for Buffy's side... or Dawn or Xander and everyone else's. I believe it's not rape for Spike in the sense that violence was always part of it with Buffy and even before Buffy.And Buffy, deep down, knows the truth... Except, this time, she really meant no and it was a whole lot confusing. She wasn't in her right state of mind just before that and well, Spike couldn't understand her and her no and so... that happened.

Canon-wise, it is a rape scene... the way it was scripted and all and both James and Sarah hated filming it and, I think, even Joss called it the almost rape scene at some point?!

I can't say black or white on is it an attempted rape not. It's all shaded in grey.

Yeah, it is definitely the kind of scene that falls well into the definition of grey area. I suppose my biggest argument against it being attempted rape, outside of their previous sexual history, is that Spike didn't go there *intending* to assault Buffy in any way. He went there to apologise/explain his sleeping with Anya, then the situation devolved from there. He had no way of knowing that *this* time was going to be any different, until Buffy actually stopped him.

Exactly. It wasn't his intention. He just wanted what they had back and he tried the only way he knew how since it worked before but this time it didn't.

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I love this! I NEVER EVER thought Spike went into this with any attempted rape in mind. You perfectly summed up - and in each scene they had where it led to sex - just how messed up it was. The look on his face was just one (as you have a clip above showing) of just horror at what he'd almost done.

I even took the thread (a very long time ago) regarding Dawn (in a story of mine) and had her feeling guilty for her part in it, but that's neither here nor there.

Regarding one thing that someone else brought up over on F'bk, and that I'd already thought of, was in that scene with Spike in the basement where he's chained up (after he attacks Andrew when the First was playing him) where he tells Buffy, 'Know what I did to girls Dawn's age,' etc.

I know it's cannon, but to me, that scene never, ever, ever rang as true. There was nothing revealed about Spike for 7 years, that would've led the audience to believe that besides murder and mayhem, that he would revel in rape. Now, Angelus, we know took pleasure in that.

To my way of thinking, he was just telling (goading) Buffy in order to get her to kill him to protect her, Dawn, and her friends/potentials, from him.

I mean, even the tone he says it in is so un-Spike-like. The hero, or anti-hero in him would have her end his life rather than risk hers.

That, or just sloppy over-the-top writing, trying to justify the scene.

Edited at 2018-10-12 05:11 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I definitely agree with you about Spike trying to goad Buffy in to killing him in that scene. I think he thought of the worst thing he could possibly imagine that might prompt her to do so, & the fact that it was raping young girls, means that he thinks that's the worst thing he could possibly do. I think the chances of him actually having done so are less than slim-to-none; it just doesn't fit with what we know of his character.

I by no means think he has a healthy relationship with sex & violence (as evidenced by most of the above, not to mention his relationship with Drusilla), but I definitely think rape would be crossing a line for him. And outside of that moment, when it's obvious Spike's motivating factor there is to get Buffy to kill him, there's never been any indication of his having crossed that line before.

I think that he may have had a much more healthy relationship with sex if Buffy had allowed it, as evidenced by how genuinely tender he was with her feelings when she came back. And I wouldn't doubt for a minute that he showed her that when he could, even if she rejected those feelings.

But, she was so messed up that the only way she could she could allow herself that escapism, is by using him.

After he gets the soul, (spurned on by the bathroom scene) he realizes the depth to which they both had sunk, and that she'd used him. Not that he didn't enjoy himself, but it was at his own expense. Without the soul, perhaps, he just didn't have the objectivity to see or care about his own self in the scenario.

It always galls me to no end that it's that idiot Riley (jarringly inserted back into the story line) that spurns her to finally break up with Spike, as though what he represents (after how shitty he was to her) makes her see that she couldn't keep using Spike (scene with Tara). The whole doctor/egg thing was really lame as a sub-plot line.

And her calling him, 'William' - oh, that smarted. I don't even get that. She's saying I really see you, the man, but breaking up with your most vulnerable self, even though I've been using and abusing Spike? I just don't get that, unless it's just to put an exclamation point on it, or hurt him more. Nope, don't get it.

Great essay

I I think your assessment is spot on! Thanks for sharing.

Thank you. ☺

You've stated it beautifully. I've never seen it as an attempted rape, so much as an attempted reconciliation that went very wrong. When he said "I know you feel it when I'm in you" any question I may have had of his motivation was gone. I will admit, I was more aware of Buffy's condition and seriousness with this "no" than Spike was, so it was hard to watch without feeling for her, but when she realized he wasn't going to stop and pushed him off, my heart broke for both of them.

Completely Agree

First off, I need to say "bad, Bad, BAD on Josh" for the example he created with the Buffy & Spike relationship, where a woman CLEARLY saying "no" actually means "Hell YES!".

That is absolutely the very LAST thing teen viewers - or men of any age - EVER needed to see modeled on TV. It's even more egregious that this pattern of interaction was repeated, week after week, within the context of a consensual, genuinely caring relationship between two people who have repeatedly literally saved one another's lives. What a horrible example to set forth, particularly within our own "Rape Culture". .

The way Josh portrays their encounters, how would ANYONE ever know WHEN Buffy's "no" genuinely MEANS 'No'?

What an especially horrible example to put forth, on a show ostensibly meant to show people how to navigate the ambiguities and difficulties of adolescence! This relationship portrayal set up uncounted numbers of men to violate the trust of women they may have genuinely cared for, because they believed, based on this awful example, that her 'no' wasn't genuine.

I myself was raped by a friend who was a huge BtVS fan, and who (being blond & blue eyed, and good looking) undoubtedly identified with the Spike character. I wasn't a fan of the show, at the time, but now, in retrospect, after watching the Spuffy arc, I now have to wonder to what extent one of the most traumatic events of my entire life may have been at least partially created by the FALSE belief that "no" sometimes (if not often) actually means "yes"?

I'm SURE (looking back on my own horrific situation) that the guy who raped me was most definitely influenced by Josh's portrayal of a "romance" - or at least consensual, and hot sexual encounters - starting out with the female clearly SAYING "No!". I have to wonder how many other women were victimized in real life, as a direct result of the confusion Josh sowed, with his incredibly dysfunctional Buffy & Spike portrayal, concerning the issue of consent?

Moving on to address what is actually going on in this scene, between these two people, given their specific romantic and sexual history together:

I agree with you 100%.
Spike is NOT trying to actually rape Buffy. No way, no how.

I say that as someone who is herself a rape survivor, and has counseled young girls who have also survived sexual and other forms of abuse. I have a less than zero tolerance policy for rape or sexual coercion in any form whatsoever.

But in his defense, in this specific scenario, Spike was simply following their usual - HIGHLY DYSFUNCTIONAL - "script". In the past, Buffy always genuinely wanted him to keep pushing past her superficial "no".

It also matters hugely that in the "Buffyverse" Spike doesn't actually have the physical ability to rape Buffy. Meanwhile she has the ability to kick him through the bathroom wall if she wants to, and they are both utterly clear on that concept.

Spike isn't using "vamp strength" force on Buffy either - they're just having a little (potentially sexy) "tussle", right at the start of this encounter. As pointed out by the OP, above, EVERY ONE of their previous sexual encounters has started in much the same way, either with Buffy saying "No" but clearly Meaning "Yes!" and/or with physical violence as their "foreplay".

The instant Buffy genuinely fights back Spike indeed does get brutally slammed against the far wall of the bathroom - and at that juncture, he Immediately STOPS. He makes no attempt whatsoever to violently overcome Buffy's resistance. Moreover, he is clearly utterly horrified, once he understands she really was seriously saying "no" this time. He completely understands that he has truly transgressed and has *genuinely* crossed a boundary - for the First time in their relationship (Buffy's numerous previous "no's" notwithstanding).

Spike is clearly absolutely mortified by the entire situation. He was the gallant poet, the ultimate Victorian era "Gentleman" - always extremely courtly towards the women he loved. Spike was absolutely the farthest thing from being a rapist, whether in his original human lifetime or after he became a vampire.

I agree that Spike did not see it as rape in the moment and the lead up. It is in line from everything that happened before for Spike not to think of it as him forcing himself onto her. However, Buffy viewed the encounter as attempted rape from the onset. It is important to note that while Buffy has said no before she never fought against or struggled against Spike. While they had "rough sex" it was never shown to be preceeded with Buffy being held down against her will, screaming and trying to escape. All of their sexual encounters aside from the episode with Riley and this one start with Spike's initiation and Buffy's acception of it through inaction followed by her reiprocation. Moreover, the aftermath of the encounter soldified that what Spike did was try to force himself onto the person that he loves. That is why it was devesating to him, it validated that he is the monster everyone said he was.

I agree with most of what you said. I feel like you glossed over something though. While Buffy does say no a lot before this scene, she says it weakly in her tone, in a way that says,”actually yes.” In this scene when she says no she is screaming it, struggling against him, with obvious terror and pain in her voice. Spike failed to pick up on these differences, possibly because he was soulless at the time.

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