Amazing Spider-Man And The Rape That Wasn’t (UPDATE)

The most recent issue of Amazing Spider-Man features a scene that is already causing considerable debate on line. Did Spider-Man aid Chameleon in getting away with the rape of Spider-Man’s flatmate, Michelle? Not the expected plotline, I think you’d expect of the title. But let’s play this out.

At the beginning of Amazing Spider-Man 601, we discover that Peter Parker had sex with his Michelle when drunk after his aunt’s wedding.

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Exactly, that’s not MJ… (beautiful linework though I think you’ll agree)

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Ooh dear. Yeah, that’s not the best wakeup line to use. Especially when the flatmate it seems has a penchant for practical jokes.

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Hilarious. But wait, in Amazing Spider-Man 604 the Chameleon poses as Peter Parker, due to the character’s proximity to the mayor as a photographer, in order to aid an assassination job. And during the impersonation, he has sex with Michelle. Or it damn well looks that way.

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That’s the Chameleon there. Being Peter Parker. On the right. He’s brushed his hair.

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And then, your honour, one thing led to another.

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Now, here’s the kicker. Was that sex? Probably. Was that rape? Writer Fred Van Lente is clear. In an e-mail posted online, he writes;

My understanding of the definition of rape is that it requires force or the threat of force, so no. Using deception to trick someone into granting consent isn’t quite the same thing.

Is that right? Not under British law. Except of course they aren’t under British law. There’s an ongoing US case right now, where the victim did realise the truth during sex. But a straight impersonation all the way through is not, according to Boston courts at least, rape. Although in that case  Boston attorney Wendy Murphy who teaches on sexual violence said “If you have sex with someone you didn’t agree to have sex with, that’s per se nonconsensual… in my opinion, the court really did a disservice to women by preserving the ability of a male to literally obtain sex by fraud.” This may well vary state to state. Lente continues;

Which is not to say it isn’t a horrible, evil, reprehensible thing that Chameleon did. He is a bad man.

He insults parapelegics and dips people in acid too.

Which is another fair point. He is a murderer too. But somehow that doesn’t see to have the moral disgust that murder has and I can’t explain it. There is no midday TV show called Rape She Wrote nor a Dick Van Dyke vehicle called Diagnosis: Rape. Murder in fiction is entertainment, rape is not – or shouldn’t be. Although conversely, male-on-male rape is funny, often used as a character’s punchline (Ben Affleck in Mallrats, say.) So what’s going in the next issue?

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How hilarious! Michelle doesn’t know she might-have/might-not-have been raped! She thinks she and Peter are a proper couple now! And Peter is unable to tell her without exposing his secret identity.

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You know that trumpet mute that goes “wah wah wah…” Use that now.

On that point, what about Lyja in Fantastic Four? And we’ve debated Owen in Torchwood back and forth for ages. And no one mention Starfox…

Haven’t we had enough rape-or-something-like-it in non-adult superhero comics for a bit? Could we have a little moritorium until people have thought through the consequences a bit? Please?

Let’s have more murder instead.

UPDATE: Fred has updated his comments stating that he was not told his reply would be posted publically (which we did kinda know…)

If he had told me that, I would have, first off, made it clear that I am not a Marvel employee. I am not a Marvel spokesperson. I am a freelancer. I speak only for myself. That is just as true for the following statement as the previous one.

Also, if he had told me that, I may have been less coy about the following “Spoiler Alert”. Anyone who cares not to have stuff that’s in ASM #605 revealed now should avert their eyes.

Amazing Spider-Man #605, which went to the printer weeks ago, makes it clear that Michelle and Chameleon did nothing more than make out in the kitchen scene in #603.

There was no sex, and therefore no rape.

That does raise the quibble, “what was the horrible, evil reprehensible thing then” but I think we’ll let it slide…

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