There will be spoilers to Maria V. Snyder’s Glass Trilogy and Joss Wheadon’s DollHouse, so be mindful of that when reading.
I’m not quite sure how to approach this topic, but it’s been buzzing in my head since I just finished reading Storm Glass by Maria V Snyder. Now that I think about it, the same concept also shows up in many stories from Greek mythology. It’s a blurred line where magic is involved so that one of the partners is not actually aware a rape is occurring. What happens when the abuser takes on the form of a beloved partner and the victim has no idea that they invited someone different into their bed? In Greek mythology the best example I can think of is Zeus and Alcmene (mother of Heracles). Zeus takes on the form of Alcmene’s husband, Amphitryon so that he could lay with Alcmene without her knowing she was with a God. In Storm Glass (SPOILERS), Opal’s abuser from the Study books (who continues to abuse her in Storm Glass) reappears and eventually steals the form of Opal’s boyfriend. I can’t think of another literary example (that I’ve read) where something like this occurs, but I did think of one from TV, in which the character of Sierra/Priya from DollHouse has her mind altered and she is repeatedly purchased by her stalker and effectively raped. She doesn’t know it’s happening, but he certainly does.
In my mind, even though the women in the examples were technically consenting adults, they were not actually consenting with the full knowledge of the situation, and there is a massive breach of trust. What is even more unsettling for me is the circumstances surrounding these deceptions. In Alcmene’s case she initially rejected Zeus so he knew that he wasn’t wanted, but decided to haul out some magic and do whatever he wanted anyway. Alcmene gives birth to a son that is just as much a rapist and murderer as his father and her husband basically just goes along with all of this. Though, to be fair, what can you really do against an immortal King of the Gods? In Opal’s case she falls in love with her abuser and eventually marries him… I struggle with this concept. Really no matter how nice someone became, how could you forgive that level of torture and deception? It just completely boggles my mind. Sierra’s rapist has considerable influence and drugged her until she was no longer capable of functioning and was admitted to the DollHouse. He set up the entire thing so that he could buy her without her remembering she hates him.
The other thing that tips the scales into an even more unsettling territory is the very skewed power dynamic between each pairing. Zeus is a God of immense power and Alcmene is a mortal. Devlen is a very skilled magician who employs blood magic while Opal (although she gets more powerful over time) has very little way to protect herself from him. Sierra doesn’t even know that she hates the man raping her so it’s not like she can tell anyone to protect her.
I’m not quite sure where I was going with this topic, but it felt like it needed to be written, so I wrote.
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