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Last night, on a “family show,” families everywhere learned that when a woman says repeatedly over the course of several months that she is not interested in a man, she doesn’t really mean it. They learned that when said man, after the first indication of disinterest, continues to make comments about how he would like to be with said woman, that’s not only acceptable, but going to be rewarded in the end.  The audience was told that even if a woman has acted like she couldn’t stand a man for months and months, if he makes some grand gesture for her she will (should?) acquire romantic feelings for him.

I thought Once Upon a Time and I were on the same page. Strong Female Lead™ Emma Swan told Captain Hook that she had only kissed him as a “one time thing” to thank him for saving her father’s life (which was problematic from the get-go, but I’ll leave it there). She looked at him with disdain when he attempted to put his hand on her back as they left a room together. She explicitly said he was not someone she would “actually kiss” when the villain cursed his lips to try to hurt her. Everything about that said to me that she was in fact not interested in this guy.

Looking at the candidate for love interest himself, just in the last episode alone, Hook directly described what he has been doing as “chasing this woman.” When Emma complained about wearing a corset, he said “Your discomfort is a cross I’m willing to bear,” and then leered at her.  Also, a past version of him noted, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were trying to get me drunk, which is usually my tactic.” Previously, Hook implied that Emma wanted to leave town not because she had another life she liked but because she was afraid to love him, despite all the evidence in the previous paragraph. I thought this was supposed to be creepy. I mean, it was creepy, but I thought it was on purpose and that they knew it was creepy.

(There are many other examples for both, but these are the ones I have offhand and I can’t stomach going looking for more.)

But alas, when we get to the season finale, all of Emma’s “no”-s over the course of an entire season turn into a “yes.” She spends the whole episode flirting with him, at complete odds to her previous behavior, and then they make out.

There are a couple of ways to interpret this. One is that, while her words were saying “no” over and over again, what she meant the whole time was “yes”—and indeed, there were a few moments where they made the acting choice to have her eyes flicking to his lips when they were speaking and other similar instances as a subtext under the maintext of “no.” Under this model, “no” really does mean “yes,” and Hook was not obligated to take that explicit verbal disinterest as “no” and in fact ultimately justified in doing so. (Version A)

Alternately, it could be because, while Emma did really mean “no” at the time, she changed her mind. This could be because he wore her down (Version B).  It could be because she was moved by his sacrifice of his beloved ship (the Jolly Roger) and thought that, much like when he saved her father, it deserved a reward (Version C). It could be because she thought that if he gave something up for her she should give something up to him (Version D).

Versions A and B are Rape Culture. Versions C and D are The Traffic in Women. Let’s talk about each.

Rape Culture, as a conceptual apparatus, describes the ways in which contemporary sexual and gender politics are organized around a belief in men’s inherent right to access to women’s bodies. (This isn’t to say only men can rape or only women get raped [nor indeed that there are only two categories], but as a system of power it’s gendered in that way.) This is the stuff of street harassment (I have a right to look at you and comment on you and a right to a response from you). It’s the logic by which women who dress revealingly or flirt or make out with someone are “teases” if they don’t then “follow through” on what the man is “owed” by their implicit contract.

Rape culture is a very old problem, but where many forms of gender inequality have diminished over time, this one has gotten reinvigorated by some recent popular media.  We see it in Twilight, where Edward behaving in stalker-y ways toward Bella is framed as romantic. (Probably the best line from the famous Buffy vs. Edward mash-up:  “You know, being stalked isn’t really a big turn-on for girls.”) We also see it in Blurred Lines, the lyrics of which have brilliantly been paralleled to the statements of rapists.  The song’s narrator just “knows” the “good girl” “wants it.”  Well golly, that should be good enough for anyone . . .

So while Emma said “no,” she really meant “yes,” or she changed her mind because he was persistent. Hook’s assertion of a right to her body was ultimately legitimated. That’s rape culture.

With calling Versions C and D The Traffic in Women,  I’m thinking of the Gayle Rubin version, not the Emma Goldman version, which I have not read. The key part of the traffic in women for our purposes is that it is a cultural and economic system whereby women are commodities to be sold by men.  It used to be that your parents sold you to a husband (or paid a husband to take you), and as a result you became his property (Fairly literally. Married women didn’t exist as separate legal people).  And as his property you had to do what he wanted (I won’t start on Once’s record on forcible marriage, though I think I will be back next week to write Once Upon a Misogyny (with a Side of Racism) for how they treat the character Regina).

This is, again, an old problem, but, also again, one that persists. The notion that if a man spends a lot of money on a woman she’s obligated to have sex with him is one instantiation of it.  So is the comment at the center of a recent controversy that “compares a man’s obligation to go to work, regardless of his ‘mood,’ to a woman’s obligation to have sex with her husband” (The comment is old, and not as linked to Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell as it was described to be, but it’s still pretty appalling and a clear version of this logic).

So when Hook gave up his ship for Emma, he bought her fair and square. She owed him something, either consciously as in Version C or more as the result of cultural conditioning as in Version D. Actual quote: “You traded your ship for me?”

And this episode was described by the show’s Executive Producers as “epic wish fulfillment.” It begs the question: Whose wishes? It certainly doesn’t fulfill the wishes of people who were drawn into this show by its strong female leads (Emma and bandit Snow White and the Season 1 villain Regina), because the glorification of rape culture and women as purchasable is incompatible with strong female leads. Does it fulfill the wishes of the Twilight generation (and their moms), who found Edward’s stalking and the Edward-Jacob ownership battle oh-so-romantic? Perhaps.  Does it fulfill the wishes of men who have been trained to see women as something to which they have an inalienable right? Absolutely.

This is profoundly disappointing, particularly from a show that was premised on rethinking fairytales. This isn’t rethinking. It’s more of the same old patriarchy, and its 2014.


  1. Talk about seeing something through a lens. People that like the idea of those two characters together are not the only ones doing that. This ‘analysis’ oversimplifies and takes things out of context. You’re welcome to ignore this of course … but let’s take a look:

    For example, you can say they made “acting choices” like her eyes flicking to his lips. Acting choices? As if the actors/directors are somehow a separate entity from the characters they create? Those ‘acting choices’ are among the signals that fly in the face of your conclusion that she is actually not interested in ‘this guy.’ You cannot simply reclassify anything that contradicts your conclusion as somehow separate from the issue. Well, you can, but in my field (neuroscience) ignoring contradictory results is called fraud.

    Let’s also ignore the fact that him “leering” at her was followed by one of the few genuine smiles we ever see grace this character…and many other signals she gave that she was actually interested but simply was not ready to move forward. Literally every advancement in their physical relationship was led by Emma. He made his interest clear but let her take lead entirely. Because he was persistent, I hear you saying. Yes. Most of us call that the willingness to be there for someone you care for. And that, actually, is an attractive characteristic.

    Next let’s talk about the fact that he doesn’t want her to leave StoryBrooke. Why? Certainly he could ‘stalk’ her just as easily in New York? He didn’t want her to cut herself off from her family. He knew what they meant to her and her son even before she fully admitted it to herself. That was about her, not him.

    “You traded your ship for me” has nothing to do with a transaction of purchasing her. In fact, Hook doesn’t even tell her (actively avoiding the subject for most of the season until she asks him directly.)

    Emma Swan has been undergoing a character arc for several seasons in which she is searching for home and family. She is afraid of settling down (Even with her parents, not to mention any romantic relationships,) due to a difficult past. Home is an incredibly powerful concept to her, one which she has finally accepted in a powerful moment with her family mere seconds earlier. She then approaches him, again, (because she is always the one to approach him…He stayed well out of the way of her family time – that jerk, right.)
    He gave up his own home to allow her to find hers. The fact that he was willing to give up so much finally conquered her personal fear of moving on from the pain of her past. It’s not because she owes him, it’s because she’s no longer afraid of what she wants!

    I adore strong female leads and even more so I want them to be both happy and strong! Being in a relationship does not make you less of a ‘strong female lead.’ (No defensive and guarded is not equivalent to strong.) In fact, Emma is facing her fears, moving on from the trauma and pain of her childhood and previous relationships. I see a stronger woman now than I’ve seen in her character arc before.

    Obviously I suspect you will ignore everything I’ve said. I would just hope that you would consider your own lenses next time. Yes, I melted in that last scene. No I’m not perpetuating a rape culture.

    Thanks for reading if you made it this far.

    • I’m not going to ignore everything you’ve said. I am going to ignore the points at which you maligned me personally rather than engaging with my points. It’s clear that we have some intractable disagreements here, and I’m confident in my interpretation and you’re confident in yours, and we’re entitled to that.

      I would, however, like to engage with some points where it seems you misunderstood me, though, again, not in the service of “convincing” you since that is probably impossible.

      When I noted that “they made ‘acting choices’ like her eyes flicking to his lips,” I was not meaning to imply that they were separate from the text. They’re subtext, and they’re subtext that is exactly the opposite to the maintext of “No.” The very idea that “Her words say no but her eyes say yes” is itself a product of rape culture. And it was built into the show—not consistently, usually it was 100% “No,” but from time to time.

      You note that “him ‘leering’at her was followed by one of the few genuine smiles we ever see grace this character.” I didn’t find it to be a genuine smile but an uncomfortable one, but even if it were, the shift I am pointing out between “No” and “Yes” happens between 3×20 and 3×21/2. Pretty consistently through the finale she was into him. But it was also unprecedented in the show up until that point.

      I also (unsurprisingly) don’t share your interpretation of his persistence as “being there for someone you care for.” If he had been doing that, he would have been there on her terms, rather than, say, turning a request to babysit Henry into an opportunity to press his attentions again.

      “You traded your ship for me” has to do with a transaction of purchasing her because it’s odd that that’s the point when she decides she wants to kiss him. However, that’s a conversation, again, about the narrative structure of how they put the show together, not about the psychology of Emma the character.

      Ultimately, I’m not accusing anyone of perpetuating a rape culture except the people who decide what happens in the show. They have a megaphone and therefore a responsibility to not reinforce the notion that women will go from “no” to “yes” if you just hang around long enough. If they had written it as Hook making good on the obligation he had to take “No” for an answer the very first time, and never mentioning it again, but just being a friend, and THEN she decided to kiss him, I’d be 100% okay. They didn’t. And as a feminist media scholar I have not only a right but an obligation to call them out on it.

  2. And thank you for not simply deleting my comment, I truly respect your willingness to allow open discussion even when someone disagrees with your analysis.

  3. Well to be honest I have no problem with subtext being the opposite of main text so long as nothing progresses without consent. Which is precisely how they designed his character. I liked the fact that for all his flirting – literally nothing happened without her initiating it. You’ll notice even his presence around her (i.e.: their conversations) are generally started by her seeking him out at the beginning of the scene. In my mind that is a genuinely good influence. Maybe you are pretty sure her eyes say yes, but you still wait for her to move before you do.

  4. If you disagree with my argument and would like to have a discussion as I did with the other person who commented, we can address whatever substantive issues you have. If you just want to insult me, I’ll delete your comment.

  5. I don’t want to attack you in any way, actually I agree with Lauren and I wish I can add one little thing. I absolutely hate the expression “no means yes for women”. Emma never told Hook “go away”. We can’t say “well it’s not necessary, it’s implicit” because a movie (in particular a tv show destined to a big heterogeneous audience) needs to be explicit. It’s a technical issue.

    • I think you’re mistaken both factually and conceptually. Emma didn’t need to tell Hook “go away.” Nor did Hook need to go away. What he did need to do was respect the times she said she wasn’t interested and be a friend rather than pushing for more.

      But I think what you are getting at is: When did she say she wasn’t interested?

      1. In Neverland, when she Hook and Neal were fighting over her like some sort of prize to be won, she indicated she didn’t want either of them.
      2. When she kissed him in Neverland, she was clear it was a “one time thing” to thank him for saving her father (itself some problematic quid pro quo thinking).
      3. She chided him for using her request to take care of Henry to press his attentions.
      4. She made it clear that he was not someone she intended to kiss.

      That’s just off the top of my head. So Hook would be obligated to respect any of those and not keep relating to her in a romantic way. In addition, if his infatuation with her had any depth to it, he’d also respond to the various body language moments of disinterest/disgust/rejection that your comment says don’t count.

      And, incidentally, it strikes me as odd to hate the expression “No means yes” rather than the cultural gender and sexuality scripts by which “no” is taken to mean “yes.”

  6. 1)oh yeah here I agree 100%, both Hook and Neal behaved like silly teen-agers
    2)sorry but…a kiss to say thank you seems so stupid that no one would have written a scene like that, neither the worst soap-opera writer in the world! on the moment it’s surely a “one time thing”, just a moment of “fun” (I mean as a sort of flirting-and-nothing-more; forgive me for my bad English, it’s not my mother tongue). with the weird logic of “a kiss to say thank you” she should have kissed Archie Hopper for having helped Henry in the past and I should have kissed my doctor (–>here I’m obviously ironic!)
    3)actually he was joking as usual, but she was properly much more interested in solving the “Zelena problem” to spend her time chatting. she was visibly nervous about the new danger in town.
    4)here kisses are a pretext to say to Zelena “how you dare using such manners to threaten me, let’s face each other properly and without tricks” because Emma is the hero and she prefears facing enemies directly. she’s not talking with a friend about her “love” interests. in that battle context her opinion about her “suitor” would have been completely out of place.
    this are just my explanation of that four scenes…body language matters for sure and I didn’t mean the opposite at all*, in fact when Killian says Zelena “I swear on Emma Swan” he’s clearly in pain. moreover, what kind of sexist man who consider woman as toys would have rejected a prostitute? on the other side, Emma wants to keep some distance for the major of the time, but in other moment she’s the one to take the initiative.
    *for implicit/explicit I meant that body language is important but not enough to understand a character. dialogue are as much important as body language because words can clarify some points. in the meantime you need to consider body language and voice tone to understand when they’re ironic. irony seems misunderstand frequently…

    • What I would like to point out to you is that you are making the same sort of extrapolation from the dialogue to approve of Hook that you say is illegitimate to disapprove of him.

      2. Yes, it is disgusting for him to get a kiss as a reward for being a decent human being. And yet, he pointed at his lips to ask for it. And for some reason she thought it was a good idea, foreshadowing being purchased with the boat.

      3. We don’t know whether he was joking or why she was uncomfortable, because it’s not there in the scene. We do know that she had a negative reaction to his suggestion that her request was about wanting to be near him.

      4. That is a whole lot of extrapolation. What she said was “Why don’t you try cursing someone’s lips who I’ll actually kiss?” What’s important there for our current conversation is that he’s not someone she wants to kiss. Full stop.

      I don’t doubt that Hook has an attachment to Emma. That is patently obvious from the instant he stops trying to kill her. My argument is that it is not returned until abruptly in the finale. That attachment might well have led him to decline the prostitute, but that doesn’t discount the argument that he’s obsessed with someone who’s not into him.

      What I am saying is that keeping her distance and then taking the initiative is inconsistent characterization. If they wanted to suggest that she was actually into him they needed to set it up throughout, and they didn’t. If she was supposed to be acting attracted to him and she did that, the director should have been all over Jennifer Morrison with notes to do it differently.

      The way it plays, in the presence of those consistent indications of disinterest, is that he wore her down or bought her with his boat. I see no irony there, except dramatic irony when the audience knows something terrible that the character doesn’t seem to.

  7. the fact is one says white and the other says black looking at the same color. have a nice day 🙂

    ps. yeah maybe I extrapolated a lot on point 4, but I’ve based it on my experience. why talking about presumed “love interests” with someone you would knock out? =P

  8. lol I’ve discovered right now we study the same thing (communication)

  9. It’s just, hmm. Never once, throughout two seasons, has strong, take-no-prisoners-or-your-bullshit Emma Swan said no to Hook. I hardly think that a pursuit of a woman, who never tells him to stop, that he’s wasting his time, or that she’s completely uninterested could be misconstrued as ANYTHING like what you’re alleging. This is no one-sided attraction. How can you possibly watch the show and think she hates Hook, that she despises his very presence and finds him as vile and disgusting as you assume she does?

    Are you missing everything that Emma Swan is? She’s SCARED. She has trust issues- having been shaped to a large extent by events (and people: her parents, Neal) that have left her with scars that never healed. Her walls are higher than high when she meets Hook. Of course she’s not going to swoon when he compliments her (but c’mon, you haven’t seen her fluttery eyes when he’s in close proximity? Ever?) nor is she going to throw herself into his arms. She’s her harshest around Hook BECAUSE she sees something in him that she knows she could fall for.

    Their kiss in Neverland? Maybe it was a challenge- but he didn’t force himself on her. He gave her the choice. He was flirting with her, sure, but she sure as hell flirted back. Not only that, Emma Swan has always, always, always been a woman who likes a challenge. Her response to Regina’s threats was to cut her apple tree. And her reaction to the kiss? Was that one of disgust? Was she brimming with self-regret and repulsion? Did badass Emma I’m-having-none-of-your-bullshit-so-back-the-hell-off Swan shove him away like she did with Graham? Nope. She moans and groans and stumbles on her feet from how much she was… “disinterested” in him.

    He put his hand on her back, okay. You called her reaction to the gesture a “look of disdain.” The definition of disdain: the feeling that someone or something is unworthy of one’s consideration or respect; contempt. Somehow, we must’ve watched two very different episodes. Because sister, if you think she looked at him like she wanted to punch his face in for even DARING to touch her, I can’t help you.

    She tells Zelena: “try enchanting the lips of someone I’ll actually kiss.” Are you forgetting she’s already kissed him? This is a comment she makes after she explicitly told him she can’t trust him after he made a series of poor decisions based on good intentions (we’re all human, we all make mistakes). She’s ANGRY. Then, in case you’ve forgotten, she proceeds to whisper “come back to me” like a lover would and sacrifices her magic for him without a second thought. But of course, you forgot about that, right? Let’s focus entirely on something spoken beforehand out of hurt instead. Because people never say hurtful things they don’t mean when they’re angry, right?

    Honestly? I feel like you’re picking everything apart with a pair of tweezers. Chasing this woman? Leering? Bringing Past!Hook into this? Afraid to love him? Okay. A) He was speaking of his pursuit of Emma- over the course of which, I’m afraid, she never once told him no or to go away. B) Leering? To leer: to look at someone in an evil or unpleasantly sexual way. Huh. If I recall, she actually smiled, something she rarely does. Emma doesn’t smile at much. She doesn’t smile when she’s uncomfortable. If she had a problem with what he said, you can bet your ass she would’ve punched him in the face. C) Killian Jones is not the man he was in the past. Bringing up his past, who he was HUNDREDS OF YEARS before he met Emma is irrelevant, because he’s never been that man with Emma. You’re wasting your breath there. D) Saying she’s afraid of staying in Storybrooke because she could see herself being happy there, yes, has to do with him. But more than that, it’s about her being happy with the people she met, bonded with, and loved LONG BEFORE Hook even met her.

    Hook has no right to her body. He’s never told Emma she owes him that. Every time they’ve kissed, she initiated it. What don’t you understand about that? He’s never forced him onto her, made her do something she was not 100% comfortable doing. Is Emma Swan the type of woman who does something she doesn’t want to do? Hell no. She makes her own decisions. She is a grown-ass woman and she lets people know that.

    One more thing. Let’s talk about the whole ship trade. In half a season, he never once told her what he did. She asked him time and time again what happened over the last year, and did he say ‘well I sold my ship to get to you so now you owe me?’ Nah. He only told her once she asked how he managed to cross realms to her. And even then, it’s easy to see he’s uncomfortable telling her. You think he’s purchasing her. Giving up his home, for her to have hers? A selfish purchase so he can have a right to her body? Come on! She doesn’t owe him anything. He knows it. She knows it. She kisses him because she wants to.

    She’s different with him- not always so strong, foreboding. Believe it or not, it’s because she likes him. That’s why you think she’s not being herself, staying true to her principles. It’s because she’s opening herself up to him at the end.

    Sorry for the ramble, but honestly.

    • First, I’m “picking this apart with a pair of tweezers” because that’s my job as a scholar of media, gender, and sexuality. I look for what beliefs about gender and sexuality media texts, including Once, perpetuate, and talk about how they do so and what the social consequences may be.

      Second, let me note to you that Emma Swan is a character, not a person. So we don’t have access to her interiority or her motivations for why she behaves the way she does; we only have how the show is written, acted, directed, and edited.

      They wrote Emma saying in Neverland that she didn’t want to be with either Hook or Neal. They wrote both of those men treating her as a prize to win in a battle with each other as if what she wanted did not matter. They wrote Emma expressing exasperation when Hook tried to turn her request to babysit Henry into something about his sexual desire for her and when he implied that her fleeing Storybrooke had anything to do with him. They had her kiss him in Neverland only after he asked her to as a reward for saving her father’s life, which no, he did not, strictly speaking “force.” However, being emotionally manipulated into something, as she was, does not constitute consent. Nor does that kiss mean she has any future plans to kiss him, as her comment to Zelena directly states. All of that requires no interpretation; it’s just there.

      Then we add the body language and facial expressions, which you see one way and I see another, and that, yes, is going to be an irresolvable difference of opinion.

      Regardless, for him to keep bringing it up, after even so mild a rejection as “Henry is the only man in my life,” is an insistence on his desire despite what she has explicitly stated that wants. In that way, he is exactly the self-serving guy he has always been. That’s rape culture, the belief that men have overwhelming needs they can’t control or shut up about. The idea that “her eyes say yes” when her mouth has said “no” is also textbook rape culture.

      And then, after they had done all of that, they wrote her making out with him because she learned he’d made some grand gesture. That’s the issue with the ship, them writing her as only exhibiting any interest in kissing him after his “sacrifice.” Recall that Hook had no interest in helping any of the Storybrooke folk–he went off and left them–until he had the memory potion from Neal, until Emma would remember him. This is selfish also.

      I don’t disagree that Emma the character is damaged and closed off. But to extrapolate from that to say she’s afraid of loving Hook in particular is just that, extrapolation. It’s an interpretation that requires adding more than we get in the show itself.

  10. Look, we all have different opinions. I reacted strongly to your claims, and felt the need to defend my side, perhaps immaturely at points. Neither of us will ever concede to the other’s ideology. We ought not to argue either point further. So if you read the comment I left above, that’s fine. If you don’t, that’s fine, too. I can only hope you’ll stop watching the show if such things offend you so very deeply.

    • I am not offended at all. I am, as I noted in my other comment, conducting an analysis of gender and sexuality in a media text because that is my job.

  11. This is a very accurate summary of Once Upon a Time. I remember watching the show all wide-eyed and in awe of the strong roles that were: Emma Swan, Snow White and Regina Mills. But season two was abhorrent and the women kept getting stripped of their personalities as more and more male leads were thrown at them.

    Emma is constantly shown giving into men when they treat her to automobiles; Neal’s car, Hook’s ship (Seriously?) There was a very pivotal episode, I think Tallahassee, when I realised Emma’s personality had taken a reboot. The confident sheriff was slowly turning into a doormat and by the end of the season, a prized doormat.

    But the absolute worst part is the show getting away with showing such things on such a mass platform simply by having an attractive cast and hardcore fans; it scares me that so many young adults are watching this and thinking this is ok, this is romantic.
    It’s not a subjective opinion of whether you like less salt or I like more salt, it’s perpetuation of rape culture which should be treated as wrong regardless of how good the main leads look together.

  12. Is there something wrong with finding love? No, you should never change to be with someone, but have any of them, really? In the first season, most of the female leads were the way they were because of love. They were independent, self-reliant, strong- sure, but also bitter, sad, and lonely. Then as “male leads were thrown at them” they changed- for better, for worse, that’s an opinion.

    All along, these female leads have been self-negating, saying one thing but really wanting another. And their actions refuted all ever said about how people can’t change. But a doormat? The reappearance of Neal made her vulnerable- but hey, she didn’t exactly sit there and let him walk all over her.

    I don’t think Hook “purchased” Emma. You don’t have to view what he did as a grand romantic gesture. But as a selfish, nefarious way to get Emma to have sex with him? I don’t think he’s pathological, and he certainly wouldn’t give up something that meant so much to him just to wheedle his way into Emma’s bed.

    Is she “rewarding” Hook for his gestures? Or is she finally seeing a part of him she’s never seen before, a part of him that she might like?

    You can claim these are facts all you like, that the relationship they have is one-sided, dysfunctional, and a perpetuation of rape culture, but at the end of the day it’s your word against mine. And as you said, it’s all about interpretation.

    • As I have said to each and every pro-Hook comment, these are characters, not people. These characters are written by people, and written in a way that is troublesome.

      The cause and effect in the writing of Emma’s decision to make out with Hook in the finale was finding out that he traded his ship for her. Whether he intended it or not is not available to us from the text, but that was what happened, and she even said “You traded your ship for me”–for her. That is explicitly how that is framed–as a transaction.

      Certainly, there’s interpretation involved, but that doesn’t mean every interpretation is equally good. There isn’t anything wrong with finding love–but where’s the evidence in the show that Emma loves Hook (or, for that matter, vice versa? He says it, but he doesn’t treat her with a lot of consideration, such that it looks a lot more like obsession, which would be pathological.) Similarly, I don’t know what your evidence is that all the female characters have always said one thing and wanted another. That is the basis on which I am writing: using textual evidence, with knowledge of how both media and gender-sexuality work as systems, as I have been trained to do.

  13. For me, Hook traded one obsession (revenge for Milah) into another obsession. How the hell is a guy that spent like 200 years seeking revenge for the love of his life, then turns around after 2 weeks and decides he loves Emma? I don’t get it. Especially when he calls her mother a slag, left said mother and her for dead in a magical prison that the Dark One couldn’t even get out of, and left them to die in trigger. Emma is just Hook’s new crocodile, someone he pursues to the ends of the Earth, and it is not exactly healthy.

    Hook is selfish, period. We have not one piece of evidence that he ever did something out of charity that didn’t involve getting into Emma’s good graces somehow. Like saving David, let’s be honest, if that was somebody not connected to Emma. He wouldn’t even have tried. As much as people say that Hook has changed. He is self-serving. I think Jolly Roger episode proved that with the Ariel situation.

    OMG, can anybody, honestly, imagine Hook being a step father to Henry? I’ll feel bad for the kid if that makes it canon. I hope the show actually has Emma to find out about Hook selling Neal to Pan. He doesn’t care about the kid other then how to get in good with his blonde mother. Nope, not buying this relationship. Not at all.

    You know what sucks. I loved Captain Hook’s character when he was an unabashed villain. Now that girls are fangirling him because he is hot, now they are forcing a badly written romance of Hook capturing Emma’s heart. It’s sad, really.

  14. It will probably sound mean but the pro-Hook people that defend him, seem to be part of the problem. We point out stuff to them that’s wrong about culture and the media and the culture the media promotes yet they refuse to believe that the type of behaviour Hook shows is problematic.

    I believe part of the problem is the fact that Colin is a very attractive men, and people are blinded by handsome men.

    It is actually scientifically proven that a handsome guy gets less years in prison or a lesser punishment overall than a not so handsome guy. So is it really that weird that we have people defending the ship just because they see Colin as this hot guy?

    We have to ask ourselves how many people will readily defend Hook if he wasn’t an attractive young man, but was older and less handsome. If a guy like, say the actor who played Leopold, would play Hook, would people still find his actions defensible? Would they find it romantic? Probably not. Sometimes logic flies out the window when the hot captain of the football team makes a move.

    Women that love CS are also part of the problem we have rape-culture today, because they validate it in media, they say it’s ok and it’s romantic and it’s not. If CSer respected themselves as women, they would not be ok with a relationship like CS at all and would instead demand something better.

  15. I dont watch OUAT much but I did get a creepy vibe off Hook I’ll continue to watch before I judge but god this shows going downhill

  16. I don’t understand this article one bit. Killian Jones is guilty of “rape” behavior in his relationship with Emma Swan? Even after she abused her position as sheriff by inflicting pain on him, when he was reluctant to answer her questions?

    I don’t understand this article at all.

    • Hook as a character is an example of a pervasive social script of gender and sexuality known as rape culture. That is a separate question from the actual act of sexual assault, though the former enables the latter by constructing a system in which men pursue and women give in, men have an inherent entitlement to women’s attention, love, and sexuality, and other similar beliefs. That way of sexually pursuing Emma, and the writers’ decision to have her acquiesce, because “no” means yes, is the subject of this article. I don’t see how the incident you describe is relevant.

  17. Hook spoke a few sexual innuendos at Emma and suddenly he’s an example of “rape culture”? Are you a SwanQueen fan?

    • You’re certainly free not to agree with my analysis, but the post to which you are replying has a much more extensive set of evidence to support the conclustion than “a few sexual innuendos.”

  18. This has been an absolutely fascinating read. I appreciate your analysis, and the blunt truth regarding the media text. It’s actually very eye opening for me, because I never could understand how Emma could fall in love with someone that tried to kill her, twice. The thing with social conditioning (something in which the media plays a huge role) is that it affects people on a subconscious level. So the “pro-Hook” commentators are already victims of rape culture themselves.

    I’d like to think of myself as an intelligent woman, but I’m still a product of my society. As much as I didn’t understand it, over time I found myself attracted to their relationship. It makes sense now why. Thank you for sharing.

    • There’s definitely no shame in liking what you’ve been culturally conditioned to like. The problem isn’t with the fans (and I don’t know if I’d call them “victims” of rape culture so much as inadvertent reinforcers), it’s with the show for writing this way! Glad you enjoyed the post.

  19. While I do agree with some of the original post, I have to point out that there is an omission,I guess. You imply up until this time you and OUAT were on the same page on rape culture. How is that possible when the first involvement of rape on the show was Regina/Graham? This was blatant, long-term, repeated rape and later murder of the victim, to avoid consequences. Which is dismissed by many. Regina is one of the other most popular characters for her redemption arc as well. I’m not trying to dismiss Hook’s mistakes, but the fact that this gets dismissed in almost every rape culture discussion is disturbing. Is it that Regina is female or a villain? I’m hoping for some insight into this. Thank you.

    • Hi there. Sorry it took me so long to get to this; I’ve been very busy.

      In terms of Regina and Graham, at the time I wrote this post I hadn’t yet thought about Regina and Graham at all because it was such a relatively minor plot point by comparison. However, in terms of the direct coercion in the Enchanted Forest, that was clearly a villainous act, and so it would fall in line with this argument where I thought they were making Hook behave the way he did as a cautionary tale.

      In terms of Storybrooke, yes, I have subsequently realized for the 18 years between the curse being cast and Regina forgetting all about it because of Henry, the sex with Graham was rape by deception, because he would not have agreed had he known who she was, which was never addressed or condemned.

      So, with the addition of that, and the other many sexual assaults the show has racked up, Hook is not a singular problem. I would say, however, that he’s the most consistent example of the show’s serious problem with sexual assault and sexualized violence as well as the only case where it’s romanticized.

  20. So, what you’re saying is that my dad raped my mum?

    Because I don’t buy that for one second, and I’m quite offended at the suggestion.

    (to clarify, my father did pursue my mother for over a year before getting a first date)

    • No, there is a difference between rape culture, or the notion that men are entitled to women’s attention, care, and sexuality, and sexual assault itself. Rape culture enables sexual assault, but not every instantiation of rape culture includes assault proper. So, in a scenario where a man does not take “no” for an answer for over a year, that would be an enactment of entitlement to her attention, care, etc.

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