Sue Kerr

Daytime Television and Sexual Assault: Will 'Days' do the 'Prison Rape' story?

Filed By Sue Kerr | March 25, 2013 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living
Tags: Days of Our Lives, NBC, Nick Fallon, rape, sexual assault, Soaps, Sonny Kiriakis, Steubenville, Will Horton

Trigger warnings: sexual assault, prison references, bigotry

Days of Our Lives has had a marvelous unfolding of their gay supercouple "WilSon" over the past year. Sonny Kiriakis and Will Horton are both legacy characters, easy to like and coping with the good soapy stuff any heterosexual couple faces - including a custody battle. They even have a "big bad" in the form of Nick Fallon (also a legacy character) who is married to the mother of Will's daughter and also happens to be Will's cousin. Nick was released from prison last year and is being played as sort of a techie genius with a malicious streak that belies his heritage as part of the saintly Hortons.

Why is Nick homophobic? Well, that's the two-dollar question. The suggestion seems to be that he wasn't raised that way by his Horton clan. For a while, he had us convinced it was religious but Father Eric (Will's uncle) sort of put the kibosh on that one.

And on the horizon we have the character of Vargas, Nick's former cellmate. Vargas is out of prison and working with Father Eric on reentry. He also had made several "self-talk" comments about getting revenge on Nick. And we've been treated to a few flashback scenes where Vargas clearly had the physical upper hand on Nick.

All signs point to Nick being raped by Vargas and displacing his reaction to hating gay people. It is a terrible idea in so many ways; I am hoping they don't go there. But Days tapes months ahead of time and we are reaching a denouement of both Nick's homophobic actions and Vargas' entry into Salem. I am willing to give Days a chance to tell the story with nuance and perhaps in a helpful manner. General Hospital had a similar storyline for young Michael Corinthos, but his anger was turned on his family and himself - not gay people. Of course, there were no gay people in Port Charles at that time.

But the reaction of the fans is horrifying. Some fans of "WilSon" want Nick to have been raped as some sort of punishment for hurting their beloved couple. Others think it is the only reason Nick could be so homophobic. Both show a lack of understanding of some of the important facts: 1) being raped doesn't turn anyone gay, 2) rape is wrong. Period. End of story. No one deserves it. And 3) rape is not about sexual attraction.

Finally, Vargas himself does not appear to be gay. So if Vargas forced Nick to have anal or oral sex, that is not a gay storyline. And while Nick's character may also ignorantly transfer his feelings of anger and violation (and shame) onto the perception that he was "gay-raped," Days has a responsibility to clarify that there is no such thing.

In the weeks following the verdict in the Steubenville rape trial, it is imperative that Days get this right. The best way to do so is make sure that viewers hear these messages - even if in the form of a PSA at the end of the episode.

(For my wishlist on how this can play out, visit Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.)

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