After last night’s Walking Dead, the Twitterverse heralded murderous psychopath Negan (Jeffery Dean Morgan) as an enlightened progressive for his stance on rape. The confounding consensus arrives after one of the creepiest moments on one of TV’s already-very-creepy dramas.
Savior "Rapey Davey" sneaks in Sasha’s cell to threaten her with rape in season 7's "Something They Need." He says one gross thing after another, like telling his would-be victim that fighting back will only make her sexual assault "longer." Before David is able to go through with his grotesque scheme, Negan and his barbed wire-covered bat step in.
"This is some unacceptable behavior. Rape is against the rules here," the multi-time murderer tells his underling. "I wouldn’t want to be somewhere it wasn’t… David, you really crossed a line here."
Then Negan slides a serrated bowie knife into David’s throat as punishment, killing him in a bloody and graphic manner. The phallic metaphor shouldn’t be lost on anyone.
Social media applauded Negan’s protective moment en masse, with many celebrating how an anti-rape culture position is more cut and dry in a zombiepocalypse dystopia than our current political climate. But, Negan’s domain isn’t as black-and-white as it seems.
Negan has multiple wives, who aren’t tied to their polygamy-loving husband for love. Instead, the harem of women remains for their own health and safety inside the so-called Sanctuary. While those inside of Negan’s post-apocalyptic society are forced to work for "points" to purchase things, his wives don’t have to follow the same rules. Instead, they’re allowed to have whatever they desire if they marry the man in charge.
That means if a woman desperately needs protection or medical supplies — like diabetic Tina and her insulin — she could accept a proposal from Negan and survive. The dystopic warlord might not be ripping imprisoned women’s T-shirts off in cramped cells, but he’s coercing them into physical relationships all the same.
Just like in the situation between David and Sasha, there’s a threat of violence hanging over these women if they don’t marry Negan. He might not be threatening them directly, but zombies, health risks, deadly threats to their loved ones, and about 5,000 other risk factors are doing the exploiting for the bat-wielding maniac.
This isn’t a system built on anything resembling genuine, free consent. Sex without consent is still rape, no matter how you dress it up. Negan can pretend he’s not "rapey" like Davey, but capitalizing on women’s weaknesses for personal and sexual gratification during violent times is just as “unacceptable” as anything the dead guy was planning.
After Negan stops Dave from raping Sasha he tells her, "I just want you to understand. We are not monsters." We’ll believe Negan when he lets his wives go.