We Need To Talk About Sexual Assault On Gossip Girl

Photo: Cw Network/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock.
Hey, Upper East Siders. It's been 14 years since the original Gossip Girl first stepped into our lives (in Louboutins, of course), bringing six seasons of drama, dream penthouses, silk headbands and champagne in her (well, really his — remember, it's really Dan behind that memorable Kristin Bell voiceover) wake.
In the end, everyone got their happily ever after, including Chuck and Blair whose "will they, won't they" attitude toward true love kept us pining well after it seemed reasonable to do so.
The thing is though, we never should have been rooting for Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick). Because, if you stretch your memory back to September 19, 2007 — the date of Gossip Girl's premiere episode — our first introduction to Chuck was as an attempted rapist who tried to force not one, but two women to have sex with him.
First, it's Serena van der Woodsen, Blake Lively's fabulously-maned alter ego. She is drowning her sorrows at the Palace Hotel bar after a heated encounter with Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) when Chuck approaches. His dad owns the hotel, which apparently gives him the right to shut down the kitchen early to obtain a grilled cheese with truffle oil for the object of his sexual fantasies. (What if someone else in this massively luxurious hotel had a 10 p.m. craving?) No sandwich however, is worth being pushed up on a stainless steel counter and groped, especially after you've said "No" multiple times, which is exactly what happens to Serena. Eventually, she fights Chuck off by kicking him in the balls.
But merely 10 minutes later in the same episode, Chuck is back at it, this time with Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momsen), a 14-year-old freshman who happens to be the sister of the guy Serena is on a date with. Still mad about being rejected, Chuck zones in on what he considers easy prey, while Blair, who knows all about Chuck's history with women, eggs him on. He proposes he and Jenny head up to the roof to talk, universal language for: "let me take you somewhere no one will hear you scream," and when she hesitates, offers her some Champagne. Luckily, little J has the presence of mind to text her brother, because two scenes later, Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley) and Serena barge in on Chuck attempting to pin Jenny against a wall. This second attempted assault ends with Chuck calling Serena a "slut," and threatening to end her life for putting an end to a second non-consensual sexual encounter.
Seven episodes later, Chuck is shown having a soft spot for Blair. Sure, he takes her virginity in the back of a limo mere hours after she breaks up with his best friend, but this time at least, it's consensual. Fast-forward a couple of episodes, and we've seen Chuck admit to having butterflies, gift Blair a fantastic diamond necklace, and repeatedly try to sabotage her getting back together with longtime boyfriend Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford). Basically, he cares.
Are we supposed to believe that Chuck was just going around assaulting women because he hadn't yet found the right one? That he just needed someone who could challenge him, and he would see the error of his ways?
Gossip Girl made waves in 2008 when it promoted its second season with a series of racy posters boasting the tagline: "Every parent's worst nightmare." But there's a line between controversial — as in the case of the show's 2009 threesome scene, which prompted parental groups to call for the episode's removal from air — and endorsement. Showing sexual assault as a real risk in teenage girls' lives is very different from glossing it over as just something that happens at a party, only to be forgotten the second it's convenient for that character's arc.
But then again, Gossip Girl has always had a really weird attitude towards sex. Just take the fact that if Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley) was in fact Gossip Girl this whole time, as we're led to believe in the final season, then he was the one posting: “Will C end up with a new victim?” while watching his little sister be led upstairs. That's fucked up.

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