A scene in the new Tyler Perry movie, Tyler Perry’s Temptation, has sparked controversy due to its allusion to a rape. In the scene we see a character, Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), is being subjected to sexual advances by Harley (Robbie Jones), who is supposed to represent the devil as shown by his preference for a red car, general hotness, and lack of a shirt in a few scenes. After Judith denies Harley’s advances, he continues to try to have sex with her, and after she says “no” a few times he appears to rape her and the scene ends.
As the film proceeds, Judith and Harley continue to interact and even have a sexual relationship. It is only later that the audience learns through a flashback that Judith had changed her mind and said “yes” to Harley during this previous, questionable encounter. This depiction of a woman’s “no” as something negotiable, or perhaps even insincere illustrates a serious problem in the way our culture faces and handles rape.
In this film, the audience is faced with a scene involving sex (I refuse to refer to a rape scene as a “sex scene” as it should not be confused with anything romantic) that began with a few firm “nos” from the woman, this is what is known as a rape scene. Scenes like this are incredibly dangerous for everyone, especially young men because they lead them to believe that a woman’s “no” is simply part of the whole process of flirting or seduction, when in fact a “no” means no and the interaction should stop there.
The presence of this scene and scenes like it sums up a huge fault in the culture we live in, and that is that film makers seem to forget that these kinds of messages about the word, “no” are being sent out to men. One of the problems with the way that we handle rape prevention is that we often do not address the source of the problem — the rapist. In other words, we need to stop telling our women to be careful and not get raped, but instead start teaching our men to respect a woman’s “no.”
This despicable scene in Tyler Perry’s movie took all the power out of Judith’s “no,” and made it into something sexy and cute, and this is not the word’s purpose or meaning. Young men need to be taught that a woman’s “no” is final no matter what, and not a coy invitation.