Days of Our Lives has delved into yet another story involving sexual assault with Allie Horton becoming pregnant after being raped.
Does the show use rape as a trope to ramp up the drama? Does it do it too often or handle the topic inappropriately?
Our TV Fanatics, Jack Ori and Christine Orlando, dive in to discuss some of the best and worst handled sexual assault storylines in Salem.
Christine: So, is it just me, or does it feel like Days of Our Lives does too many sexual assault storylines? Do you think they use rape as a plot point too often?
Jack: They definitely do! It seems like every woman in Salem, and some men, have been raped at some point, and it isn't done in a meaningful way.
Christine: Agreed. It feels as though the writers throw sexual assault into a story just to ramp up the drama, and they rarely handle it well.
Jack: Take the current storyline with Allie, for example. I suspected she had been raped because she didn't want to talk about the father, but many fans disagreed with me because she didn't seem traumatized to them.
When they finally revealed the sexual assault, instead of giving us a moving story about a young woman who has an alcohol problem being assaulted while drunk, they went for the stereotypical "he held me down." Soon after that, it turned into poor Tripp being falsely accused by the whole town.
Christine: I thought this story would be about Allie having a baby that she knew she wasn't ready to be a parent to and then finding the right adoptive parents. But then the adoption angle became a farce -- which could be a whole other article.
I'll admit I was one of the fans surprised that she was raped because I just didn't think that was the point of this story.
But Allie finally remembering the assault didn't shift the story to her experience as much as it did to Tripp being accused. It feels like a disservice to what could have been a powerful storyline.
Jack: Exactly. And I feel like by focusing the story on Tripp's dilemma, it prioritizes the difficulty for those accused of rape over the trauma the survivor feels.
There were some good moments too, like Lucas comforting Allie, but not nearly enough. The best I can say about this story is it is, at least, done better than Ciara being raped by Chase, but that's not saying much at all.
Christine: A story about nonconsensual sex while intoxicated could have been an interesting story for both people involved, but the show seems to keep running back to cliched storylines regarding sexual assault.
Jack: Yes, exactly. It especially irks me that Lani was the cop that took Allie's report. She had sex with a black-out-drunk JJ, for goodness sake. I was so annoyed that everyone treated JJ like a cheater when there were so many consent issues with that backstory.
And why are these things always offscreen so that viewers can't judge for themselves what happened?
Christine: The show has men being raped (Kristen/Eric, Ava/Steve) but it glosses over what happens to the victims, as if men can't be victims or as if they don't have to deal with the emotional consequences afterward.
Like you said, they ignored that Lani had sex with JJ when he couldn't consent and then labeled him a cheater. What's up with that?
And I, too, was waiting for some mention of Lani's past when she was called to take Allie's statement, but it shouldn't surprise me that the show won't go there. They write themselves into these corners and then try to ignore it when fans call them out on it.
Jack: Exactly! They seem to be stuck in some sort of 1950s mentality about men can't be raped. It's shocking considering how progressive and groundbreaking DAYS was considered when they called Jack's rape of Kayla while married to her what it was.
But not shocking considering the poor messaging and writing around sexual assault in the past few years.
As a side note, I hate how they often trot out Kayla's rape as a plot point but never show her still affected by it if it's not conducive to the current plot.
Christine: That's the confusing part. I think they've done an admirable job of still talking about Kayla being raped by Jack, especially when Jack returned. Kayla doesn't dwell on it, but it's never forgotten. The experience is a part of who she is, and it's affecting her perception of Tripp being accused.
I think that's realistic, but then you look at Ava, forcing Steve to have sex with her, and they have Kayla's reaction to it be that he cheated, and I want to throw something at the TV.
Jack: Yeah, exactly. When they mention Kayla's rape, it's in a way that makes sense, but she can even be tone-deaf about it.
I cringed when she told Steve, "sometimes men and women have different ideas of what a 'No' is." I know she was trying to say that Allie said no, but she came off as making excuses for Tripp, and I couldn't see a rape survivor saying that.
Christine: I took it as though her point was that it was rape, but that might not have been Tripp's perception. I thought it was more condemning of Tripp than making excuses for him.
Let's jump over to Ciara's sexual assault storyline of a few years back. What did you think of that?
Jack: Ugh. That was truly awful. At least Allie's story has some good points, but with Ciara's story, Chase's character was totally changed, and I felt the rape was done for shock value.
Then Ciara acted out for a little while, and her friends became violent toward Chase as a result. Then it was dropped for a time.
The only good part of it was when she started dating Tripp and was scared to have sex with him because of the previous rape. But that was way after it happened.
Christine: It felt as though they did it to ruin anything having to do with Aiden. Like, once they decided he was a villain, his son had to be one too, so they could have a reason to write him off and never have to hear from him again.
Jack: There was this weird vendetta against the Jennings family once they switched writers. And that the rape happened on Alice Horton's couch...double ugh.
Christine: Yes, with other people in the house, yet Ciara never called out. I'm not trying to victim blame, but it didn't make a lot of sense to me that she couldn't have made noise and gotten someone's attention as the house seemed to be overflowing with people.
Jack: Exactly! A bit off-topic, but I always felt the same way with Paige's murder. She was screaming loudly in a dorm room, and no one heard?
And one of the worst aspects was when Ciara went to see Marlena, and Marlena sat like a statue, saying nothing when Ciara said things like she wanted to be with older men so that she wouldn't get hurt again. They made no effort to take any of this seriously.
Christine: I remember that Marlena's counseling seemed as if they were putting the scenes in because they thought they should, but there was no real value to them.
Jack: I thought they put in an obligatory counseling scene with Marlena, but it was just filler.
Christine: The only upside to that story, and I hated it when it was on, was that Chase did admit he raped her. And although Ciara's friends kidnapping Chase seemed ridiculous, they were trying to give Ciara some sense of power back. With Nicole and Allie, Nicole is making all of the decisions for Allie, and it's driving me crazy.
Jack: That is the worst part of the Allie story. I generally like Nicole, but she's doing the opposite of what Allie needs, and Allie is just fine with it. ARGH.
Everything from forcing Allie to tell the cops to telling Lucas for her. Any real-life survivors on the fence about telling might decide it's not worth the risk after watching that.
With the Ciara story, the one scene I did like was when she told Hope and Hope pushed her to get help.
That could have gone somewhere decent instead of going nowhere worthwhile.
Christine: I thought Hope's reactions with Ciara were pretty realistic. She tried to do the right thing, but you can't force someone else into therapy, and that can be really frustrating for a parent.
But I hated that Nicole told Lucas because, in her words, "a parent needs to know," yet she shut out Sami, especially since Sami was sexually assaulted as a teen (not to mention EJ, but I won't go there).
Jack: Don't get me started on the EJ/Sami rapemance. I won't go there either.
I think Sami's reaction to this after being assaulted as a teen would be interesting. I imagine she'd feel that she's tried to protect Allie her whole life from something like this and failed.
The entire Allie story seems to be this one-note "nobody tell Sami anything about Allie because Sami is crazy," and that's incredibly irritating.
Christine: I believe Sami's supposed to come back, so I'm hoping we will see some scenes between mother and daughter talking about this. I doubt Allie has any idea her mother was assaulted as a teen, and I'd like to see her reaction.
Jack: I'm really looking forward to Sami and Allie, assuming it's written well, which is no guarantee with the way the writers have handled Allie/Sami since Allie's return.
Christine: These writers tend to fall into writing Allie like some petulant brat and Sami as having no self-control. I'd like to see them both written with a little more nuance.
Jack: So would I. I see Sami as intending to protect Allie from the kind of pain she's suffered in her own life but going about it in ways that alienate her, and Allie should have more mixed feelings than she does.
Christine: What worries me is that once Tripp is cleared (and we're all expecting that to happen), this will take a turn into victim-shaming for getting so drunk she can't remember the details and then accusing the wrong person.
Jack: That's my fear too. Mostly since they glossed over the "she was too drunk to consent" bit in the first place.
And I'm pretty sure that Charlie is going to turn out to be the rapist so that Claire can feel horrible about having fallen for the man who raped her cousin.
Christine: Yup. There's undoubtedly something off with Charlie. I already don't like him, and he's barely had any screen time. These writers generally aren't subtle about the intent of new characters.
Let's jump over to another recent sexual assault case, and in my opinion, one of the worst... Abigail!
Christine: It was the worst because there was no reason for it to be written the way it was. Stefan could have had an affair with Abigail, not knowing she was mentally ill. There could have been plenty of drama once that was revealed.
Instead, they had him take full advantage of her mental illness, therefore making it rape. Then they tried to somehow redeem him, and you'd think they'd have learned by now that trying to redeem a rapist isn't something their audience wants to watch.
Jack: OMG, yes! That one got more fan backlash than anything I can think of. First of all, Abby's mental illness was not written accurately—another thing that DAYS doesn't do well.
But as written, it was clear she did NOT consent when in her right mind and 30 seconds later was in a dissociated state. There was no gray area there, no way that Stefan couldn't have realized what was going on.
Not only did they try to redeem him after, but they glossed over the rape a lot. Chad calls it rape, but almost no one else does.
Christine: There was no reason to go there. A Chad/Stefan rivalry over Abigail could have been entertaining. The writers threw in rape to make it more "dramatic," and instead of soapy entertainment, it made me cringe and want to change the channel.
Do you think the writers can be tone-deaf when it comes to sexual assault stories and are these types of stories overused?
Jack: Half the time I don't think they realize what they've written is not consensual (e.g., the JJ/Lani mess), and the rest of the time, the writers seem to think they're handling it appropriately.
I think the current writers are at least aware rape is not entertaining, something the previous writing team didn't seem to get at all, and they make an effort to pepper the stories with public service announcements.
But what they write is often based on stereotypes and/or offensive, to the point that sometimes I think if I lived anywhere near LA, I would volunteer my services as a consultant. LOL.
But seriously, do they not have anyone on staff they can consult about accuracy? Also, they don't distinguish between rape and other forms of sexual assault.
For example, way back when Jill roofied JJ, took off his shirt while unconscious, and took a suggestive photo, that was also sexual assault.
But they didn't as much as have Daniel — the top doctor in Salem — suggest any such thing, and the story was about how Paige might think JJ cheated on her.
They definitely overuse the rape trope. Rape is still far too common. I think it's one out of five or maybe one out of four women experience some sort of sexual assault in their lifetime, and two out of every 10 men. And that doesn't even count trans/non-binary folks.
But it's even MORE common on Days, and so many times it feels like they didn't know how to move the story forward, so they throw in a rape.
Christine: I feel like the writers think, "Oh, that will bring the drama," and throw rape around almost as much as they have women kidnapped.
So far, I'm not sure what to think of Allie's baby being the product of a sexual assault. It could be an interesting story, but I simply don't have faith in the writers to handle it properly, and two weeks of focusing on Tripp's reaction and every man in Salem wanting to hit or kill him isn't assuaging my fears.
Jack: Same here. I have a similar story in my fanfiction, but it's focused on the mother worrying about how to answer her child's questions about who his daddy was. I don't expect anything like that on Days, sadly.
I think we've covered a lot of ground here and that this is an important topic that I hope Days fans will continue discussing.
I keep wanting to tell the writers to read my novel about a teenager dealing with being sexually assaulted to see another way to approach the issue besides the haphazard way they tend to.
So what do you think, Days fans? Does the show throw sexual assault into its storylines too often? Do they treat the crime with appropriate seriousness, or do they gloss over the consequences?
Which Days plot involving sexual assault bothered you the most? Was there one you think was particularly well done?
Hit that Big, Blue, SHOW COMMENTS Button down below to let us know your thoughts, and if you think the show should handle it differently, moving forward.
C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.