Disclaimer: This article covers the topic of rape and consent through coercion.
Fans of The 100 were promised off the bat that this season we would be in for a darker ride. More deaths, more pain and more gore than every before. But what some weren’t
prepared for was the question of consent that popped up in episode 3×10. Murphy and Ontari had a growing relationship, where we even saw Murphy showing some romantic interest in the possible Commander to be. But we couldn’t forget Emori, a love interest that Murphy was on the run with for a while before he got caught and taken into Polis. Emori looked like she was going to look for him to save him from his imprisonment in Polis, only for us to not see her return yet. While trapped Murphy formed a bound with Nightblood Ontari, helping her cover up that she can’t be the Commander yet because she doesn’t have the flame. So when Ontari implied in 3×10 that she would hurt him if he didn’t do what she wanted (in this case having sex) no matter how Murphy reacted, it was rape.
Ontari and Murphy’s complicated relationship started during Stealing Fire, with Ontari entering Polis and killing all the other potential Nightbloods. Her actions shocked everyone, except for Murphy who said that he understands why she did what she did. This pushes her to remind him that she plans to kill all of Skaikru once she is given the title of Commander. Murphy doesn’t cower in fear like Ontari probably expected, instead he uses his sarcastic wit to let her know that he doesn’t exactly care. I have to admit, I saw something in their early scenes that made me consider them romantically later on and I was not the only one. The initial idea was that Murphy and Ontari were being developed as a romantic relationship later on.
With Ontari being presented as this ruthless Nightblood, we were led to believe that she would take over as the next Commander right away. But with Titus killing himself and passing on the flame to Clarke, that complicates things a little bit. With Clarke on the run once again, only this time from Polis to her people, there is not flame to be passed down to Ontari. Now Ontari is caught in a lie, trying to take the throne without having the one thing that would solidify her legitimacy. No on besides King Roan knows her secret, so her greatest ally came in the form of John Murphy.
This had all the makings of an angry sarcastic couple coming together and actually making it work … at first. The idea of Ontari not letting anything get in her way as she finally got the title that she feels entitled to alongside Murphy who would keep her safe as her Flamekeeper. This made sense with Murphy not having anywhere else to go with ALIE on the rise in Arkadia and Emori nowhere to be found for now so his decision to stay behind was a means of survival. Murphy realized that staying in Polis would guarantee him safety as opposed to going out on his own and finding Jaha again. He doesn’t have any allies outside of Emori and with Clarke gone, Murphy truly was alone. So he did what he knew best, he survived by promising to keep Ontari’s secret. Because if there is one thing we know it’s that being a right-hand man to the Commander at least guarantees you protection.
Unfortunately, Ontari isn’t one to play nice with others. Even Roan, King of the Ice Nation, didn’t get any respect from Ontari when he tried to help her approach the issue with more caution. Ontari isn’t looking to make friends or to trust anyone, but she isn’t pushing Murphy away either. She has him fitting into two roles, right-hand man and prisoner. The lines blur pretty heavily and 3×10 only stirred things up more.
Ontari seemed to trust Murphy, even taking his advice in her own messed up way but then he ended up in chains by the end of the episode which was a huge step down from the progress he was making with her. She undressed and dragged him to her by his chain collar, which was probably supposed to be seductive but was too kinky and twisted for me. My stomach churned as I saw Ontari propositioning Murphy, with him denying her because of Emori. (Sidenote: We should probably talk about how faithful men on the show seem to be. Miller and Murphy weren’t looking to find a new relationship, unlike Finn who cheated and got killed. Oops).
Now once Murphy brought up Emori that was supposed to be the end. He told Ontari he wasn’t interested, he already has a Grounder girlfriend and he isn’t looking to replace her. But Ontari asks if this woman would kill him for cheating on her and then threatens his life. Murphy and the audience is left to believe that his life is in danger if he doesn’t do as she asks. He sarcastically mentions ”the things he does to survive” and then we see that the two are about to have sex.
This is where the big question comes in, ”Was it rape?”
Short answer: Consent through coercion is not consent.
Long answer: Murphy may not have shown a sign of struggling and he might not have said the word no but he was raped. It is plain and simple because we saw him deny Ontari’s advances only to be told that he would die if he didn’t do as she says.
On TV we are led to believe that all rape is violent which is the case a lot of the time unfortunately but not always. Victims don’t always fight back, because they know that there is no use. Murphy has no upperhand in the situation, he is tied up and he is surrounded by people who aren’t on the Skaikru’s side. He has no leverage so giving into the inevitable is the only option he has in this situation.
And while this scene played out as clear rape in most of our minds, some still question if Murphy wanted this or not. One big factor is the snide smile and the sentence ”The things I do to survive”. The reaction to his smile can be misconstrued as happiness or excitement, but why? Why do we assume that rape has to fit some sort of specific picture? Why do we look for excuses not to label something as rape? Why do we pretend it’s not happening because the reaction we see isn’t what we thought it would be?
Murphy is a character filled with dark experiences, pain and sarcasm. His immediate reaction to a difficult situation is to poke fun or to push back. Murphy basically laughing over how shitty his path is on the ground isn’t funny. Murphy has been tortured to the point where someone raising a weapon to his throat no longer shocks him. Pain and torture is second nature to this character now, so when he is faced with yet another obstacle that he can’t escape alive he falls into his defense mechanism. In John Murphy’s case the only way he can somehow deal with what will happen is through sarcastic comments and a smirk.
Another issue that some people found with the scene was the lack of violence. The lead up to the rape scene wasn’t physical or rough. Murphy giving in and there not being a struggle also makes some question how much of this was consensual and how much wasn’t. I don’t know what the rules are for rape scenes on The CW, with me only being familiar with two. On The Vampire Diaries and on Reign the rape occurred between a man and a women, with the woman being the victim. It was much more graphic compared to the implied version that we got on The 100 but just because we weren’t explicitly shown it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Even the episode as a whole touched upon the recurring theme of consent in other plots. Jaha forced Abby to take the chip to the City Of Light and Abby did when she saw Raven (taken over by ALIE) harm herself and almost die. Raven didn’t let ALIE take over her body but it happened anyway. These two cases don’t lack consent in the physical way but the emotional lack of consent is just as alarming. So why do we easily understand that Abby didn’t want to take the chip but did so someone else would survive and yet we question whether Murphy’s decision to stay alive was consensual or not?
Men getting raped is something that not everyone thinks is possible. Male rape comes with a stigma: he is a man so he must want sex, he had a physical reaction to the sexual act so he must have wanted it, men are the dominant gender so they can’t be overpowered by women. All of these approaches to male rape are not only wrong but they are also triggering. Men can get raped just like women can, and it can happen with a woman rapping a man. The power imbalance that we saw between Ontari/Murphy was a good example of that. That scene made it very clear that Ontari had all the power and she intended to use it against Murphy if he didn’t comply with her expectations.
The most important part of this conversation is how the writers choose to approach it next. Because they are the ones who will set the example for the fans and journalists. What they say about this sets the stage for how others perceive this. Watching the creators of this scene and their reaction to it implies to us that they know what happened so they know how to react to it best. This triggering plot can’t be ignored or shoved away because it’s too serious to society.
There has to be an important talk about what this means for Murphy in the future and what this means in the world that we live in today. Hopefully we will see this addressed both behind the scenes, from the writers and on the show when we return back to Polis. It’s one thing to write sexual assault into a show because you want to start a conversation and you want to educate the public on the problem, it’s another to write it in and never address it. Seeing the parallels between Jaha/Abby and Raven/ALIE leaves me confident that we will hear more about this lack of consent and what it may mean later. And if not, we can’t ignore the way fans and fellow journalists approached this sensitive matter. Awareness will be and has already been brought to light one way or another. So to keep talking about how we perceived this scene only makes it that much stronger and hopefully that will be reflected back in the show.
The 100 returns with new episodes, Thursdays at 9/8c.