Glee wrapped up its huge first season on Wednesday with a lot of awesome music, a somewhat too-neat plot resolution… and a peek at the night Quinn’s baby was conceived.
Some folks were disturbed by this clip, in which Puck pressures Quinn to say yes to sex, dismissing their loyalty to (her boyfriend and his best friend) Finn, telling her she’s not fat, and encouraging her to have another drink. It certainly isn’t the picture of healthy sexuality. But is it rape, like some fans are claiming?
I went back and rewatched the scene and I just don’t see it that way. Sure, Quinn hesitates. But her objections don’t seem to be about her lack of desire – to the contrary, they’re arguments about why she shouldn’t give in to her desire. She’s president of the Chastity Club, she took an oath, she has a rep to protect, she’s worried about hurting her boyfriend, Finn – none of these are the same as "I don’t desire you, I’m not enthusiastic about having sex with you."
As for the wine coolers, well, we really don’t have any evidence of how drunk Quinn was – we only have her appearance, which is perfectly alert and responsive.
I don’t know, maybe I’m off-base here, but it just doesn’t seem like enough evidence to call it rape. Was he putting pressure on her? Sure. Did he take advantage of her body image issues? Unfortunately yeah. Realistic? Yep. Is that cool? No, it’s really not. But that doesn’t mean it’s rape. There are lots of not-cool things people can do to other people, sexually, which don’t rise to that level. It’s important not to get confused. Quinn could quite easily have been enthusiastic in her desire to sleep with him, even if it was for less-than-healthy reasons.
Glee’s real woman problem is becoming clearer and clearer to me as I rewatch the earlier episodes. When this show started out, it was really progressive about sex. I’ll never forget how my heart skipped a beat when Rachel made her speech to the Chastity Club about how girls want sex just as much as guys do, or even, in the same episode, how boldly Rachel tells Finn, "You can kiss me if you want to." Talk about enthusiastic consent!
But a funny thing happened in the back nine episodes – the ones that were produced after the show had become a megahit. Suddenly, as if they’ve decided that because there are so many of us, we must all be 9-year-olds, Glee has been backsliding into afterschool special territory in ways that are not really so special. In the Madonna episode, three characters consider having sex for the first time, and the only one who goes through with it is the dude. The two female characters are just "not ready," even though they’re contemplating doing the deed with guys they love and who ostensibly love them, and Finn, our now-deflowered hero, is sleeping with Santana pretty much just for the heck of it.
Coincidence? I wish. They’ve also declawed Jane Lynch’s genius villain Sue, making her a grouch with a heart of gold instead of the hilariously dangerous egomaniac we all fell in love with. The unabashedly slutty competing choir director played by Idina Menzel goes from macking on Mr. Schue to settling down with a baby in no time flat – leaving Santana & Brittany, who get about two lines each per episode if they’re lucky, the only females on the show who actively pursue sex. And if I have to sit through one more lecture by Will about how the boys need to learn to treat the girls more delicately, I’m going to be singing my own version of Papa Don’t Preach, for real.
So, no, I’m not troubled by the complex, real interaction between Quinn & Puck. I’m not interested in being black-and-white about them. I just wish the show would return the favor.