American Horror Story and Rape as a Method of Terror

In every season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, rape, miscarriage, and other forms of vaginal trauma are used to highlight the horrors felt by the show’s female characters. Consider how effective these tropes are, or if female horror can extend beyond fears of mutilation or motherhood.

  • I don't watch the show, so I can't give insight on the show specifically...But considering how 'sacred' the vagina is, or is suppose to be anyway, when it comes to the process of making life, you can see how any trauma to it can be deemed horrible...Obviously there are other ways to scare of horrify females, but I must assume that rape is still a fear in the back of the mind of most women...Is it fair to say that women fear being raped more than hacked up by a deranged clown? – MikeySheff 7 years ago
  • I see what you are saying and I think Ryan Murphy uses this concept of rape as a method of terror to really feed off that fear. In terms of evolution, ever species perceives reproduction as a means of survival. This probably adds to our own subconscious fear. – emilyholter 7 years ago
  • At the same time I think using rape as a form of trauma is a poor way to capture how female characters feel because there are so many nonviolent ways to explore trauma. At this moment it feels more as a overused shock point – seouljustice 7 years ago
  • Personally, I think rape is an effective conduit of fear. It's an extremely personal violation and an attack on womanhood, just as raping a man or otherwise harming his genitals would be an attack on manhood. However, I also feel female characters in the media get shortchanged because rape is often portrayed as the worst torment they can face, and the only thing they have to worry about. This is especially true in historical pieces because like it or not, getting raped or pregnant outside wedlock in past eras would ruin your life. What I would like to see more of, is women facing fears and terrors other than rape. Just like a man, a woman can contract a deadly superbug. She can face the horrors of war, on or off the battlefield, and that doesn't have to include being raped. She can survive life in slavery or a concentration camp, and survival alone is enough to show she's traumatized but tough. She can lose a limb, have a beloved child ripped from her, face down opponents in high-stakes intellectual conflicts...the possibilities are endless. Too much dependence on rape and rape tropes limits writers and limits women. – Stephanie M. 7 years ago

Want to write about TV or other art forms?

Create writer account