Thirsty for a Fresh Take on All Things True Blood?

WELCOME! Thirsty for a fresh take on all things True Blood? Pull up a virtual barstool at the Pierced Pomegranate Tavern where sisters Rachel and Rebecca are serving up juicy feminist analysis with a twist and opening a vein of thoughtful sociocultural dialogue on HBO's hit series.

Like the epic literary salons of eras past - theaters for conversation and debate which were, incidentally, started and run by women; where the spirited debate about the issues of the day ran as copiously as the actual spirits did - but updated for the digital age, the Pierced Pomegranate Tavern is a fun forum for exploring questions ripe for discourse about the human condition & today's most crucial social issues through the medium of True Blood.

Your salonnières are not peddling liquor per se, but they are offering up new and alternative ideas informed by such diverse influences as pop culture, art, music, cultural history, Goddess studies, transformative theory, literature and poetry, and archaeomythology, filtered through the sieve of their own lived experiences as feminist women of a particular age, background, and culture.

This is a space where you - patrons and passersby alike - can view and engage with these perspectives through the lens of True Blood and contribute your own thoughts. So, no matter if you're a Truebie or a more casual viewer of True Blood, or your drink of choice is a pomegranate martini - one of Rachel's favorite cocktails to drink and Rebecca's to mix - an herbal tea, a frothy double mocha latte, or a can of Fresca (wink, wink) you're invited to join the conversation on the show's complexities in a way that can spark transformation.

Hopefully you'll find something to sink your teeth...err...straw, into! PLEASE ENJOY RESPONSIBLY ;-)


The Pierced Pomegranate Tavern is dedicated to exploring social issues and more through the lens of True Blood. As such, you may encounter:

related to the often provocative and adult themes presented by the show

If you choose to enter and participate in this virtual salon, please be prepared to do so in a thoughtful, respectful, and mature fashion with the above in mind. Click here to check out our comment policy. Thanks!


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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

As much as I love it, every bad thing that has ever happened to me is because of sex

Jason Stackhouse's relationship to sex is complicated and conflicted, to say the least.

And after narrowly escaping his breeding mill ordeal at Hot Shot, he knows it.

Flashback to Season 1. Do you remember the Cold Ground scene when, after Gran's death, Jason tried to lose himself in an empty, hollow, loveless tryst with a blond woman - a virtual stranger he couldn't remember the name of - who rode him reverse cowgirl-style? His bid to mindlessly fall back on predictable Stackhouse sexcapading as a means of escape backfired terribly. The two of them never made eye contact; while she moaned, "I love you", Jason softly cried.

His rape at Hot Shot felt to me like an extreme, twisted, alternate universe redux of that scene; his facial grimaces and sounds as he was repeatedly violated in the breeding shed reminded me very much of that scene.

While it’s true that he’s had lots of fun romps (with lots of different women) in the sack, Jason’s also had his share of sexual experiences that were exploitative and devoid of real emotion; where no true human connection or bonding took place – as in the two instances above.

And it seems to be going from bad to worse.

It's a good thing Hoyt and Jessica found him lying battered and bruised on the side of a deserted rural back road; the baby vamp's blood was his salvation. Having been miraculously healed by Jessica's blood, a restored-to health-Jason told his best friend over breakfast at Merlotte's:
As much as I love it, every bad thing that has ever happened to me is because of sex, (counting on his fingers) jealous boyfriends, becoming a drug addict, being accused of murder… Maybe God’s punishing me for having too much sex. He’s like "Jason Stackhouse you have fucked too many hot women, now let’s see how you like it."

*Transcription credit to Thought Catalog.
And now, part of Jason seems to think that maybe he's been the victim of reverse objectification, his studly past having finally caught up to him and put him in God's punishing crosshairs. 

In her online piece On Rape in True Blood Kat George addresses this concern:
Firstly, this insinuates that sexual "sins" are tantamount to punishment by rape. Secondly, the delivery of these lines is both humorous and cutesy on Jason’s part. Thirdly, since when was it ever OK to deserve rape (and how would we feel listening to a woman declaring that a rape was her just desserts)?
Good points, all.

But let’s remember, as Kirsty Walker (2010) writes in her essay "True Stud: Jason Stackhouse in Search of Masculinity", Jason is often the comic relief on the show. His light, funny tone with Hoyt is perhaps in keeping with this role and persona. Moreover, his use of a comical “God voice” - Jason Stackhouse you have fucked too many hot women, now let’s see how you like it - may very well be a defense mechanism. He’s been traumatized, and he knows it, but he's got to maintain some semblance of control - humor may be Jason's way of doing that, as it is for many people.

Ms. George takes the position that True Blood has trivialized the male experience of rape. While I agree that it is often underplayed in our society (as I wrote in my last post on Jason & Hot Shot) I don't think the show has treated this topic lightly or brushed it under the table.

In fact, I think it's brought new dimension to the mainstream discourse around sexual assault, particularly in light of the FBI’s 80-year-old, outdated definition of rape: "the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will." Each year the FBI omits hundreds of thousands of rapes from its Uniform Crime Report (UCR) based on this limited definition.

The FBI’s flawed definition of rape excludes any form of sexual assault that falls outside of the narrowest understanding of heterosexual sex, including the rape of men and boys as well as transgender people.

The FBI's stance on what rape is and isn't is evidence for the idea that in our culture, it is often questioned whether a red-blooded, virile guy like Jason can even be raped. Men are supposed to be into sex under any circumstance; expected to enjoy it every which way, with as many partners as possible. Under this paradigm, most will allow that maybe boys or weaklings can be sexually abused, manipulated, or dominated, but surely not young, strong ex-jocks who are seen as being in control, and insatiable in their hunger for sex.

Jason told Hoyt his experience was horrible; some might argue that a stud like him probably wouldn't (or maybe the right word here is shouldn't) have thought being forced to have sex with dozens of women was so awful if they had been hot women, and that he only protested because the women forced into the breeding line didn’t measure up to his standards of feminine beauty or sexiness.
But this thesis falls flat when one considers that the first woman to violate Jason had been the object of his desire, Crystal Norris, whose (in his words) "cute butt" he had chased all the way to Hot Shot.

He didn't want it, not even with her. Men can be raped, after all. Even by hot women.

I found out about the FBI's definition of rape from an action alert from You can sign their petition to tell the FBI to update their definition to include all forms of rape, by doing so you can help ensure that the resources law enforcement receives to aid survivors and apprehend perpetrators is based on real crime figures instead of dramatically underestimated statistics.

We've been trained to see Jason Stackhouse as a Louisiana Lothario, a "horn dog" who lets his penis guide him through life. Yet as Walker (2010) points out, while in his very first Strange Love scene Jason is depicted as a sexual creature, he is also shown to be perhaps not quite as experienced as he would have folks believe – and as his reputation would suggest (he was easily shocked by unconventional sexual behavior, i.e. the bite marks on Maudette's inner thigh). 

When it comes down to it, Jason is a man in search of his own masculinity in a world that no longer feels quite so stable or knowable; a world that has been upended by the appearance of vampires on the scene. Even for a guy like Jason, having been brought up in a patriarchal, heteronormative society where those in positions of power were for the most part other white males, navigating through a culture in flux is no easy task. (Walker, 2010). 

And up until now, he’s attempted to define himself through sex and violence (his Light of Day Institute adventure); both failed ideologies by which Jason could become self-actualized, according to Walker. As she writes, by the end of Season 1 he had come to experience sex as a bonding, as opposed to purely physically gratifying, experience. And he’s still learning and growing.

About his character, Ryan Kwanten has said, “it was important for Jason to have a sense of vulnerability and for the audience to be able to sympathize with him, and not to see him as…a piece of meat or just a dumb redneck, that there is really some soul and some hurt deep inside” (Walker, 2010, p. 122). 

The hurt in him has been exacerbated by his now conflicted relationship to sex, and his victim/survivor status.

So, despite the humorous tone Jason used to make some light of his dreadful experience with Hoyt and the racy distraction of his dream-sequence encounter with his buddy's girlfriend vampire Jessica, I am certain that his Hot Shot ordeal with have a profound and lasting impact on his continuing personal development. I am looking forward to seeing how this shakes out for him.

I just hope that since Jason now sees sex as the root cause of his troubles that he doesn't take what some might view as the next logical step and assign to women the wholesale label of temptress, she who leads man (i.e. him) down the garden path to ruin; the devil's door. 
Woman, The Devil’s Door
12th C. CE, France

Jason did say, “As much as I love it, every bad thing that has ever happened to me is because of sex”, and that worries me a little.  Could Crystal's betrayal set him on the course of viewing all women as deceivers, as Eve's daughters, as portals to the corruption of men?  
“Do you not realise, Eve that it is you?

The curse of God pronounced on your sex weighs still on the world. Guilty you must bear its hardships. You are the devil’s gateway, you desecrated the fatal tree, you first betrayed the Law of God, you softened up with your cajoling words the man against whom the devil could not prevail by force. The image of God, Adam, you broke him as if he were a plaything. You deserved death, and it was the son of God who had to die!”
                                                                                                              ~ Tertullian
I don’t think it will. Despite his puffed-up bravado when it comes to hooking up, I think Jason genuinely likes women - women in general, and the ones in his life.

And as Wayne Koestenbaum,  author of Humiliation, remarked in his 8/1/11 NPR, humiliating experiences, if you survive them, are capable of being reinterpreted. When most of your recognizable personality or sense of self worth is decimated and you wake up from that experience still alive - as Jason has - a kernel or residue of the self is left and gold can be spun from this straw.

Now, the self-depreciating Jason may never let on that he's been rocked to the core; he may well continue to bemoan the horrors of Hot Shot and joke about it in the next breath as he has with Hoyt. This is the guy who, last season, told Hoyt he never thought he was smart enough to be depressed, after all. But he is smart enough, sensitive and emotional enough - and human enough - to have been deeply impacted by his rape experience. And he has surely come through what Koestenbaum calls a "kiln of shame and suffering" which can lead to transfiguration.

Koestenbaum allows that not everyone can spin the experience in this way, but I think Jason can. And I think he can do it without vilifying all women in the process. Hopefully, although his rape was in no way his fault, he will also grow from this experience and learn to make better choices, since, as he admitted to Sookie in I Wish I Was the Moon, he's not always so good at controlling his impulses.

And I, for one, am pulling for him!

~ Rachel

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