Battlestar Galactica

"Pegasus"

4 stars

Air date: 9/23/2005
Written by Anne Cofell Saunders
Directed by Michael Rymer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Says Adama to Roslin: "I've been taking orders my entire career. This is no different."

Like hell it isn't. Adama just hasn't realized it yet — or maybe he's putting up a comforting front for Roslin. Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes, an actress who comes with a built-in tough edge, although she strikes me as awfully young to be an admiral), commander of the Battlestar Pegasus, outranks Adama and has left no room for misunderstanding that she intends to take command of the entire fleet. And thus begins the uncomfortable foreboding, which becomes more alarming with every scene.

"Pegasus" is a gripping hour that is sold purely on emotional and visceral impact, as opposed to plot and subtlety. Because we care about the characters and because we are invested in the society that has been created from their ragtag fleet, we can't help but wince when Cain says she's taking the reins. And as we begin to learn what the Pegasus and her crew are about, it becomes clear this is a club we don't want to be a part of.

The episode's presentation is operatic in approach. Restraint is not the name of the game here. The writers have created a premise where we have no choice but to side with the Galactica, because the actions of key Pegasus players are clearly immoral. I'm told the "Pegasus" episode from the original series was more tempered, with a more sympathetic Pegasus crew. Not the case here. Here's a storyline that knows where it stands and intends to take sides. It's larger than life and doesn't shy away from that knowledge.

It begins with high jubilation. The Pegasus appears, and even the music knows this is not your typical day on the Battlestar Galactica. A formal greeting of Admiral Cain on the Galactica flight deck is played with epic military pomp that's so effective it gave me chills. There's a terrific shot of the two battlestars flying together that conveys a renewed sense of magnificence. As Adama and Cain both say at the beginning: This is a miracle.

But not so fast. After the initial jubilation and celebration, "Pegasus" almost immediately becomes a quietly, unbearably unnerving experience of waiting for the other shoe to drop. It does — fairly quickly — but then there's another shoe, and another, and another.

Who's in charge here? In the first scene after the greeting, we realize that Cain intends to take command, and Adama, following military protocol, intends to hand command over to her without a second thought. In the dinner scene, when Adama says "Yes, sir" to Cain, the look of shock on Roslin's face is downright chilling — as if foretelling where the story is headed. Cain takes note of Roslin's apparent worry: "Madam President, you look like I just shot your dog." After Roslin leaves, it's pretty clear that Cain has little regard for Roslin: "Secretary of Education?" she asks Adama.

Meanwhile, Tigh has drinks with the Pegasus XO, Colonel Fisk (Graham Beckel). Fisk tells a dark tale about how Cain shot the previous Pegasus XO in the head, in full view of the crew, because he refused to order an attack on the Cylons. Fisk breaks out laughing and plays it off as a joke, but we can't really be sure what that means. Tigh believes the story actually happened, and relays it to Adama, who responds by saying "context matters," and reminds Tigh that the Galactica crew themselves destroyed the Olympic Carrier with over 1,300 civilians on board. Yes, but there was certainly a context there. What exactly was the context of Cain executing her own XO, a former close friend, if indeed it happened? Adama prepares to turn over his logs to Cain. Tigh says, "We should ask Admiral Cain for her logs, just so we can put her in context." Adama responds, "Wouldn't that be nice." The chain of command pulls only in one direction.

The ominous foreboding continues through various scenes of character interaction, like the scenes where the Galactica pilots meet their Pegasus counterparts, a seemingly humorless bunch that tallies their kills on the sides of their Vipers. The Pegasus CAG, Captain Taylor (John Pyper-Ferguson), is an all-business dude who has some mild friction with Lee and tells him that Admiral Cain's way is now Galactica's way. Cain's way apparently has no qualms recruiting civilians into the ranks of the military; the Pegasus deck chief (Vincent Gale) was a civilian who was recruited into the military ranks by a Cain-imposed draft. Just what is the status of the civilian population among the Pegasus? Do they have their own ragtag fleet and politics? We aren't told, but you get the feeling that if they do, they're all under martial law.

Quietly and slowly — but unmistakably — this all adds up to build a very disturbing sense that the Galactica way of life is over. Society as it has been under Adama and Roslin is about to become the unbending Law of Cain. Adama at first takes this in stride, yielding to his own humility and the establishment that is the chain of command. But brick by brick, the foundation of Galactica's world seems to be on the verge of dismantlement.

Cain, who at first offers assurances that she has no intentions of interfering with Adama's ship or command, soon is telling Adama that his logs reveal he is too close to his officers — to Lee, to Kara, to Tigh — and that she intends to integrate the crews and make personnel changes. She reassigns Lee and Kara to the Pegasus, which for Lee is an instant demotion. The way Cain uses Adama's logs as a weapon against him is unnerving.

At the end of last week's "Flight of the Phoenix," there was a big emotional scene that conveyed the sense of a family that this fleet of military and civilians had become. That scene takes on a new dimension here, because it seems likely to be lost under Cain's command.

All of which is about personal feelings and what the Galactica fleet has become accustomed to. Perhaps Adama goes along with it because that's what the chain of command says he does. But there's also the matter of what the Pegasus crew is capable of, and the story ventures into inflexible matters of right and wrong. The Pegasus also has a Cylon prisoner. She happens to be another copy of Number Six, which is revealed to Baltar in a scene that sends the usually cocky hallucinated version of Six reeling with shock and sadness — a welcome change of pace. This prisoner has not simply been imprisoned like Sharon, but also repeatedly beaten and raped and deprived of food and water. She exists now as a broken shell, psychologically destroyed. Baltar plans to work with her to get information ("You have already used the stick," he says to Cain. "It's time to use a carrot."), which later leads to a powerful and emotionally revealing scene where he confesses to this prisoner how he fell in love with a Cylon that looked just like her.

When you consider how the Pegasus crew has treated their prisoner compared to that of Galactica, you begin to see evidence of an alternate path that has unfolded under similar circumstances. Pegasus seems like Galactica's evil twin. Not that everyone on Pegasus is capable of these sorts of atrocities (indeed, we don't learn much about them overall). But the fact that Cain apparently permits rape as an interrogation tactic (or at least turns a blind eye to it) is hugely significant, because as a leader she sets the tenor for the crew. There are issues of prisoner abuse and morality and leadership and human failure and the capacity for evil that this story inherently brings forth, but for the most part it doesn't address them philosophically or polemically and instead chooses to tackle them via storytelling microcosm.

That microcosm is Pegasus' Lt. Thorne (Fulvio Cecere), a Cylon interrogator well known among the Pegasus crew for his tactic of raping the Cylon prisoner for information. This tactic becomes clear to us in a scene where Tyrol and Helo are talking with drunken officers from the Pegasus, who describe Thorne's practices — as well as their own personal involvement in rapes — in pathetic alpha-male guttural. This scene is truly effective in its ability to rile our feelings of distaste and outrage, and the only reason Helo and Tyrol don't pummel these officers right here is because they realize that Sharon is in very immediate danger.

Thorne, at this moment, is interrogating Sharon about the purpose of a massive Cylon ship — bigger than a base star — that the Pegasus has photographed on recon missions. Thorne starts by smacking Sharon around and then has the guards hold her down. Helo and Tyrol charge in to the rescue, and there are visceral shots of them in a frenzy as they do some serious ass-kicking. Caught up in the scene, I was energized and wanted these Pegasus guys to pay. Thorne is accidentally killed in the struggle. My gut says he got what he deserved, which is a testament to this episode's amped-up emotional provocativeness.

Sharon's rape — or attempted rape — is edited perhaps too carefully and responsibly in the interests of making the scene easier on the audience ... which may be an odd thing for me to say. No, we don't need to see Sharon being raped to get the point, but the editing is so cautious in its attempts to spare us that we don't know whether or not the rape was actually prevented by Helo and Tyrol's charge-in. It seems to be, but Sharon's reactions suggest otherwise. Ultimately, I suppose it doesn't matter. The point is: Thorne commits rape, which is subhuman behavior that infuriates us, and we don't feel regret when he dies.

Helo and Tyrol are arrested for murder and treason, and taken back to the Pegasus, where they face court-martial. Adama wants to be sure they get a fair jury trial, but that seems unlikely, and the situation begins to turn increasingly tense.

This main thrust of the story exists alongside the subplot where Kara and Lee report to the Pegasus to prepare for an attack on the mysterious Cylon ship. The episode further sells its reality with details aboard the Pegasus, which show it as a more modern and higher-tech battlestar. The pilot ready room is shinier and has video monitors instead of cardboard charts. Captain Taylor explains the mission, and Starbuck's response is, "Your plan sucks," which she punctuates with a self-satisfied, smart-ass grin that had me laughing out loud. She recommends instead the use of the stealth ship constructed in "Flight of the Phoenix," a plan Taylor refuses while immediately taking Kara off the mission. These seeds are obviously planted for the next installment, but they keep the business of the war at hand moving along. For the mission, Lee is saddled with Taylor co-piloting a Raptor, which is somehow hilarious in its indignity.

The episode is yet another hiatus-entering cliffhanger. Like "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2," I'm not about to complain that cliffhangers are cliche when they are also this riveting. The episode ends with Adama and Cain squaring off over the fate of Tyrol and Helo, whom Cain has found guilty and has sentenced to execution in a hearing where she was the only one who had any say (she apparently thinks she can do whatever the hell she wants without consequences, which may provide an insight into the way the Pegasus works). The scene where Adama gets this news provides a satisfying climax to an episode full of percolating tensions not acted upon. He winces as if in pain, then orders the preparation for a fight and charges toward CIC with a determined game face on. It's a moment of catharsis where I felt like cheering.

I loved Bear McCreary's music in this episode, which goes out on a limb and is unlike most music on this series in that it draws attention to itself and blatantly cues our emotions without apology. It lends to the operatic feel, which is never more clear than at the end, where Adama gets on the phone with Cain, says he's getting his men back, period, and launches the alert fighters. Military themes take control of the soundtrack. Violence might yet be averted, and any number of solutions to this problem are possible, but we see the line in the sand drawn here, and it makes for great drama. Even great melodrama.

Previous episode: Flight of the Phoenix
Next episode: Resurrection Ship, Part 1

◄ Season Index

67 comments on this review

Ethan
Sun, Sep 9, 2007, 7:53am (UTC -6)
Maybe the best hour of TV in many years. The rape of Boomer was one of the most difficult things I've had to watch in film.
Jason
Fri, Apr 18, 2008, 12:06pm (UTC -6)
I've only just begun watching this series, having purchased the S1 box set as well as the s2.0 set. This episode alone has cemented the series as one of the greatest of all time. Can't wait to get 2.5. I have a lot of catching up to do. It's so difficult not to use your reviews to read ahead and see what happens. I'm doing my best, lol.
Jason (Again)
Sat, Apr 19, 2008, 10:59pm (UTC -6)
Not sure if you've seen the extended version of "Pegasus" on the 2.5 DVD, however, in that version, you can clearly see that the rape of Sharon did indeed happen. It also explains how Admiral Kain became an Admiral at such a young age. I'd highly recommend a viewing if you've not done so already.

Cheers
Mark
Tue, Mar 31, 2009, 11:42pm (UTC -6)
This episode deserves praise on many levels, most notably its evocative direction similar to Kobol's Last Gleaming. Obviously, Sharon's "interrogation.." and Baltar's monologue with the other Six stand with the highlights of the show thus far. However, as the review points out, the Pegasus under Cain serves as Adama's Galactica's evil brother, so much that it's at least possible Cain's name is an obvious old testament allusion.

And herein lies the problem: to us viewers, much of the Pegasus crew we've seen are irredeemable scum. Perhaps the problem is we've entered their world so far into their indoctrination into despotism it's hard to see them as anything other than one dimensional. I would have appreciated more time, more buildup foreshadowing the inevitable schism between the two remaining powers of humanity rather than having the fact thrown in my face from the get-go, as it was. Some believability, even fallbacks on clichés, to rationalize the Pegasus's fall from grace would have been more amenable to the arc, I maintain.

Whatever, it was still a fantastic episode; maybe it just resides inside the uncanny valley.
Daniel
Wed, Apr 15, 2009, 4:51pm (UTC -6)
My favorite episode of the entire series. The cliffhanger was just simply amazing.
Nolan
Mon, May 4, 2009, 11:43pm (UTC -6)
I absolutly love the end of this episode, when Adama, learns about the sentancing of his men, and storms to the CIC and the Music swells, and hes talking to Cain over the wireless while the camera rotates around the both of them, amazing.

I remember thinking, "Man Adama is pissssed." :p
Will
Sat, Jan 2, 2010, 10:40am (UTC -6)
A truly amazing episode. This is the best episode of Battlestar Galactica, and maybe even the best television episode I've ever seen. Season 2 of BSG was arguably the best, thanks to episodes like this.

During the rape scene, I actually got ANGRY. I wanted that guy to die and he did. No episode of TV has ever done that to me. Truly amazing writing. I'm only sad I'm nearing the end of BSG.
Jeff
Thu, May 20, 2010, 6:19pm (UTC -6)
Nothing short of fantastic. I've just begun watching the series on DVD and am flying right through them. I just watched this episode last night and Season 2.5 came to my library this afternoon. I can't wait to get home tonight and watch the following episodes. Ron Moore, et al (both cast and crew) should be very proud of the exceptional work they have produced. Ever since the miniseries I've heard nothing but great things about this show. I'm very pleased to see that it was all true. I can't wait to see it all.
Max Udargo
Sun, Jun 20, 2010, 3:54pm (UTC -6)
Along with the next couple of episodes, this episode is fantastic television. Gripping, tense, and almost perfect. I suspect this is the high point of the whole series. I can't imagine it getting much better than this.

At the beginning of the series, Adama wanted to go off and hunt Cylons, and it was Roslin who convinced him that his responsibility was to stay and protect the fleet. He didn't accept this easily, and I remember him insisting that "we are at war," and Roslin coming back with "the war is over. We lost."

Adama eventually realizes she is right. He makes a choice to recognize the fleet as the civilian population he is sworn to protect, and Roslin as the civilian government he must respect.

Cain chose the other path, the path Adama initially, instinctively wanted to go down. For Cain, a war had begun and her job was to charge off into the darkness to hunt Cylons. There was no civilian authority and she was at the top of the chain of command. She and her crew did what they were trained to do: kill Cylons.

So to a large extent we can see the Pegasus as the alternate Galactica, not really its evil twin, but what it would have been if Adama had followed his original impulse and not listened to Roslin.

The Pegasus hasn't had to adjust to any of the political realities the crew of the Galactica has had to deal with. The military culture on the Pegasus is undiluted and uncompromised. It is still rigid and mechanical.

So the way the conflict plays out makes perfect sense. The initial jubilation inevitably gives way to a conflict of cultures.

Like Mark, I wish they hadn't made so many of the Pegasus crew so completely irredeemable. The conflicts are more interesting when we see the logic of both sides, and realize the source of the conflict isn't a failure of character on one side, but the incompatibility of two perfectly legitimate perspectives.

And then ultimately the single defining moral issue would come into focus: how should they treat the Cylon prisoners? This is the most interesting question because it is hard to answer. Fisk's disdainful comment that "you can't rape a machine," is not unreasonable. And there's a fascinating question there, although it might have been too much of a tangent for the series to tackle. If an act of rape is "simulated" on a machine that simulates a human female, is the man who commits the act still a rapist? Even if there is no victim, isn't the man who performs the simulated act revealing himself as a man who enjoys rape?

Do we define a crime in terms of the victim or in terms of the intentions of the perpetrator? A sexy Cylon female can blur the line between crime and toughtcrime, it seems to me.
Brendan
Mon, Jun 21, 2010, 8:39pm (UTC -6)
Max and Mark,

I would argue that while the Pegasus crew and Cain are depicted as being really vile, it's not as black and white if you think about it.

I mean just for a second, consider that yeah, rape and torture is abhorrent, but on the other hand, this machine/person personally caused the death of a huge portion of the crew, and was part of a plot to annihilate the entire human race. There is no worse crime than what she committed. That alone lends some blurriness to the moral analysis.

Furthermore, Cain's integration of the crews and criticism of Galactica's practices are entirely legitimate. Not one thing she cites as a problem with how Adama runs things is actually wrong. We hate her for saying it, because it's "family business" and she's a foreigner interfering with no sympathy the contexts.

She's also within the law having Helo and Tyrol executed for murdering a colonial officer. And Adama technically makes the hostile action at the end.

We side with Adama and Galactica because we know them as people, we love them, and we as an audience have a better understanding of the nature of Cylons humanity than the Pegasus and even Galactica crew do.

In the end, we are on the right side especially after knowing the Pegasus backstory from Fisk and in detail from Razor, but this episode demonstrates a really interesting way of having shades of grey in morality in dramatic situations that are completely black and white.
Luke
Mon, Jun 28, 2010, 2:47am (UTC -6)
In general, a very interesting episode and hard to watch in places. But here's the glaring problem:

Why isn't President Roslin involved?

Of course, it's clearly established that Cain has no respect for Roslin. But seeing as how the Admiral has depended on the official chain of command throughout the episode (and, it is implied, throughout the journey of the Pegasus), it would put her in a much more difficult position the commander-in-chief required a fair trial or forbid the raping of prisoners, for starters.

If Admiral Cain disobeys president Roslin, well the entire foundation of her leadership is undermined and any of the officers of the Pegasus or the Galactica would be completely justified in disobeying her orders.

I can't get around this problem; it really needed to be addressed.
Max Udargo
Mon, Jun 28, 2010, 6:28pm (UTC -6)
Luke:

There's a scene in this episode that was designed to address your question, I think. When Cain and Adama appear together before Roslin on Colonial One, two things are made very clear: First, that Cain is not the least bit impressed by Roslin's claim to presidential authority. Second, Cain's command of the Pegasus represents a palpable menace and a disruption of the balance of power achieved between Roslin and Adama. Cain's battlestar is now the most powerful force in the fleet, more powerful than the out-dated, poorly equipped Galactica. Their is no way they can force Cain to conform to their culture. Cain must be appeased or she will simply impose her will by force.

I thought the actor did a great job of communicating that menace in the scene. She never said anything about imposing her will by force, but her tone, body language, and everything about her communicated the threat of potential violence. She's holding the biggest stick and she knows it, and there's no point in provoking her.
chris
Tue, Mar 29, 2011, 2:08am (UTC -6)
That was the best BSG episode I watched so far. I especially loved the final scene, where Adama decides to attack Pegasus in order to get his men back!!! I was cheering at that moment, go Adama!

Kudos to Cain (hello Ensign Ro Laren) for her great acting.
Nic
Sun, Apr 3, 2011, 10:19pm (UTC -6)
There is a lot to love about this episode. It certainly accomplished what it set out to do - like you said, instantly side with the Galactica, cheer when Helo and Tyrol kill Thorne and later when Adama attacks the Pegasus. I almost cried during Sharon's rape. I can only hope it was not just a plot device to serve this episode, and that the psychological consequences of the rape will be realistically depicted in future episodes. I also loved Baltar being the good guy for once. I hope they continue to develop this.

However, the "moral dilemma" (if you can call it that) was too black-and-white for my taste. Where are the wonderful shades of gray DS9 did so well? There is no way to justify Cain's actions. She's just a nasty person (as are at most of her crew, at least that we've seen) and should never have gotten command of a Battlestar regardless of her age. Which leads me to question Colonial military recruitment practices.

As for the music, I'm on the fence. I usually love the music on BSG, but there were a few moments in this episode where it called TOO MUCH attention to itself and took me out of the moment.
brad
Sun, Apr 10, 2011, 8:28am (UTC -6)
Great review, great comments - kudos to max for an excellent analysis, and great episode. Loving this series.
Nick Poliskey
Tue, May 3, 2011, 12:42pm (UTC -6)
Another Wow episode for BSG, which is starting to become quite normal for this incredible series. I almost enjoy the few crappy episodes because it really makes you appreciate the amazing ones like this. I can't QUITE give this one 4 stars because the Pegasus crew was a little to contrived. There absolutely should have been more backstory here.

I agree with Max and Brendan, if you ignore the raping interrogator, and the 5 minute execution sentence, I think there could be a very strong argument that I would RATHER be serving on the Pegasus over the Galactica. it is clearly newer and more powerful, it is obviously more orderly, and let's face it, that civilian government and free press IS a pain in the ass. Also, as Max (I think) said, I really don't think this was meant as evil Galactica but more an alterate Galactica with different people making different choices.

As Jammer said a few episodes ago, this show goes out of its way to show that what we decide to do in life has very real consequences, and we very rarely have all the facts to make the correct choice, if there even is such thing as correct choice. And BTW, how was Admiral Cain wrong in her critique of Adama? She was right in every way, which I think Adama kind of recognizes. I posted that all the way back to the episode where he has frakkin Starbuck interrogate a Cylon. How the hell is she in any way qualified? Frankly, Admiral Cain may be obviously evil, but she wouldve gotten more intel than Starbuck did.

And OMG the Sharon rape scene, like a previous poster I was just about in tears watching this. I don't, however, think that a mandatory death sentence was appropriate, since it was fairly clear that Tyrol was trying to push him away from Sharon, versus actively trying to kill him. Unfortunately, I feel it was another contrivance to make us feel us versus them with the Galactica versus the Pegasus.

Further, I felt that Adama almost felt relieved to not be in charge of humanities future, at least in the VERY early parts of the episode.

BTW, just when I started liking the Ensign Ro Starbuck, the real Ensign Ro actually shows up!! I can't wait for Denise Crosbys' return as Sela the Cylon next week!!!
Weiss
Mon, Sep 19, 2011, 1:50pm (UTC -6)
I think they brought int the Pegasus to continue their theme of showing the lesson that BSG needs to create a better socieity, not just go back to the old way.

Cain is the past, clearly defined, no grays, just black and white.
The gray texture come from the BSG crew, they are learning, not sure what the right choice is, they have had a positive experience with couple Cylons, so they are at least asking questions. Pegasus does not care to ask questions, or learn.

eventually the BSG crew would cleanse themselves of their own hard-liners who were unwilling to change, but the Pegasus was a starting point for that conflict and theme.
Nick P.
Mon, Sep 19, 2011, 2:11pm (UTC -6)
Weiss, I don't know if you are right about your analysis of why they brought in the Pegasus plot-line, I personally don't think you are. I think this series (unlike) any trek has repeatedly shown that sometimes the more "moral" choice sometimes leads to disaster.....

:::::SPOILER::::::

I think most notably if Adama had died instead of Cain,you could make a very strong argument that new Caprica never would have occured and almost definately the Cylon threat would have been averted as Agathon would never have been allowed to serve after his sympathetic cylon views and he wouldn't have been in a position to prevent the destruction of the cylon race in the episode "a measure of salvation."

and that is just the one that jumps out at me, in a hundred other ways I think Cain would have been superior to Adama.

:::::

I don't think it is clear at all the Ron D. Moore has a similar liberal "let's all get along" philosohpy as Roddenberry's Star Trek.
Michael
Thu, Nov 17, 2011, 9:07am (UTC -6)
@Luke:
I was thinking the exact same thing, viz, Cain gets her authority and rank from the same source as Roslin. If she fails to defer to Roslin as the holder of the office of the president, then her own authority and rank are rendered null and void.

@Nic:
You verbalized another thought I had: The show makes it too easy to hate the Pegasus. They are all, from the get-go, depicted as depraved and vile, q.v. the menacing first disembarkation of Cain and posse on Galactica.

I was near tears on a couple of occasions: The Six scene and the Boomer shots. And I actually did cry at the end when the resolute Adama decides to take on Cain.

@Nick P.:
You are probably right. If the Pegasus had not been portrayed through the actions of Cain and Thorne, it could and would have been seen as a legitimate--and easily more favorable--alternative to the choices Galactica has made and the path it decided to follow.

That though was obviously not the aim; the aim was to evoke strong sentiments in the viewer and cement our relationship with Galactica. It accomplished that par excellence.

A very, very emotive episode. Outstanding. Beyond outstanding.
Nic
Tue, Dec 13, 2011, 3:46pm (UTC -6)
Now that I have seen the whole series, I would put this episode at the very top of my best-of list. "33" comes close, but no hour of TV I have seen better demonstrated the futility and immorality of torture under ANY circumstance than "Pegasus".
Zane314
Fri, Jun 1, 2012, 4:38pm (UTC -6)
Hi Jammer, Not sure if you or others look at these comments much now-a-days, but I sure do! Your reviews are excellent, very nice site, thanks for your tremendous time and effort. I read your DS9 season summaries during my recent rewatch but I'm a total BSG nut so I'm reading all your stuff on it plus the comments. This is my first post because Pegasus is such a good episode and these are really excellent comments.
Zane314
Fri, Jun 1, 2012, 4:45pm (UTC -6)
@Brendan "There is no worse crime than what she [the Six, Gina Inviere] committed"
Well, many (including myself) see torture as unacceptable under *any* circumstance, even when to save your own life or your entire race. Torture is done to punish, for sadism/revenge, and to get actionable information. The first 2 reasons should be discounted out of hand by any rational, human being as acceptable reasons to torture. The third reason is debatable but there's no doubt that torture is completely unreliable when trying to get info. A torture victim might give up the information due to torture but she might give false information or any information to get the torture to stop. And even to get accurate information, don't we loose our human nature when we inflict physical and mental anguish in such controlled circumstances? It should be noted that for our free, democratic, idealistic United States, we got lots (as in tons) of actionable intelligence using non-coercive, non-pain, non-stress methods with German POWs. Our torture track record since 9/11? Not so good, in fact, non-partisan government and news investigations say zero, zero actionable intel from our torturing prisoners. So, no matter Gina's crimes, serial torture using rape and beatings is completely unacceptable. But isn't this what the BSG wanted to inspire, discussions like this? :)

@Brendan "... executed for murdering a colonial officer."
They didn't murder. The Chief and maybe Helo as an accomplice clearly committed Voluntary Manslaughter: "the killing of a human being in which the offender had no prior intent to kill and acted during "the heat of passion," under circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed."

@Brendan "... this episode demonstrates a really interesting way of having shades of grey in morality in dramatic situations that are completely black and white."
Amen, I totally agree!

@Nick P.: "I don't think it is clear at all the Ron D. Moore has a similar liberal "let's all get along" philosophy as Roddenberry's Star Trek."
IMO, I wouldn't call that liberal per se but more idealistic. Similarly, I don't think conservative ideology necessarily means "let's all NOT get along". But, your point is well taken, this isn't Roddenberry's Star Trek and finally Moore had a universe were he could have a show set to his liking. Even on DS9 he was constrained by the Roddenberry tradition of a military focused on peace and exploration (ha!) alongside a benign, caring civilian government. Moore pushed DS9 into darker areas for sure, like the Admiral subverting Earth's defenses to hype the Dominion threat. But all in all, it was still closer to ST TOS than to BSG!
Zane314
Fri, Jun 1, 2012, 4:48pm (UTC -6)
@Max Udargo
"And there's a fascinating question there, although it might have been too much of a tangent for the series to tackle. If an act of rape is "simulated" on a machine that simulates a human female, is the man who commits the act still a rapist? Even if there is no victim, isn't the man who performs the simulated act revealing himself as a man who enjoys rape? Do we define a crime in terms of the victim or in terms of the intentions of the perpetrator? A sexy Cylon female can blur the line between crime and toughtcrime, it seems to me."

Spot on insight, well done! I think the writers were purposely being a little heavy handed by always calling the humanoid Cylons "machines" - I'd rather have called them engineered biological humanoid lifeforms which sure doesn't roll off the tongue but is more accurate. I mean, though it's hard/rare, Humans can interbreed with humanoid Cylons. Plus there's blood, organs, etc all in there, no inorganic moving parts, at least none we can see. But I think they were trying to really shove the debate in our face which certainly worked on me since I always got riled up by the "machines" tag.

Your comment reminds me of Adama (crushed over Boomer being a Cylon agent) talking with the Chief (ashamed of himself, disbelieving):
Adama: Boomer, did you love her?
Tyrol: I thought I did
Adama: when you think you love somebody, you love them. That’s what love is – thoughts. She was a Cylon. A machine. Is that what Boomer was? A machine? A thing.
Tyrol: That’s what she turned out to be.
Adama: She was more than that to us. She was more than that to me. She was a vital, living person… aboard my ship for almost two years. She couldn’t have been just a machine. Could you love a machine?

So if we love something that isn't a natural, 100% human, is it still love? If you rape a 99.99% human like Cylon, is it still rape? Is it rape if you commit it against a bunch of photons on a Holodeck? Probably yes to all this but Pegasus and BSG in general stirs up these great discussions.
Zane314
Fri, Jun 1, 2012, 4:57pm (UTC -6)
Ok, time for the serious Pegasus stuff. So much was so good: the impressive, modern Battlestar; the music; Caine and Fisk (their acting); the Adama, Roslin, Cain triangle; and the alternate vision of how a Battlestar culture can evolve (or not) after the great attack given some differences, most importantly no Roslin saying flee and no Adama saying I respect a civilian government.

But as a huge Eight fan the rape scene was powerful centerpiece of the episode to me and I think emblematic of the BG and BP's differences. And like many things in BSG, it "went there" like every other sci-fi show usually doesn't. What I this so powerful about this sequence is how the writing, direction, and acting take you on a roller coaster, whipping and jerking emotions around and at the end punches the viewer in the gut.

The Pegasus rape sequence which built the tension masterfully with:
* crews mixing at the "frakking party", Pegasus frat boys make sexist comments about Athena, Helo gets hot but calms down (I want Helo to squish this scumbag)
* Thorne enters Athena's cell (tension mounting, worried about Athena)
* Pegasus frat boys admit to helping and enjoying Gina's rapes, Cally leads the women out in disgust (now really worried about Athena but still want Helo to smash Gage&Vireem)
* Athena is being beaten by Thorne (danger is here, very worried for Athena)
* Pegasus frat boys joke about their getting in line to rape Athena, Helo goes nuts but Chief tells him "we have to go" (I'm torn, Pegasus frat boys must die but Athena needs saving)
* Athena's beating intensifies and turns into a sexual assault (critical tension, stop the rape, kill Thorne!)
* Helo and Chief race through the halls (go, go, go, get there!)
* Thorne is raping (in the extended epi, the broadcast he's about to) Athena (stop Thorne, stop Thorne, stop Thorne!!!)
* Our heroes intercede, the rape stops, Thorne is accidentally killed (Yay! Justice! Righteous violence! I'm satisfied!)
* Then THE HAMMER FALLS: Athena's moaning, sobbing, crying ... the camera comes to her and she curls into a fetal position while she pulls the stiff prison blanket part way over herself

The viewer's emotional flow is manipulated: we first get mad at the Pegasus frat boys but then the urgent danger to Athena pulls us away. Now we want Helo and Chief to get to Athena to save her, and they do! And Thorne dies in the process, bonus! But we're jerked back to the real issue: Athena was sexually assaulted and she just wants to disappear, be safe, to forget. The blanket can't possibly hide her, even super slim Athena will be noticeable under all of the blanket and she only partially covered herself. But it's not about the reality, she wants to physically and meta-physically disappear, any shred of protection will do, just be separated from the rest of the world.

The blanket bit was an improv by Grace Park, brilliant, just brilliant. The flow of it all was masterful, everyone did a great job with what could be heavy handed and clichéd. In the Pegasus podcast, Ron Moore said: "That little piece there of Sharon- of Grace pulling the blanket over her, I just- it's like... it's a powerful moment. Grace is a very smart actress." Agreed!
Zane314
Fri, Jun 1, 2012, 4:58pm (UTC -6)
So I don't leave this comment thread on too heavy a note, Grace has a funny story about shooting the rape scene. The interview also has more on the scene's development and lots of other Grace Park nuggets:

www.thescifiworld.net/interviews/grace_park_01.htm

Gilles Nuytens: What’s the funniest thing that has happened on the set?

Grace Park: A lot of really weird things happened, I think one of the funniest things that I can remember that after the rape scene, even though it sounds pretty morbid, but we’d done it so many times… Lt. Thorn always had to pull down my pants. I was wearing something underneath, but still, when we were done, I said now that we’re done here, turn around and drop your pants. And I was joking, but he said sure, and he turned around, and dropped his pants. So I saw his butt too, I thought that was pretty funny. Then we shook hands, and we said thanks.
Elliott
Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 9:09pm (UTC -6)
Fantastic episode to be sure. I enjoyed the scope of it and agree that its finest feature is the "momentum." I have to voice my objection to two things however, both related to music.

1) The score for this episode is awful. The emotional intent is pandering with those sickening high-hat beats and corny harmonic rhythm. I have no problem with the music calling attention to itself, whatsoever, but what was there was cheesy and blasé.

2) "Operatic" does not mean "comic book' which is the implication of the review. To a certain extent, I agree it is impossible not to side with the "heroes", this is a comic-book trope. To label something "operatic" is to imply that the sub-conscious machinations of the piece overshadow the literal details. BSG has been operatic (most notably in the opening sequence to "Kobol's Last Gleaming Pt. 1"--not coincidentally to a musical motive which is eventually linked to an opera house). I don't find that to be true of "Pegasus" in the slightest; it's about dialogue and plot.
Jason K
Thu, Oct 18, 2012, 7:20pm (UTC -6)
Regardless of what Elliott above me says, check our Bear playing the "Pegasus" theme on solo piano. It's awesome

www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHtnmAsWIIs&feature=relmfu
Cureboy
Mon, Dec 23, 2013, 1:13am (UTC -6)
Holy Equinox, Batman! (This one reminded me a lot of Voyager's "Equinox" two parter) Just finished this episode and its definitely one of my favorites so far, possibly THE favorite.

I also was silently cheering when Adama gave the order to get back Helo and the Chief. I was even genuinely proud of Dr Baltar. It sounds like this episode was a mid-season cliffhanger when it first aired? I can't imagine having to wait so long to find out what happens. I want to turn around and watch the next episode right now. But I can see its a two parter and I'll be up al night if I go there :)

Guilty Bystander
Fri, Mar 6, 2015, 4:08am (UTC -6)
Truly great episode. Having seen the entire series, definitely in top 5.

Most of what I could say about it has already been said in the review and the comments, but I'd like to add a point another reviewer made: The "you can't rape a machine" is faulty logic: if physical abuse of a Cylon isn't the same thing as with a human, it would be entirely pointless to even do it. If it can have any hope of working as interregation tactics, then it must be a rape by any meaningful definition of the word.
zzybaloobah
Tue, Mar 10, 2015, 12:28am (UTC -6)
1) Cain vs Roslin.
I think it's established in the miniseries that the civilian govt. does not have much authority over the military. The US President is the Commander-in-Chief -- the DOD answers to him.
There's not that level of civilian control over the Colonial Fleet. Adama threw Roslin in the brig -- pretty clearly, the military doesn't answer to the President.

2) IIRC (it's been forever since I've seen it), the original BSG episode Pegasus was all upbeat:
"Hey, here's another battlestar, Cain is a legendary commander, let's kick some Cylon butt.". And, I think the original Adama outranked Cain. This one, in true BSG style, totally twisted that plotline into darkness.

Minor spoiler alert.
3) Some posters think that, in the long run, Cain's style might have been better. No, look what Cain did to her civilian fleet. She's willing to trade the human race for a tactical edge. When Cain, Adama, and Roslin were in Roslin's office, discussing Helo and Tyrol, and Cain wanted to cut to the bottom line, Roslin should have pointed to the number on the whiteboard and said "That's the bottom line. We can't afford to execute each other. There aren't any replacements."

Sparrow
Thu, Apr 30, 2015, 7:58pm (UTC -6)
This 2 parter (or 3 parter) is definitely indebted to Voyager's Equinox 2 parter.
Grumpy
Thu, Apr 30, 2015, 10:37pm (UTC -6)
@Sparrow
Cureboy, above, made the same observation a couple years ago. While this episode treads some of the same path as "Equinox," it's safe to say it owes more to the original series 2-parter "The Living Legend."
Wes
Thu, Oct 15, 2015, 4:37am (UTC -6)
@zzybaloobah
Jailing the president doesn't actually indicate that the government lacks control of the military. It could very well have been an illegal military coup. The colonial system of law seems pretty close to American.

I suspect there is either a provision for gross negligence, or it wasn't actually legal. TV military commanders always excel at being hypocrites alot the chain of command.
Ellen
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 11:49pm (UTC -6)
I cant get my head around these men just so casually talking about raping someone. That entire scene in the locker room or bar or whatever just gave me chills and was repulsive. I cant imagine being a woman and standing in that crowd and listening to them talk about raping someone like they were talking about grabbing a beer after the shift.

I cant discern whether this is just them being how they are , or if they are so casual about it because in this case the entity they were raping is a cylon. Both options are pretty appalling. The first one for obvious reasons and the second one because it almost feels like the only thing stopping these guys from rape is that it is illegal but since it is legal with the cylon, they do it and brag about it. It is very disturbing.

Maybe I could understand why they impose themselves on her if she actually did look like a robot or one of those blow up fuck me sex dolls, but she doesnt. For all intent and purposes and as far as these guys are concerned, the skin jobs are as human as it gets. They dont look like machine, they dont feel like machines, they dont talk like machines. So having sex with one of them is no different than having sex with a "human." So how do they do it? How do they just turn off whatever makes them not rape human women and rape the cylon?

Maybe I dont wanna know the answer.

And about Sharon pulling the blanket over her head being improvised. I figured that when I watched it. It was very intuitive, not like something you script. Watching that entire scene I was cringing and the first thing that came to my mind after Sharon got off the table pulling her pants up was the massive amount of fear but also shame she must have felt. I thought to myself "man, I would wanna crawl in a hole and disappear" and wham, Sharon pulls the blanket over her head to do just that. It was awesome. Park really lived the character at that moment. Her reaction was...very human.
Jason R.
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 10:59am (UTC -6)
Ellen a few points in response to your thought provoking post.

While I agree the actions of the rapists were evil - to put things in perspective, the target of their aggression belonged to a race that had just recently nearly wiped out the human race. This is not my justifying their behaviour but merely putting it into context that explains why they would find it far easier to justify such an act to themselves and their peers.

Now the other more controversial piece of the puzzle I'll put forward. Part of the problem is you may have been led to believe that sex and rape are two distinct concepts, that rape exists in some distinct universe as an idiosynchratic personal characteristic in the same vein as a shoe fetish or even pedophilia.

Yet this is false. Rape is to sex what robbery is to commerce - not a perfect analogy, but close enough. It is still sex and sex is probably the most primal instinct in the natural world. Everyone (in very general terms, with some exceptions) wants it and it becomes a question of how far someone is willing to go (and who one is willing to hurt) to get it. Consent is not some hard defining characteristic of "sex" and it never has been until recently.

You take away law, you take away moral censure, mix in a hefty dose of revenge fuelled by (justified) hatred and it isn't a mystery.

It's no different than allegedly good people standing aside and watching genocide, or even participating when given the chance. Human beings aren't neatly divided into "rapists" and "murderers" and "thieves".

Think of it as sliding bars on a graph with morality, sexual desire, sadism, power, desperation, and hatred all at different levels depending on the person. Some are prone to rape in any circumstance. Others might only rape if stressed to the max by external environmental factors. Others may never initiate but might join in after the fact. And some might never rape in any scenario.

Believing that the world is divided solely into "always" and "never" (and this goes for any crime, not just rape) is a dangerous delusion.
Ellen
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 8:15pm (UTC -6)
@Jason: well it's a good you arent trying to justify rape. LOL

Anyway, I am not sure what the point of your response is. To make me "understand" why those men made a sport out of raping the cylon who, as I said above, looks and feels exactly like a human? What exactly about my comment are you criticizing? Are you saying I am mistaken? I should give those men and rapists in general the benefit of the doubt and "understand" it? Like understand how conquerors raped natives? How slave owners raped slaves? Again, not sure about the point of your post.

But for the record, no I dont appreciate the nuances of rapists. Rape is about power above all. Sure, it does involve a sexual act, but men dont just rape to have an orgasm. It is the power they get to exercise. I cant believe I actually have to point this out. The men in this story here took a sadistic pleasure in exerting that power onto a cylon and I bet the rush was doubly empowering for them knowing they are disparaging an enemy. But even in war there are rules and just casue you are upset at the "enemy" doesnt make it understandable for you to go out there and torture and gangrape their women and daughters. And doing so doesnt make you a good guy gone bad or your actions more understandable.

There are no shades of grey when it comes to rape. These men dehumanized the cylon much the same way soldiers used to do in Vietnam when they raped villages in their homes or what some soldiers have done in Iraq and Afghanistan. They attacked us, whoever "they" may be, so let's rape the shit out of them, they are all the time.

Again, not really sure about the point of your comment. Are you trying to correct me in some way? Make a case for rape under special circumstances? Make me understand these men? I dont get it, sorry.
Ellen
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 8:21pm (UTC -6)
Do you really think that men who do that to someone are decent human beings in any shape or form and thus in other parts of their lives? Do you think they treat the women in their lives - mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, girlfriends - any better? There are plenty of men who are under pressure, have seen terrible things and who still dont go engage in this heinous act, assaulting and violating a woman. The men of the Paegasus arent good guys gone bad because of bad circumstances. These are men looking for an excuse to rape and dehumanizing the enemy so you can do that sort of you cant legally do with women in your own society, is the method they employ. In other words, she is a cylon is an excuse. I believe salve owners used the same justification when they raped their black slaves.
Jason R.
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 7:07am (UTC -6)
Ellen you seemed shocked and disturbed that these men wanted to rape and used the fact that Sharon was a Psilon as a flimsy excuse to exercise this desire. You raised the valid point that this meant they were essentially "rapists" merely constrained by societal convention / law. You seemed disturbed by that conclusion as if you didn't quite believe that it was possible.

I inferred from this that you might have a binary view of people where someone is either a "rapist" or not - and somehow circumstances don't matter. I also figured you bought into the black or white "wall" between rape and sex, which seems to be the case from your reply.

My point was that lots of ordinary people are capable of committing atrocities in the right circumstances. We saw this fact in World War 2 among the Germans of course, but also with the French, Polish and others who aided and abetted Nazi atrocities despite being their enemies. We saw it again in Rwanda and Bosnia and see it on the news from time to time when previously "good" kids commit heinous atrocities like gang rape or counsel their boyfriend to suicide - all with no prior history of anti social behaviour.

You may say those people are bad, and that's fine - but I guarantee they're also your friends, co-workers and maybe even close family.

So no I'm not justifying atrocities like rape. I'm saying that lots and lots of people in the world are capable of rape, much like lots are capable of genocide - given the right push of circumstance. Imagining evil to be the product of some extreme deviant condition in some rare monstrous person like a Jeffrey Dahmer or Hitler - that is the delusion.

Robert
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 8:58am (UTC -6)
I actually wonder if, in those situations, people who are ordinarily so good that they view rape as one of the most evil acts can actually be convinced that the "other" they are fighting is so evil that they deserve to have one of the most evil acts committed against them.

Never actually seen BSG, so I can't speak to the episode, but based on the level of atrocities that occur during certain wars one must assume that more of society is evil than I'd like to ponder or certain conflicts allow people to turn off their ethics subroutines.

I don't know that I have an answer at all, just reading your discussion and had a passing thought I decided to share.
Peter G.
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 9:46am (UTC -6)
Maybe this comment is a bit off-topic in regard to what people are capable of, but strictly speaking, is sexually assaulting a machine rape? I guess if you argue the Cylons are sentient then you'd have to say yes, but actually you'd have to go further, and say that they're sentient *and* that they are by nature sexual beings. I'm not sure I got from the series that they are *actually* human-like in their desires, I sort of remember that it's all basically a facade, that they can imitate it perfectly. If so and I'm remembering correctly, then you can't rape a non-sexual being; at best you can assault it. And if it's just a sophisticate non-sentient AI then you can't even assault it, you can only attack and damage it. Maybe the episode meant for it to blatantly be a rape, I'm not sure. This reminds me of some of the debates about Voyager's Doctor. But in context of what Jason and Robert are saying about the understanding of what act is being committed, shouldn't we assume that 'rape' is being used against a Cylon on account of the knowledge that it's just a dressed-up toaster oven that would kill them all if it could? That doesn't exonerate the visceral impact of sexually abusing a being that looks human, and we can still potentially feel for the human-looking robot, but morally I don't see how it's equivalent to sexually assaulting a living person. I'd say the biggest problem here is that he saw fit to use his own sexuality in this way; he's the one with the problem, harming himself by degrading himself. I don't know that it's clear in what way harming a Cylon has any moral implication. It's certainly worth a debate unto itself, in any case.
Jason R.
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 9:58am (UTC -6)
Peter I stopped watching BSG about mid way through the series so I'm not super clear on the nature of the Cylons. But I do recall the Pegasus episodes and my recollection is that there's little ambiguity that the Cylon humanoids (as opposed to the Centurions, which are tin cans) are indeed sexual beings and more or less human in every way that matters. They are even organic on the inside, unlike, say the Terminator.

Indeed, as I recall, the Caprica Cylon even commits suicide as a result of rape trauma.

It is pretty much counter to the text to suggest that the Cylons don't experience rape like a human.

Now whether the soldiers know this or not that is another question. Then it becomes some kind of metaphysical question like is it okay to be a "rapist" on say a holodeck provided you never act out the fantasy in real life. Is a person a "rapist" if they want to rape but don't (due to morality, fear of legal consequences etc...)
Peter G.
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 10:04am (UTC -6)
Maybe someone who knows the series better than I do can answer on this one. Yes, I remember the Cylons as being organic constructs, but I also remember that their 'personalities' can switch off on a dime when they don't need to pretend any more. I never quite came out knowing whether their humanness was put-on or whether it was 'real' in some sense. Even a robot suicide wouldn't cement that to me if they were just programmed to keep up the act by self-terminating if they're very 'upset'. I don't know. I do think there's a difference between appearing to be traumatized and *being* traumatized. I can write a BASIC program where when I type in "Stab!" the program replies with "Ow!" But it's not actually suffering, just replying with a response indicating pain.
Tara
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 6:51pm (UTC -6)
@Jason R:

Regarding your segue from rape to Nazis and those who abetted them:

The Allied forces did plenty of raping in Germany. In many cases this was winked at by American commanding officers. Commanding men considered rape to be an a-ok reward and stress relief that was owed to our 'Greatest Generation'. While the official policy was "no fraternization with local females", the unofficial motto was "copulation without conversation is not fraternization" - in other words, 'have at it men: rape at will." Very few men were punished. German girls and women were not infrequently found dead in British and American barracks, having presumably been gang raped and then murdered by war heroes of our Greatest Generation... who then came home to their adoring wives and girlfriends.

The Russians were infamous for gang-raping every civilian female they could grab. I met an elderly German-born immigrant who remembered the last months of WW2: "We all fled the Russians, everyone tried to escape them because we knew they always raped all the girls."

My point: don't pin wartime rape on Nazis and other baddies alone. While that position may be morally comfortable, it is not historically accurate. What historic facts say about the men around you, and what they (or any of us) are capable of (or even eager for) when social restraints are released, is a bit chilling.
Peter G.
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 7:43pm (UTC -6)
@ Tara, maybe I'm losing the conversation but it looks like you're agreeing with Jason.
Jason R.
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 9:30pm (UTC -6)
@ Tara,

As Peter notes, I don't think we disagree on anything in particular.

I did, however, want to zero in on something specific you said: "Commanding men considered rape to be an a-ok reward and stress relief that was owed to our 'Greatest Generation'"

This goes back to a slightly tangential point I was making earlier about the connection between rape and sex. The idea that rape is primarily let alone exclusively "about" power and not sex is such arrant nonsense. Like most violent crimes, there may be many motivations to rape. Saying that it's always about a man seeking to exert power is akin to claiming that a bank robbery is always about thrills and never money. It's just manifestly, obviously false. Rape is almost certainly about sex frequently, plain and simple sex.

"Stress relief" in this context means sex. Sex is what most young men want, with many women if they can get it. Some of these rapes you described were probably power trips or for other motives like revenge - I am not denying that in the slightest - but a simpler logical explanation for most of them is that they wanted what all men want, and opportunistically used war as a good venue to get it for free with anyone they pleased, without consequence. Sure they could have paid for it in a brothel, but this was license to have something truly forbidden, something not for sale, and with no legal repercussion. Men who seek out married women are probably tapping into a fraction of this - but it's still about sex for them too.

The reason I'm making this specific point is because I think the "rape is about power" dogma promotes a false and dangerous understanding of its underlying causes. It seeks to demonize the *motivation* behind rape, pretending that it is something alien, extraordinary, highly deviant. The motivation behind rape isn't special or exceptional - it's often just sex plain and simple, and the only thing separating the rapist from the normal man is morality, law and empathy.

So my ultimate point is that as a man it's not very hard to understand why men rape, even if I've never raped and never will rape. I understand it the same way I understand the motivation to push a gun in a bank teller's face and run away with a bag full of cash you didn't earn, or the motivation to murder evil people, like say child molesters or rapists.

Jason R.
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 9:41pm (UTC -6)
I wish one could edit posts because I forgot to make my ultimate point. If morality, law and empathy are the three pillars separating the good men from the rapists (and indeed, most human beings from other atrocities) then as you knock those pillars down, one by one, it is to be expected that a greater and greater number of people are going to act out in more and more antisocial even egregious ways. This isn't a justification - it's just the physics of the situation.

In the BG example, those men were told that the woman they were raping was not human (-empathy), that what they were doing was for a good cause (-morality) and that they would suffer no negative consequences for their acts (-law).

You can fault them certainly for rationalizing the act and rejecting the truth of what their own eyes were showing them. But it shouldn't be some kind of surprise that they'd be tempted. I'm going to wager that better men have done far worse atrocities in far lesser circumstances. These soldiers were probably not especially villainous compared to their peers.
Robert
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 9:56am (UTC -6)
I think I'm with Tara when it comes to rape with regards to sex/power/assault/etc.

For me, personally, as a male... sex ceases to be sex when it's not consensual. If I wanted sexual relief and could not find someone to take care of that for me... I can take care of that myself. There's nothing sexual or sexy about non-consensual sex. I've never felt an urge to "take care of that" in a non-consensual way.

I CERTAINLY understand the urge to hurt someone. I feel like I'd have to remind myself constantly not to punch a Nazi in the teeth for instance (to use the current US politics discussion of... "is it wrong to punch a Nazi"). Evil others are easy to dehumanize, and the urge to "hurt them" for the harms they cause to you and your society, both real and imagined can be strong. When you are fighting an enemy as evil as Nazis... I can imagine the urge to hurt them, in any way possible, to be great. Rape is violent, not sexy. It's not any different (except in that it's worse) than slashing someone with your knife. You're trying to hurt them, leave a scar (emotional or physical). It's violent.

"What historic facts say about the men around you, and what they (or any of us) are capable of (or even eager for) when social restraints are released, is a bit chilling."

Chilling, but not surprising. We send people overseas to terminate the life of evil others in increasingly horrific and violent ways and then are shocked when their brains have, as a coping mechanism, allowed them to think of these people as not deserving of empathy. As Jason said....

" If morality, law and empathy are the three pillars separating the good men from the rapists (and indeed, most human beings from other atrocities) then as you knock those pillars down, one by one, it is to be expected that a greater and greater number of people are going to act out in more and more antisocial even egregious ways."

We have to assume that war knocks the empathy pillar out since it's difficult to send people overseas to murder those that we are not demonizing. And most of the law pillar as well... if nobody is getting in trouble for this sort of thing. So that leaves morality. Well hell, my morality says killing is bad, if we've gotten to the point where I am overriding THAT PART of my ethics subroutine.... WTF else is left?

I don't think acknowledging that soliders can end up in a very bad and violent place takes us to "everybody is secretly a rapist". Well, everyone can pick up a gun and start killing people too. But they don't.
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 10:31am (UTC -6)
@Robert,

I don't think we necessarily disagree but may be framing things differently. I'm sure you've walked down a street (especially in your teens and twenties) seen a woman and felt you wanted her. Not you wanted a consensual mutually respectful sexual encounter but *wanted* her, period. Why not just take what you want? Well because it would be wrong (morality), you'd feel bad if she cried and was in pain (empathy) and you'd be afraid of being sent to jail (law).

But the instinct is there and the instinct in of itself doesn't care about consent. To use a computer analogy the instinct is like firmware - built into and intertwined with one's nature. Pretty much everyone has it built in. The rest is software, a variable "package" of programs built on top of things that varies wildly among different individuals.

Maybe your empathy subroutines are so maxxed out that you could never rape. Then again, maybe with enough alcohol or drugs and a victim who didn't fight back too hard you might get over the tipping point. I don't know you so that's just an example, not a statement of certainty.

Throw in a bunch of other variables like the extreme stress of war, demonization of the enemy and a consequence free environment and maybe just maybe you would. No one really knows for sure how they would react until they're tested. We like to believe that we can never betray our moral centres - but who knows for sure. A bit like the DS9 episode where Jake discovers his own cowardice in the face of combat. Pretty insightful episode and applicable to this topic.
Peter G.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 10:59am (UTC -6)
I don't even particularly think it requires an extreme environment like a warzone to take away the pillars governing good behavior. I rather think that there is a much thinner line than people want to pretend separating their calm, orderly behavior from what would appear to us to be depravity. All it takes is context and the sense of permission and - boom - people will begin to do things. Not all people, but many. You can look at college sports culture to see what happens when young men are given very bad moral education by their coaches and peers; it often devolves into savagery. That scenario is akin to war - a tiny percentage of the way in that direction - but is obviously so mundane to us (playing a sport) that it just seems unbelievable they'd do those things.

@ Robert, "Rape is violent, not sexy." Maybe to you, living in your life. But that statement is no more absolutely true than would be the statement "Violence is unpleasant, not fun." Many people feel that way too, especially if they've never been violent or been on a drunken rampage. To frame this in an atheist perspective (meaning, leaving religion or absolute morality out of it) it's the natural course for a huge proportion of animals to rape each other; it's the basic way in which they procreate. Maybe the female complies sometimes, maybe not, but it doesn't really matter, they do what they need to to breed. We, too, are animals, and I have no doubt that our pre-historic ancestry is riddled with rape. I do believe that we have it in our DNA at this point to take what we want, and it's only the pillars Jason mentioned stopping it. And it's not just to take what we want sexually; people have a tendency to take whatever they want whenever they can in almost any area of life. They will gleefully trample over the wants or needs of others to take for themselves if not reigned in by those three pillars. They will destroy the environment if not prevented from doing so, will squeeze out the ability for others to compete, and will hoard possessions if given the chance. Not every single person; there's a bell shaped curve, of course. But probably most. The question isn't *whether* someone would conduct what we think of as depraved action, but rather how much force (moral, legal, etc) is required to tame any given person. This is an important metric because there are places in the world where this amount of force isn't met and the people there do things we wouldn't be able to understand why they'd want to do them.

I will mention one Biblical story, of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is instructive not because of any historical truth to it because because it suggests an environment so deprived of constraints that no one there chose to resist those urges. It wasn't just the bad people there who succumbed; every single person did. It may be fiction, but I think it's a decent example for what happens to ordinary people when external constraint is removed. I'm not trying to condemn anyone here, more like showing appreciation for all the layers of constraint we've got in place making the environment (where I live, at least) relatively peaceful.
Robert
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 1:26pm (UTC -6)
"Well because it would be wrong (morality), you'd feel bad if she cried and was in pain (empathy) and you'd be afraid of being sent to jail (law)."

Maybe you're right, maybe b (empathy) is the reason I don't feel it's sexy or related to sex, or anything like that. I mean.... it's obviously related to sex, but I feel about it that it's more along the lines of assault than sex.

I find the idea that maybe it would just be sex if I didn't have empathy to be somewhat disturbing. Because it's fairly easy to get people to behave immorally or lawlessly, but it's not as easy to strip away empathy.
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 1:41pm (UTC -6)
@Robert,

While empathy does exist in varying levels for most people (save maybe true psychopaths) it is undoubtedly a weak force in its most basic form and no match for sexual urges on the totem pole of human impulse. Strong empathy, like morality, has to be built up and trained.

And I think Peter has it right - civilized behaviour is not the default but the exception. If inherent human empathy were really that strong you would not see so many societies where things like rape, even child rape, are normal parts of everyday life. Even pedophilia is not rare in some societies, where social norms against it are lacking.
tara
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 6:43pm (UTC -6)
@ Jason R,

Side note about "rape isn't about sex, it's about power."

Originally the canard was that rape was only committed by men who 'needed' sex desperately and couldn't get it - ugly losers, prowling lunatics, shipwrecked sailors. On the other hand, married men, respectable men, rich men, handsome men and powerful men were considered (in courts of law and of public opinion) obviously innocent, and their accusers were dismissed as lying or crazy. "Of course Susan is making it all up. Just look how attractive her boss is. Why would he have to rape anyone?"

Victims and their advocates fought long and hard to overcome this hurdle. "It's all about power" does overstate the matter, but its origins were noble. And it got society and the justice system a big step closer to understanding rape than the nonsense that came before it.
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 7:21pm (UTC -6)
@Tara,

So it seems one bit of nonsense was replaced by another. But the difference is the "rape is about power" foolishness is not only still currency but popularly assumed to be unassailable truth.
tara
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 8:02pm (UTC -6)
Ah well, you just lost me there.

The original nonsense was: "Rape is committed by desperate men driven by biological necessity, due to being denied other sexual outlets." It gave rise to the corollaries, "Rapists can't help themselves" and "If you're accusing a respectable man of rape, he's innocent and you're a vindictive lying bitch" and "Women, you better put out because your man will burst - or cheat - or rape - if you ever deny him his demands" and "Date rape isn't rape - the boy just couldn't stop his natural urges."

If you can't see how far these myths fall from reality, and how harmful they are to the cause of justice, I just can't help you. The current somewhat overstated homily about power is not perfect but it does not interfere with justice. It makes a good though blunt primer to understanding rape, just as "an atom looks like a ball with electrons whizzing around it " makes a good though blunt primer to eighth grade chemistry.

Fact: every rapist has the opportunity for nonviolent sexual outlets - be it with a prostitute, a woman in a pickup joint, or a pinup calendar and his own right hand. But all rapists choose coerced or violent sex with an unwilling partner, rather than pursuing any of the many harmless routes to orgasm that won't victimize another human and won't risk landing them in prison. Care to guess why?
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 9:59pm (UTC -6)
Tara note I never disagreed with the point that many of the excuses surrounding rape were myths or at least half truths.

I merely stated that the "rape is about power not sex" dogma was itself another myth / half truth but one touted with the force of certitude by experts and authorities and pop culture for my entire life. It's reductionist in the extreme.

Your final paragraph is presumptuous to say the least given that as a woman you have no experience of a male sex drive or male perspective on sex and seem to have a poor understanding of it. I don't have to guess why contact with a woman (even an unwilling one) might be preferable to masturbation or seeing a prostitute. It isn't complicated and the answer does not require a great leap of imagination if you open your perspective beyond your own.

What is required is for you to simply imagine wanting something, now, in a viceral way, like a physical need or addiction. Then imagine that you either have weak morals, poor empathy, or simply don't fear consequences, or you simply permit your need to overwhelm those things just like people do every day with alcohol, drugs, gambling and an infinite number of destructive irrational behaviours fuelled by physical compulsion.

Do you lecture a heroin addict that when he robs someone at knifepoint to get cash for his next fix it isn't really about the addiction but some other thing like hatred or power? Do you tell him that he could just use methadone, go into rehab or take in a hobby so obviously the heroin isn't the cause?

Not a perfect analogy I concede but close enough.
Peter G.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 10:24pm (UTC -6)
To piggyback on what Jason R. just said, there are additional reasons a person would rape other than just feeling the urge like an addiction. What if we assert that most people are innately tyrannical and naturally seek power over others in some way or shape? What if we suppose that only education about 'sharing' and 'giving' (neither of which seems to come naturally to children without teaching) serves to curb the native desire to control others, or at least have one's way with them? Now this train of thought might seemingly lead back to the 'rape is about power' idea, except for one thing: what I'm describing is the general sense of entitlement in taking from others. But in the particular there are many things one can take, among which are money, objects, and sex. And I don't think trying to reduce any of these things to smaller objects are desire is fruitful or accurate. Wanting possessions is no more 'about power' than wanting sex is, unless of course you want to reduce all wants to simply wanting power, in which case you have a circular definition. But if we're going to separate the desire for power over others from the actual desires one is satisfying in so doing, then power is the feeling of capability, but not the particular desire being satisfied. People probably satisfy both when they get what they want, so from that standpoint while I agree with Jason that "rape is about power" is a canard, I would similarly contest the notion that "rape is not at all about power." Really, getting things from others tends to be about power one way or another most of the time. That's not necessarily a bad thing, so long as the reigns of power in this sense are agreed upon. Mutually agreeable sex can still totally be about power, which isn't at all the same as saying it's anything bad.

On a side note, I think wrong ideas should be combatted whether or not they appear to be socially or politically expedient at the moment. "It's incorrect but far healthier than the previous thing" is a terrible standard to set in my opinion. One reason why "rape is about power" is dangerous is because it incorrectly implies that (a) consensual sex *isn't* ever about power (ridiculous), or that (b) only deviant desires lead to the impulse to rape (which Jason mentioned). It's even a dangerous concept to accept, on top of being wrong, because it leads naive people to think that if they have 'normal' desires that they could never do something like that; to pretend that they're so good or pure or whatever that they're above it all. And that is not only BS but it's quite hazardous to pretend one doesn't have attributes that one does have. Know thyself, and all that. Living in a fantasy about what you're 'really like' - being out of touch with what's inside everyone - is a terrible course to plot. It's just delusion city at that point, and inevitably leads to demonizing people who you see as being wicked while you're good, which is basically religious fundamentalism in a nutshell, even (or perhaps especially) in a secular setting. The dark half must be given its due recognition and dealt with, not ignored and treated as if only 'bad people' have it.
Robert
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 8:21am (UTC -6)
I think I agree with all of you a little bit?

Tara is right in that the willingness to rape is about power and or violence. Your morals have to be weak enough that you think taking what you want from somebody else is acceptable (this goes along with Jason's heroin comment, though obviously sex doesn't contain the same kind of need as a withdrawing heroin addict) AND you have to lack empathy to the point where you think hurting someone else is a neutral or (worse) pleasurable act.

So the initial urge may not be related to power/violence, but the willingness to commit such an act... to choose it over the alternatives is likely saying you're enjoying taking what you want from another person and/or hurting them as well as the sexual release. Because you don't need to get it that way.
Robert
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 8:23am (UTC -6)
I guess what I was trying to get at is that choosing rape over the alternatives can't JUST be about sexual pleasure. It has to be about violence/power/collapse of social norms/etc. as well.
Tara
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 8:26am (UTC -6)
@Peter G,

I agree with your whole first paragraph. I don't think we are arguing here. My original comment about rape by Allied soldiers speaks to this point. And as someone else said above, it doesn't take the extreme of war to create rapists.

I don't agree with you about the supposed dangers of saying "rape is a crime of power". As for (a), I know of no one who denies that powerful mates can be sexy or that power games in the bedroom can be sexy... And if someone out there does deny the sexiness of power, their opinion is not dangerous. As for your point (b), I return you to your first paragraph. The statement that "rape is about power" does not carry the implication that "only deviants rape"; in fact quite the opposite. Seeking power is normal; - and seeking sex is normal - hence juries can now accept that even the respectable neighbor or attractive celebrity may indeed be guilty of the crime he is accused of, and parents/educators can work on better socializing people to recognize and turn away from the temptation to victimize others.

I think our debate centers on the vagueness of the statement "rape is about power" .

While I can imagine a few scenarios where power has nothing to do with rape (a bleary drunk sees a passed-out drunk and decides to use his anus because "Hey, free sex!" perhaps?) the vast majority of rapes have power as either an augmenting thrill to the primary drive for sex, or power as the primary motivator. (A "pure" example would be rape of prisoners during interrogation or fraternity pledges during initiation, but more commonly any rape by a man who feels inadequate, enraged, vengeful, is driven to punish or belittle or prove his machismo or show off to his friends.).

As to the preceding commenter: I am an alcoholic and have known many alcoholics; none of whom would rob a liquor store. when obtaining cheap liquor is well within our abilities. (Alcohol, unlike sex, doesn't ever provide a better buzz when taken by force, nor are alcoholics ever angry at liquor stores, nor do we enhance our self-regard/ social status by overpowering liquor stores.). And if you think females just "can't understand" what it feels like to want sex (or to want power), I'm slightly mystified but am gonna assume you were raised in Victorian England.

In the end, all who want to are welcome to argue that the current framing of rape is wrong, bad, or dangerous. I disagree. And with that, boys, I think I've exhausted the topic.
Robert
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 8:36am (UTC -6)
@ Tara

"the vast majority of rapes have power as either an augmenting thrill to the primary drive for sex, or power as the primary motivator"

Ya, the augmenting thrill thing is basically what I was getting at in my last post. I also agree with you that likely they aren't ALL about power/violence. But I think most in the bounds of modern society are occurring because the person is getting off on hurting their victim. As I said in my first post, if you're not enjoying inflicting the pain you've still got your hand.
Jason R.
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 9:24am (UTC -6)
@Tara,

I actually don't have a problem with what you said except that it isn't really in agreement with the "rape is about power" dogma that we all hear as gospel and waters that down quite a bit.

And I never claimed women don't understand wanting sex - I said they don't understand wanting sex the way a male does, which claim I stand by. You think you get it but you don't - you get it from a female pov but not from a male one.

My drug user example was not to exonerate rapists anymore than I would exonerate tweakers who kill for their addiction. I merely point out that divorcing sex from rape is as silly as divorcing robbery for drug money from drug addiction.
Jason R.
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 9:39am (UTC -6)
"Because you don't need to get it that way. "

It depends what "it" you are trying to get. Sexual desire is not just having an orgasm or even having sex with any woman like a prostitute as Tara implied.

This is as tone deaf as claiming a heroin addict should be satisfied with marijuana or even methadone. People want what they want when they want it how they want it especially under addictive or compulsive influence.

And speaking of addiction my drug example isn't that far off from sex. The neurochemical effect of sex is often similar to drugs. That it's a built in addiction owing to biology does not change the fact that all of us, on some level, are addicted to sex on a chemical level.

So just tossing sexual desire aside like it's incidental or not important is my main objection moreso even than focusing on power.
Robert
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 9:51am (UTC -6)
@Jason

I dunno... comparing a prostitute to marijuana or methadone isn't really fair. A prostitute is heroin. She's the real deal. To imply that the prostitute isn't the real deal is to imply they are getting something more from the rape encounter. But it's not the chemical addiction to sex, nor is the chemical release from sex.

Absent knocking down a person's morality and empathy (I don't care much about law, since I am a relatively upstanding citizen who has no problem breaking laws I find inconsequential if I don't think I'll get caught) which would leave you literally finding raping a human being to be the same as raping a holodeck character.... if a person has any morality/empathy they are getting more out of rape than sex.

To divorce it from power/violence is almost worse than divorcing it from sexual desire. I have never desired a human being sexually so much that it would change the fact that hurting them would be physically uncomfortable to me. In order to get over that hurdle I think I'd have to enjoy hurting the person. Which I suppose could be accomplished in wartime via demonizing the people you're fighting. I have obviously come around to agree with you that it's more about sex than I originally gave it credit for though.
Peter G.
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 9:52am (UTC -6)
@ Tara,

You're right that the vagueness of "rape is about power" is part of why it's hard to discuss. In the 80's and 90's there was a strong campaign in schools to teach girls that there was a man hiding behind every bush to jump out and rape them. Back then the idea of rape, which I think is still in the consciousness of anyone raised with that notion, was that a woman would be assaulted outdoors and overpowered. I think in context of this kind of scenario I'll sit in full agreement with what we've agreed upon.

But I suspect what Jason R. is alluding to is in part the current definition which encompasses quasi-consensual sex, sex with an intoxicated person, and possibly sex with a significant other who doesn't really feel like it but get sort of pushed into it. The vast majority of cases at present dealing with what's called "rape" involve these latter, and not the former, which I believe is relatively rare in comparison. And in terms of scenarios such as these I think it's quite off-base to suggest that it's all about power or even mostly about power. Insofar as anything a person wants is on a general basis about power (as I mentioned above) then it's tautological to assert that so is this. But regarding the act itself of going ahead with sex with someone who's inebriated or drunk, or with a lady friend who isn't exactly leaping at the chance, I would say it's pretty much foolish to suggest it's about power. In these cases it's about getting sex and being somewhat unconcerned about the feelings of the other party. But the trope of rape being about power isn't given qualification or applied only to certain cases; it's treated as universally true, and this leads to a breakdown in logic when someone who didn't stop himself when the other party was a little too drunk is declared to be a villain equivalent to the maniac lurking in the bushes.

So I agree that a lot of the problem lies in the definition of rape. You are totally correct that sexual assault *can be* entirely about power. Having had rabbits (and watched nature documentaries) it's obvious that sex and/or mounting can be a dominance behavior, so it would be idle to deny that this can be a factor. I think what Jason R. is talking about, though, is that removing the object of desire as being a factor in the violent pursuit of it seems to err in the opposite direction.
Tara
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 10:04am (UTC -6)
@ Jason r,

Fair enough,

but your statement that I "understand sex drive as a woman does but not as a man does" is entirely predicated on your unproven articles of faith that *your* personal sex drive is the same as all men's, and that *mine* (and all women's) is a whole different kettle of fish.

Unless you're a reincarnated human who has lived enough past lives in enough bodies of both genders to possess a suitable N for comparison), your claim is tantamount to saying, "how a rose smells to you is not how a rose smells to me - and how it smells to me is how it smells to all men." You've got exactly one nose. Don't be so presumptuous as imagine you've got mine and 7 billion other people's all figured out. ;)
Robert
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 10:13am (UTC -6)
@ Peter

100% agree. The kind of rape we're hearing talked more about NOW is blurred lines rape. "She said no a couple of times but then she kept kissing me and didn't stop me and she was drunk". That stuff isn't about power, that stuff is about people not grasping consent. It'd be nice if everyone understood that once you had a verbal "no" you need a verbal "reversal" of that no (for example). But those kinds of situations aren't the same as forcible rape. Date rape CAN be forced, but in the cases of some of the stuff we hear about in college it doesn't have to be.
Jason R.
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 11:50am (UTC -6)
@Tara,

We are almost in complete agreement on most major points so I won't beat a dead horse. But suffice it to say the kind of argument you were making and the thought process I see behind it is very much cosistent with what I hear from women again and again and rarely from other men. So no I'm not the guy from Greek myth who lived as both sexes yet I do perceive a noticeable (though sometimes subtle) divergance between how men and women see sex.

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