Is Negan the worst villain we've seen on The Walking Dead? That's certainly what many seem to think. He's a ruthless killer with a penchant for graphic torture, has potentially hundreds of people slaving away under his dictator-style command, and absolutely loves to torment and break the spirits of his enemies. He may be all smiles and wisecracks, but this guy is pure evil.
However, there's one positive aspect of his character that's quite surprising: his stance on consent. He strictly states that he opposes rape, and completely forbids it amongst the Saviors— so much so that he put a knife through the neck of the guy who tried as much with Sasha.
So what's the deal with Negan's opposition to rape? Is he really as serious about consent as he makes out to be, or is there a disturbing reality behind his facade of ethics?
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Sexual Assault On 'The Walking Dead'
Sasha's not the first person on #TheWalkingDead to be threatened with sexual assault. That uncomfortable lollipop incident with Beth at the hospital; the Governor's horrible intimidation tactics while interrogating Maggie; Dan attempting to rape Carl and of course, the absolute horror the Terminus group went through before they adopted their eat-or-be-eaten lifestyle— these were all confronting reminders of just how grim a post-apocalyptic world could be.
Of course, anyone who reads the comics is well aware of how tamed down the show is in comparison; though many comic readers have expressed surprise when particularly harrowing scenes, such as Carl's assault, were included in the show.
Considering The Walking Dead's history with depicting sexual assault both in the comics and on screen, it's almost welcoming to see Negan taking an active role in preventing rape— despite being the world's least likely advocate for consent. But what's the reasoning behind this rule, considering the kind of vile person antagonist he is?
Negan's Consent Rule
Negan's policy on rape is pretty clear: it's forbidden. As much as he enjoys violence, exercising his power over others and making almost nonstop sexual innuendos, he's all about that consent.
Negan may be an absolute monster, but that doesn't mean he's devoid of every last shred of humanity. Negan's stance against rape could be just that— a belief that sex should be consensual.
Then again, it might also be a way for Negan to control the Saviors. His entire leadership style is based off depriving things from his followers, then giving them small allowances.
Even when Negan allowed Eugene to spend the night with his wives, he strictly forbid him to lay a hand on them. The same applied to his conversation with Dwight when granting him permission to have sex with another Savior as a reward for his good work:
"Pick whoever you want, as long as she says yes."
What appears to be a rare streak of compassion may be nothing more than another power play; a method of controlling his henchmen.
Regardless, it's an aspect of his character that's been carried over to the show from the comics. Negan's anti-rape policy was a key characteristic for the big bad even on paper, and it's clear that the show writers felt it important enough to include on screen.
What About Those Wives?
Negan might be keeping the Sanctuary free of sexual assault, but there's one big exception to that rule: his wives. Negan has an entire harem of wives, and we know from Sherry's pregnancy scare that he's having sex with them— and it's not exactly consensual.
Before she was Negan's wife, Sherry was married to Dwight. They escaped the Sanctuary, but were caught. In order to save her life and her husband's, she agreed to marry Negan. She knew that if she didn't, they'd both die. What choice would you make?
The same can be said of Amber. She left Mark to be with Negan, but the situation has turned her into an emotional wreck. While Negan reminds her that she's always free to go back to working her old job, her reaction suggests that it might be the worst possible life for a Savior.
Negan may insist that his wives are all willing participants in their relationship, but the situation just isn't that simple. Every one of them is making what they think is a necessary sacrifice for the survival of themselves and their loved ones.
Negan's own definition of rape is actually a reflection of a much larger problem in real life: the way we categorize sexual assault. To Negan, sexual assault looks a lot like what happened between Sasha and the Savior in her cell: ripped clothing, menacing threats, and a physical fight. But while Negan's own assault on his wives may look very different to him, it's essentially the same thing— which makes his anti-rape policy 100% bullshit.
What do you think about Negan's stance on consent?