Let me go, William.Okay, but before you do you gotta give me a kiss goodnight.Huh? (frowns) All right, but first close your eyes.Great! I guess my evening wasn't a waste after all.-- The Secret (3.7)
William has shown a pattern of not respecting boundaries, potentially
including a situation before he even appears at Kadic. He’s said to have
been expelled his old school for posting up love letters all over the school
(because, again, “love makes him totally insane”) in the first episode
he appears in, 2.1 New Order. When you consider the way he acts around
Yumi/his tendency to make what he considers romantic gestures even when
he’s gotten outright denial from the person he’s interested in (as in 3.9
Sabotage, discussed below), there’s a fair chance that this love-letter
extravaganza was actually an overwhelming and inappropriate gesture.
See this man with a sandwich board in the subway
for how “grand romantic gestures” can actually be completely inappropriate,
creepy, and absolutely unwanted by the person they’re directed at. This
highlights an aspect of
The Nice Guy complex
and rape culture as a whole, where doing grand/romantic things for a women
comes with the expectation that she will then, in return for these “nice”
gestures, be obligated to fulfill your romantic/sexual desires.
William shows this pattern of behavior again in 3.9 Sabotage. A couple of episodes before, in 3.7 (which will be discussed at length for being one of the clearest examples of rape culture) Yumi clearly states to William, “Because I find your two-bit Casanova act sickening. In the beginning it was pretty nice, but now I am really fed up. So why don’t you buzz off and leave me alone, William.” Despite her rejection and direct request for him to leave her alone, during 3.9 William proceeds to tell a classmate that he’s going directly to the gift shop during their field trip and buying a gift for Yumi (another unwanted romantic gesture) and becomes instantly annoyed and offended “as usual, she couldn’t wait to give me the slip,” when he finds out she’s left while he was talking. William does not understand why his “nice gestures” like buying gifts, etc, would ever not be received positively by the person they’re directed at, and he clearly believes that doing these things will, eventually, lead to him being in a relationship with Yumi.
Yumi’s autonomy and personal choice within romantic situations is actually often erased and ignored by the male characters interested in her, which is seen frequently in the interactions between William and Ulrich. Ulrich’s jealousy continuously stems from his fear that William will ‘steal’ Yumi from him, despite the fact that neither of them have established a relationship with Yumi, and his focus is entirely on William’s actions/the rivalry between them, rather than considering Yumi’s feelings and ability, as an independent person, to make her own choices about her romantic partners. There’s a conversation in 2.10 Marabounta that just about sums it up:
Ulrich: Yeah right, when you have a good chance to humiliate the competition, you might as well go for it.
William: I miss something here? What’s your problem?
Ulrich: You’re my problem.
William: Uh, no, that’d be too easy, Ulrich. Let me tell you what’s wrong around here. My being around Yumi forces you to ask yourself a question. A tough question that you can’t answer. Here’s a piece of friendly advice — go and talk to Yumi from the heart, or else one day, I will. And then I really will be your problem.
And a similar conversation is repeated in 2.13 A Bad Turn:
Ulrich: Stay away from our group, you got that?
William: Listen, man, you’re the one who doesn’t get it. In the race for Yumi, I’m not in first place.
While William rightfully tells Ulrich to communicate with Yumi about his feelings, he’s still missing one crucial point in his statement: just because Ulrich and Yumi may not end up in a relationship does NOT automatically mean Yumi will end up in a relationship with him. He ignores her autonomy by assuming this is fact, and by referring to the situation as “the race for Yumi” he reduces her to a commodity to be won by whichever man finishes first. Ulrich repeatedly shows this frame of mind, by frequently referring to or acting as though William is his rival in a competition that he wants to win.
And then, there is a scene in 3.7 The Secret between Yumi and William that builds, in an entirely unpleasant way, on the scene outside Yumi’s house in 2.13 A Bad Turn. In this scene, William runs into Yumi in the middle of the night on the street outside her house, and this exchange then occurs:
Yumi: Okay, well I’ve got to go.
William: (blocks her) Really, where to?
Yumi: To save the world, is that a good enough answer for you? (annoyed) Let me go, William.
William: Okay, but before you do you gotta give me a kiss goodnight.
Yumi: Huh? (frowns) All right, but first close your eyes.
William: Great! I guess my evening wasn’t a waste after all. (closes eyes)
(Yumi backs up quietly, then runs down the street)
William: Yumi? Yumi? Yumi!
I repeat: Rape culture is the objectification of women, which is part of a dehumanizing process that renders consent irrelevant. Rape culture is treating women’s bodies like public property. Rape culture is stopping a girl in the middle of the night, blocking her from leaving and making it a requirement that she kisses you before you’ll willingly let her go, and seeing this as a perfectly acceptable, unquestionably okay thing to do. Because you benefit. Your night is now “not a waste after all.”
William shows absolutely no concern for Yumi’s consent. Coercion, either through means of physical or emotional manipulation used to pressure that person into doing something, takes away that person’s free will and ability to consent autonomously. Coercion is not consent — as stated in this linked discussion, any “yes” that is not given freely, enthusiastically and autonomously is not a real “yes” and should not be taken as consent for you to initiate sexual contact. Yumi’s seeming agreement to kiss William is only made under the condition that he will let her go if she kisses him; it is not a choice of her own free will. Coercion is a huge part of rape culture, and building a culture where mutual consent is valued is extremely important.
After Yumi leaves, the next morning at school this conversation occurs:
William: Hey, you know, last night you really pulled a fast one on me. No one has ever humiliated me like that before. Why did you do it for?
Yumi: Because I find your two-bit Casanova act sickening. In the beginning it was pretty nice, (angry) but now I am really fed up. So why don’t you buzz off and leave me alone, William.
(Jim interrupts, William argues with him, gets detention)
William (puts hand back on Yumi’s shoulder): Anyway, I’d like to know what you had to do that was so important last night, and I’m going to find out what your big secret is! Bet on that.
feels personally offended and humiliated that Yumi “pulled a fast one
on him” and spends the entire episode trying to get even with her by invading
her privacy. And the entire reason he’s so offended and bent on getting
even? Because she found a way to leave when he was trying to manipulate
her into kissing him. In his eyes, being rejected is a horrible, awful
thing for Yumi to do to him, but trying to coerce her into kissing him
is not. This is rape culture. This is the result of William growing up
in a culture that tells him that women are there for his pleasure and expected
to automatically agree to any romantic or sexual advances he makes — and
when they don’t, it damages
male ego, and this ego is more important than their consent. Again,
rape culture is the objectification of women, which is part of a dehumanizing process that renders consent irrelevant. Rape culture is treating women’s bodies like public property.
This takes another step when William is under XANA’s control and moves into the territory of this: rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. XANAified!William’s interactions with Yumi are not just violent — they are violence with a sexual edge. There’s a scene on Lyoko in 4.2 Double Take that has always been one of the most chilling moments to me. XANA!ified William has Yumi backed up against the edge of a cliff, his blade under her chin, and is about to push her into the digital sea; and then he pauses, to stroke her face, before forcefully pushing her off the edge. The message here is clear: I can overpower you, I am in control — and the intimate nature of touching her face gives this message an unmistakable sexual connotation.
In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm. In another XANA attack in 3.9 Sabotage, Yumi is placed in another situation of sexualized violence. While the XANA-controlled vines only hold the male characters down, a vine crawls up Yumi’s stomach and between her breasts, underneath her clothing, reminding the viewers that she is to be viewed as a sexual object, even during a scene of fear and violence.
While XANAified!William’s actions in season 4 are a direct result of XANA’s control, William’s actions in the previous two seasons are entirely his own. And William? William is like a dozen of guys I went to school with. I was friends with guys like William — I watched my female friends be treated by guys exactly the way William treats Yumi. When I was fourteen I had a male friend who would constantly, constantly invade my personal space, make uncomfortable remarks at me, and try to feel me up — all as a result of wanting to be “cool like his older brother.” At the time, I was confused, because I was being told by my friends that I should take this unwanted attention as a ‘compliment’ since he’s clearly ‘so into you,’ and because I wasn’t quite sure why I felt so uncomfortable in the first place — because no one seemed to see anything wrong with his actions.
And that is rape culture. That’s why the actions of characters on a TV show don’t exist in a vacuum — they mirror real life situations, and they influence the perceptions of the people watching them. When William expects Yumi to fulfill his romantic and sexual needs without regards to her consent, or when Ulrich and William fight over her in ways that reduce her to a possession to be won, they are directly participating in rape culture. And as Code Lyoko is a children’s show, children then watch this show and take in these portrayals as the way the world simply works — and in the case of William and Ulrich, who are both described as “cool” characters, people to aspire to be. And we, the viewers, have grown up in a world where we’re expected to see their problematic actions as “romantic.”
But the positive thing is that by being aware of the problematic things in our societies and the way that rape culture shapes our perceptions and actions, we can lead to a change. Rape culture does not have to be perpetuated, and those who have been a part of the system can stop their part in it by becoming aware of their participation and changing both their thought processes and actions. In fact, in Code Lyoko Evolution, William has already shown a shift towards more appropriate boundaries, as seen in the way he’s began building a genuine friendship with Yumi, rather than the majority of his actions being oriented around trying to make her fulfill his romantic and sexual desires. He has learned some appropriate, consent culture boundaries in his physical interactions as well, including a scene in the episode Rendez-vous (5.11) where, when he needs to stop Yumi from potentially walking into danger, he rests his hands very lightly against her shoulders without gripping in, a hold she’d easily be able to break , and moves away quickly after. This is an interaction appropriate to the situation, unlike some of his past physical interactions with Yumi, including a scene in 2.26 The Key where he forcefully grabs her by the arm and drags her away while she’s in the middle of a conversation.
The scene from CLE is appropriate to the situation; William needed to quickly and silently stop Yumi from walking into danger, and doesn’t apply any pressure or force to his hold, nor hold on longer than necessary. However, in the scene from The Key, William shows no regard for Yumi’s personal boundaries OR the fact that she’s in the middle of a conversation, and bodily pulls her away. This shows no respect for Yumi, and is completely inappropriate.
Originally posted here , reposted with permission.