On the difficult topic of rape, Americans seem to be in a weird paradox. On one hand, we consume plenty of movies and TV shows that depict it, often graphically. The Handmaid’s Tale, 13 Reasons Why, and, of course, Game of Thrones are all recent shows that depict rape. The films Precious, Room, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo do the same. Last year’s The Birth of a Nation depicted a gang rape scene and raised troubling questions about filmmaker Nate Parker’s own history with sexual assault.

On the other hand, rape as it happens to real people—an estimated 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 71 men—remains shrouded in silence and shame. Many victims never speak of it, for fear of being disbelieved. Most criminal cases of rape don’t end in a conviction because it’s difficult to prove non-consent, especially if alcohol is involved. And while many churches offer Christ-centered healing to victims, sadly, churches are sometimes the settings for sexual violence.

In sum, we’re often willing to watch narrative rape but don’t always know how to address real rape. And in the gap between the pretend of on-screen and the pain of real life, we have a Hollywood phenomenon that is as surreal as it sounds: the rape choreographer.

According to a recent essay in LA Weekly, a rape choreographer is a stunt coordinator who helps actors and directors enact “good” rape scenes. Deven MacNair, the essay’s subject (a woman), wanted to do stunt-doubling but was instead called in as a choreographer when a male mentor couldn’t handle any more rape scenes and quit. MacNair helps actors mimic rape and supervises the filming to ensure everyone feels safe.

It’s odd to think of a rape ...

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