'I May Destroy You' Episode 5 Review: The brutal reality of the difference between men and women reporting rape

Amidst Kwame's crushing reality of reporting his assault, somewhere else, Arabella manages to out one of her assaulters


                            'I May Destroy You' Episode 5 Review: The brutal reality of the difference between men and women reporting rape
Paapa Essiedu as Kwame (HBO)
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Spoilers for Episode 5 'It Just Came Up'

For a half-hour dramedy, Michaela Coel gets exceedingly dark each episode. Having touched issues like stealthing, lying to get laid, and even the murky waters of continuous consent which are never to be breached, this time the auteur touches probably the coldest cut case out in the open: the difference between a man and a woman reporting their sexual assault.

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Following suit of the previous episode, the fifth episode finds Kwame (Papa Essiedu) three weeks from being assaulted by his Grindr date. He has taken time to process the harsh reality of having a man hump him despite him repeatedly asking him to get off of him — yes, in as many words, and having been there by Arabella's (Coel) side as she went through her ordeal, he has learned a thing or two about how assault doesn't necessarily have to involve forceful penetration. But with this grave realization comes the even more bitter task of reporting it, and as Coel's bold and provocative story unfolds, we find out the crude bias that men have to suffer because of social stigma.

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It all begins with Kwame deciding to report his assault, and things couldn't have gone any worse. Unlike Arabella's very understanding detective who helped her process and register what happened, guiding her through the process, the officer Kwame reports his assault to is either homo-aversed or simply uncomfortable about the topic of assault altogether. Forget the sympathy and support Arabella was offered. In Kwame's case, there's a clear refusal to count being unwantedly dry-humped by a man he hooked up with minutes ago as assault. The issue of how consent must be continuous is highlighted again by the police officer's clear ignorance and unawareness of the topic, and Kwame's frustrated exit without lodging a complaint speaks volumes.

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Pop culture is rife with stories of women being sexually assaulted and then poured with insensitive questions asking them to recount that trauma in explicit detail. Sadly, the same cannot be said for men, let alone male members of the LGBTQ community. And that is where Coel's show shines as a pioneering beacon the same way it did when HBO aired on primetime television the honest period sex scene. It is also perhaps this heightened level of approach where a black gay man has been assaulted by another that makes it a little shocking to believe that it takes Arabella further discussions amongst rape survivors to realize what Zain (Karan Gill) did was assault too. 

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Considering her entire ladder to success was a timeline of tweets, it's hard to believe that Arabella didn't think a man removing his condom without telling falls in the realm of assault. But it could also be just one of Coel's many realistic portrayals of the confusing layers of consent where even women aren't always aware that they are being assaulted. Sadly, this level of understanding doesn't transcend onto Arabella main-man Biagio (Marouane Zotti) as Coel works towards making her character's Italian fling more of an a***ole with each episode. For medical reasons, Arabella needs a sample of Biagio's DNA and while it's understandable that a drug dealer would be against the idea of having his DNA in the system, must he have to victim shame?

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The inevitable has happened and Biogio has proven why he shouldn't even get a speck of Arabella's time hereon. The man straight up went the "I told you so" way about her night of partying too hard ending in an assault - burning a new fire of sheer rage towards what has already been a f*ckboy extraordinaire of a character. On the list of people who keep letting Arabella down, Terry (Weruche Opia) continues to hold her spot firmly.

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But even though Terry ditches Arabella at a public summit last minute once again, one can't help but wonder is it inherent guilt that keeps her from grabbing the opportunities Arabella presents with? Whatever be the reason, Terry is a bad friend, and Arabella's only respite in all of this is being able to name and shame Zain publicly at the summit after realizing what he did wasn't just another d**k move. Empowering and thrilling of all kinds, let us bask in the glory of this little win before Coel springs on us yet another heartbreaking truth of dating in the 21st century.

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'I May Destroy You' airs on Mondays at 9 pm on HBO.