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For me, 30 years was way too long to wait for a smart, competent, beautiful and powerful black woman as the main character in a TV drama. So I’m about to go into Scandal withdrawal again after the last episode of the year airs tonight.

The show has so many things to savor: a Republican president with a married, gay chief of staff, Abby’s wit, Harrison’s fast-talking Gladiator-ness, Liv’s super-fine love interests and those huge shawl collars she wears, which seem to stand in for a superhero’s cape. Like so many other fans, I’m right there every week, reading the hilarious live-tweets during commercials and waiting to see what Olivia Pope is going to do—and wear.

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But more and more, I find myself averting my eyes during some of the show’s disturbing violent scenes, then continuing to watch when those sequences are over. I think about how much I’m willing to overlook, as well as how much I just can't watch.

And though I turn away when I can, I’m still well-aware that this season, Mama Pope chewed into her own wrist and that Mellie was raped by her father-in-law but then found a way to use that as leverage.

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Mama Pope’s determination to escape from Rowan seemed pretty clear—it was a chew-or-die situation. And as uncomfortable as Mellie’s rape scene was, I felt like it illustrated—quite graphically—why so many women refuse to name their attackers or even acknowledge publicly that a rape took place: Legal justice would never repay the life cost of exposing someone they love or respect or to whom they are bound, however twisted.

Bottom line, Scandal’s torture porn might make me look away or briefly change the channel—but I always come back for the rest of the show.

That brings me, though, to last week’s episode, in which Huck relished (hated?) torturing Quinn—and then Quinn was ready for a bloody French kiss with Charlie after having two of her teeth pulled out with pliers.

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I came of age with movies like Three Days of the Condor, with its tale of espionage, terrorism and a brief consensual interlude between kidnapper and captive. Danger, though, was the turn-on, not torture.

Maybe I am just old-fashioned, but the feminist in me is having trouble with Quinn and Charlie’s post-torture tryst. It brings to mind the sex and violence in teen slasher movies. But at least in those films, the fact that the teenager is making out with her boyfriend as the killer arrives seems mostly coincidental. In the Scandal scenario, it’s like the torture is Quinn and Charlie’s twisted aphrodisiac.

Or am I reading too much into it? Maybe she was just so glad to be rescued that she couldn't wait to plant that bloody kiss on him, even before using mouthwash or reaching for extra-strength Tylenol.

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Yes, I know it’s just a TV show—walking the line between believability and escapist fantasy. But we’ve all been to the dentist and could vicariously feel Quinn’s pain. Does the fact that we loved that scene mean we're blurring the line between pleasure and pain and weakening our aversion to sexual violence?

It’s melodrama, but it has to bear some resemblance to reality, or we all wouldn’t be hooked. It’s the same with how the show deals with race and Olivia’s relationship with the president.

Sometimes they're just two people in love, and sometimes she’s reminding him that she’s not a modern-day Sally Hemings. Olivia’s relationship with Jake is pretty much race-blind, and fans of the show tweet their preference for Fitz or Jake—as lovers—based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

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So if Scandal can strike that kind of balance on race, maybe the show's runners and writers are also acknowledging another uncomfortable fact—that violence, for better or worse, is a part of life.  

The question I can’t answer quite yet is whether we’re also being trained to enjoy torture porn that’s been bubble-wrapped in all the sex, fashion and general, well, scandal that is Scandal. It’s forced me to think about what I do not want to look at and why. But I know exactly why I like watching the rest of it.

And I will be back watching when the show comes back in February.

Colette Gaiter is an associate professor of art at the University of Delaware. Follow her on Twitter.