In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren’s Force ability to mentally probe others and read their deepest thoughts is portrayed as violating and painful. I think it is safe to say that the way Kylo uses the Force to invade the minds of others is a form of torture, and yet it is disturbingly intimate.
I had not realized how much the power echoed sexual assault, however, until I read Alan Dean Foster’s novelization. Not only does it embellish the scene, but it has affected my viewing of the scene in the film.
As with the film, the book’s first presentation of the mind probe power is minimal, with a quick cut away to the aftermath. “A hand extended toward the shackled prisoner. Silent agony followed soon after.” And Kylo demands that Poe tell him what he wants to know. That’s it.
The two scenes in which Kylo Ren interrogates Rey also match the film by being far more involved. Alan Dean Foster substantially cranks up the invasive, disturbing language for these sections.
From the capture and first interrogation:
Shutting down and belting his lightsaber, Ren contemplated his immobile captive. Reaching up slowly, he touched her face. The pressure he applied was not physical. Refusing to meet his gaze, she looked away, straining with the agony of resistance, hardly daring to breathe. If only she could get a hand free, a leg–but no part of her body responded to her commands.
Surprised by what he was finding, Ren lowered his hand. Relieved of the mental intrusion, she sucked in great, long draughts of air.
. . . .
He touched her anew. This time the pain of trying to stave him off brought tears streaming down her face. He was within her mind and her thoughts, and there was nothing–nothing!–she could do to keep him out. To resist. But she kept trying, trying…
. . . .
She could hardly swallow as she strained to pull away from him, anything to pull away, to get him out.
She wanted to scream, but he would not allow it.
And from the second interrogation:
“I would have preferred to avoid this. Despite what you may believe, it gives me no pleasure. I will go as easily as possible–but I will take what I need.”
She knew that trying to resist him physically would not only be useless but would likely result in unpleasantness of a kind she preferred not to imagine. So she remained motionless and silent, her arms at her sides, as his hand rose toward her face. He touched her again, as he had in the forest on Takodana.
And hesitated. What was that? Something there. Something unexpected.
As she strained to resist the probe, he pushed into her, brushing aside her awkward attempts to keep him out. While he investigated her mind, he spoke softly.
. . . .
Tears were streaming down her face from the effort she was making to withstand him. Increasingly desperate, she did try to strike out. But just as on Takodana, her body refused to respond.
. . . .
All the rage and terror bottled up inside her came out as she turned to meet his stare.
It only made him lean in closer, enhancing her feeling of complete helplessness.
. . . .
Where the strength to defy him came from she did not know, but if anything, her voice grew a little stronger. “I’m not giving you anything.”
His response reflected his unconcern. “We’ll see.”
Immediately following this, Rey overcomes Ren’s mind probe, unlocking her own latent Force ability–clearly to the surprise of both her and Kylo Ren.
It’s still impressive that she turned the tables on Kylo, but the scene as written nonetheless felt…bothersome to me, due to the excessively heavy-handed language of invasion.
I won’t claim any extensive research into discussion surrounding this topic, but I was somewhat surprised to see that the disturbing implications of this scene largely seem to be limited to a forum on TheForce.Net, where a surprising number of people argue against (what seem to me and apparently several others) the obvious implications of the scene. Of course, here I’m specifically talking about the book and they are discussing the movie; as I noted in my review of the novelization, there are enough distinctions and contradictions between the two that while the movie informs the book, the book does not really inform the movie, and any particular insights into characters or events provided by the book are probably limited to the book itself.
Still, watch the scene again if you have any doubts. It’s disturbing. The book heightens the sexual assault imagery, I think, but it’s all there in some form in the film–Rey is restrained, Ren says he can take whatever he wants, and Ren appears to enjoy asserting dominance over Rey and being able to subjugate her and penetrate her mind.
What’s amazing to me–and evidenced by the aforementioned forum–is that there is still a vocal contingent of people shipping Rey/Ren, or Reylo, or whatever else they want to call it. Even if we downplay the sexual assault imagery (and I do think it’s a little less on-the-nose in the film, but that’s just my two cents), Ren tortured Rey. No healthy relationship is likely to grow out of that–especially a romantic one. It would make sense in the context of the prior films that Ren might ultimately be redeemed (Anakin, after all, murdered a master of the Order, a room full of children, and his mentor/best friend; directly contributed to the death of his wife; assisted in the destruction of an entire planet; tortured rebels just to torment them; and attempted to kill his own son). But “redemption” doesn’t need to mean that all past sins are simply forgiven, or that there is a big reset on a deeply toxic and troubling relationship (again looking at Anakin, he bought his redemption with his own life). Reylo adherents seem to be picking at straws, and while no romantic relationship is necessitated by The Force Awakens, it is rather bizarre to me that they would favor Reylo over the obvious chemistry and mutual attraction between Rey and Finn.
P.S. There also seem to be people who see little to no distinction between the “mind probe” Force power and the “mind trick” Force power. I think the distinction is important; the former seeks to dominate/penetrate a mind, while the latter only seeks to convince/persuade/influence. Wookieepedia does a good job as usual in breaking down the differences between the mind probe and the mind trick.