Murder is fairly commonplace on The Walking Dead, but it's somewhat rare that the show tells stories about sexual assault, particularly compared to shows like Game of Thrones. Then in the March 26 episode, "Something They Need," rape was confronted head-on. And though Negan's anti-rape rule on The Walking Dead may have seemed like a positive thing, it actually exposes more bad than good about the leader of the Saviors.
Sasha, as it turns out, was almost immediately captured by the Saviors on her suicide mission and thrown into a Sanctuary cell. At the beginning of the episode, a Savior named David came to visit and almost immediately started threatening her, both verbally and physically/sexually. However, Negan arrived before things could escalate. He told Sasha's would-be rapist off, and then stabbed David in the neck. Apparently, Negan's rule also applies to attempted rape.
This is true in the comics as well. Negan staunchly believes that rapists must be eliminated if they are going to rebuild civilization. He kills a Savior who attempts to rape a character named Holly in the comics. It's a similar scene, and I wouldn't recommend looking up what happened next to Holly, if you don't want to be spoiled. Negan also has a "rule" against killing children in the comics. Is this supposed to make him sympathetic, somehow?
Absolutely not. This rule is utterly meaningless to the integrity of the Saviors. They're not good people just because their leader meets the bare minimum of human decency when it comes to this one thing. They're still murderers — the fact that you don't have to work with someone after you murder them doesn't make it any less of an unforgivable crime than rape. It's also incredibly hypocritical of Negan, considering his marital situation.
Negan may condemn such overtly violent rape — but he himself has blackmailed and coerced multiple women into being his wives. That is not consent. If we recognize the hypocrisy, Negan's "rule" could lead to a conversation about how rape culture is presented on television and in the real world. A 2015 study from the journal Violence and Gender showed that men can have difficulty defining rape, and Negan is absolutely an example of that.
It's also problematic, on Negan's behalf, that he used the "heroic" murder of David to try to get Sasha on his side. How do we know that he didn't tell David to assault her in the first place, or had a hunch that he would try something if sent in to check on the new prisoner? I know that this is a television show written for dramatic effect, but the timing just seemed a little too perfect.
This is not the only time that rapists have appeared on The Walking Dead. Both Maggie and Carl were threatened with rape in previous seasons, and Beth was nearly assaulted at Grady Memorial Hospital. In this case, Negan stopped a rape, but that just adds some disturbing layers to him as a villain. His "rule" proves that he really does think that he is doing the right thing, and that might be the most dangerous thing about him.