The Disappointments of Cinema Sex: Take Two, Consent and Coercion Really Aren’t That Different, Eh?
June 6, 2012 § 3 Comments
There is lots of pseudo-feminism in mainstream media. There is nothing quite like watching a female lead kick someone in the face and seem “awesome” to trigger the scrunch my eyebrows make when I feel I am being condescended to by someone who is selling me a gimmicky version of women’s liberation.
Perhaps my very least favorite all of tropes, by which I mean the pseudo-feminism that gets a visceral, intense response from me, is the story of a woman being coerced by a man and then falling in love with him and having hot, consensual sex. Witness, The Piano. Or how about Game of Thrones. There are more examples, I am sure, but these are perhaps the ones that made the strongest impression on me because people love them so much.
It’s like a slight of hand. The calculation is: rape is sex lacking female desire… so solve the issue by adding female desire! It makes me shiver. There is such a fine line between coercion and consent in the tangled up minds of those steeped in a rape culture a storyteller can suddenly have a woman’s feelings and experience “change” to become self-derived, positive, and hot. And we’re supposed to believe that 1) this exists or is believable 2) the storyteller actually knows the difference between rape and sex 3) this character’s problem has been solved 4) it’s okay we were into the sexual tension being built by coercion and it is natural that we “knew” the female character would change her mind 5) the difference between men who have sex and ones who commit rape is the coincidental presence or absence of female desire, i.e. luck.
Three words for you: Scary. As. Hell.
The idea that sex is hotter for men when women consent and get off too and therefore it is desirable as a general rule is quite simply not okay. And it is something that exists in the real world. How many women think they can solve “their issues with sex”, which really means the complex realities of oppression, by just wanting the sex they feel pressured to have?
Honestly, I cannot imagine anything worse for the cause of women’s equality than the coercion-turned-consent magical thinking of media representations of women “transcending” abusive relationships by conjuring desire for their abusers.