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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, August 11, 2014


In the comments-section to FEELINGS, NOTHING MORE THAN FEELINGS, poster Marionette said in part:

At one point I was keeping a tally of how many rapes occurred in comics (largely for this purpose) a month. I stopped because the whole thing just made me feel ill after a while.

Since Marionette didn't provide a list, I have to wonder at her criteria for this statement. Was she including attempted rapes that are prevented by timely intrusions? I mentioned this sort of crime in this essay, noting that it was the same trope whether the (usually female) victim was rescued by a male or by a female hero. I wouldn't say that attempted rapes should be deemed the same as accomplished rapes, though it's true that a given attempt may be as sensationalized as a completed act.

It's possible that sexual threat may be counted as well.  I have no doubts that even powerful female superheroes probably get sexually threatened by villains much more than male superheroes are. But that too would not be actual rape.

The only other possibility that I can countenance-- speaking as a comics-fan who no longer reads a lot of current comics-- is that some of the "rapes" included may be incidents in which a female victim gets beaten up and/or killed. I'm not imputing any of these beliefs to the poster Marionette, but of all those described, the last position has become the most popular in fannish circles, as evidenced by Gail Simone's notorious WOMEN IN REFRIGERATORS list.

In this essay I've stated that there are two forms in which fictional sexuality does or does not have a significant violent component, and two in which fictional violence does or does not have a significant sexual component.  So I've obviously no problem in saying that *sometimes* a violent act is not just a violent act.

A problematic aspect of the Simone list and similar fulminations, though, is that such imputations start and end with the observation that a lot of female characters get beaten up by male ones. But if any popular medium is notable for its preponderance of Equal Opportunity Assaults, it ought to be comic books.  This is not to say that I think "man beaten by woman= rape" any more than I do when you reverse the genders. But often comics-fans are a little too quick to condemn in the male what they ignore in the female.

For instance, it's become a popular fan-trope to laugh and/or sneer at comic-book covers in which a heroine like Lois Lane or Wonder Woman is made the target of assaults that may or may not look like Freudian displacement.

Here's one famous "spread-eagled" cover:

And here's one that's a little more convincing in the Freud department:

But if we're going to say that any projectile is a penis, what should one make of this GREEN LANTERN cover?

Here Star Sapphire is not only jabbing the hero in the chest with a lance-like lightning bolt, she's even smiling while she does it.

So, by the logic that all assaults equal rape, is she raping him?

And what should one make of this famous, admittedly comical scene of Feminine Rapine?

I should perhaps underline the point I've been hammering away at so long. Assuming that everyone could somehow come to total agreement as to what constitutes fictional rape, it doesn't really matter whether there are more male-female rapes in comics, or female-male, or any other permutation of which one may conceive.

What matters is that a great part of fiction's appeal is its ability to conjure forth fantasies of supremacy, with or without sexual content. By doing so fiction mirrors that portion of human nature that I will again term *megalothymia.*

This portion may be, as Jung once suggested, a part of an indelible shadow within us. But even if this is the only way to characterize this part of human nature, Jung repeatedly calls on human beings to acknowledge and understand that nature, rather than attempting to bury it beneath fatuous appeals to goodness-- or, even worse--

Political correctness.

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