Friday, June 17, 2011

Road to Assault

***Trigger warning for sexual assault/rape***

"Yeah, go back to your cabin and shoot yourself, that way nobody'll get hurt."

--Bob Hope to Dorothy Lamour, "Road to Rio"

Yesterday, I saw the movie "Road to Rio" which was the top-grossing film of 1947. At the end of the movie, Bob Hope gets Dorothy Lamour to marry him by using hypnosis. Considering that Hope (and his buddy, Bing Crosby) had been trying to seduce Lamour for the entire film, I thought that sexual assault was heavily implied here. A hypnotized person can't possibly consent, can they? But we're supposed to go, "Ho ho, how funny!" (It's interesting to note that in "Road to Rio", women and their charms are seen as a constant, severe danger to Hope and Crosby. "Dames" need to be toughly subdued before they get a chance to wreak havoc on the mens' lives. The fact that Hope and Crosby are unable to--and please forgive my crudeness--keep their dicks in their pants is not seen as an issue.)

Anyway, fast forward to recent years. "Road to Rio" would probably not be written. Of course, the 40's were just more sexist times...right? However, today, we're expected to laugh at a man being raped (not to mention having his bodily integrity violated in countless other ways). Stuff like this has led some people to believe that feminism has gone too far, and now women are holding privilege over men. But I don't think these folks are aware of why we are supposed to find male rape funny. I think it's for the same reason that we're supposed to find men in dresses funny--being raped is feminizing, and therefore embarrassing. At the same time, men are so sex-crazed that being raped (at least, by a woman) is not a big deal to them emotionally. There are a few assumptions here:

  1. Rape is a "woman thing".

  2. Rape as a "woman thing" is totally mundane.

  3. "Women things" are demoralizing.

  4. Rape can be enjoyable*.

  5. All men want sex all the time. If you don't, you're not manly.

So yes, I believe that bell hooks was very much correct. Patriarchy does hurt everyone. In a truly post-feminist world, Jonah Hill's friends in Get Him to the Greek wouldn't have laughed off his rape experience. He could have admitted that yeah, there were times when he didn't want sex, and the other men wouldn't have mocked him for that. And we, the audience, wouldn't be expected to laugh, either.

*There is also the misunderstanding that if a situation arouses someone, then they're enjoying it. People can be physically aroused during rape. I seem to remember that in the film "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead", this fact is one reason why a male rape victim commits suicide.


Anonymous said...

I seem to remember an article, possibly the Independent a few years ago about 'arousal' during rape. It was assumed that (and they were talking about females) that it was a biological response to reduce damage to their vagina/anus by becoming lubricated. There was no suggestion that there was enjoyment or that if this happened that it wasn't rape. If I find the article i'll post the URL

Anonymous said...

I couldn't find the article i was thinking of but I think I found the information they were quoting, can be found here

Ily said...

Thanks for the info, Anon!