I won’t be going to see this movie. Horror movies terrify me, and not in a good way. In fact, I’m a little terrified right now, just thinking about this movie…

Here’s the trailer:

So the trailer doesn’t actually SAY that the two men repeatedly rape the zombie girl who is tied up and actively resisting them. But they do.  After the jump is a synopsis excerpted from imdb (spoiler alert, ’cause I know you’re gonna run out and watch it) and more images:


Stephanie DeH., Cara McC., and our intern, Lauren McGuire, sent in this CPR certification campaign that embraces the idea that sex sells.  I initially added it to our post on using sex to sell unlikely things (e.g., organ donation and sea monkeys), but I changed my mind and decided it deserved its own discussion.

What was interesting to me about this example is the sexualization of the possibility of dying. The fact that a person might die is apparently not serious enough to make it unsexy.  It actually took me a minute to even notice the weirdness of sexualizing the risk of death.  After I noticed I thought “How crazy!”  But then I thought again: in a society that regularly sexualizes violence and murder, the sexualization of near-death is par for the course (which, of course, is why it didn’t strike me as particularly weird in the first place.

NSFW and possibly triggering, so images are after the jump:


Last night some friends and I were on the Strip here in Vegas and wandered over to look at City Center, the new casino/very high-end shopping center/”walkable city within a city” that was such a big deal when it opened recently that national news outlets, including NPR, talked about it. Anyway, we were wandering around and came upon a lingerie store with this mannequin in the window:

She’s blindfolded, handcuffed, on her knees. Another mannequin was also blindfolded, with ties around her ankles, and a third had a long pearl necklace wrapped around her neck and then tied around each wrist.

Our reaction was, basically, “Agh! Agh! WTF? Why?!?” We all, men and women alike, interpreted it as an icky depiction of sexual domination of women, perhaps even violence.

But of course, there’s another way to interpret it, particularly given that it’s a lingerie store: as consensual participation in S&M/bondage or sexual role-playing.

I still can’t shake off my initial feeling. We often see implied, or obvious, violence toward or sexual harassment of women as marketing or entertainment (see the trailer for the movie Bounty Hunter, vintage Betty Crocker ad, PSA for labeling cleaning products, violence against women in prime time, ad for CSI, t-shirt to show team spirit, ad for shoelaces, Lanvin ads, trailer for Dead Girl, Barney’s window display showing splattered blood and mannequins under attack, is stalking romantic?, trailer for Observe and Report, Rene Russo photo shoot, ha ha! She wasn’t being beaten!, “going in for the kill has never been so satisfying”, oops, I strangled a woman, and…oh, there are many more, but I don’t have time to link to them all). It seems naive to think that people can see mannequins posed like this and completely disconnect them from other portrayals of women bound, gagged, dead, sexually assaulted, etc., that are meant to be funny or sexy.

But it also seems problematic to dismiss the idea that in at some situations, such as this one, the situation could be consensual S&M. Allusions to at least light bondage has become more common in pop culture, particularly handcuffs as a sexy prop (sometimes used for laughs if one partner ends up handcuffing the other to something and then robbing them, stealing their clothes, etc.). Yet those who participate in S&M are also often stigmatized as sexual deviants.

But then, how do we think about S&M/bondage given that the sexual norms common in the U.S. include the idea of female sexual passivity and submission? Is this mannequin problematic in any way even if the store meant to invoke the idea of sexual role-playing?

I am confounded by this. The mannequin creeps me out. I don’t like it. But I’m sure many people can make eloquent arguments against my reaction, or how we approach the various issues involved. So what to make of this mannequin, readers? Help me out.

NEW! (Mar. ’10): SOM sent in this photo of the display in the window of the shoe store Sole Experience in Edmonton, Alberta, that shows a woman in high heels with her feet bound. This image, to me, seems to more clearly imply violence than the one above, possibly because of the use of rope rather than handcuffs, which are associated with sex role-playing:


When I was 15, for some bizarre reason, I saw War of the Roses (trailer).  The movie stars Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas, who play a married couple in the midst of a divorce and basically spend the entire movie trying very, very hard to hurt each other physically and emotionally.  It’s a violent, violent comedy.

I remember really liking it and telling my Dad who, with his usual gentle wisdom, said something to the effect of “it’s never funny when two people who are supposed to love each other try to hurt each other.”  I was chagrined.

I was reminded of this moment when I watched the trailer for Bounty Hunter, sent in by Ryan G.  In the movie, Jennifer Aniston plays a woman who fails to show up in court and is then, essentially, violently kidnapped by her bounty hunter ex. The trailer:

Now, 20 years later, I’m with my Dad.

(Trigger warning for all the links below.)

What it is about U.S. society that makes sexually-charged violent hate so funny? Are we, as the bemoaners claim, anesthetized to violence? Is it an internalized sense that men and women are at war? Is it the idea that (heterosexual) relationships are, ultimately, a zero sume game? Is it a conflation of sex and power, and a constant affirmation that good sex (and relationships) include violence, that makes a movie such as this so titillating? Is it a true hate for the other, supposedly opposite sex? In other words, why doesn’t this trailer, for most, inspire disgust instead of anticipation?

Also related: violent divorce cakes.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

This one I put out there for debate.

I don’t get a chance to watch the many dance shows out there, but I’ve seen a bit and I have a question for those of you who’ve been watching them more carefully.

The video below is of Sébastien Soldevila and Mimi Bonnavaud dancing at the Cirque de Demain festival (thanks for the info, netrus).  In the dance, a woman is torn between rejecting a man and being powerfully drawn to him.  I’ve noticed that this theme crops up frequently in even just the little bit of dance programming I’ve watched. In this video, you get the idea in just the first few seconds, though you might want to watch the rest because it’s awesome. (Video title, btw, is not mine.)

I can see why choreographers return to this theme again and again. I think this is a common human experience (lord knows I’ve been there) and great fodder for art.

My question is: Is this theme gendered? That is, is it usually the woman who is desperately trying to escape the man and her attraction to him, and not vice versa?

I ask because, if it is, what we’re really seeing is not just a drama about a conflict between attraction and repulsion, we’re seeing a drama in which men are allowed to be deaf to women’s insistence that they want to be left alone, released. Really, deep down, this narrative tells us, she wants him. Therefore, it’s perfectly ok for him to ignore her “no.” If he just follows her for long enough, grabs her to make her look at him one more time, forces her up against his body enough, then she will relent.

From a different perspective, this is a man who is stalking and harassing her, but the narrative (which almost always ends in her giving in to him/her desire) suggests that this is perfectly reasonable, even passionate, loving, devoted behavior.

Do we sometimes (or ever) see women doing the stalking and harassing in these choreographies? Or is it usually the man?

Also in “no” doesn’t mean “no”: caveman courtship, it’s not “no” if she’s a zombie, you may say “no,” but your perfume says “yes,” and some pretty grotesque t-shirts.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Cate M. emailed us about the promo for the movie “The Killer Inside Me,” saying,

The level of violence is at NSFW levels and quite possibly one of the most ‘trigger warning’ vids I’ve ever seen used to promote a non-horror film.

We get a lot of submissions about sexualized violence toward women, so I thought, “well, ok, we’ll see.” And then I watched it, and at 1:15 in had to pause because I was already horrified. Here’s the whole 5:42 promo. It’s Not At All Safe for Work, and you won’t want to watch it if scenes of sexualized brutality toward women would be a trigger for you. And also, I guess, Spoiler Alert, if that’s your main concern.

UPDATE: The promo keeps being taken down; here’s a link that works for now, but I don’t know for how long.

Clearly, Casey Affleck’s character is a sadistic asshole (the cigar on the guy’s hand), but in the promo, at least, the graphic, sexualized violence is reserved for women…who also appear to like it, at least for a while. Jessica Alba gives in to him, and apparently starts a relationship with him, after he pulls her pants down and whips her. Perhaps that’s because she’s a prostitute; of course she’d like a dominant man who plays rough, right?

The thing is, you could make this movie and tell the same story without actually showing all the violence in such a graphic way. Movies imply things all the time. It’s a choice to show this type of violence toward women as a form of entertainment…and to show the women liking it.

See our posts on increases in violence toward women on primetime TV, sexualized violence on TV crime procedurals, and the movie “DeadGirl.”

Parents Television Council just released their new data comparing the incidence of violence against women and girls by CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX during prime time sweeps in 2004 and 2009 (report here).  They found a 120% increase in depictions of violence against women and girls amidst a steady rate of overall frequency of violence.


They write:

Cumulatively, across all study periods and all networks, the most frequent type of violence was beating (29%), followed by credible threats of violence (18%), shooting (11%), rape (8%), stabbing (6%), and torture (2%).  Violence against women resulted in death 19% of the time.

Violence towards women or the graphic consequences of violence tends overwhelmingly to be depicted (92%) rather than implied (5%) or described (3%).

So those’re the numbers, how about some examples of the normalization of violence against women: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty, forty-one, forty-two, and forty-three.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

In 2005, Entertainment Weekly published an article criticizing violence against women in crime procedural shows such as “CSI” and “Law & Order.” Descriptions of some of that fall’s episodes (I put in the Trigger Warning because these are pretty graphic descriptions of rapes and brutality):

A woman thrashes in a cage, layers of duct tape blinding her, a rag gagging her, as her faceless captor’s male hands grab her fingers to clip her bloodied nails. Another is chained up in her basement in a dog collar, courtesy of her husband. Still another lies paralyzed by venomous spider bites as a masked figure rapes her.

When the aforementioned spiders crawl across a sleeping woman’s legs and face in the opening of Killer Instinct, the camera lingers on the fangs sinking into her flesh. Turns out she’s the victim of a sadist who paralyzes his prey with the poisonous bites, then rapes them as they slowly die. (When the detectives determine this, they helpfully explain that there’s an ”absence of vaginal trauma” because ”she couldn’t tense her muscles.” Thanks for the details.)

…Close to Home culminates in the revelation that a man sometimes kept his wife in a pet collar because ”when a dog misbehaves, you have to chain the bitch up.”

An ad for an upcoming episode of the three “CSI” franchises that I saw recently in, ironically, EW, illustrates this trend:

The presentation of the dead female body, in torn fishnets, as simply a prop for the lead male characters is a good example of the way that violence against women (usually involving rape) is served up by these shows as a form of entertainment. The EW story suggested that such storylines take the place of other depictions of sexuality, which are generally more carefully regulated on network TV:

Much as we hate to bring up that whole Janet Jackson incident, Sconce thinks her little nipple infraction played a part. ”Since the American broadcasting system has more restrictions against sexuality, you can get away more with amplifying violence than you can with amplifying sexuality. It results in this weird sadistic element. Putting women in these sexual situations is a backdoor way of getting more flesh in.” Violence therefore becomes one place where the broadcast networks can compete with cable.

A quote from the writer of the first scene described above illustrates how casually these depictions are taken:

”We never see any stabbings. We never see any stranglings,” argued creator Jeff Davis at a July 20 press conference. ”When I wrote that scene, everybody told me I was sick. But it’s just a woman getting her nails clipped.”

We see a bound, gagged, caged, and bloodied woman…but we didn’t see her being bound, gagged, caged, or bloodied, so what’s the big deal?

Also see our post on the movie DeadGirl for another example.