We watched the latest comic book inspired megamovie yesterday. ” Green Lantern”. Good fun, good bubble gum for the brain in the words of Marshall McLuhan, and of course more of the same cliched good versus evil “use the force, Luke” mind as separate from body bullshit.
But one scene was particularly troubling. In it the hero, charming but immature and irresponsible Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is trying to connect with the love interest, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), a woman with whom he has swapped body fluids in the past. They are in a bar. He invites her to dance. She says no. He starts humming “their song”. She says no again. He hums more insistently. She says no. I lost track of the number of times she said “no” but it was many and adamant. And then…. and then they are dancing cheek to cheek. What?
So what is the message for the young men and women of America? Boys are supposed to be insistent. Boys are supposed to push. That’s what expected. Women are supposed to say no. Repeatedly. Like they mean it. And the men are supposed to ignore that and just keep pushing. It’s like the pop culture is training boys to become date rapists, and training women to be victims.
This comes on the tail end of Elevator Guy and the recent loss by Jamie Leigh Jones of her KBR rape case, two very polarizing events. It certainly sounds like Jones deserved to lose her case, but one can’t help the lingering suspicion that one more fucking asshole got away with rape. Elevatorgate has tarnished one of the great minds of our age because Richard Dawkins trivialized the problem of women having to constantly deal with inappropriate advances. Suddenly there are shrill (yes I use the word advisedly) calls for never reading or recommending his books again. Like his value to the atheist cause, not to mention the science of genetics, has been negated by a politically stupid over-reaction and dismissal of a very real concern for most women, proof once again that an expert in his field can be a complete moron when he steps outside into the real world.
I’ve had a couple of experiences that make me very sympathetic to women. One was when my lower back went into spasm. Before I got to the chiropractor, I could barely move and it took me half an hour to get from my bed to the bathroom, moving from desk, to chair to doornob to sink. I came out of the chircopractor’s office still taking baby steps, moving very carefully, and on the street I was accosted by a homeless psychotic. The man made threatening noises and gestures at me. I realized that I was helpless. If this man decided to attack me, there would be very little I could do. Since I’m a big, strong, and usually fairly athletic man, this was one of my first post-childhood experiences of vulnerability. I realized that women must experience this feeling frequently. I also realized that I never want to stimulate such feelings in another person.
Two other incidents come to mind. One was, coincidentally, also in an elevator, that one in the Time Square Motor Hotel in New York. Two young and healthy black prostitutes got on the elevator at the same time I did. These were big women, almost as tall as me. They had a very aggressive approach to finding customers. One made a point of casually displaying her switchblade. The other grabbed for my testicles and made her pitch for a late night servicing. That incident ended peacefully enough when I protested that I’d had all the sex I could handle for one night, thank you very much, and maybe another time ladies. But I realized that sexual aggression coupled with a hinted suggestion of impending violence is also not fun. Not fun at all.
My final empathy lesson happened in Cologne, at the far end of the Panama Canal from Panama City. I was with three uniformed officers from a Canadian destroyer. We started to enter a bar when we were set upon by at least a dozen extremely aggressive prostitutes. At least I assume they were prostitutes. Maybe they were just attractive young women overcome by our exotic good looks. We were literally fighting our way in the door when I suggested that we really didn’t want a drink that badly, so we started fighting our way out, peeling hands off various body parts as we went. Perhaps there are men who enjoy such behavior by women, but I can sure understand why women don’t enjoy such behavior from men.
The simple fact is, men have a completely different attitude towards sex than women have. Sex means something different for most men. Most people seem to assume that men are after the physical sensations, the release, that sex gives them. This is obviously not true, because men can have that anytime they overcome their natural laziness and jerk off. What sex means to most men is that they have been accepted. that they are attractive enough, sexy enough, desirable enough, that a woman will allow them to be intimate, to play with her breasts and explore the secret places of her body.
But what does sex mean to a woman? Of course it means all the above, but it also means, in far too many cases, setting themselves up to be badly hurt. Men will say anything to get sex. They may even mean it when they say it. But afterwards, the particular kind of post-coital buyer’s remorse can set in. Most women have been lied to, used as a semen receptacle, and then thrown away like a used Kleenex. Sex doesn’t mean the same thing to them that it means to men. To them sex means being open to the possibility that they will again be betrayed and abandoned.
I find it ironic that there is so much pressure from the religious right to keep good clean wholesome sex out of movies, but no pressure at all to keep poisonous attitudes out. Heroes and role models can present the most disgusting examples of bad attitudes and behavior, and nobody even notices. It’s like the role of torture in American movies. How many times have we seen the “good guy” use torture to get essential information from the “bad guy”. Somehow it isn’t noticed. And when the “hero” ignores what the “heroine” is saying because we all know she doesn’t really mean it, what message is the pop culture sending to the impressionable youth. Not one that bears thoughtful consideration.