Straw Dogs (1971), Bone (1972), Once Upon a Time in America (1984); what do they all have in common? R*pe scenes that are wholly ambiguous.* It is one of the most disturbing, most sickening, and biggest disservices to both women and men. I makes women seem as though some part of them enjoys being r*ped and it makes men believe that not all r*pes are bad. ALL R*PES ARE BAD.
What do I mean by ambiguous? In each of these movies a sexual assault occurred (in Bone the man didn't go through with it yet the woman, feeling sorry for him, thrust herself upon him). In each movie the woman either enjoyed it or came to enjoy it. In either case it was repulsive and a sick perverted representation of how sex can still happen even if he's rebuffed. Because even though her mouth may say, "No," her body will say, "Yes."
Limiting this review specifically to "Straw Dogs," David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and his wife Amy (Susan George) moved to her hometown in England. It's apparent that his wife had an affair at one time with one of the men in the town named Charlie (Del Henney). From the beginning, Charlie violated all kinds of personal space with her with no resistance. It was clear he was probing to see if there still existed anything between them. She didn't invite his closeness, but she didn't reject it either. Arrogant sexist interpretation: "She wants me."
Charlie, along with his friends, also happened to be working on the Sumners' home which brought Charlie in close proximity with Amy. If Charlie was a decent human being, or if he respected Amy, or if he respected David he would have left Amy alone unmolested. Charlie wasn't a decent human being, he didn't respect Amy, and he sure as hell didn't respect David.
Without going into all the details it's clear that David was a coward of a man. To use a street term, he was "b*tch made." He dreaded or maybe even feared confrontation. He was a moralistic intellectual that valued ideals over action and it was clear he didn't know how to handle situations that ran afoul of his ideals.
His wife, besides being childish, was an accidental temptress. She didn't wear a bra, her skirt rode up in front of the guys, and she passed by her open window topless for all the workers to see when she knew they were right outside. In other words, she was sending all the signals.
I know, this is where the debates open up:
Side A: "She can dress and behave how she wants, that isn't a signal for a man to violate her."
Side B: "A woman that dresses and behaves provocatively is inviting sexual advances or worse."
And on and on.
I don't care about the debates right now because I want to narrow the focus to just the r*pe. When Charlie began kissing Amy it was clear that there was a push-pull going on inside her. She didn't want it yet a small part of her did. This is not a misinterpretation, she was quite literally doing a push pull. As Charlie got more aggressive she began to push only, which was a clear signal of, "No. I don't want to do this." Charlie, by this time, was already revved up and was not going to be thwarted. So he proceeded to r*pe her. What started off as moderate resistance from Amy turned into an active participation. No, not a resignation, an active participation that was punctuated by the two remaining in an embrace after the deed was done.
It was the wet dream of many a lonely sex starved and perverted man. I'm sure that hearts and other body parts were all aflutter to see how wonderfully that forced sexual encounter went. You see, women don't really know what they want until you force it in them.
Because the movie didn't stop there, and I didn't stop it, there was more absurdity to deal with.
Beyond being a milksop, David (Amy's husband in case you forgot) was a hypocrite. When the town yokels came to collect Henry Niles aka Lenny from "Of Mice and Men" David was adamant about keeping them away from Niles because "he wouldn't allow violence in his home." When his wife decided she would much rather hand over Niles than allow their home to be destroyed to protect him, David proceeded to slap his wife and threaten to break her neck if she opened the door. So much for non-violence. David then takes this Alamo stance at his home to protect a total stranger. He was willing to allow his house to be destroyed, to beat his own wife, and to eventually kill the intruders to protect one mentally deficient stranger.
Bravo. You've redefined nobility and courage. We should all be as brave and honorable as you. We should all go to such lengths to protect the disadvantaged. My hero.
Do I think the clannish mob was correct? No, but I'm not risking my home, my life, and the life of my family for someone I don't know. Especially in a foreign country. This guy was a total enigma. He won't address the men about his wife's dead cat, but will beat her to protect a potential criminal. I didn't understand David one bit and nor did I care to. I think he only survived by accident. I didn't appreciate his character at all. He was weak to the point of revulsion and only defeated his antagonizers by the pen of the writer. And when it was all said and done, he was still none the wiser about his wife's r*pe, nor do I think he would have done anything if he'd known.
*I have to put a star in the word r*pe because however it's mentioned IMDb rejects the entire post, even if you're denouncing the action.
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