BY: NADIA ZAIDI
I don’t know many women who enjoy being manhandled. Yet somehow female characters on television and in movies find this turns them on.
Don’t get me wrong. E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey sold over 100 million copies worldwide because it resonates with preferences – subliminal or otherwise – regarding intimate relationships.
A month before the release of the movie sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, I wonder about the way we normalize sexual aggression.
What you choose to do between the sheets is your business. But when sexual aggression is equated with manliness, and the line between fantasy and reality blurs, there’s a problem.
Repeated exposure to hyper-sexual male personas births the perception that women are attracted to men with uncontrollable libidos and aggressive tendencies. Women don’t “like it rough,” and if they do like it within the capacity of consensual intimacy, it does not justify unwanted sexual aggression.
Women don’t look to those types of men for dating and intimate relationships. And neither should fictional characters.
Perceiving women as sexual objects who submit their vulnerabilities to men is not only detrimental to females, but also to males. These stereotypes evoke havoc on the impressionable male psyche that might feel the need to live up to these projections.
Aggression is depicted as a positive trait in males and associated with confidence and heroism on screen. Any man that deviates from this idea is feminized; therein rests the problem.
The male bravado and brute strength that is pictured and revered on screen is acceptable to the extent that it should elevate a man without demeaning a woman. Sexual differences should not pin one gender superior to the other. Aggression shouldn’t be condoned and normalized because it sets the underpinnings for rape culture.
Take Bollywood cinema, which has become a topic of contention in India given its rape epidemic. Many point to the industry for propelling sexual aggression against females.
I don’t think that movies like Fifty Shades of Grey and otherwise should be banned or condemned. That’s not what this piece is contending. I think those movies should spotlight that women are not cookie cutter in their sexual preferences or their thoughts on masculinity.
Women are different and have different wants and needs. We are complex beings with contradictions and flaws and nuances that are unique. It’s time to be more responsible about the types of messages about sexuality we convey and emulate.