Posted: March 18th, 2023
Handmaid’s Tale’ creatively and chillingly hypothesizes about the rational result of a world in which draconian laws and convictions/beliefs about women and their bodies prevail. The women in the movie, have become completely subservient to men and to the needs of men. Even their bodies, have turned into playthings for men to use and abuse as they deem fit. In the ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, a handmaid cannot reject the advances of her “master.” And in the sanctified act of sex the man did not need to consider the women’s consent, pleasure, or comfort. No foreplay is needed, eitherâ€¦ just orgasm or ejaculation (Muir). The Commander is hitched to a cold and bitter woman, who is ironically named as Serena Joy (Faye Dunaway).
Serena Joy longs to have children, not for the purposes of self-interest or personal satisfaction, but rather to “keep up with the Joneses.” She states in the movie that all the rich neighbors are having babies and showing off their newborn children at entertaining afternoon garden parties. In the movie, Kate, the handmaid, endeavors to know how her own biological daughter has turned out and at she is also in a State-authorized sexual slavery with her employer, the Commander. Lamentably, the Commander is a sterile man, which implies Kate will eventually be blamed for her inability to conceive a child.
She could be regarded as “un-woman” for her failure to conceive and punished by being sent to a work camp (Muir). Watching the movie and comprehending the story behind it, the depiction in my opinion does not constitute an act of rape because Kate consents to having a sexual relationship with the commander, in spite of the fact that he is sterile and that her failure to conceive will be blamed on her because she is the weaker sex and a handmaid.
The avid fans of the movie ‘Alien’ do know that the creature in the movie was created by Swiss artist H.R. Giger. O’Bannon had earlier worked with Giger on a failed endeavor at a pre-David Lynch adaptation of a Dune movie. Giger’s sexually explicit artwork had stuck with O’Bannon though the film did not get much success, and the dark art helped fuel his revenge scripting when composing the narrative of his new movie Alien. Once the film had passed the initial stages, O’Bannon recommended Giger to producer Ridley Scott, and in the wake of seeing Giger’s Necronomicon — an art collection filled with a lot of sexual innuendo- Scott concluded that he needed to have Giger create the main Alien. By then, Scott was in complete agreement with O’Bannon’s man-rape plot (Dietle).
The act of bringing Giger on board ended up being the choice that shaped the entire film, that later became a franchise and one of the most easily recognized pictures in film history. Giger not only designed and created the main alien in the movie he also designed the derelict spaceship, its commander, and the alien’s landscape. Furthermore, each and every bit of the movie was stacked with space vaginas and galactic penises. All of the sexual imagery in the movie is intentional. Case in point, when the human crew was “invading” the alien’s spaceship, in effect the humans represent sperms creeping into the ship.
The scene after this is that of Kane (played by John Hurt) as he penetrates into the spaceship’s “womb” to find an endless scene of eggs, which in the sperm analogy above makes a ton of biological sense. Kane then comes into contact with one of these many eggs, which hatches and releases a little alien. At this point of the movie, it obvious that the director of Alien, Ridley Scott is in effect smashing the movie’s audience in the face with a sex-education book (Dietle).
As the little alien bursts out, it attaches itself to Kane’s face and jams its galactic penis down his throat, all the while choking Kane in a display of rape that is so clear and evident that we are shocked the alien is not yelling at Kane to squeal like a pig as it does its act. The life cycle of the alien was designed in such a way to match that of numerous parasitic wasps, within it is a penis and vagina merged in such way so as to drive its seed (sperm) down the throat of its victims (Kane in this particular case). We discover that once the alien is attached to the face, it cannot be stopped before it has deposited its seed, or it will kill its victim. Which you may realize is actually the plan or strategy of a real world violent rapist (Dietle).
Kane is literally held down and mouth raped by the alien for around 20 minutes of the film. And after that comes the undesirable pregnancy with the attacker’s child. Notably, the audience is spared of a lot of detail and they get off rather easy — the normal gestation period of women takes nine months and it entails a lot of hormonal, surges, bloating and puking that on the overall makes women miserable. However, Kane’s man pregnancy is a lot easier and brings about a sore throat and just simple spaghetti craving. The “sore throat” comes as an aftereffect of the alien jamming its penis down Kane’s throat, which he luckily does not recollect (Dietle).
The entire film proceeds with this kind of narrative, with every scene concentrating on the strong female leadership of Ripley, while every man gets raped and killed by the aliens. The film is credited for making the first genuine female action hero Ripley, a Sigourney Weaver idea, even though ironically the character was changed from a man to a woman in a revise of the script just to make things all the more fascinating. The only other female character in the original ‘Alien’ movie is an ever-talking mess; she is raped to death off-screen by the tail of an alien (Dietle).
In another scene that is disturbing, to say the least, Ash, the robot, stalks, corners and eventually locks Ripley in her own room, attempting to kill her. As Ripley is laid down, the camera pans the walls adorned with pornographic pictures of women. Though Ripley is vulnerable and Ash can kill her, the robot, instead, pushes down her throat a rolled up newspaper, reminiscent of the earlier act- meaning, implicit. As Parker, the savior crashes into the scene, bludgeoning Ash, the room is splattered with the semen-like blood of Ash, and android. The domination of males is reiterated here, too, even when faced with an alien. The detailed sexual in this film is nauseating at times, though the simili to commonality cannot be missed (Mubi.com).
A foundational idea that rose out of the 1970s women’s activist movements is that rape is not an act that is brought about by sexual desire, instead it is downright a pure act of violence and, an instrument used to dominate and control women (Brownmiller, 1975). As opposed to this social constructionist argument, there has been a counter argument, by evolutionary psychologists making a case for an explanation of what rape is through the use of human evolution (Thornhill and Palmer, 2000). This argument was vigorously opposed by feminists who argued that who expressed the purposelessness of the idea of anyone having a natural predisposition to rape; an idea which removes blame from the violent perpetrator and allows no room for remedial actions to be taken. What both of these arguments need is a thorough evaluation of the way the mind and body are linked, and accordingly cannot be utilized as a part of contradicting arguments.
While feminists’ arguments claim that the act of rape is one which is entirely brought about by a desire to control and that is also an expression of anger, there is no acknowledgement of the bodily realities that are in fact necessary for such acts of sex and violence to take place. The explanation by the evolutionary psychologists, on the other hand gives full responsibility of the act of rape to bodily urges that are assumed to be static and applicable to all situations without accounting for the effects or influence of specific environments (Gironda).
Susan Miller, in her 1975 book Against Our Will: Men Women and Rape, argues that rape is most of the times an act of violence that is utilized by men to dominate women. The reason why this is commonly considered a feminist position is that, it would be against the feminist project to agree that rape is anchored on an evolutionarily-centered sexual drive or desire. Since, this would make rape to be perceived as a natural act leaving little room for remediation of the problem (Gironda).
Although Brown Miller tracks the issue of rape way back into prehistoric times, she is not interested in thinking about rape with regards to evolution. Her argument is essentially that males use rape to dominate women and not as a tool for reproduction, therefore rape is a tool of violence used to obtain control and power. In her work she cites Leonard Williams’ and Jane Goodall’s studies of primates to support her argument. However, this comparison is useful to Brown Miller, since mating among primates can only take place when the female primates are in their estrous cycle; meaning sex is only an option when the female primates are ready to reproduce.
“An Integrative Approach”
While social constructionist and evolutionary explanations are both problematic for some reasons, our focus on this paper is on how uncompromising they are. Brown Miller completely disagrees with the biological argument for rape, which she claims albeit without proof, that no animal species apart from man engages in rape (Gironda). The uncompromising arguments by Palmer and Thornhill also do not serve them well since they were both already willing to consider other multiple explanations. Since rape involves evolution that affects our biology and our psychology, and therefore our culture, we should be able to agree that rape is integrally linked to our cultural environment. From this argument, there is an evolutionary clarification about rape that does not involve Palmer’s and Thornhill’s static biological determinism. To dig deeper into this topic, we shall use Elizabeth Grosz’s reading of Darwin, in her 2004 book The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely, and I will also discuss some of the works of other feminist evolutionists.
Grosz utilizes a specific reading of Darwin’s hypothesis to suggest that the human body is not a static entity that is inscribed in culture. In her book she seeks to investigate “how the natural prompts the cultural instead of how it represses it, how biology’s multifaceted nature instigates the inconveniences and variability of culture (Grosz). She stresses the plasticity of the natural body, and the way that it connects with its surroundings, as opposed to the body just acting upon the environment (surroundings), and being acted upon by it. As it were, not just have our bodies evolved in response to changes in the environment; in any case, as we evolve our bodies also contribute changes to the environment. Similar to philosopher Daniel Dennett, she suggests, that if the forces of natural selection are acting as Darwin had outlined, then the mind itself must be the result of a vigorous and continuous process of extermination, weeding variation and recombination that Darwin attributes to our bodily existence (Grosz).
In all the 3 incidents, the perceived act of rape is violent and only in one case does it include consent of the other party. As specified in the first scene, Kate’s case was not assault on the grounds that she gave consent, however the second film (Alien) in which Kane’s face was penetrated by an alien indirectly represents rape based on the research mentioned, the second incident symbolized the changing human body and the rape attempts.
Brownmiller, Susan. 1975. Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. New York: Ballantine Books
Dietle, David. Alien: A Film Franchise-Based Entirely on Rape. 02 January 2011. 15 July 2015.
Gironda, Caterina. “Rethinking Rape: Moving Beyond the Social vs. Biological .” Zeteo Journal (n.d.): 1-12.
Grosz, Elizabeth. 2004. The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely. Durham, NC: Duke University Press
Muir, John Kenneth. CULT MOVIE REVIEW: The Handmaid’s Tale (1990). 17 May 2011. 15 July 2015. .
Mubi.com. n.d. Sexual Substance in Alien. Retrieved from: https://mubi.com/topics/sexual-subtext-in-alien
Thornhill, Randy, and Craig T. Palmer. 2000. A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
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