April 8, 2011

Thinking Film

Posted in Intimate Partner Violence, movies, Popular Culture, privilege and oppression, Rape Culture at 10:00 pm by sacetalks

I remember growing up watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I can’t remember what I thought about it then, a 5 or 10 or 13 year old child, with different and developing impressions about myself and the world around me. In all likelihood, I was probably fascinated with Gaston’s muscles and how many uncooked eggs he could swallow in one go. I also probably thought he was a jerk and it was wonderful that Belle ended up with the Beast/Prince in the end. It is unlikely that I would sit there in my youth analyzing my gendered relationship to Gaston, noting and reflecting on the perplexing discovery that I wanted his muscles for my female gendered body rather than wanting a muscleman wrapped around my body. And also, I probably never thought about why Belle and everyone else was white and what it meant for a young Belle to be forced to hide away in a Palace with a complete stranger in order to protect her father, eventually falling in love with her captor.

Like all Disney movies, people can view them and critique their depictions of sexual orientation, power, gender, body, race, desirability, etc., deconstructing how they create and sustain the dominant and normal roles for Western society. However, little children viewing them likely don’t have such a privilege to question and often, people don’t exercise that privilege even if they have it.

I’m a grown-up now with a grown-up education and grown-up privilege, so I get to question, criticize and make fun of the movies I watch. I did exactly that while watching a modern depiction of Beauty and the Beast, called Beastly. While it probably won’t gross $400 million in box office revenues like the Disney movie (it lack’s Disney’s musical flair), it too will make a profit by selling a story of love and captivity to young children and teens.

In Beastly, a powerful Witch changes a handsome young man’s body, a young man with the short-sighted impression that only beautiful people matter in the world, into a disfigured body with scars, metal, boils and cool tattoos (he gets to keep his muscles) to teach him the lesson that what really, truly matters is the beauty that we all have inside (and muscles). Kyle, the disfigured character, supposedly will learn that lesson by getting someone to say to him I love you.

An important aspect of the story is how Kyle’s rich, white dad abandons him and pays for a Jamaican woman and a blind man to take care of him. While under their care, Kyle develops a sense of empathy, relating to their misfortunes through his misfortune. That’s what we’re supposed to think anyway, only he never thanks them for putting up with his rotten attitude and providing for his basic needs, never recognizes the strength and resiliency of an immigrant woman trying to bring her children to the United States or sees his role in creating a barrier for her. Nor does he acknowledge how the blind man is quite happy and lively being blind, never once suggesting in the movie that it is something he loathes or wants “fixed.” No, Kyle, along with the audience, are supposed to presume that blindness is always something one would rather not have. Kyle “saves” them from their problems by making a magical deal with the Witch to give the man sight and give the woman her children once he achieves his good looks. That’s right; they are saved only if he gets his too.

 Our part as audience is simply to think that he’s learned a lesson about beauty. (The only lesson I would learn is people are beautiful only if they’re loved. Sorry singles). We are not supposed to notice how he spent an entire year of his life taking for granted the services others provided for him, using their positions of marginalization for his own gain. We’re not supposed to notice that he only does something for them when he is able to maintain his own privilege. And anyway, this plot line supposed to remain marginal in our thoughts compared to the main focus of the movie – his acquisition of the love of a beautiful girl (who by the way he also saves, what a good white hero).

The love story goes as follows: After he has sulked around in his home for the first few months of his “ugly” life, he decides to risk going outside. At a party, he speaks with a girl named Liddy who he thinks could fall for him. She is depicted as a female who gives back to the community, gives food to the homeless on the street and was able to see the good “inside” Kyle while he was still a handsome misogynist before becoming ugly. In the movie, sexism is sexy and so is criminal harassment.

He begins to stalk her. One night, he sees her attempt to protect her father from a drug dealer with a gun. Kyle runs to her rescue, causing her to fall and be knocked unconscious. He hides her away temporarily in her room and goes back to her father who’s just shot the drug dealer. Kyle blackmails Liddy’s father by taking pictures of the crime and threatening to show them to the police if the father does not give Liddy to Kyle because he wants her for himself. Wait, I’m sorry, it’s rather because he wants to “protect” her from the dead drug dealer’s brother. I know. It’s complicated.

She reluctantly arrives at Kyle’s home, not knowing about the blackmail. Kyle lies to her about who he is and why she is there. He begins to buy her things, builds her a greenhouse, and takes her to a mansion cabin in order to make her like him.

Eventually, she finds out Kyle loves her and whispers she loves him too. In the end, she isn’t really bothered that the ugly man she fell in love with turns into the handsome, rich Kyle who can take her on all sorts of trips all over the world.

Is it just me, or does Kyle use a lot of coercion to get Liddy to say she loves him? Is it just me, or does it seem like this would be a much different story if the Witch made Kyle both poor and ugly?

As my friend kept telling me, just don’t think about it.

That’s what I’m supposed to do right? When I see love depicted as a man using coercion to acquire a woman’s love – just don’t think about it. When I see how he still maintains his positions of white, class and gender privilege despite being made “ugly” – just don’t think about it. When I see a woman depicted as being both a 21st century independent lady and one who is defined by her role to take care of and love beastly men – just don’t think about it. She’s simply the care-giver ideal of femininity.

I shudder at the thought of a 12 year old boy not thinking about it, watching Beastly and forming his ideas about what it means to be a man; or a 12 year old girl learning to define her romantic attractions towards men she loves in sight of their beastly behaviors and attitudes.

I sit here saying that I will not not think about it, dang nab it!  I will not allow coercion to hide away in an image of heterosexual romance nor will I sit in my movie theatre seat not knowing that I just paid $12.50 to watch this crap.

Because I can.

Because I can think. We all can think about how love, sex, gender, power, race, privilege, disability, class, etc are depicted in film even as we pay to see those films. Except, of course, those who do not have the privilege to develop the skills of criticism, or the money to pay.

by Meagan Simon


March 19, 2010

This week in the news (March 12-19, 2010)

Posted in Child Sexual Abuse, Current Events, Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (Rape Drugs), Intimate Partner Violence, Men's role in sexual assault, movies, News Release, Rape Culture, SACE Events, Victim Blaming at 9:48 pm by sacetalks

The following is a list of news articles and editorials on sexual assault in communities across the globe (over the past 7 days).  Many of the articles below may contain victim-blaming language, distortion of information which supports sexual assault myths, and/or triggering content.  What these articles do showcase is the prevalence of sexual assault (given that only a small percentage of the 1 in 10 sexual assaults in Canada which are reported receive media attention, several articles on sexual assault within one week indicate a huge number of assaults), what kinds of sexual assaults are reported and how rampant sexual assault myths are.  Please be aware that SACE does not support the content or delivery of any of the following news pieces.


Week to end sexual exploitation

City of Edmonton Proclaims Sexual Exploitation Week of Awareness

Eerie link in Nina Courtepatte case


Police seize date rape drugs during traffic stop

Experts switch sides in murder trial

Murder trial delayed for ex-city man

Banff rape victim fights back

Alberta man who lured, sexually assaulted teen gets two years in jail


Former hockey coach in Moncton, NB, pleads guilty to sex-related charges

VPD releases sketch of suspected sexual predator

Canada-wide warrant issued for accused rapist

Former minister facing historical sexual offences appears in court

Local RCMP nab wanted man

Former city engineer charged

Man gropes 12-year-old, receives 45 days in jail

Court enters pleas on behalf of man charged with sex offences

No Bail Yet for Berry

Woman assaulted

Rattray hearing today

Soldier faces child-porn charge

Probation for threats against officer’s family

Sex offender denied bid for quick release

Aboriginal non-profit loses funding

Sex abuser of children gets 10-year sentence

Toronto police getting more calls after doctor charged with sexual assault

Bar staff groped: NEWS BRIEFS

Iqaluit child porn collector jailed three months

Taking the ‘Next Step’

Online chat led to sexual assault, BC woman testifies

Government targets violent young offenders

Keeping silent about domestic abuse can possibly be deadly

RCMP aid in case

Kingston women ‘don’t stop’ celebrating International Women’s Week

Father outraged by Oake decision

Saskatoon man sent to prison

Olympic Crime Rate: Violent Crime Up During Vancouver 2010 Games

Vancouver 2010: Olympic Security Police -Charges -Sexual Assault

Attacker yanks woman off Halifax street

Man faces assault charges

Former official charged with child porn offences

Sex offender not going to jail

Another child porn charge

Amherst man charged with sexual assault

Man charged with sex assaults

Sexual assault in Caledon, woman jumps from moving car

Former school janitor facing more sexual assault charges

Changes To Sex Offender Registry


Former church youth volunteer charged with sexual assault of 13-year-old girl

Preliminary hearing held in alleged sexual assault

Sexual assault suspect sought after Friel incident

Sexual assault case will go to trial soon

Soccer coach pleads guilty to sex assault

Former Youth Counsellor Charged with Sexual Assault

Korean sex assault suspects given bail

Mounties acquitted of sexually assaulting woman at party

Married father of three jailed for sexual assault

Homeless man gets 6 years for sexual assault

Halton police constable charged with sexual assault

Man arrested for sexual assault from 2007

Ex-Herd goalie up on sexual assault rap

Ottawa police hunt for sexual predator

BC police issue warning on suspected sex offender

SIU says cops not to blame in man’s death

Sex offender admits to sexual assault

Man wanted in sexual assault


Anti-rape funds in Congo wasted: critics

Benedict’s almighty battle

Christopher Hitchens: The great Catholic cover-up

Montreal woman to testify at Greek rape trial

Girls, 8 and 10, must spend weekends with sex offender father

Retired US General links massacre to presence of gay soldiers

Roethlisberger’s lawyer hires private investigator

Rape scene cut from ‘Runaways’

UN conference an eye opener for Beach woman

Rescue mission to save a persecuted family

Dream visit to homeland a nightmare journey into the heart of Guatemala

Minn. bill would ban state employees from staying at hotels with pay-per-view pornography

US cop to stand trial on rape charge

Big Ben’s scandal gets South Park treatment

Polygamist group member convicted: Texas AG

UN leader visits Haitian camp to assess rain danger

February 26, 2010

This week in the news (February 19-26, 2010)

Posted in Child Sexual Abuse, Current Events, Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (Rape Drugs), Intimate Partner Violence, Men's role in sexual assault, movies, Rape Culture at 8:08 pm by sacetalks

The following is a list of news articles and editorials on sexual assault in communities across the globe (over the past 7 days).  Many of the articles below may contain victim-blaming language, distortion of information which supports sexual assault myths, and/or triggering content.  What these articles do showcase is the prevalence of sexual assault (given that only a small percentage of the 1 in 10 sexual assaults in Canada which are reported receive media attention, several articles on sexual assault within one week indicate a huge number of assaults), what kinds of sexual assaults are reported and how rampant sexual assault myths are.  Please be aware that SACE does not support the content or delivery of any of the following news pieces.


Edmonton police search for sexual assault suspect

Man charged in alleged summer sex assault


HIV disclosure a slippery slope

Plea made for pervert

Innocence lost


Raise strong boys

Naming names

Olympics cops, soldiers dismissed

Whitehorse cabbie gets house arrest for sexual assault

Attempted murder suspect to remain in custody

Repeat rapist faces trial for Vancouver assaults

Vancouver Police warn public about sexual assault

Man charged with sexual assault of two teen girls in Saskatoon

Teens suspended after alleged sex assault

Incest charges stayed after numerous trial delays

Man pleads guilty to child porn possession

Allegation against military chaplain not reported to police

Ontario killer says victim abused him

Trenton man sentenced for sexual assault and assaults

Man to be sentenced in sexual assault case involving senior citizen

81-year-old charged with sex assault

Lahey trial delayed until 2011

Diocese increases support for male sexual assault victims

Woman, 28, forced to perform sex acts, York Region police say

Soldier released on bail

Sex assault investigation expands

Man jailed for not revealing HIV status

Toronto man charged with human trafficking

Police seek sex assault suspect

Former chaplain charged with assault

Complaint results in several sexual-related charges against Bothwell man

Long-delayed hearing opens

Plastic surgeon barred from practising

Wolfville man gets four years in custody for sexual assault, eight counts of assault

Former NB priest faces another sex charge

Grant Tapper gets extra year in prison for touching young girl for sexual purpose

Man pleads guilty to pair of sex charges

Clachers wants a new lawyer

Sex charges require two preliminary inquiries

First Nations pipe carrier Dennis Buffalo off to prison for ‘ceremony’ that was sexual assault

Matter adjourned

Woman’s dreams dashed, murder trial told

Military not victims in Williams case – Column by Ruth Farquhar

New charge for child groper

Testimony dismantled

Trafficking in humans


US pediatrician indicted on more than 470 counts of sex abuse involving 103 children

Date-rape drug needs more control: report

Horrifying online kiddie porn case

Film on rape of women by Peru’s military nominated for Academy Award

Sodomy case aquittal for NYC cops

Teen gets 15 years for Facebook sex blackmail

January 22, 2010

This week in the news (January 15-22, 2010)

Posted in Child Sexual Abuse, Current Events, Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (Rape Drugs), Intimate Partner Violence, Men's role in sexual assault, movies, News Release, Rape Culture, Victim Blaming at 7:01 pm by sacetalks

The following is a list of news articles and editorials on sexual assault in communities across the globe (over the past 7 days).  Many of the articles below may contain victim-blaming language, distortion of information which supports sexual assault myths, and/or triggering content.  What these articles do showcase is the prevalence of sexual assault (given that only a small percentage of the 1 in 10 sexual assaults in Canada which are reported receive media attention, several articles on sexual assault within one week indicate a huge number of assaults), what kinds of sexual assaults are reported and how rampant sexual assault myths are.  Please be aware that SACE does not support the content or delivery of any of the following news pieces.


Testimony from dead rape victim

City’s crime rate drops slightly


Lawyer fights transfer for man charged in sex assault of elderly woman

Victim still fears rapist after hearing he’s off to prison

Prostitution case headed to preliminary hearing

Police investigating Theo Fleury sexual assault complaint


Man gets 18 months for Bethany sex assault

Sex offender spared time in jail

Guilty plea in child pornography case

Woman testifies she confronted former pastor about incidents

Sex-assault suspect sues police

Schofield free on bail pending appeal

Burnt Church murder case put off

Man sentenced for third assault on wife

Man gets five years for attacking women on Waterloo paths

Police issue sex offender warning

Women accuse stabbing victim of assaults

Vancouver police officer to be sentenced for incest

Former Oshawa man jailed on historic molestation charges

Maybe the law is an ass

Toronto teacher charged with sexual assault

Ontario mom charged with bestiality appears in court

Rapist posed with Toronto mayor

Doctor charged for alleged sexual assault of patient

NWT MLA found not guilty of sexual assault

Man pleads guilty to 2007 York University sexual assaults

Three busted in Oshawa home invasion

RCMP investigate sexual assault of 16 year old girl hitchhiking on Highway 99

Whitehorse taxi driver guilty of sexual assault

Sex offender missing from Halifax halfway house

Cadet leader charged with sex assault

Taxi driver faces second sex-assault charge against female passenger

Five ex-altar boys suing Catholic church over abuse

Child, 11, reports sexual assault near park in Kingston

Man arrested in sexual assault case

Man charged in sexual assault; police search two homes

Sexual assault charges

Judge finds Saint John man not guilty of sexual assault

Police Release Sketch Of Suspect Wanted In Sexual Assault And Stabbing

Man jailed for sexual assault

Sexual assault trial continues

Police probe alleged assault, drugging at bar

Cornwall sex abuse victims lose funding

Sexual assault nurse examiners make a difference in the lives of victims

Dysart man gets 3 1/2 years in prison for sexual assault

Pervert sent back to pen

Guilty plea in Vanier assault

Man sent to prison for sex assault

New protocol for cabbies sought

Poor message to girls

Long-term offender on trial for sex assault

Three-year-old Toronto girl sexually assaulted

Woman says pastor sexually assaulted her many times

Boy accused of abusing family cat

Richmond Review UPDATE: Minister responds to criminal record check controversy

Winnipeg man accused of abusing kids in online sex dungeon

New website to help teach teens safe, respectful texting practices

Suspect Wanted

Johns no more violent than other men: prostitution researcher.


Why men use prostitutes

Marine arrested, charged with rape

Tucci’s not so lovely role

‘You Light Up My Life’ writer faces more sex-assault charges

NYC cops on trial for sex attack

Rapes of elderly women terrify central Texas towns

Bail set at $20 million for suspect in Jaycee Dugard’s kidnapping

Court rejects new trial bid for accused ex-priest

Human rights abusers turn on activists in 2009: Report

October 2, 2009

Why the Roman Polanski Case Really Does Matter

Posted in Child Sexual Abuse, Current Events, Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (Rape Drugs), movies, Rape Culture, Victim Blaming at 9:40 pm by sacetalks

This week, it’s been almost impossible to miss the media coverage surrounding Roman Polanski’s arrest in Switzerland. After evading justice for three decades, Polanski may finally face the sentencing hearing he skipped out on when he fled to France after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl.

One might assume that people would celebrate a fugitive rapist finally being brought to justice. But that would be forgetting the pervasive influence of rape culture–the mindset that says it’s okay to drug and then force sexual contact on a child. Hollywood celebrities, along with many of their European counterparts, signed on to a petition demanding that Polanski be freed. Some names in that list, including Woody Allen, aren’t really surprising. Others, such as Tilda Swinton, are definitely unexpected.

And then there are the other defenders, including Whoopi Goldberg, who argued that it wasn’t “rape-rape” on The View. She attempted to clarify her statements the next day in a telephone call to the Today Show, claiming that she was just trying to address the actual crime Polanski had been convicted of: unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Whoopi’s opinion seems to be that statutory rape isn’t really rape. The reality is that the girl was well under the age of consent, which was 16 years old in California at the time of the case (it’s now 18) and that in the grand jury transcripts (warning: graphic descriptions, some people may find the testimony triggering), the survivor describes being given champagne and quaaludes before the assault. She also describes saying no and trying to get away from Polanski multiple times. Any way you look at it — age, drug facilitation, the survivor communicating no — there’s simply no consent. I’m not sure how you can get much more “rape-rape” than that.

So many people try to defend Polanski’s crime in some way. They say the girl’s mother was complicit, that she was pushing her daughter on the director. In reality, it doesn’t matter how much the mother might have encouraged anything. Polanski is still the one responsible for his choice to sexually assault a child. They say that Polanski survived so much trauma — the Holocaust, his wife Sharon Tate’s murder — and it’s true that he survived significant tragedy. But that explanation is an insult to the millions of people who are victims of trauma, who lose loved ones to murder and survive genocides, and who still live compassionate, caring lives where they somehow manage to not sexually assault anyone.

There are allegations of judicial misconduct in the case, of questions around sentencing and other problems. However, the way for Polanski to resolve those problems was to face the court system, not to flee the country. The original judge in the case is dead now, so Polanski’s sentence will be imposed by someone else anyhow. Questions around sentencing don’t change the fact that Polanski plead guilty to the crime as part of a plea bargain that meant he didn’t have to face much more serious charges which would have seen him face life in prison–no matter what, he would have faced a much lighter sentence than the original charges would have carried. The perception that his 42 days in a psychiatric institution constituted a sentence is false. Polanski was there for evaluation before his final sentencing hearing (not a bizarre occurence). If there was any misconduct, it was and is up to Polanski and his lawyers to address that through the court process. Fleeing the country was a criminal act on top of the crime for which he’d already plead guilty.

Then there are those who say that because the girl, now an adult woman, has asked for the case to be dropped, Polanski should be allowed to walk free. I feel deep sadness and compassion for what she has been through — the media intrusion into her life, the constant debate and analysis of her testimony, the violation of privacy on top of the violation of self that she experienced — but the justice system doesn’t just act on behalf of one victim of crime. The system acts on behalf of society, and in this case, it really is acting on behalf of all survivors. How we respond to this case tells the many, many other survivors out there what we really think of what happened to them.

When people defend Polanski, they tell every survivor who’s listening that their experiences and their lives are worth less than a few films. When we as a culture refuse to see what is happening or make excuses, we tell survivors that they don’t count. It’s not surprising that people don’t come forward when they hear people condone rape and blame the victim. And when we let Polanski off for what he did, we also tell offenders what we think of them. We tell them that what they’ve done or will do is okay, and that they too can just walk away and not face justice.

When we talk about the Polanski case, we’re not just talking about one assault on one girl on one night. We’re talking about how we as a society view sexual violence. I can only hope that we voice the strong condemnation this crime deserves.

A couple of excellent responses to Polanski’s defenders:

Rex Murphy, “Hollywood’s Strange Morals”, The National

Kate Harding, “Reminder: Roman Polanski raped a child”, Salon

Melissa Silverstein, “Does Being an “Artist” Trump Being a Rapist?”, Women and Hollywood

Sign the petition to prosecute Roman Polanski.

April 16, 2009

Observe & Report

Posted in movies, Popular Culture, Rape Culture at 4:54 pm by sacetalks

Warning: Triggering. The following trailer contains not only strong language, but frequent images of sexual assault that are minimized as what one can only assume is “bad sex.”

From journalists to bloggers to Facebook groups, there’s been a huge outcry against this trailer, the film, and everyone involved in making it. This is a good thing. Products of popular culture – from films to television shows to magazines – are cultural artifacts. There are people who have responded to angry posts and editorials by claiming that it’s “just a movie” and therefore doesn’t create the culture in which we live. The argument, however, is not that a film causes sexual assault. Instead, the reaction is because there is a definite relationship between people who experience sexual violence and the artefacts that belong to the culture in which they live. It would be ridiculous to suggest that there should be no dialogue about the culture in which we engage. I haven’t even read anything that demands the movie be banned – only that the people who made it look at their role as participants in a rape culture.

There are many aspects of the Internet circus around this film that make me sad. One is that there even has to be education on this at all. If someone is too drunk to be awake, that person is too drunk to consent. Even if she wakes up for a second to tell the person to keep going! In Canada, our Criminal Code recognizes that consent cannot be given when a person is incapacitated. Simple as that. Really.

What else makes me sad? The disclaimer that people who identify as feminists feel obligated to write or say before their argument. At feministing, Courtney had to give herself credibility by pointing out the ways in which she’s sex-positive. I’ve had to personally explain that I’m not encouraging censorship of any kind. Let’s face it: we live in a patriarchy. Speaking out against rape is somehow wrong and crazy and something only feminists who don’t enjoy sex do. This irritates me. Saying, “rape is bad” should not be a radical statement. Really, it shouldn’t need any sort of qualifier. What’s with our world? Why do we need to qualify our statements so we have some credibility in saying that rape is not okay? (And why is being a feminist something that compromises credibility in the first place?)

Another aspect of the criticism the film has been receiving so far is that it focuses on one scene when the whole trailer is offensive. My coworker mentioned the very first part of the trailer, when Rogen’s character barks at the reporter to refilm because he’s head of security, not just a security guard. While it can be funny at first, when we look at it again, it’s hard not to see the misogyny in there: “oh, you stupid woman! Get my title right!”

Next, there’s the girl being flashed in the parking lot, right before the offender masturbates in front of her. There’s a reason this is offensive: this stuff actually happens. Really. It does. It’s not limited to movies! And the people it effects are, surprisingly, effected. People do wonder why the offender chose them; it is a violation of boundaries; and it does hurt. The way Anna Faris’s character is portrayed, however, is flippant. The trailer suggests that she’s somehow just a crazy, hysterical woman who can’t get a solid grip on reality.

Faris’s general characterization is also ridiculous. We see her adjusting her breasts, chewing her gum in an exaggerated manner, taking multiple shots at dinner… And are meant to believe she’s “just a dumb blonde,” therefore mitigating what happens to her in what some people call a sex scene.

Which brings me to another point: this is not about sex! Positive portrayals of sex in the media are wonderful. I’d love to see more. The trailer, however, does not show a sex scene; it shows a rape scene.

Unfortunately, in a culture in which sex is often configured as conquest, in which sex is confused with sexual assault, in which people who highlight problematic portrayals of rape are labelled “offended feminists,” rape is confused with sex. Pleasure for both partners is taken out of the equation. How can we possibly expect media portrayals of positive sexuality when films like this are deemed acceptable? When people who speak out against it are crazy feminists with no sense of humour? What messages are we sending people, including teens, about what humorous sex looks like?

When we say films such as these are acceptable, we’re saying that rape is acceptable. When we say rape is acceptable, we shouldn’t be surprised when 1 in 3 women in Canada experience sexual assault in their lifetime. And we really shouldn’t be surprised when next time, instead of that “dumb blonde” in the film, it’s a friend, partner, sister or mother.