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Thursday, October 12, 2006

There it is


I want to see both genders face the same trials, not inequality. I'm fucking tired of fucking inequality.

I'd be happy to shut the fuck up about rape in comic books if two conditions were fulfilled:

1) It must suddenly and immediately become as overtly present a threat in the lives of male superheroes as it is for female superheroes. If both Green Lantern and Black Canary are captured by a group of supervillains, and the writer chooses to have the villains leer and make sexualized threats -- they would be levied at both characters, not just Dinah.

2) A sexual assault scene for a female victim is drawn in exactly the same mood and manner as a sexual assault scene for the male victim. Meaning panel angles, point of view, emotions, and reasoning behind writing this.

(Please note: If you find these two options absurd because this treatment "emasculates" i.e. weakens a male character, do consider what it tells us about your attitudes towards women as a gender when it is perfectly acceptable for female superheroes.)

I keep hoping she's going to smarten up. Wise up. Grow up.

Apparently, I hope in vain.

First, I could very well be way out of touch, but if there's a mad frenzy of female characters being raped in superhero comics lately, or, y'know, ever, I've missed out on it. To the best of my knowledge, the only rape of a female character that has ever occurred in a superhero comic was the infamous Dr. Light/Sue Dibney rape that took place in IDENTITY CRISIS -- a rape which so shocked superhero comics as a gestalt that I have to believe it was at the time, and probably remains, a singular event. (Hold on -- the second Ms. Marvel, from back in the 1990s, was raped -- gang raped, apparently -- by some of the Power Broker's goons, I believe. So that's two I can remember. And, oddly, that's one that didn't get a lot of coverage at the time... although it took place in a fairly obscure title, I believe, and of course, the Internet wasn't the presence back then that it is now.)

But I admit, I could be wrong about that. Maybe female characters in superhero comics, powered and non-powered, have been getting raped right, left and sideways lately. If so, well, then, I shouldn't immediately point in appalled incredulity at just how amazingly fucking retarded the assertion that rape is 'an immediate and overtly present threat' in the lives of superheroines actually is.

But I'm going to anyway, because, well, I think it's an astonishingly dumb ass statement. Just how often do superheroines get raped, anyway? In the two examples of female characters being raped in superhero comics that I've been able to dredge up out of memory, Sue Dibney wasn't a superheroine, and the second Ms. Marvel was not, at that point, as far as I can recall, a superheroine yet. (I believe she was a professional wrestler, and I'm not sure, but I think the rape happened before she gained her super powers.)

I could go on to wonder just what kind of supervillain is going to be powerful enough to make characters like Supergirl, She-Hulk, Binary, Wonder Woman, Phoenix, Mary Marvel, Valkyrie, or Isis even worry about the possibility of rape, but it would be disingenous. There are many superheroines in the comics genre who are considerably less powerful than those particular women, and I suppose, if rape were a looming, ever-present shadow over the lives of all superheroines, then, yeah, Huntress and Black Canary and Storm and Tigra and Mockingbird and the Wasp would really be sweating it out every time they left home base to fight crime.

But, well... this simply doesn't seem to me to be the case. Any more than it seems to me to be the case that rape is 'an overtly present threat' to the average woman here in America. Is it something that can happen? Sure. Is it something that does happen? Absolutely, and it's a horror that it does. But I'm reasonably sure that the vast majority of women still get through their day to day lives from birth to death without being sexually assaulted, and as a comics fan of some vintage and reasonable expertise, I'm equally sure that most superheroines get through even very lengthy careers in superhero comics similarly.

But let's move on from that. Apparently, Ragnell is of the opinion that rape is this terrifying sword of Damocles hangin' over the head of all costumed superwomen, and while I think she's nuts, still, let's try to look at this through the deranged framework she oh so earnestly posits. What is it she demands? Not a cessation of the apparently incessant onslaught of ignominious erotic assualts against ultra-Eves being enacted every second in every panel of every superhero comic being published in the contemporary era... no. Ragnell thinks that's just peachy-keen, and will happily shut the fuck up about it immediately (yeah, I snorted at that, too) if only... if only... all the male superheroes were placed in exactly equal peril of sexual assault as the women are.

It's... I... ::staring at the wall gibbering::

Okay. Let me collect my thoughts, here:

Well. First, the only way I can make this work is if suddenly at least half of the male supervillains in comics become gay, or at least, bisexual. Well, no, more than half. Because some of them, regardless of orientation, just aren't groaty enough to rape anyone, male or female. So, yeah, more than half of the supervillains out there must now become just as enamored of the taut rippling buttocks of their potential superhuman male captives as they necessarily must be (being, you know, evil men) of the ripe jiggling boobies, delectable flat tummies, and luscious tight assglobes of the superhuman females they may well at some point have helpless in chains before them.

Um. Wait. Now, the relatively few FEMALE baddies in comics could step up to the plate here, I guess. I suppose they could all start capturing and raping every superhero within a thousand mile radius of their secret lairs, just to make Ragnell happy. Forced cunnilingus from and vehement dildoings for every penisized member of the Avengers, JLA, Teen Titans, Defenders, and Legion should amply redress any perceived inequities in the super sexual assault columns, and by God, if anything is going to make the boys club respect & fear the bad girls in comics, it's the sight of Circe, Cheetah, Poison Ivy, or the Enchantress coming at them with a three foot strap on jutting menacingly from between their shapely thighs. It's enough to make super-strong men shudder and caped boys weep. And that, by God, will teach them.

Okay. No. I'm sorry, it's all just retarded. Here's the haps:

Here in the real world, which Ragnell and her fangirl coterie seem to so resolutely want to see superhero comics reflect more accurately, until, you know, they get offended by it, in which case, they don't, women tend to be sexualized more often than men are. (In fact, that's pretty much what they are bitching about.) An unfortunate effect of this is that women tend to be raped more often than men are. It's an awful truth, but it is indeed a truth. Now, women aren't raped so often that they dasn't stir outside their own home, as Ragnell seems to think they must be, but, the fact remains, when rape occurs, it happens more often to women than it does to men.

Therefore, demanding that male superheroes (or male firefighters, or male chicken pluckers, for that matter) immediately and from this point forward be placed in just as much danger of being raped as female superheroines are (however much danger that may be; until and unless Garth Ennis or Warren Ellis start writing every mainstream superhero comic, I doubt it adds up to much) is pretty goddam stupid. It's not even remotely reflective of reality as it exists around us, or as feminist fangirls claim they want it to exist in superhero comics, when it comes to things like how superwomen are portrayed.

I'll close this by noting that I've thought of two more rape sequences in comics as I typed all this -- the infamous arc in the 1970s when Ms. Marvel was mind controlled into being sexual playtoy to some dweeb named Marcus off in Limbo (it was in some truly horrible AVENGERS ANNUAL that I wish to God Kurt Busiek had expunged from comics history during his run on the team), and an obscure, barely noticed sequence, also in AVENGERS, in the early 1980s, where Moondragon similarly mind controlled Thor into enthusiastic sexual submission.

So, that's three instances in superhero comics where women have been raped by men, one where a man was raped by a woman... which, yeah, seems unbalanced. But, I'd have to say, it also seems reflective of actual reality.

Personally, I liked the Silver Age, where nobody was raping nobody. But I'm an old fuddy duddy, I frankly admit it. The Modern Age has been about many, many things, most of them having to do with money, but at least a few of them have been about breaking down the artificial taboos that kept superhero comics from being 'realistic'. Thus and so, we've seen drug addiction, divorce, torture, vampirism, Satanism, the word 'zombie', and, yes, rape, all become part of superhero metarealities... or, at least, we've seen them portrayed in mainstream superhero comics; those of us who think about such things must presume that these elements were, however regrettably, always a part of those worlds, we simply didn't see them prior to recently.

But if rape has to be part of a 'realistic' superhero universe, then, you know, it should be realistically portrayed. And if it's realistically portrayed, then, well, awful though it is, it happens to women much much more than it happens to men.


At 8:55 AM , Blogger obi said...

I could go on to wonder just what kind of supervillain is going to be powerful enough to make characters like Supergirl, She-Hulk, Binary, Wonder Woman, Phoenix, Mary Marvel, Valkyrie, or Isis even worry about the possibility of rape, but it would be disingenous.

I've only been reading She-Hulk in trades, so I'm not entirely sure if they went another way with the story, but there was an issue recently with Starfox that drops the hint that he used his love powers to make She-Hulk want to have sex with him.

There are many superheroines in the comics genre who are considerably less powerful than those particular women, and I suppose, if rape were a looming, ever-present shadow over the lives of all superheroines, then, yeah, Huntress and Black Canary and Storm and Tigra and Mockingbird and the Wasp would really be sweating it out every time they left home base to fight crime.

Black Canary sure seemed to have been raped in the Longbow Hunters, although Grell says otherwise. As I recall though, in the aftermath of the attack when she was stripped down only to a shirt, she lost both her Canary Cry and the ability to have children. Mockingbird was drugged with some kind of mind control herb by the Phantom Rider back in West Coast Avengers.

Also, just recently, as in post Identity Crisis, it was revealed that the new Hawkeye girl in Young Avengers (can't remember what her name is) learned self defense after she was raped, and it was also revealed that Black Cat had been raped as well.

At 9:23 AM , Blogger Highlander said...

I almost cited the Black Canary LONGBOW HUNTERS thing, since I'd always assumed she was raped as well. But Grell says otherwise, so I didn't post it.

Yeah, the Mockingbird/Phantom Rider was one I missed. Didn't know about the Young Avengers girl or Black Cat. Still, even so, if we count the BC Longbow Hunters thing, that's like 7 instances, in the sixty some odd years superheroines have been fighting crime.

At 9:37 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I'm not seeing how Ragnell is crazy.

I am sure you're aware that rape can have many origins in the rapist's mind, and finding your victim attractive is a plus but not neccessary, so we'll just skip whether the villians need to suddenly (? I don't know about that...) be mansex friendly.

Rape in comics is often used or retconned in (the Engineer in post-Ellis The Authority) as part of a superheroine's background. Even Red Sonja was raped--now, anyway. And the point of being sexually violated is usually to make the character a Stronger Person (or more often to give a male character reason to Avenge Their Loved Ones).

If they wanted to build character, aren't there other ways to do it? And there are quite a few super-heroines that can say, "Yep, I've been molested/violated/assaulted." I can see that happening in the real world anytime. Can supers be exempt from this, please? Or, could this plot line be about what being a super powered assault victim might be like, or anything that doesn't reduce the rape--often shown in detail--to the usual lame attempt to shock readers that it now is?

These so called realistic elements just seem disturbing to me. I liked my comics just fine without anybody being raped in them. But if the writers *insist* on writing them, maybe the should make it a viable option for both male and female characters-- the same as the vampirism, torture, cannibalism, and wearing socks with sandals that supers of any gender might fall prey to. Since, you know, stories about super powered people rocking spandex need to be tempered by lotsa realism. Because that's what the readers want to see.


p.s. I'm not sure why Ragnell would need to 'grow up' to enjoy/be indifferent to/stop noticing her favourite (?) characters always being the ones who get raped in comics. My response was to slowly stop reading them. And I'm sure that none of the publishers want that.

At 10:14 AM , Blogger Highlander said...

Okay, a recap for the slow learners in the class:

Ragnell said "I want the guys to get raped just as much as the girls get raped in comics, and I want it portrayed the same way when it happens."

I said "That's pretty frickin' retarded. Grow up."

I then explained how we would have to further contort comic book reality to make Ragnell's astonishingly hateful wish come true.

The fact that Ragnell's petulantly expressed desire to see men raped just as much as women is sulky, childish, and, yes, hateful, is why I articulated my desire that she 'grow up'.

I understand, because I'm pretty analytical, that what Ragnell actually wants is for there to be less rape in comics, or, if there has to be some, then it be portrayed as the ugly, disturbing, horrible thing that it actually is, rather than titillating softcore porn for the pervs -- "Hey, guys, Black Canary's getting raped by yakuza, that's KEWL!" And I agree with that wholeheartedly. But Ragnell is the very first person to get on anyone, especially men, when they don't choose their words with fastidious care, and frankly, the way she phrased herself in this post offended me, because it was hateful and because it was stupid and because it was SPECTACULARLY bad writing.

Now, as I myself noted, I liked the Silver Age, when nobody was getting raped or molested or nothin'. And I agree with you that we don't need quite the level of reality in superhero comics that the Warren Ellis fans shriek and gibber for. But if one is going to get upset about rape in comics (or anywhere), it behooves one, if one does not want to seem like a fucking jackass, to NOT demand that we see MORE rapes because somehow THAT will make it better, because frankly, that's insane, grotesque, stupid, and creepy. And, yeah, anyone who makes such a statement, even in hyperbole, should be smacked hard and told, at the very least, to GROW THE FUCK UP.


At 3:51 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

...how is asking for equal character treatment hateful? That makes no sense.

At 4:22 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

Let's try this:

Gee, male superheroes get punched in the face enormously more often than female superheroes do. And in a lot of comics, male characters show the disfiguring effects of regular physical beatings -- bruises, contusions, cuts, etc -- much more than most female characters do. I hate that. I think it sucks. But I'll stop bitching about it immediately if female characters in comics

(a) start getting hit in the face just as often as male characters do


(b) when female characters get into very physical fights, they get as battered, beat up, bruised, and bloody as male characters do.

I don't know. Maybe it's just me. It seems to me that this is kind of... what's the word? Misogynistic? "Hey, I want to see more women get punched in the face!" Nah. I don't think I'd ever say that.

Beyond that, you are doing what it drives you and Ragnell nuts when other people do it to you -- ignoring most of my entry. Did you read the stuff where I talked about what we'd have to do to most of the supervillains in existence in order to grant Ragnell her wish?

The simple fact is, in most of the 'bad people capture good people' scenarios that happen in comics, if a bad person is going to sexually assault, or even harass, a good person, it's generally going to be a bad guy messing with a superheroine. That's just how the gender and sexual orientation ratios work out. It's also how it works out in real life. I will say, however, that any time a villainess nowadays captures a hot male hero, she DOES tend to taunt him sexually. I haven't seen a male hero get raped (other than the Moondragon/Thor thing I've recently cited) but I've certainly seen, in this brave new Modern Age, supervillainesses (geez, that's a clumsy term) talk smack about the tight hot butts of their male nemeses and such. Catwoman does it about Batman, Giganta does it about everything male within arms reach of her.

However, if you want to see male superhumans be in as much danger of being sexually assaulted as female superhumans are, well, you're going to need to badly contort how comic book reality works. And, frankly, demanding more sex crimes, even fictional portrayals of same, because, you know, you're feeling a little pissy right now, is both childish and fucking mental.

At 7:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi again, I',m the 1st anon.

I see that you're talking stat in regards to orientation, and that make sense. But having grown up in a culture full of references to "don't drop the soap", and, " ...pound-you-in-the-ass-prison", I don't believe a rapist has to find you remotely *attractive*. Just letting you know that you're their bitch is enough. (And I worked very hard not to use any gendered words in this discussion, but there it is.) So since many writers cling to rape as though its introduction to superhero narrative makes them better writers, then let's have them use it.

If there is something really great about rape as narrative trope, then really go for it, right?

Because what I see whenever this partical gauntlet is thrown down is that somehow *that* is going too far to have men raped in the funnybooks at the same rate at women. Either it is problematic and the writers should look at themselves more closely, or it is no different than the many other real life issues we have seen handled with talent and sensitivity by the writers. Yeah, the sarcasm just seeps through, sorry.

Your comparison about being punched in the face doesn't really translate because (a) being punched in the face in a fair fight is what I expect to see in a superhero comic. It's entirely gender-neutral for someone with super powers to get punched and,(b) there's no tradition of punches being some thing that Could Happen To You because of gender, race, orientation, etc. And it works for any age group or audience too.

Maybe I'd just like to see someone who is supposed to a lot like me (genderwise)but able to do incredible feats, not get sexually violated--just for weak shock value no less--because like I said above, that's what I can see anywhere.

Aaaand since you mentioned hyperbole earlier--dude, I don't know you *or* Ragnell. I wanna have a question answered, not start Flame Wars for Beginners (that beginner would be me). The way YOU phrased YOUR reply is pretty inflammatory. And I'm okay if you don't agree with me--you could get me to change my mind. You don't have to do anything other than re-assert your point. I can dig it. Or do things your way--this is the internet...

K, a medium-slow reader

At 8:00 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

I'm sorry, but while, yes, it's common to talk homo-rape smack in prisons (I guess) or certain other highly testosterone poisoned environments, and I could certainly see someone like, I don't know, Bane, maybe, talking about 'making Batman his bitch', I just don't think it would be as common as that same level of sexualization to be done by certain types of males to most superheroines.

This is my primary objection. Whether we like it or not (I certainly don't) women get sexualized. They get sexualized A LOT. And when human beings get raped, the vast majority of the time, those human beings have vaginas. Demanding that male characters be as imperiled by the potential of sexual assault as often as female characters are is simply ludicrous.

It's also, in my opinion, a horribly mean spirited and hateful thing to say, even in hyperbole.

I think if you look around, you'll find that female superheroines get hit in the face much MUCH less than male superheroes (or supervillains) do.

And... sorry if I seemed inflammatory. I just hate repeating myself endlessly.

At 12:27 PM , Blogger Marionette said...

Hell yeah I'd like to see women get punched in the face and show the disfiguring effects as often as males.

Leaving aside the lack of any markings as the result of most fights, or the way male characters' faces heal perfectly even after they have had bones broken, for women to be depicted as getting into fights along with the men and yet having them come out supermodel fresh is unrealistic and stupid. If my heroine gets in a punch up I don't see why she shouldn't look like she has. It might make her think twice before doing something so rash next time.

And if you have failed to notice much usage of rape as a plot device then I can only assume you haven't been paying attention. In the last six months or so I've been cataloguing rapes in comics for each month. I have yet to register a month that has been without a single instance of sexual abuse in comics.

At 9:51 PM , Blogger Highlander said...


Thanks for the comment, and the singular point of view. I mean that.

Here's what I'm discovering -- I post something that vaguely touches on feminist issues as they intersect with superhero comics. It gets linked tdo from When Fangirls Attack. I get a lot of new traffic and even some new comments, the vast majority of which invariably seem to disagree with me. I end up restating all my original arguments in different words, over and over again, to no avail, because everybody who comes over here seems to already have their minds made up, and simply aren't going to listen to anything that disagrees with their locked in preconceptions.

We all want attention, and I do appreciate it, but honestly, I'm just tired of retyping the same things over and over again. I said it all in the entry. I'm not going to restate my entries in the comments threads any more. For what it's worth, while I appreciate all the alternate views, no one who has commented has yet bothered to address the vast majority of the entry.

I take it back. I will reiterate one point that I don't think can be made early or often enough -- rape and/or other forms of sexual abuse are, unfortunately, a part of reality. More reality in comics is what the Modern Age has been all about. You don't like that, read Silver Age comics. But if you like the four dimensional grim n' gritty hyper-reality of all the grungy Alan Moore imitators out there, then you have to take ALL of it, and sexual abuse is certainly part of that, and the unpleasant truth there is, most sexual abuse happens to women.

Now, until someone bothers to address my points as to just how many supervillains will suddenly have to become gay in order for superheroes to have the same chance of being sexually assaulted or harassed as superheroines do, and whether or not that would be an acceptable change to superhuman metarealities, I am now going to let the original blog entry speak for itself.

At 1:02 AM , Anonymous S.M. Stirling said...

Apart from special environments such as prisons, the fact of the matter is that men simply aren't constantly threatened with rape the way women are.

It's an ever-present looming threat to women; it's a being-hit-by-a-meteor thing for men.

The reason for this is simple; rape is overwhelmingly (tho' not absolutely entirely 100%) a crime committed by males. And when there are women around, men who committ rape are overwhelmingly likely to pick female targets.

Why should it be any different for superheroes/superheroines?

At 2:15 AM , Blogger Highlander said...

The reason for this is simple; rape is overwhelmingly (tho' not absolutely entirely 100%) a crime committed by males. And when there are women around, men who commit rape are overwhelmingly likely to pick female targets.

Why should it be any different for superheroes/superheroines?

Because, you know, otherwise it's not fair. And if it's not fair, then crusaders for truth and justice like Ragnell must ever spring into action with their keyboards.

At 10:04 AM , Blogger AaA said...

Uh, if the Modern Age of comics is all about reality, why would fairness ever enter into the equation?

Life isn't fair. Get over it. (Aimed at Ragnell & Co.)

At 7:38 PM , Blogger notintheface said...

A few months back Ragnell and another blogger named Kalinara rut together something called "The Damned Lists", one for females and one for males, where readers were encouraged to point out comics characters who have been victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault (being mind-controlled into a sexual act against your will counted), and both lists were fairly long. The male lists included not only characters like Swamp Thing and Jack Knight, but big guns like a certain jolly green goliath and a man of steel (the latter two were pointed out by me). We're talking mainstream continuity here. While not the pandemic some feminists bloggers paint it to be, it does happen too often.

At 11:09 PM , Anonymous S.M. Stirling said...

You also have to make a clear distinction between Bad Things happening to real people, and Bad Things happening to fictional characters.

Authors usually torture their characters one way or another. It's inherent in the fiction-writing process.

Forming a Not Real Person's Defense League is sorta kinda futile.


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