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Twilight critics and sex-shaming

Guys, I hate Twilight like the rest of you.

And I agree with all the problematic subtext. And the not-so-sub-text. I think the books took an empty shell of a ‘this could be you, lady’ and threw her into a disturbing, controlling, fatal relationship. One that should never be exulted as true romance in the eyes of young people. And the werewolf pedophilia thing – also creepy.

BUT

Having seen the movies (in a snarky, pass the popcorn ladies, kind of way) I am really getting fed up with so much criticism surrounding the fact that Bella winds up bruised after the intense, headboard-breaking sex she has with Edward. That guy’s a self-deprecating, stalky, manipulative douchebag don’t get me wrong. But the sex? She openly discusses how much she enjoyed it. She looks at her bruises in the mirror and smiles. She spends the remainder of their pre-demonbaby honeymoon trying to convince Edward to fuck her again, which he eventually does (it’s implied in the movie anyway).

Should Bella even be in that relationship? No. Is the sex problematic because it embodies the control he has over her, leaving her bruised? Maybe. But can you keep equating breaking a headboard and leaving someone bruised as bad? No. You can’t.

Plenty of people in consensual sexual relationships wind up bruised (either accidentally or on purpose) during sex, and perhaps it’s just my interest in BDSM culture and the lens that comes with that, but I spent the entire post-coitus segment of the movie going “Bella is digging the rough sex” and so did the people I went to see the movie with.

The relationship is completely fucked, but it’s consensual and so is the sex. The shitty move is that Edward, in his 1900’s sexist benevolence, is the one who makes her feel ashamed of enjoying her post rough-up glow. He won’t bang her again. She has to convince him she really really liked it.

I get that in the context of an otherwise scary relationship, the headboard breaking, pillow massacre sex can be perceived as another mark against them, but it’s actually just rough sex. And I’m finding all the commentary citing the sex as part of Bella’s “desire for all the wrong things” or an example of abuse in their relationship, really sex negative. And a shaming judgement on what many, many women also desire.

The critiques are coming from (usually) sex positive sources and feminists across the interwebs, and I have to say that I’m really surprised that these people are so quick to throw someone’s sexual preference into the big bag of bad that encapsulates the Twilight series. All that it’s achieving is making people that also enjoy looking in the mirror and seeing visible marks of how much fun they had after sex, feel like their sex lives share some problematic characterisation of an unhealthy relationship. And they get that enough already without needing to read it from places that are supposed to be sex positive.

4 responses to “Twilight critics and sex-shaming

  1. andie January 4, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    I’m a twilight virgin so I can’t say much about the context of the books/films but count me as one of those who has admired and appreciAted their own morning-after “war wounds”.

  2. Tansy January 4, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    It’s a long time since I read the scene, but I remember being pretty upset by it – not by the rough sex itself but by the way Meyer handled it. I don’t remember the scene very clearly, but I felt that Meyer was presenting it as “this is OK because Edward is a vampire who can’t control himself once he gets aroused and will hurt his partner because he has lost control and that’s part of what makes him so alluring”, as opposed to “this is OK because it’s OK to enjoy consensual rough sex”. From what you say, it sounds like the movie dealt with it better, but the scene as presented in the book was pretty upsetting for me.
    Sorry if that was incoherent. tl;dr version: I do have a problem with the scene but it’s about the way Meyer wrote it, as Edward having vampirically “lost control”, not about Bella enjoying rough sex.
    Having said that, it is entirely possible that I would read the scene differently now after a couple of years of exposure to feminism.

    • coleytangerina January 4, 2012 at 8:20 pm

      That’s really interesting (and totally coherent). I haven’t read the books so I can’t comment, but I would absolutely have the same issues as you if it’s written like that. (I’ll do some research!).

      If that is the case, then the movie took the easy road by making it seem like Bella’s all good, and then confused the hell out of everyone who hasn’t read the book with why Edward is all “Grr noooo” about it.

    • Esis November 10, 2012 at 3:38 am

      I think that you’re right. It’s been years since I read the books, but it was a very “men/vampires can’t control themselves, so he hurt her. But she liked it, so it’s okay!” Ugh, no. I was just reading about BDSM culture recently and PRIOR consent is a huge deal, as it should be. Edward didn’t ask Bella if she wanted rough sex he just did it and was lucky that she liked it. Running away with your desires without stopping to check with your partner isn’t okay. What would have happened it she didn’t like rough sex?

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