The Rape of Alice: An Exploration of the Abuse in The Killing of Sister George

* * * TRIGGER WARNING :: Depictions of Abuse, Stalking, Rape, and Homonegativity * * *

Hello again!

For one of the courses that I am taking at University, I have been tasked with writing 6  reaction papers over the course of the semester. Many of these take the form of psuedo- film reviews, where my reaction is to a film that we watched in class. The first of these was to the film Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). This was not published here as, well, I didn’t think about it at the time. This, the second reaction paper is in reference to The Killing of Sister George (1968). However, before I begin with my write-up, I just want to point out again that there is a trigger warning on this post, as well as on the movie being referred to, for depictions of rape, stalking, abuse, and homonegativity and discussions thereof. Please tread carefully and remember self-care.

[Image] A person with painted nails holding up a card saying "It's NO until I say YES without coercion"The Killing of Sister George (1968) contained quite a few problematic elements. Ranging from conflation of femininity with infantilism to the complete inability to resolve the plot, the movie seemed quite content to make wild, unfounded generalizations and then leave the audience hanging. However, perhaps the most problematic elements of the movie did not lay in the mechanics of plot development or basic storytelling, but instead with the depiction, and implicit normalization, of manipulation, abuse, and rape within lesbian communities of the time.

These themes were almost omnipresent throughout the film, but were mostly tied to those who took an interest in Alice ‘Childie’ McNaught. From the very first scene, it is shown that the relationship between June ‘George’ Buckeridge and Alice is one marked by alcohol, control, and abuse. Within the first fifteen minutes of the film, June is aggressively questioning Alice about who she has been drinking with, as if an empty glass on the table is an indication of sexual indiscretion. Despite this concern being quickly dispelled, June follows up by once again accusing Alice of sexual impropriety, this time with her boss at work. This leads into one of the most awkward and blatantly abusive exchanges in the movie when June screams at Alice “If that’s what he’s like, then why hasn’t he had a go at you?” This is quickly followed up by June exasperatingly adding “No one ever tells me anything” to Alice’s assertions that she is being honest, forthright, and true.

This seemingly confused behaviour on the part of June seeks to throw Alice off balance and pressure her into a certain pattern of responding. This is shown more clearly later in the film when June unexpectedly shows up at Alice’s work to find that her boss is not the sexy, suave, lady-killer that she was expecting, but rather an older, married, Jewish man. In this scene, June insists that Alice lied to her about the sexual appeal of her boss; However, Alice did no such thing. Rather, she gets pressured into responding in the affirmative simply to defuse the anger that was being directed her way by June. This pattern of denial, followed by continued abuse, and finally complete surrender is one that repeats itself throughout the film, and a truism of long-term abusive relationships: learned helplessness.

Alice isn’t the only person to be a recipient of June’s abusive behaviour, however. Rather, this list includes a pair of random nuns in the back of a taxi, as well as the entire cast and crew of the BBC soap opera June was working on. In both of these cases, alcohol fueled her exploits, leading June to act inappropriately. With her peers on the set of her soap opera, June simply hurled abusive barbs at those members of the cast she didn’t appreciate. However, with the nuns earlier in the film, it is suggested that June sexually assaults either one or both of these women, a fact that she uses to taunt Alice later on.

As with many abusers, June also shows a history of abusive, consent violating behaviour. In a scene detailing how June first met Alice, June recounts the story of how she stalked Alice, violated many of her personal boundaries, and even took a piece of her property as a souvenir, all prior to even speaking a word to Alice herself.

June: That takes me back years. When I first met you…

Alice: That awful boarding house.

June: You know, for weeks I watched you come and go, and I never spoke a word to you. Every morning, you set off for work punctually *giggle* at 10 past 9. You were always in such a rush.

Alice: I had no idea you were watching me.

June: Then, one night I went into the bathroom just after you had had a bath, and the mirror was all steamed up and the bathmat was all wet and glistening where you’d be standing on it. And, there was a smell of bath crystals and talcum powder. It was like an enchanted wood. And I stood quite still on the bathmat in your footprints and then I noticed that you’d left your comb behind, it was a pink plastic comb and it had your hairs in it and I kept that comb as a souvenir. And all that time, I’d never spoken a word to you.

This extreme example very much mimics the way that abusers and rapists choose their victims. They often violate social norms and minor personal boundaries as a way of testing whether the victim would be likely to rebuff their advance or challenge their presumed power. If these small invasions are successful, the abuser moves to larger boundary breaches and more controlling behaviours. Often, by the time the victim realizes what is actually going on, the abuser is far too close or far too connected to push them from their place of power and control. [Dick pictures as minor boundary breaches]

This entrapped nature of abuse, and the random, often unpredictable nature of the abuser pushes the victim in to a state of learned helplessness, much like that exhibited by Alice. In this, the victim often surrenders to the abuse, even when it is over things that aren’t factual or believable, simply because they know that correcting the abuser will only make matters worse. With this in mind, the sex scene at the end of the movie begins to look less like a failed attempt at romanticism and more like a new abuser using the learned helplessness of Alice to take a place of control and power. At the beginning of this scene, Mercy Croft places her hand on Alice’s breast, Alice pushes her hand away, not once, but twice, Mercy continues to push Alice’s limits until, finally, Alice gives up, “allowing” Mercy to do as she wills.

This pattern of learned helplessness does not imply consent; However, in the many years since the films release there is little to no discussion about how the sex scene at the end of the movie may actually be an act of rape. This may be because of general perceptions of rape as a wholly violent act, against a thrashing, fighting, completely unwilling victim. Patterns such as the one described with Alice are often not only discounted from rape discourse, but actively eroticized by generations of romantic comedies. This, along with the passing reference to a sadomasochistic relationship between June and Alice, offers real life people who act like June and Mercy social license to operate. This allows them to use the benefit of the doubt created by “gray rape” romantic comedies, and other aspects of rape culture, to continue their track record of manipulation, abuse, and rape.

Considering that Alice, June, and Mercy are the only developed lesbian characters, and given that not one of the three of them is a positive, strong role model (to say the least), it is safe to say that this film, much like Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) is highly homonegative. Further, since many of the major character flaws present within Alice, June, and Mercy can be tracked back to stereotypes and beliefs about the butch/femme dynamic of lesbian relationships (butch as sexual and physical aggressor, femme as childish, innocent, and passive), the film actively supported the hatred, fear, and misunderstanding that surrounded lesbian women and gay men at the time.

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Signal Boost Sunday :: On the Twelfth on of May

[Image: A black and white cartoon like drawing featuring a radio tower in the background with visible circles of radio waves extending on all sides, a pond with catails and reeds is in the foreground]

Signal Boosted.

Elizabeth Smart contends that part of the reason she didn’t seek escape from her captors was because abstinence only education made her feel worthless for being raped.

You know that guy we placed in charge of preventing rapes in the military? Yeah, probably a rapist.

In case you thought that brutalizing woman was all serious, here is a sexualized, zombified verision of your ex that you can shoot at. Oh? That’s problematic too?

All that sex that teenagers are having, all that sex that adults are decrying as THE WORST THING EVAR!? Apparently, it is a lot safer than we like to assume.

Also, military rapes? Still rising in number.

More military rape bad news: Air Force releases a brochure that tell rape victims to submit to rape and tell rapists… well, nothing.

Still on the military: Rape is just “hookup culture” gone wrong, according to a misinformed top general.

In fashion news: Slut shaming is big this year, especially in the school dress codes.

Once again, false rape reports are extremely rare.

Again, again, rape does happen to men, and it isn’t fucking cool.

Politifact, you are wrong. Gay people can still be fired in 29 US States for being gay. Also, Maddow schooled you.

Good news: Asshat extraordinaire, and founder of “Girls Gone Wild,” is going to jail for general asshattery.

North Carolina seeks to win the prize for worst idea ever by forcing teens to have a notarized letter of parental consent to get an STD test

Why trans* rights matter: Graduating student denied use of his chosen name at graduation ceremony, outing him to all his peers, their families, and friends.

Now for the good news, I wish there were more:

California has passed a trans* equality bill!

Delaware has legalized gay marriage, making it the 12th state to do so.

Signal Boost Sunday :: May the Fourth!

[Image: A black and white cartoon like drawing featuring a radio tower in the background with visible circles of radio waves extending on all sides, a pond with catails and reeds is in the foreground]

Signal Boosted.

Apparently, FoxNews thinks that sex between teenagers is illegal. Hint: it isn’t.

Feminism has a bit of a transphobia problem.

What does affirming verbal consent like? Not this

So, tell me again how men can’t be raped?

A Nova Scotia boy has been blocked from playing soccer because he is trans*

Have you ever wondered what feminist porn looks like? Ask Rachel Rabbit White

What is it like to have a transgender parent? It’s, well, normal.

Maybe you heard that Jason Collins came out as gay. Well here is a history of professional sports women who have been out for years.

Good news:

Rhode Island becomes the 10th US state to legalize gay marriage.

Do it online now!

Awesome kickstarter of the Day: Assigned Sex, a documentary exploring gender roles from a trans* perspective

The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network is holding a T-shirt design contest. Your design could end up at San Francisco Pride.

[Featured Fetish] Degradation

Welcome to the Featured Fetish~!

Last week, I used this post to talk a little about a fetish that I like quite a bit, Financial Domination. However, in doing so, I knew that I was picking a topic that required not only a great deal of trust and communication, but also a 24/7 dynamic. Even in the best of times, these requirements can be hard to satisfy. Because of this, I likely excluded quite a few people last week. So, this week, I decided that I would talk about something a bit more accessible, and another fetish that I enjoy a great deal: Degradation.

As always, if you would like to hear more about my experiences, likes, dislikes, and fantasies around this fetish, hop on over to Verbosity at its Sluttiest for an in-depth look.

Risk Awareness:

Unlike many other fetishes, Verbal Degradation does not necessitate sexual intercourse, sexual touching, or even close personal distance. For this reason, Verbal Degradation is rather safe as far as BDSM fetishes go. However, this isn’t to say that degradation is completely risk free, but instead, that the risks associated with this particular fetish tend to be more of an emotional, rather than physical, nature. These rather emotional risks have been broken down into three categories below: Triggers, Landmines, and Long-Term complications.

Triggers:

The first of these, triggers, refers to an emotion, event, or situation that triggers a strong negative emotional response, such as fear, panic, dread, or depression. Often, triggers are associated with traumatic situations from a person’s past that still hold emotional salience today. Because of this, triggers are often extremely personal in nature. This makes it almost impossible for someone to tell what another person’s triggers are without open, honest communication.

While I would like to be able to say that there is a clear and simple solution to make sure that triggers will never effect you or your partner(s), this is just not the case. I mean, it is possible for a person to work through and deactivate their personal triggers, but usually this takes a great deal of time, personal inner strength, and a good therapist. Because of this, the preferred (short term) solution is just to simply avoid the situations that trigger the negative emotions. Obviously, this isn’t an ideal solution–especially considering the likelihood that others can accidentally trigger these emotional upheavals–for the most part, it manages.

That being said, there are some ways to make this plan of trigger avoidance more likely to be successful:

  • First, own your situation, know what your triggers are, and know what emotions your triggers cause. After all, if you don’t know this information, it will be almost impossible to avoid your triggers, let alone pick up after they hit.  
  • Second, communicate, communicate, communicate. The people around you cannot read your thoughts; so, if you know that you are triggered by something, let the people that you are involved with (sexually or romantically) know about it. This way, both your partner(s) and yourself can be on the look out for situations that could cause emotional pain.  
  • Third, have an exit strategy. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, your trigger is just going to show up to ruin your fun. Since you know how your emotions are going to respond (first point) and your partner(s) know that it is coming (second point), you can focus on healing. Build a strong comfortable space where you, and possibly your partner(s), can retreat to recover and recuperate.  
  • Lastly, respect the triggers of other people. This isn’t so much a path to making sure that your triggers never come up as it is just common decency and goodwill. After all, how much would you like it if someone who knew about your triggers purposefully or carelessly triggered them?

Landmines:

Much like triggers, landmines can completely derail a scene and cause a surprising amount of emotional fallout. Unlike triggers, however, landmines are not issues that one can really be prepared for. This is because landmines, as defined, are just that: unexpected and unintended emotional explosions set off by a trigger that was previously unknown.

Due to the unexpected nature of these emotional reactions, it is just about impossible to disarm these before they happen. Because of this, the best course of action is simply to have practiced safety checks in place. This means that all parties should be comfortable and confident with the check-in process, and all partners should have clear, comforting, and respectful aftercare sessions ready, should the scene need to end.

Long-term complications:

The goal behind degradation, and many other forms of humiliation, is to make the submissive party feel small, embarrassed, and generally squirmy. In scenes which only last as long as the sexual activity does, these feelings often have little to no lasting impact. This is because the aftercare after the scene, and the time between this scene and the next, can be used to build the person back up to feeling like they are amazing, wonderful, awesome, and cared for again.

However, in more long term, 24/7-esque situations, constant degradation and humiliation can slowly undermine the confidence and self-esteem of the degraded partner. This is because in some of these dynamics, aftercare isn’t used unless a scene is particularly intense. So, often, little things, like passing comments, name calling, or even condescension, can be passed without having time or energy put into making the truth explicit or clear. Over time, this can slowly build to the point where it could be detrimental to the emotional well-being of the submissive.

Consensual:

After that surprisingly large section on Risk Awareness, this section is going to be rather short and straight forward: Consent and communication are must-haves.

As with everything else that we do in.. everything.. if you are doing something to another person, consent must be given. And, as usual this consent must be explicit, clear, continuous, and context specific. When it comes to degradation, this means that, before you start trying to degrade or humiliate someone in this way, talk to them and get their permission; This means that, should this permission change, for whatever reason (including because of triggers or landmines), that change is respected and the scene stops; And, lastly, this means that consent to call someone “boy” does not mean that you necessarily have permission to call someone “cunt.”

Enjoyment:

As usual, when it comes to the enjoyment of this fetish, there are no right or wrong answers. The goal is to make this fetish your own and find what works for you and your partner(s). That being said, I know that it is always easier to find what works when you have ideas and options open to you that you may have never thought about. Because of this, I have included a few thoughts below:

  • Use tone of voice to your advantage! If you are the Dominant person in a scene that includes degradation, using the right tone of voice can really make things feel more real and more natural. I mean, think about it, if you are telling someone that they are “worthless whore” in the same way that you are telling them that you love them, there may be a problem. Some of my favourite tones in a degradation scene are usually those of condescension, disgust, or anger.
  • Include other fetishes! I think that this one is obvious enough. Don’t be afraid to mix fetishes, just because your partner is all tied up doesn’t mean that they won’t enjoy being called a whore (assuming consent for that has been given).
  • Include the public! This doesn’t mean that you have to go outing yourself or your partner. In fact, I would argue that wouldn’t be a good idea. But, what you could do on your next trip to the mall is sit down with your submissive partner, lean in so that only they can hear you, and degrade them. (Again, consent first, people) Not only is it a nice juxtaposition to the standard of whispering sweet nothings, but it could also turn into a nice little scene, to which no one is the wiser.
  • Combine this with body writing! How much of an added effect could this have if the words were written, right there, on your submissive partner’s body? Watch them squirm and dash off to the shower after the scene is over. Tease them about the outlines of the words still being there.

As always, if you would like to share your experience, pass along some tips and tricks, or simply tell me off for being so verbose, please do so in the comments below. Until next week live long and be kinky. *watches her partner grimace at that

[Featured Fetish] Financial Slavery

[Image] A jar of money (american bills)

Photo by: Tax Credits

Continuing on the discussion that I started over at Verbosity at its Sluttiest, I will be talking about some of the finer points of getting the most out of a financial slavery dynamic. While I would usually aim conversations on fetishes and the like at beginner’s and experienced kinksters alike, for this fetish, this is really hard to do. The main reason for this is because of the sheer level of trust, communication, and forethought that is needed to engage in this fetish in a safe, consensual, and enjoyable fashion. However, since I strongly dislike ruling people out of conversations, I will try my very best to make this as open to as many people as possible.

Financial Slavery:

Financial Slavery refers to a number of different activities and dynamics which all revolve around a Dominant’s control, management, and use of their submissive’s funds. Because of this large variability in the possible structure of these relationships, this could take the form of anything from the very simple (having the submissive purchase goods for the Dominant as a sign of subservience) to the seemingly extreme (handing over complete control of financial matters to the Dominant).

As can be imagined, some of these different dynamics can be seen in stereotyped non-kinky relationships. However, in these situations, the financial control isn’t done with any thought being given to the enjoyment of the parties involved; Rather, it is usually done out of some sexist assumption, socialized gender role, or one partner’s inability to care about financial realities. Meanwhile, in the kinky lifestyle, some of these same dynamics can come into play without the invocation of financial slavery. This is because, unless one finds the active and explicit control of their funds (or those of another) arousing, this is not a fetish, but instead merely a financial reality.

Risk Awareness:

As with everything that we do in BDSM, as well as in life in general, there are risks involved with this dynamic. For the most part, however, the risks are relatively minor until the dynamic moves to the more extreme levels of financial servitude. Before that point, the main thing to watch out for is overspending and general carelessness with the financial situation of the submissive party. Should this happen, all hell could break loose, obviously.

At the more extreme levels of financial domination, other, more serious risks can arise, including the damage to one’s credit rating and gaps in employment history. For the first of these, the cause could be something like the carelessness that I mentioned above, but it could also be from chronic under use of credit services. For example, should a slave be forced to live on an allowance for an extended period of time, the slave’s credit cards could go completely unused. Over time this can damage the slave’s credit score and make it harder for them to use credit, should they need to in the future.

In a similar vein to the risk around credit score problems, employment history problems could have a long-term impact on a submissive’s life. In some situations, Dominants who take financial control of their submissive’s life may choose to use their power to make the slave a stay at home submissive. This shift, while sometimes useful or impossible depending on the context pulls the submissive completely out of the workforce, sometimes for a very long time. While this can work out very well for a relationship, this could also end badly should the submissive ever need tor return to the workforce. This is because, while they submissive may have been super busy tending to the family, the home, and the whims of the Dominant, the submissive now has no recent references or employment history to rely on when looking for a job.

Consent:

To me, financial slavery is one of those fetishes that is deep in the wilderness of the “Power Exchange” forest. It is not something that is usually considered to be one’s first steps in the lifestyle or even into control play. Instead, it is usually the more experienced traveler of BDSM who makes it to this remote, and rather extreme, fetish. Because of this, having to say that consent is mandatory seems a bit condescending. However, should it stop one abusive asshole, it will be completely worth it. 

So, above and beyond anything else, having both parties willingly and without pressure agree to this sort of dynamic is a must. Without that free, clear, and changeable consent, this isn’t BDSM, this is abuse. Again, while that may seem really strongly worded given the target audience, I feel that it is needed, especially since so many abusive people use the control of money to control their victims and to stop them from leaving a dangerous, or possibly deadly, situation.

Now that I have that out of the way, I feel that it is important to mention that financial domination involves the exchange of a large amount of control, and for a dynamic such as that to be successful, a great deal of mutual trust is needed. To gain and maintain the level of trust needed for this type of fetish, open and honest communication is a must. Much like consent before it, I can’t stress enough the importance of communication, especially around the most difficult topics and the most challenging times. Without this communication, a dynamic that exchanges as much power as this is, at best, doomed and, at worst, dangerous.

Enjoyment:

As is the case with most fetishes, the enjoyment is really in the eye of the beholder. If control and power exchange are not activities that you would rate highly, it is not likely that you will enjoy financial slavery at all. However, should you enjoy the ideas of power exchange or its realities, there is a good chance that you could find financial domination interesting, erotic, and arousing.

Beyond that, however, the only tip that I have for you is a vague one: Make the dynamic your own. Your dynamic, much like your personality, is something that is unique to you. After all, what this dynamic looks like for someone in the role of the bratty submissive seeking attention or discipline is going to be completely different from what this dynamic looks like for a strict Dominant. There is really no right or wrong way to engage in the lifestyle, nor is there a right or wrong way to engage in this fetish.

And with that, I will leave you and yours to your kinky business~