"A zoo of lusts...a harem of fondled hatreds": Interrogating sexual violence against women in film, 1915--2003
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation, which takes the first part of its title from the musings of C.S. Lewis, discusses the subject of rape in classic and contemporary Hollywood cinema--yesterday and today, i.e., from 1915 to 2003--in which I interrogate the rape and victimization of women as viewed through the lens of feminist theory and film. Despite much feminist intervention and revamping of rape laws, women are still seen as instigators of their own victimization as well as victims of a distraught and failing femininity. I concur with many film theorists that most rape scenes provide insight into the power relations of race, gender and class oppressions; however, by taking a slight departure, I move beyond these relations and enter into a wider discussion of the construction of female virtue, pedophilia, female sexual orientation, woman as spectacle, woman in the middle, and commodification of female sexuality. I also discuss the relationship between rape and religion. Working from a selective rather than exhaustive and from a thematic rather than a strictly historic framework, these themes are discussed in conjunction with their significance as it relates to particularly graphic rape scenes. That is, I explore what these films collectively say about rape, as I try to understand what about the victim or theme makes the rape scene so graphic. I submit that in each of the films that I analyze, the individual trauma of the victim has its etiology in more complex dysfunctions of the larger social world; therefore, I examine sexual victimization in the context of the societal power structure in which she resides. I also look at masculinities under pressure and how these pressures are often used to explain and to excuse men doing harm to women. Finally, I juxtapose the connection between past histories and images of rape in film with the contemporary reality of the discourse of rape and provide some commentary on how to lessen their impact onto the female experience.