Category Archives: Sex

Ye Olde Women Punished for Enjoying Sex Theme (This time in Iceland!)

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(This post will include spoilers for the first four episodes of the Icelandic television show “Trapped” (2015) that is currently being streamed on Amazon Prime. If you haven’t watched the show and plan to, you might want to skip this post entirely. It may also mention scenes from other films or television shows. If you don’t care for frank discussions of sex, you may want to drop out about now, too. Sure, the monks in my novel are celibate, but they’re monks, lol.)

 

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Women have a hard time of it when it comes to sexual enjoyment. No, that’s not a pun, sorry, it’s just a statement of fact. If you’re a woman and you’re having fun in bed on television or in the movies, something bad is bound to happen to you. It’s like writers have this inner script in their heads that’s been based mostly off of teenage slasher films. Sex means death!! Well, for chicks anyway.

I am always hopeful that we’ll get more media presentations of women enjoying a spot of cunnilingus without it having to be somehow twisted into something awful, but so far I have been disappointed in the mainstream media. (Note here, I don’t watch shows that are AIMED at lesbians, they may be an exception but I don’t know. And that’s beside the point, anyway. Women on women isn’t where the, ah, meat of the problem is. The problem is the depiction of men doing something which is primarily aimed at pleasuring a woman. The media has a problem with that aspect of it.)

“Trapped,” the Icelandic detective show, is a show very much in the vein of other recent and popular mysteries– Fortitude, Broadchurch, Vera, Shetland, True Detective, etc. Things aren’t always as they seem, everyone’s probably involved in some sort of extramarital hanky-panky, and there may or may not be fantastic elements. Or it could all be explained by the normal weirdness of humanity, who knows. Trapped has the benefit of being set in Iceland, which is currently a travel destination hotspot, and also the benefit of starring a bearishly adorable and sexy lead actor, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson. The muscle from Game of Thrones, Hafþór Júlíus “Thor” Björnsson, has some new competition for the most cuddlesome Icelandic guy these days.

There’s also an attractive young actor, Baltasar Breki Samper, who reminds one of a younger version of Viggo Mortensen. In the opening scene of Season 1, Episode 1, his charachter, Hjörtur, is shown blazing along on his motorcycle with the beautiful young Dagný, played by Rán Ísóld Eysteinsdóttir, clinging to the back. They’re young, they’re in love, they’re being reckless and wild. There’s no real presentiment of doom unless you’re expecting this to be a slasher film, they could just stumble upon a dead body or something, right? So we follow them into a building, it looks like a converted warehouse with a loft, and up to bed.

And here’s where it gets interesting. Ahem. They get naked, and we’re shown a lingering shot of the guy, Hjörtur, making his way down her body, trailing kisses, then a glance up as he begins, ah, his work. The shot cuts back to her face and breasts as she obviously enjoys his attentions.

And then, while she’s having a post-coital snooze, he goes downstairs to take a leak and the whole damned building goes up in flames. Hjörtur tries to get back up the staircase to save her, but it’s too late. He’s badly burned, things explode, and the beautiful young woman is burned to death. Boom, that’s the end of poor Dagný. You let someone go down on you, you die in a fire. sigh.

The havoc that this death wreaks in the community is a big theme in the next few episodes, leading to suspicions and hatred and confusion, which is all to the good in a modern mystery show. But it still seems pretty harsh that the golden-light bathed young woman, being given such attentions, is then punished by a truly brutal death. They could have just shown them going at it in the usual way, there was no particular reason to show the sex in this way. Well, Hjörtur was devoted to the girl, and her death pretty much wrecks his life. I suppose it’s the way they chose to show that he REALLY loved her.

Which says an uncomfortable lot about the way sex is both portrayed and lived in these days. I have a pretty good understanding of the numbers behind Tinder and Hinge and Bumble and all those dating apps, and the numbers are depressing. Women are participating in all this sex, but they’re not actually getting the big O from it with much regularity. That’s not just guesswork, it’s actual research, which I am way too lazy to go look up at the moment to link for you. (It’s been a long week already). So, people are hooking up, the guys are getting what they want out of the equation, and women are getting . . . what? Not oral, not usually. And not even orgasms as often as one would hope. If you’re going to all the trouble of exposing yourself to someone else’s diseases and DNA, you’d at least hope for real pleasure out of it. But that, it seems, is too much to ask.

Or, I guess, just a function of female anatomy. In television land, we apparently still live in that fantasy world where strictly penetrative sex can light off the fireworks for women, even though that’s been shown to be about 15% of us females, at best. These rare diversions into showing cunnilingus, then, should be a lot more normative, you’d think. The numbers show that the vast majority of women WANT that from a man. The majority of men claim to enjoy it and to perform it. So why is it that, on television, we can’t seem to just give it a wink and a nod and assume it’s going down (sorry, that WAS a pun)– we have to find some way to make it dreadful.

If you’ve read my previous post about this in the show “Hemlock Grove”, you’ll know that this was a huge problem in that show, too. Every incidence of a male orally stimulating a female was plagued by so many problems that it basically became its own horror subtext in the show.

In “Trapped,” so far, the only other sex we’re shown is problematic, too. One implied act of sexual exploitation of a trafficked woman, and one act of infidelity ala Mrs Robinson, with the wife of one of the civic leaders getting it on with a much younger boy who is, presumably, a student at the school she works at. Yeah, it’s not looking so good for good sex in this show right now. Is it asking too much for sex acts between people who are in love, for it to be non-coercive, non-exploitative, and not punished by being blown to smithereens?

I’ll keep watching the show, as it’s pretty good and the cuddlesome cop lead is so cuddlesome, but I’m not holding out much hope. I will, however, report back if some woman is actually able to experience that terrible power-shifting sexual experience that our television writers are so scared of leaving unpunished.


Gratuitous Gore in Game of Thrones

Caution: Extensive Spoilers Ahead! For both the Song of Ice and Fire books AND the Game of Thrones HBO series! Abandon Hope, All Ye who Enter!

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So, anyway, last night I finally caught up with Game of Thrones on my DVR. What can I say, it’s been a busy week. Anyhow, I was generally pleased by the changes that the tv series has made to the book storyline– at this point, I am almost ready to call it a completely alternate universe of Westeros and be done with comparing the two universes. Most of the main characters have been improved hugely beyond their characterization in the texts, and many of the pacing problems of the books have been avoided. One tiny little thing niggled at me, though, when the show was through . . . a tiny pinkie finger, and the torments thereof.

You see, in “A Storm Of Swords”, the book that Season 3 of the show is mostly following, we do not see or hear of the fate of Theon Greyjoy. He basically disappears from the text, only reappearing in the later books, transformed utterly by the experiences he’s had in the interim. Those experiences, at the hands of the bastard of Bolton, are essentially tortures that are almost unimaginable in cruelty and sadism. Thankfully, GRRM doesn’t subject us to every detail of them. The aftermath, and the slow reveal of all Theon’s missing appendages and broken bits, is horrifying enough.

The television series, on the other hand, has subjected us now to several scenes of graphic torture. I have to say that I entirely disapprove of this– not just because torture is sickening to watch (which it IS), but because it’s a lousy choice to portray something so graphically for such an extended time. Eventually, the audience recoils– if you’ve ever watched the movie “Casino”, I bet you can remember the point at which you sat back and said “Now, this is just sick for sickness’s sake.” There comes a point where the mind, in order to protect itself, just shuts down the empathy section and refuses to care about these characters anymore.

A lot of people had that reaction to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, so it’s not just mobster movies that can tilt the emotional pinball machine. By choosing to hit us with graphic scenes of torture, both physical, as in the first scene of having his feet broken in the screws and the later scene where his finger is flayed, and psychological, as in the mind-boggling false escape and the later game of lies, the television series risks the very real possibility that the audience will just dissociate themselves from the events. I’ve read several comments on various websites that lead me to believe that a lot of people are having that reaction already. They’ve gone from squirming in their seats in horror to just walking out of the room to get a soda or something.

In a way, it’s a sort of PTSD of TV. Not to trivialize the very real disorder, but for sufferers OF those types of disorders, especially, these scenes may be unbearable even to read about.

I think GRRM chose the right path in his books. By letting us slowly see the results of torture instead of the torture itself, we are allowed to gradually build up some feelings for the broken betrayer of the Starks. He’s done hideous things, but what was done to him was, in a way, his payment for those crimes. The Theon at the end of Book 5 is not the Theon of Book 1. He’s been shattered and is slowly piecing himself back together. It’s one of GRRM’s better pieces of characterization.

By showing us the torture, perhaps the show’s directors felt they were making sure we knew that Theon paid his dues in the dungeons of the Dreadfort. I think it’s too much of an appeal to our worst sides, too much like what people call “torture porn.” There’s a faintly lascivious air . . . which is made even more apparent in the final scene of torment of the episode “The Climb” . . . a scene that I knew was coming but was very nauseated by anyhow.

I had a feeling that the character of “Ros” on the show was due for a death– she had no more real role to play in the events to come, and her usefulness was pretty much over once Sansa and Littlefinger went on to their next destination. I was expecting her to be written out . . . maybe not expecting her to be explicitly shown to be the harlot that Littlefinger sent to an unpleasant demise at the hands of a sadist. But her death scene, in her ripped clothes and cross-bow-crucified pose, was another instance of “too much” in the graphic (and sexualized) violence scale. Mercifully, the scene was brief, but the image lingers in the mind. It’s reminiscent of the queerly obsessive attention that we still pay to the Jack the Ripper Murders. Murder, when it involves a prostitute, seems to become another sort of “service” that they’re providing for the public. By being paraded around by the media in pictures (or carefully positioned and shot in a television reenactment), the public is led to what is, essentially, another exploitation of them.

Yes, yes, it’s all for the audience, and we keep watching so it must be okay with us . . . but will we keep watching? As the thousands of books, websites, and magazine articles about the Jack the Ripper case can attest, we probably will. The scenes of Littlefinger’s whorehouse are, mercifully, now at an end as he moves off to court Lysa Arryn, but the camera’s lustful eye will soon turn to Dorne and the scantily-clad southern women, to Meereen and the scantily-clad women, to Braavos and, well, more scantily-clad women . . . and then there’s the torments ahead for our various heroes and villains. How many more torture scenes with Theon do the directors expect us to endure? The one in this episode dropped my own internal rating of the show down. Any more, and I’ll be strolling to the kitchen instead of sitting on the couch . . . and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the people at HBO want me to do.

Cut the torment, Game of Thrones. Have some mercy upon your viewers, even if there is none (story-wise) for poor Ros and Theon.


Downtown . . . in Hemlock Grove

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a nice post, and anyone who really gets upset by sexual discussions might want to just scroll on past . . .

Ok . . .

We ready?

Yeah?

All right.

So, I spent several hours of my irreplaceable precious life watching Netflix’s newest “Made for Netflix” series, Hemlock Grove. And, yeah, it was a pretty silly way to waste 12 hours of my life, but I found it campy and amusing in its own way, and the kid who played the werewolf was, well, really cute, in an adorable “Don’t you want to pet him and feed him a sandwich and check his i.d. to see if he’s over 18 before you ogle him” kind of way.

I was most interested, however, by the way the show depicted sexual encounters. I’m going to give you a huge spoiler alert right now and say that, if you haven’t finished watching the show (or ever want to watch a silly “vampires-and-werewolves-fight-crime” show), you might want to stop here.

Spoiler space

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Okay, now that we’ve eliminated the readers who don’t like to discuss human sexuality and those who don’t want to be spoiled for Hemlock Grove . . .

(You guys HAVE stopped reading, right? Here’s your last chance.)

The whole show, since it’s a made-for-online show, doesn’t fall under the rules for TV shows, so it has some pretty explicit sexualized scenes. That’s not exactly surprising in a world where HBO is the big bad boy on the street. There’s one scene that’s a positively-portrayed sex scene between high school seniors, which is questionable at best. Since they are each other’s “true loves”, however, we’re supposed to let it slide. Another scene is, frankly, rape.

One spoiler that you’d need to understand the rest is that two of the characters, a mother (Olivia) and son (Roman) are basically vampires. They have mind-control powers. Roman is 17 and can force people to do acts against their will, although every time he uses this power, he gets a nosebleed. His mother never spills a drop of blood, although we highly suspect throughout that she’s controlling people more subtly. Roman doesn’t know he’s a vampire, however, and may just be a novice at the whole thing. He craves blood, especially during sex, and we see him cutting himself during sex in order to facilitate his little vampiristic bloodlust. Creepy, but, well, not the creepiest thing we’ve ever seen.

We do, however, see him a) spot a girl who is on her period, since she has a tampon sticking brazenly out of her purse, b) follow her to the bathroom, and c) persuade her (possibly with his mind-control, we don’t know for sure) to allow him to perform oral sex upon her.

That was pretty creepy. And, honestly, menstrual blood isn’t per-se blood, but that’s probably too nit-picky for most people. But it’s still a pretty questionable way for anyone to portray cunnilingus. Gross, really.

The two young lovers (the werewolf and his pregnant girlfriend) do use a little oral stimulation by the male before they get the bed rockin’, but it’s clearly foreplay and definitely a situation where it’s freely engaged-in and pleasurable for both parties. Applause, at least, for that.

The other two instances, however, are definitely questionable, and both for the same reason: the vampire mind control bit. The mother, Olivia, has a scene where she is receiving such pleasuring by her (married) brother-in-law. Afterwards, he stands up and straightens his tie and she sends him back off to work . . . we get a strong hint, here, that she coerced him to do this. In the last episode, we see her directly mind-controlling this same man, so it’s definitely a possibility that she’s been playing with his head all along (Don’t kill me for the pun, it was unintentional, I swear!)

The last instance is during the rape scene– Roman begins what seems like a consensual encounter with a young woman by giving her some rather perfunctory oral stimulation. Then he rapes her. After this very heinous and terrible act, he makes it worse by using his mind control powers to force her to forget the whole thing. It’s almost impossible to retain any sympathy for his character after this point, no matter what comes afterwards. All in all, it was a wrenching scene, made worse by the fact that he briefly made the young woman think it was going to be a good encounter– by doing that act which is, presumably, for the woman’s pleasure.

So, we have four instances of oral sex being performed upon a woman. Three of those are definitely not positive depictions of the act. The last one is . . . troubling. Not because cunnilingus is prohibited during the marital act, no, but because it wasn’t between a married couple, for one, and two because these two young people weren’t supposed to be adults.

That last fact was . . . dare I say it, unintentionally, rendered the most squicky and uncomfortable by its timing in the show– I’ll explain.

The young werewolf and his girlfriend are walking peacefully across a large lawn. They sit down on the hill, cuddle, and exchange soft words. The werewolf hunter, who is watching them with binoculars from afar, looks at them and says, “They’re children. They’re all just children.”

And then it cuts to the explicit sex scene.

If it wasn’t intentional, the director needs a kick in the nuts.

Ahem. Just my opinion, of course.

All in all, Hemlock Grove was not a victory for a discerning viewer when it comes to depicting oral sex. Some people may question whether it should ever be depicted, period– of course, that’s a problem in and of itself. I happen to think that, if it is depicted, it should be in a way that doesn’t make it either a) disgusting, b) non-consensual, or c) illicit. Possibly, that can never happen. I’m no expert in the field.

I am, however, disappointed, Hemlock Grove.

Very, very disappoint.

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States of disgrace

So, I did a little market research into werewolf novels. All I can say is “Whooooo-boy!”

Rape fantasies, glorified rape fantasies, lots of totally non-subtle bestiality hints, lordy, it’s a mess.

So I asked myself “Can I sell a noirish murder mystery in a market that’s super-saturated with sex?”

The answer mostly seems to be “Not unless I am completely in love with the material and willing to fight for it.” And, today, well, today ain’t that day.

I still think it’s an interesting novel, a compelling story, and a good solid book. I’m just feeling more than a little discouraged by the other material that’s out there. It’s like walking into a fantasy bookshop and only finding Gor knockoffs and p0rn. Sure, there are lots of people that like to read that sort of thing, but I don’t want to write it. And writing something else is going to be like walking into the belly of the beast with a torch and poking at the stomach walls. You’re more likely to get digested than to give the monster indigestion.

So, since I’m discouraged and disheartened and generally feeling the “Ugh, where did my sunlight go?” of seasonal malaise, I decided to write something a little less depressing.

I started working on a picture book about a mythological creature that I invented. And then, because that was just too chipper for my mood, I started working on a cheerful little teen novel that starts out with the mother of the protagonist bleeding to death on a couch.

Because sometimes, “less depressing” is a very relative term.

The state of picure books is what I’d kindly call “hyperkinetic” — really, kids can’t have words anymore, just frantic pictures? But I can still feel generally cheerful about the outlook because it IS, after all, for kids. The state of YA is actually fairly healthy, even if the topics are pretty bleak these days. If a book doesn’t have at least one person leaking their life’s blood onto the upholstery, it’s hardly a YA novel anymore.

Werewolf fiction, though . . . oi. It greatly suffers from not having a Dracula to compare it to. Without a trace of a literary ancestry, it’s just completely devolved into pornographic fanfic. Twilight is bad fiction, but I think she was actually aiming for literature (and just coming massively, massively short.) Face it, if a book has a subtitle that explains that, yes, it IS just nonstop animal sex, well . .. you’re not even aiming for the bleachers.

Maybe I’ll feel more thrilled with the notion in another day or two. Until then, I’ll try to finish my new picture book and work some on the YA thing. Taking a break is a good thing, I think, when the spirit is completely unwilling.


Same as it ever was

For some reason, people like to think that humans have greatly evolved in the past couple thousand years. Lo, we are so evolved, we are more open-minded and tolerant and intelligent and wonderful . . . .

(cough)b.s.(cough)

For a little enlightenment on how just as wonderful, intelligent, and amazing human beings have been for multiple thousands of years, I present the following links.