Tag Archives: hemlock grove

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.


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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