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Nope, That's Not Consent

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Stalking your crush, pushing for the yes, kissing as she fights until she gives in... Guess what, Hollywood? That's not consent. Join Dawn Serra in this fast-paced look at the myth of what's romantic and consent (or the lack of it) in TV & movies.

Video transcript

Just to introduce myself really quickly for those of you who are new to Pop Culture Undressed, my name is Dawn Serra. I have a weekly podcast called Sex Gets Real. I do an online, free conference a few times a year called the Explore More Summit, where we have really juicy, deep conversations about everything that has to do with bodies, relationships, sex, communication, kink. Earlier today I was telling Maya I got to interview cultural critic and writer Imran Siddiqui. And we are actually talking about consent and romance and the super problematic themes. So I am primed and ready to go for this. Thank you for being here. "I always feel so held and safe with Maya and the mods." I know, LC, they are so incredible and so generous and so good at what they do. So let's get started. I would love to hear from you. What are some romantic films that you used to love, and maybe still do, but you've realized that they're actually super creepy. So if you have noticed any romantic films that you either used to really love, or maybe you still do, but you've also noticed, hmm, that's actually kind of problematic, shitty behavior, I would love to hear what that is. So feel free to type that in the chat and let me know. Aw, Nadia's the sweetest thing, saying, "Maya is so deserved." Yay for making your day. Yeah, the mods are such a critical piece of what we do here. So if you have a romantic film or films that you grew up loving and you have since realized, that's kind of creepy, I would love to know what that is. Hi, Call Me Crimson, welcome. We'll be talking about most of mine tonight. But one that's not on the list, but probably should be, is The Breakfast Club, super creepy behavior. Bender, of course, is very emotionally abusive. He constantly crosses Claire's boundaries. He puts his head between her knees to get a closer look at her panties when she doesn't consent to it. And of course, it's all written off as being because he doesn't know better and he was abused and she falls in love with him anyway. So if there's any romantic storylines or films that you've loved, and now you're kind of like, I don't think that's actually how I would want someone to behave around me, drop that in the chat. I would love to hear it. Because we are going to be talking about some big, awesome stuff tonight. I would also love to know, as we're thinking about romance, and how so often the romance we're sold is in no way mutual or consensual, what are some of the behaviors that you've noticed, that Hollywood likes to pass off as romantic, that's actually f-ing terrible. Like if you were on the receiving end of this in real life, you would hate it. So any behaviors you've noticed that Hollywood likes to pass off as romantic, feel free to also drop that in the chat, because we're going there tonight. And I would love to know your thoughts and your observations. I have four pages of really delicious examples from some of the biggest romantic films of all time and why almost always, the guy gets the girl, gets massively problematic. So as you're thinking about movies and behaviors, let's start with some of the really common storylines that we see in Hollywood films. And then I have a bajillion examples that we'll actually dive into that help kind of demonstrate this. "This is so real and important. "Thank you for doing this stream." You are so very welcome. "Ready Player One should get a mention." Ooh yeah, I love that book and that movie is about to come out. So please tell us more. I think Steven Spielberg is directing it. Or he owns the rights, I can't remember. But the trailers are dropping for that one. So yeah, tell us more about Ready Player One. That, I'm hoping they do well by the book, but, also, problematic. And of course, in previous week's streams, we have talked at length, for hours, actually hours, about the problems with movies like 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight, John Hughes films. So here's some of the really common storylines that we see. Often romance films include the hard-to-get storyline. She's playing hard to get. And this is a storyline of a woman who is playing hard to get, playing hard to get. And what it really means is that women don't mean what they say, so men need to push, coerce, and convince a woman into understanding his version of the truth. The assumption is basically that women like the power of rejection, but they don't actually dislike you. They're just trying to kind of claim a little bit of power, be a little bit sassy and mysterious, and that if he can just prove that he's one of the good ones then she'll change her mind. So that hard-to-get storyline, you will see it through almost every single romance film that we talk about today. Very problematic, yes. Something else that we see a lot is women as mysteries. Imran Siddiqui just actually wrote a really great article about women as mysteries and the film Phantom Thread that was nominated for a whole bunch of Academy Awards. So women as mystery is super common. We see this all of the time. It's often positioned as women either intentionally withholding something or failing to see the genius or the glory that is the man that is obsessed with her. But she's difficult to figure out, and if he just kind of keeps bumbling along, eventually he'll earn her or figure it out. Men are often surprised when they find out that she actually doesn't like them. And kind of the what's under the story of women as mysteries to be solved is that if men can just do the right things to kind of do the Rubik's cube that is a women's behavior, he can get her to do the thing that he wants, because of course, his desire for her trumps everything else. So the woman as a mystery is something that we see all the time, and it's incredibly problematic. We'll see that in a lot of our examples too. Another storyline that's super common in romance movies is that persistence is admirable and desirable, especially from men. Usually persistence in women in romance films and comedies, more often in comedies, is seen as sad or pathetic. It's usually coming from a woman that is seen as not desirable or wanted. But in men, usually positioned as the suave hero, or even the geeky hero, persistence is seen as a really wonderful quality proving how much they love someone. Usually that love is based entirely on a first glance and desirability, right. So he looks at her, decides she's the one for him without having any other kind of information, and then his persistence is seen as something that is worthy of love. And so it gets at the heart of almost all romance stories that Hollywood is putting out. And basically it's her saying no over and over and over again. Body language, actual language, positioning herself in different spaces, she's constantly saying no, I'm not interested. I don't want this. And he believes that because his love for her trumps everything, that if he just keeps pushing and manipulating and trying to find ways around the no, that eventually he can make her love him. And that's what real love is. Similarly, under the persistence theme, we see a theme of forcing yourself on someone, and that makes you want them if you are the right kind of man or you have the right kind of suave. We see this with James Bond type films and Zorro, you know, swashbucklers are seen as, they take what they want. And that's an assertion of their masculinity. Again, it has nothing to do whatsoever with the person that they're courting, but we're told that this is romantic because he wants you that much. "Parzival and Artemis have their third act in the book "and afterwards, he won't leave her alone, very problematic. "Yeah, he even pulls the Say Anything stunt." We are going to talk about Say Anything tonight and how that boombox scene is actually really, really terrible. "Although to be fair, it makes perfect sense "that someone raised almost exclusively by pop culture "would think that kind of bullshit was romantic, "though I'm pretty sure that wasn't the author's intent." That's a really important point. So almost all of the films that we're going to talk about tonight are films that for many of us were very important to our adolescence and our teenage years. Even as adults, a lot of the rom-coms that are out there just continue to perpetuate these problematic behaviors. Say Anything was a huge part of my teen years, as were most of the John Hughes films. And for millennials, Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey, huge impacts. Movies have a direct impact on our behaviors and the way that we do relationships. So the things we're gonna talk about tonight have real, real important meaning because it, movies, especially if you've been exposed to many of them over the years, and television, directly inform how we think we're supposed to behave in relationships. What it means to be sexy and wanted. So these are really, really important storylines for us to be critiquing. Call Me Crimson, Alex, says, "So true. "The insidious ripple effect of this "is that we are culturally programmed that this is normal "and/or romantic." Right. So let's talk a little bit more about romance and grand gestures. So something else that's frequently, frequently sold to us in rom-coms and romantic films is grand gestures are romantic. So grand gestures are used very often as a way to prove someone's love. Say Anything with the boombox is a really great example. Heath Ledger taking over the intercom at the stadium and dancing in the bleachers in front of her entire soccer team in 10 Things I Hate About You. Another example is in Crazy, Stupid Love, the young boy, the son who is obsessed and in love with his babysitter, stages a very public scene and performs in front of her entire high school without her consent and deeply embarrassing her to prove his love. So these grand gestures. The unfortunate thing about the grand gesture is that it's almost always a man ambushing a woman in a public place where the woman really can't reject him out of a fear as either being seen as heartless, uncaring, cruel, being judged and egged on. They are leveraging the social setting so that they are coercing her into agreeing to the date or the kiss or the proposal or whatever it is, when in fact, it's this massively manipulative technique that positions the guy's love as trumping everybody else's experience. So grand gestures, something else we see a lot in romance films that actually have nothing to do with consent or mutual exchanges. It is I am going to create a situation where you can't say no. But that scene is romantic. "I watched the first half of Love Story "because you've mentioned it so many times, Dawn, "and it was so awful. "And I haven't yet observed any instances "that are clearly nonconsensual. "I wasn't paying the closest attention. "Famous line, love means never having to say you're sorry "is really horrifying." Agreed, completely, totally horrifying. "And totally contributes to this idea "if you love someone enough, "you can do whatever the fuck you want." Right. So love is seen as the ultimate goal, right, as the thing that trumps everything else. And often in romance films, what we see is men displaying terrible, criminal behavior that is then painted as romantic because it's in the name of love, which gives us a very skewed and abusive understanding of what romantic love actually means and how we achieve it. "It's mind-boggling," you're right Maya. And yes, welcome to the stream. Whether you're on Facebook, hi, or on O.school, hi. I'm so excited to be talking about this. So lots of examples. Call Me Crimson says, "Did you hear about the jackass "who was playing his piano nonstop on a college campus "to win back his girlfriend?" Yes, and that is a perfect example of the woman playing hard to get, also the grand gesture, and that to be persistent is admirable, right. He's not giving up on this woman that he loves. He'll do anything to get her back. Despite the fact that it doesn't really take into account whether she wants this, whether she's okay with it, whether she feels safe. It has nothing to do, and as we see when we start talking about these examples, almost never does the romantic storyline of a rom-com center the woman. So when we're talking about the behaviors, it's always, always centering the guy's feelings and his beliefs about what's supposed to be happening. It's very rare that it's the other way around. There are some really good examples of mutual exchanges. There's a really wonderful scene in The Big Sick where he asks her for a second chance and she says I can't give that to you. And he says, okay, thank you, and leaves. And there's a mutual respect in that she allows him into the space, invites him in, and he makes the ask and then he respects the no. But those are really rare. Even in Disney films we see all kinds of really problematic, shitty, nonconsensual behavior. "He ended up getting punched in the head." Yeah, because what he was doing was creepy and terrible. So let's dive in. As we think about grand gestures, persistence, women as mysteries, and playing hard to get, all of which are fundamentally built on disrespecting someone else's boundaries and wants, let's see all of the ways these things play out in really popular mainstream Hollywood films. So I want to start with Ratatouille. This is an animated film, intended for young people, and there is this scene when, and this is just classic Hollywood, the rat is driving the human guy. So of course, it's not on the guy that he does this. It's the rat doing it, he's helpless. So the rat forces the guy to kiss the female chef. And she lifts her pepper spray up. And then as he's kissing her, she realizes, no, I actually like this, and then melts into the kiss. This is the kind of thing we see in romance over and over and over again. There's no consent, I'm taking what I want. And then the way that the story goes is instead of getting angry, of telling him no, of walking away and cutting off communication, of saying this is unacceptable, she gives in and realizes she likes it. So the message that gets communicated is we can't trust women when they say no or establish boundaries. We just keep pushing. Eventually we'll get what we want. "Rat-Man, oh so gross. "What a great metaphor." Yes, exactly. So another example, Almost Famous. In Almost Famous, we have a 15-year-old boy, William, who is in love with the older groupie, band groupie Penny. And Penny is on the verge of losing consciousness because she is on Quaaludes. So again, consent with drugs and alcohol becomes very murky. But he acknowledges in the story that he knows she won't remember the kiss. And he kisses her, knowing she won't remember it, because he sees it as a way to feel brave. But this person that he's obsessed with and in love with won't remember it, so he'll just go in for the kiss, and he has the courage to do that, when in fact, all that he's doing is saying, my desire for you trumps your bodily autonomy, your sovereignty, your safety, and whether or not you want this. So super problematic for multiple reasons. "The Fountainhead. "I've been guilty of that thinking in the past. I've been trying to deprogram myself of it." Yeah, so much of this is stuff that we see over and over and over again. I mean, I literally have four pages of examples from major movies. And this doesn't even touch on television shows, which holy crap, there's some shit that goes on on television shows, too, that teaches us that this persistence and this pushing and this romance and this disregarding of the no is all a part of getting the love that you feel like you deserve. And usually it's the person who has the most privilege and power that ends up getting, getting the thing that they want, even if it was manipulated. So Say Anything, we brought that up earlier. Let's talk about that. When you look up listicles on sites of some of the most romantic scenes in the history of movies, the boombox scene with Lloyd, played by John Cusack, in Say Anything consistently comes up as one of the most romantic. I saw this incredible critique of this scene by Pop Culture Detective. And here's why it gets a little bit complicated. When we're watching a romantic storyline, whether it's in a drama or a rom-com, the audience gets a chance to see how the woman is feeling. So we get insight into what she really wants or what she's conflicted about. That is completely unknown to the male lead that is pursuing her. So because we get insight into the fact that maybe she does actually really wanna be with him, we're forgiving of the stalker behavior, of the assault, of the really shitty stuff that's going on. But when we flip it and we think, what does the man actually know in this moment, and then what decisions does he make, it changes everything. So let's think about what Lloyd knows just before he does the boombox scene. She has broken up with him. She has said, very firmly, I want you to leave me alone and never speak to me again. Then he tries calling and showing up at her house and she refuses his calls and refuses to talk to him. So what he has received is a woman who says, I don't want to be with you. I don't want to talk to you. I never want to see you again. Do not contact me. And then he decides he's going to show up at her house and blast the song that they listened to when they had sex through her window. That's the epitome of stalking. There is nothing about his behavior that's acceptable. Now we, the audience, see that she really wants to be with him, but he has no clue that that's the truth. He's just thinking, I love her, I deserve her, and I'm going to keep finding ways to insert myself into her life until she says yes. And then he does the boombox thing. So it's deeply problematic. What's that telling us about yeses and nos? "Have people actually seen the damn movie?" Right, I mean, that's a really good question. And I think it's also really interesting right, because when we don't have any kind of media literacy that's being taught to us, it's really easy. They use music. They use color-correction. They use very persuasive dialogue. They use all kinds of body language and cues that are trying to get the audience to understand this is actually about love. This is about romance. This is how you're supposed to feel with the swell of the music and the rain. It's bringing us in on so many sensory levels that it's really easy for people to overlook the stuff that's going on underneath, which is why we have to have these conversations. So the boombox scene in Say Anything, it's stalking. It's not consensual, not romantic at all. Here's another one, Groundhog's Day. In Groundhog's Day, we have an entitled, shitty man who has to live the same day over and over again. And what he ends up realizing is that he needs to convince his coworker, who in no way likes him, to fall in love with him. He has to live the same day thousands of times. And thousands of times, he tries to convince her to fall in love with him, and she says no in thousands of ways, including slapping him, yelling at him, trying to close him out. And he persists, persistence, he keeps trying over and over and over again to find the way to manipulate her into loving him. Because his interest in her trumps everything else. So the entire storyline is literally, if I can just be the right kind of man and do the right sequence of things, then this person who doesn't want me will fall in love with me. Deeply, deeply problematic, no. You've Got Mail, another classic example of she's playing hard to get, and that persistence gets the girl. Meg Ryan repeatedly tells Tom Hanks's character that she doesn't like him. She doesn't respect him. She doesn't like his business. He's putting her out of business. She wants nothing to do with him. And what does he do? He decides that she's cute and quirky and that he likes her and he's going to do whatever it takes to get her to like him back. So he creates a false persona online that she starts falling for without disclosing who he is. He stalks her in real life. She tells him to leave when she's at home and he pushes his way into her apartment and forces her to accept flowers from him and then insults her. And it's all seen as quirky and cute. And we know that he's a good guy deep inside. And so if he just does the right sequence of things and he's persistent enough, she'll fall in love with him because he's a good guy. And the good guy always gets the girl. So another example of persistence and she doesn't really know what she wants. So if I just keep pushing, eventually she'll realize I know more about her experience and her desires than she does, which when you have young people growing up on those messages, it just reinforces all of the terrible stories that we have about masculinity and what it means to be a man. "It's just completely one-sided because from the beginning "in Groundhog's Day, Andie MacDowell has no interest." Exactly, none. She has no interest in him. In fact, he's a terrible human being. And she's really clear that he's a terrible human being and wants nothing to do with him. And so he has to go to these extravagant lengths to try and prove to her that all of the information that she's had from working with him up until this one magical day is not true. And he has to, it's ridiculous. I mean, he's a shit, and she's supposed to fall in love with him, and that's supposed to be romantic. "And Bill Murray has all this knowledge about her, "but she knows nothing about him." Right, because he's stalking her. And stalking is often depicted as romantic when it's in the name of love. So watching someone, going past their house over and over again, looking through windows. A classic example of this is there's this line in Pretty in Pink where Duckie says that when he likes a girl, he will ride past her house on his bike 100 times in a day, and it's intense. That's exactly what he says. He says, I'll ride past her house 100 times a day, and it's like intense. That's stalking. He's actually stalking this human being, which probably makes her feel super unsafe and like he's kinda not gonna accept her no. That's completely shitty. And it's not quirky or cute because he's a little bit awkward and he's the underdog. It's just terrifying. Wedding Crashers, another great example of guys who just use and dispose of women until there's one that catches his attention who's The One, mostly because of how she looks. And then he goes to extreme lengths of lying, manipulating, and trickery to get close to her, stalking her, and figuring out everything he can about her, manipulating her family and the people she cares about. And then in the end, because he's persistent enough, despite her repeated nos, you lied to me, he gets the girl. So just once again reinforcing that it doesn't matter if you don't really want it. In the end you're gonna give in because good guys get the girl. Oh my gosh, how many comments. "I'm sensing we may have watched the same YouTube "in preparation." Yeah, absolutely, Pop Culture Detective is fantastic. I highly recommend everyone check it out. Also any of Imran Siddiqui's essays, super great. Buzzfeed and Refinery29 have done some amazing write-ups on rape culture passed off as romance. So totally check those out if this is your jam. "This is reminding me of 50 First Dates," yup, "which is an interesting twist because the plot "is that the main actress has a traumatic brain injury "and wakes up every morning with her memory reset "so that the main actor has to convince her "to fall in love with him all over again every day." Yes. Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler for 50 First Dates, right. And there's even a scene where she is not interested in him and so she has a boyfriend. And he's like, oh really, what's his name? Because of course, we don't ever trust women when they're trying to establish a boundary and he has to push past it. So yeah, it's kind of a nice out that she can't remember anything and he has to like continually prove that he's the one that she loves. I mean, ugh, it's really gross when you think about it. "She doesn't really know what she wants. "This is another side effect of these tropes." Exactly. "People raised female who's confident "in their own decision-making and authority." For sure. It's just like endless gaslighting and manipulation. "And theoretically it's not nonconsensual, "but it definitely is this bizarre thing," yes, "where every day she wakes up "and might as well be kidnapped." Yes. "It's also such a metaphor for women not knowing "what they want and men having to coerce them "because men know what's best." Yes, exactly. "And that's supposedly one of the not-so-bad "Adam Sandler flicks." I know, it is so upsetting, oh my God. So let's talk about James Bond for a quick minute. James Bond is held up as the epitome of masculinity in our culture. He is suave, he is rich, he is dangerous. He uses violence to get the things that he wants, and he always gets the girl. The problem is most of the ways Bond gets the girl is through assault and intimidation. So Bond usually picks the most beautiful, you know, that conventional standards, woman, and zeroes in on her. Some of his most common techniques are cornering her, locking her in her room, isolating her, and then demanding something from her, and being very physically aggressive and intimidating. And in fact, many of the women in Bond films are actually initially posed as enemies that he has to physically fight violently with. And then once he pins them down, gets them against the wall, he forces them into a kiss and then they melt into it, because that's what they actually wanted all along. We've got so many James Bond films from so many different eras. And most of them subscribe to this trope, really, that James Bond is this very complex, confident good guy that's a little bit messy. And the women are all one-dimensional. I mean, really, the only thing they are is arm candy. And he just does with them what he wants. And that's seen as being heroic. But it's absolutely seen as being a marker of masculinity and successful masculinity in our culture. "Toxic masculinity." Yes. So Maya is sharing a couple of links. These are just little gifs from a couple of the movies that we've already discussed and will be discussing. So the first one is a gif from that scene in Ratatouille when he kisses her and she's gonna spray him and they she melts into the kiss. The next one from Indiana Jones, we'll talk about in just a minute. This is a very intense scene where they're talking about how much they hate each other, and she's like fighting him off and then he kisses her, and then of course she gives into it because it's what she wanted all along. And then in Blade Runner, that's also a very violent theme that we'll talk about in just a minute. Indiana Jones and Blade Runner, Harrison Ford in general. Pop Culture Detective has a really great video essay about Harrison Ford and his very predatory characters that are painted as incredibly romantic. So we'll talk about that in just a second. But feel free to check those out. Another example of kind of that swashbuckling hero is from the Mask of Zorro. Antonio Banderas plays Zorro, and Catherine Zeta-Jones played his feisty love interest who hates him at first. And this is one of those romantic themes where he forces himself on her. He startles her. He grabs her for a kiss as she fights and says she doesn't want it. And in fact, he even goes so far as to use his sword, he is armed with a deadly weapon, and cuts her clothes off to his liking. And then she's shocked and covers up. And it's supposed to be seen as funny because we're supposed to be siding with him. He's clearly the hero and she's being a pill, right, that's how it's framed. And if he just grabs her and proves his heroism enough, then she'll fall in love with him, which of course she does, because that's how Hollywood does romance. So it's another example of men who are seen as the hero being given license to take what they want. And when you have young boys and girls growing up on those stories, it's no wonder that so many people feel like if I just go in for the kiss, if I just take the thing that I want, that's romantic. Uh, we have a cultural problem with consent, #metoo. So so much of what we're talking about as romantic from these films is feeding the conversations and the feelings that we have about consent. 16 Candles, we did an entire Livestream a few weeks ago about John Hughes films. Pretty problematic. So putting aside the rape of Caroline, because that's part of the storyline, I think it's important to even reel it back all the way back to the beginning of the movie when Anthony Michael Hall's nerd character, you know, is zeroing in on Molly Ringwald. Whether it's on the bus, at school, at the school dance, she consistently tells him no, both verbally and with body language and facial expressions. And every assertion of the no encourages him because he sees the no as something to persistently undermine. It's a way to like achieve, because she doesn't know just how great he actually is. So when she says no, he gets closer. When she says no and wrinkles her nose, he leans in her space. He grabs her on the dance floor and embarrasses her in front of her friends. Leans in, takes over conversations and centers himself. And it's supposed to be seen as funny and cute and not threatening because he's the underdog. He's not the hero or the main love interest. So what harm can he do? That's how nerds are often portrayed by Hollywood. Nerds and geeks, anyone who's the underdog, they're kind of positioned as what harm could they do. They're not the one that you want. So they have this license to treat women terribly, to stalk them, to manipulate them, to objectify them. 16 Candles is a really good example of that. There's, I mean, Revenge of the Nerds is even worse, but 16 Candles was a major part of my childhood. "The Sandlot." Ooh, tell me more. I haven't seen The Sandlot in like forever. I wanna know more about that. So Love Actually, super problematic for many reasons. Of course, we have the super creepy stalker friend who secretly videotapes his best friend's new wife because he's in love with her, and then shows her the footage. Not weird at all. And then he shows up at her doorstep and tells her to lie to her new husband while he confesses his love to her. And of course, instead of telling him this is unacceptable, this is inappropriate, I'm married to your best friend, this attention is unwanted, she rewards him with a kiss. Because aw, it's really sweet. Persistence is always a sign that you're the good guy. But something else that's really problematic in Love Actually is a very small scene that happens with the British guy Colin. His storyline is all about him. All he wants to do is just get laid. And at the end, we see him show back up after his trip to the United States with Denise Richards on his arm. But in the beginning of the movie, he is a waiter at a wedding. And he sees a pretty girl and decides, that's the one I want because I don't care of she wants me. She's pretty and I get to have her. And he starts talking to her, and she's clearly not interested in him. And instead of taking the cue that she's not interested in him, he actually takes one of hors d'oeuvres from his tray and tries to feed her with it, and holds it up to her mouth, and she has to actually move away and like, no. And what's interesting about that is later in the movie, they reference what prudes British girls are. And so he finally got what he deserved by going to America and finding girls who just wanna have sex with anybody with a cute accent. Because he is positioned as one of the good guys. He's just kind of a bumbling idiot who doesn't know better and says he's just going to find a pretty girl who eventually wants to fall in bed with him. And it's her problem if she doesn't want him. So that persistence is lending itself to the storyline that prudes are people who don't give you what you want, and the girls who do are the ones who deserve your attention, and I won't say respect, because he certainly doesn't respect them. But Love Actually has a lot of issues with consent and romance and stalking. But I thought that was just an interesting little moment that often gets overlooked. "The kid," oh right, yeah, "in The Sandlot, "the kid with glasses fakes drowning "so he can steal a kiss from the hot teenaged lifeguard." Exactly, right, so the manipulation, the coercion, the trickery to get the things because the boy and the man, their experience of love and desire always trumps the safety, the autonomy, and the sovereignty of the woman that they're interested in. As we go through this list, never is the woman centered. Never are we considering and looking through her lens at how scary it must be, how traumatizing it probably is to be stalked and harassed and watched through windows, and having people show up at your house, having people talk about you, making people give you their attention because they either have power over you or because they're forcing you to through grand gestures. It's always about the guy and not wanting to feel rejected. And he's just trying his hardest. He loves her. It's for love, it's okay, right? The antithesis of consent and mutual human connections and exchanges. "Though she was initially horrified by it, "she gives a kid a look to suggest "she was impressed by the ballsiness. "And then it's revealed that they eventually got married." Exactly. So yes, one of those tropes of she doesn't actually know what she wants. We can't trust women. And if we just make them see the right way, which is usually the dude's way, then she'll be happy and give in, and then they'll live happily ever after because she can't be trusted to actually know what she wants, which is kind of the foundation of almost all of these romantic films. So Beauty and the Beast, people have written about Beauty and the Beast endlessly. It's worth noting that both of the men in Belle's life are completely terrible. I would say human beings, but I don't know if the Beast is human at first. Gaston, of course, who we're supposed to laugh at, but is actually really terrifying, does not care what kind of a person Belle is, what she's interested in, or what she wants. She's the prettiest girl in town, and Gaston has decided that he is entitled to her simply because he wants her. Because everybody else wants him, so he clearly gets whatever he wants. So he consistently disregards Belle's no. He knows better, he will marry her. Everything's happening on his terms. Now, Gaston's painted as someone we're supposed to laugh at. But the Beast is incredibly emotionally abusive, physically violent, and locks her up and won't let her see her friends or her loved ones. And then, because we see what a good guy he is underneath all the wounds, because, you know, bad guys just need enough love to be good, then she falls in love with him. So again, painted as romantic that if you just love someone enough after they've treated you like shit, you'll get to the good stuff and you'll fall in love. So terrible that this is a kids' film. But there's lots of problems with consent in Disney's fairytales. It's finally started getting just a little bit better in recent years, but man, some of the classics are really terrible. "Revenge of the Nerds is the only movie "to be discussed tonight that features an actual rape." Yeah, I actually don't have that on my list, but feel free to share anything that you want to about Revenge of the Nerds, because other than just mentioning nerd culture and the way that it's usually painted, I wasn't going to cover it. But feel free to weigh in on the storyline. So The Notebook, which is by and large painted as one of the most romantic movies of all time, it's one of most popular, you know. Nicholas Sparks knows how to go for those tears. The way that Noah initiates the relationship is with a threat of suicide. And I think that's really worth noting. That is not the way to start a relationship. Everything that comes after that is fucked up and terrible because the only reason that she agreed to go out with him was because he publicly threatened to kill himself. And what's worse is he doesn't just say, if you don't agree to go out with me, I'll kill myself. He says you have to convince me you want me, and that you want to go out with me so that I won't kill myself. It's not just will you go out with me and she says yes. He says you have to convince me you want it. I don't want you just saying it because I'm threatening to kill myself. That is deeply abusive, deeply abusive, manipulative, coercive. There is nothing consensual about what she says when he does that. There is just no way you can consent to something when someone is threatening to kill themselves or harm themselves in that way. That is super terrible. And that's how it all starts. So not the best foot that we're getting off on. Revenge of the Nerds is horrifying for a number of reasons, absolutely. And I think it's worth mentioning, too, that a lot of the romantic storylines that we have in television shows are based on deep drama and stalking and abusive behavior. Of course Chuck from Gossip Girl, he is so abusive and so completely terrible, and coerces women into all kinds of terrible situations for his own gain. And even when it's the love story between him and Blair, he treats her terribly. But because we know he's broken and he has a terrible family, we're supposed to forgive him for the really terrible things that he does. Something else that happens a lot in romantic films, I've been watching Riverdale for the first time. And I think that this is something that's really interesting that we see in a lot of romantic storylines. Basically the story that we're given is that if you love someone and they're the right one for you, then they won't say no. And if someone says no, then they don't matter and their storyline isn't important. Now of course people should be able to say no and opt out and move on. But the problem is the way that it's painted in romantic films is that those people are disposable, and that we just keep going until we can get the person that says the yes in this very like predatory way. We see characters written out of the storyline for simply saying, no, I'm not interested. I am setting my own boundaries and saying this isn't interesting to me. And instead of saying that sounds like a powerful, autonomous character who has really interesting things to say and is going to go do interesting things, we write them out because we don't like people who create boundaries and stick to them in our romantic storylines. So we definitely see that happen in Riverdale with one of the Pussycats that Archie is dating. She's powerful and interesting and complex. And then he treats her terribly. And when she says no, you can't win me back, and he tries again, and she says no, I'm not kidding around, you treated me terribly and there is no excuse for that. I will not forgive you. Her storyline is virtually eliminated from the show. Because the only way we can get to romance is for you to treat me terribly, and then eventually I realize you're a really good guy, and then it's going to be okay. So Archie doesn't actually have to learn from that. He just moves right into the next relationship, behaves badly, but she forgives him, so that must be real love. So that is a really common trope that we see in television, especially around romance. "Still exploring, since you may have laid this out "in the beginning, so I'm sorry if I'm repeating. "But are you going to or could you talk about movies "that are less terrible, possibly even good, "portrayals of romance, love, and sex." I do have lots of examples of good stuff. I wasn't really planning on covering them tonight, but I did offer one example. I don't know if you heard me mention it. There is a really great mutual exchange in The Big Sick where he's asking her for a second chance. And she says, no I can't give that to you. And he says, okay, I respect that. And I think the thing that's really important about that scene is he's disappointed, he's sad, he wants a different outcome. Those are very human experiences. And he still respects the no. That is not how we typically see a romance unfold. Usually that's the point where you start pushing or you get incredibly angry and jealous and start stalking. So the respect that's displayed there, I think, is really important. I would love to do another stream because there are a lot of television shows and movies, usually a little bit more independent, that get some things right, where there's some emotional intelligence and some respect. So I'd love to circle back and talk about that, because I just think it's so important that we at least start with here's all the ways that it's not supposed to happen. We are not supposed to be stalking, staring through windows, showing up at parties uninvited, giving people gifts that they don't want, doing grand public gestures without consent, because there's nothing that's mutual about what's happening. It's only about the guy feeling like what he wants is the most important thing. And that has been sold to us again and again as romance. "Setting the actual rape aside, it makes Betty look terrible "because the main reason she dumps Stan for Lewis "is because Lewis is apparently better in bed." Well, that's also a problem. So yeah, just literally we can name almost anything, and there's massive problems. And the reason for that is because the vast majority of writers and directors of film and television are men, white, cis, able-bodied, rich men. Their perspective is, of course, going to center the guy. And that wouldn't be as big a problem if we had a tremendous variety of people's stories being centered, but we don't. These are the only people that really have the access to the resources to be creating these stories. And we're starting to see small shifts. But I think it's really important to note that most of the romantic films that have been made by Hollywood since the beginning of film, the vast majority have been created and filmed by men. And so this is a good example of why so many of the problems that we see in culture around patriarchy, masculinity, sexism, are just continuing to get perpetuated. It's because the people telling the stories are centering themselves. Imagine how different these stories would be if the people writing and directing them were women of color, were queer folks of color, were queer folks with disabilities. If they had the resources and the access to be telling these stories, we'd be getting very different stories about what love means, about what's romantic, about behavior that's acceptable. But when we the people that have the most access and the most privilege deciding that they are going to write what we should see as romantic, which is them having access to other people's bodies and experiences, then that becomes what we see as romantic. And it becomes normal because we don't realize that there could be another way, which is why these conversations are so, so important. So I wanna end with one last thing. Anybody who's been following any of the online video essayists around pop culture, this will not be a new one. But I wanted to just make sure it's worth mentioning, and then people can go watch the amazing work that's being done to break this down. Harrison Ford's characters tend to be deeply predatory. Now, I grew up loving Indiana Jones. I loved Star Wars. I was obsessed with those films. And of course I loved Harrison Ford in them. I thought Indiana Jones was funny and defiant and smart and brave, and at the same time, kind of silly and ridiculous and you laughed at him because he got himself into these ridiculous situations. And of course, he always gets the girl. And the same thing with Han Solo. Of course he was a jerk, but you know underneath he's a good guy. You know, as a kid, I totally bought into those things. And of course, Blade Runner, a really, really important movie to kids from the '80s. So there's been some tremendous work around Harrison Ford's characters and the ways that they treat women as prey to be preyed upon. And there's these really incredible, like I will read you a little bit of dialogue from Raiders of the Lost Ark where Marion, the first time we see her in Raiders of the Lost Ark, she's telling him that when they first met each other and had a romance, she was 15 and he was 27. And she says I learned to hate you in the last 10 years because they're seeing each other again 10 years later. And that's where we come into the story. So she says I learned to hate you in the last 10 years, and he says, I never meant to hurt you. And she says, I was a child, I was in love, and it was wrong and you knew it. And he says, you knew what you were doing. And then of course, by the end of the film, they're in love and kissing and everything is fine. Deeply, deeply, deeply problematic and gross. That is not okay to have a 27-year-old man seducing and having a love experience with a 15-year-old girl. And then to blame her and say she knew what she was doing, that's the epitome of rape culture. So we also see in Raiders, or Temple of Doom, of course, the woman, whose name, it's Steven Spielberg's wife, her character hates Indy and is super angry at him and he mocks her for being angry at him and then forces her to kiss him and she fights and then gives in. And we see the same thing in The Last Crusade, which is one of the gifs that Maya shared earlier where he's in this fight with this woman and they hate each other and they're angry at each other and she's telling him like, no, get out of my space. And he grabs her and kisses her and she fights for a second and then she gives in and then they have sex. So, or it leads towards that. So it's this repeating storyline with Indiana Jones that women are something that you take and then eventually they give in, that you dominate them and take what you want, just like you do with all the rest of the world because you are a white colonizer who is going and digging up important sites to other cultures. But who cares? You need the things. Same with Han Solo. The scene where he kisses Leia while they're working on the ship, people have counted, and I think she says no 13 times, both verbally and with her body, moving away from him, leaning away, turning her face. And then he goes in for the kiss and then she sighs into him and it's all okay, when it's really not okay, because she said no 13 different ways and 13 different times and he decided none of that was important. And then, of course, in Blade Runner, he actually sexually assaults her. And it's a really terrible, terrible thing. But we're supposed to forgive him because he's upset and a little bit drunk, and people who are, people who are hurt hurt others. So just from top to bottom, super problematic stuff. If you, oh, "I've really enjoyed this discussion," yay! "This subject has been on my mind a lot this week "with the Ready Player One movie on the horizon." And like, the fascinating thing is, if we were to sit down and just watch pretty much any movie, I mean, like Gone with the Wind, classic example, super shitty manipulative behavior, like it's posed as romantic. There are some fascinating examples from movies in the '50s and the '60s. There's one, I can't remember the name of the film, but it's painted as romantic that this man, he lures women into his office, and then he has a button that he pushes that locks the door behind them, starts a record player that plays romantic music, and then he seduces them. So like, if we look throughout the ages, it's always been problematic. And this is just like the tip of the iceberg. But I wanted to grapple with it because most of what we know as romance is actually abuse. Maya has just shared my links, so please follow me, stay in touch. I Livestream almost every single Wednesday. I'm not Livestreaming next week. Or no, I am Livestreaming next week, but not the week after. Next week I'm talking all about fat bodies and the way that they're portrayed in film and television. It's so important that we talk about representation and the ways that influences how we feel about bodies and who gets to be sexy. So please join me for that. Feel free to pick apart all your favorite romantic films as you think about these things and tweet at me or follow me and let me know what you thought. I so appreciate you being here. Yes, and thank you Maya. Oh, "I just tipped," yay, thanks Maya! Thank you Maya for moderating and helping us have this conversation. I will talk to you on the next Pop Culture Undressed. So thank you so much everyone and I will see you super soon, bye!

Nope, That's Not Consent

Date
Thu
Mar 8, 2018
|
2:00 pm
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Calendar
Thursday, March 8, 2018
|
2:00 pm

Stalking your crush, pushing for the yes, kissing as she fights until she gives in... Guess what, Hollywood? That's not consent. Join Dawn Serra in this fast-paced look at the myth of what's romantic and consent (or the lack of it) in TV & movies.

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Dating after Divorce or a Long Relationship

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Mar 27, 2019
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Shame free Seeds of Sexual Development

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Jul 18, 2019
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What does sexual development look like in young children? What tools can parents and caregivers use to support children growing into sexually healthy adults? Lydia will share strategies for promoting shame-free conversation with children.