Why The “We Saw Your Boobs” Song Is Just The Tip of the Iceberg
When I went through rape crisis-counselor training, one of my instructors asked my class if any of us had seen “Gone With the Wind”. A bunch of people raised their hands.
“Great,” she said. ”Who can tell me about the rape scene in ‘Gone With the Wind’?”
None of us could.
Here’s why: we aren’t taught to view scenes like the one my instructor was referencing as rape scenes. In Gone With the Wind, Scarlet is seen being carried, kicking and screaming, up the stairs by her husband…and then in the next scene, she’s lying in bed powdering her face like life couldn’t be better. But let’s not make any mistakes about this: it’s a rape scene. Scarlet pretty clearly is not consenting to what her husband wants to do (hence the kicking and screaming), yet it takes place anyway.
Hollywood has been pretty generally bad at handling the subject of sexual assault. The topic of sexual assault in film has come back into conversation in the last few days due to controversy over the “we saw your boobs” song from the Oscars, which, let’s face it, was pretty disgusting, given that it objectified all of the women involved and four of the scenes referenced were sexual assault scenes. But that’s really just the surface of the issue, unfortunately. The mere fact that the folks in charge of the Oscars didn’t blink before letting that song be a part of the show, and didn’t screen it for references to sexual assault, highlights the incredible lack of sensitivity and/or awareness that Hollywood has displayed on this subject.
That’s not to say that Hollywood has dropped the ball ENTIRELY. The Accused, which is one of the movies that Seth McFarlane referenced Sunday night, does provide some critical examination of a pervasive culture of violence against women, which is something America could frankly do with a little more of. Ditto for another of the films McFarlane referenced, Boys Don’t Cry, which made the issue of violence against the trans community accessible to audiences across the country and opened people’s eyes to a serious problem.
Those films are a start, but they keep with a narrative of rape that, while true, hardly gives the full picture. Remember, about 85% of sexual assaults are considered acquaintance rapes-~-they are date rape, or victimization by someone the victim knows. About a quarter of rapes occur within the context of marriage. These narratives are left off the silver screen, perhaps because they aren’t as dramatic, perhaps because they aren’t something the audience wants to think about. Remember again, people like to believe that this could never happen to them…so if it’s something that seems particularly extreme, they can say that it bears no resemblance to their life. This of course isn’t true, but that’s not what audiences like to think, and Hollywood isn’t paid to tell us ugly truths we don’t want to hear.
But even when rapes like the ones I just mentioned ARE included in a film, they’re included in a way that doesn’t make it obvious to the audience that what just occurred was, in fact, a rape scene. Oftentimes a woman will be seen fighting/struggling/resisting, only to give in at the last moment and then to be seen enjoying herself, or be seen after having enjoyed herself. The resistance is portrayed as some sort of game of hard-to-get, some bit of foreplay, or as if it is inconsequential, because the woman eventually succumbs.
This is a dangerous narrative to promote. It continues to blur the line between consent and non-consent, and promotes a culture wherein consent is not seen as something you have to ask for, and maybe isn’t even all that important. It promotes the idea that a woman’s mind will just be changed, that she will give in, and moreover, that she should, because even though she didn’t actually want this, look how great it worked out for her. This narrative is a part of rape culture, and it needs to go.
So yes, point at Seth McFarlane and the producers of the Oscars, and ask what on earth they were thinking. Say that it was disgusting and it was insensitive. Say that the Oscars have some serious sexism issues that need to be addressed. But while we’re on the subject, take a look at what Hollywood is portraying, and what kind of stories they’re telling about women, and about women’s bodies. The “we saw your boobs” song is only one tiny piece of a puzzle we desperately need to start deconstructing.