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April 10 2008

Torture in the 'Verse. The author ponders on what's behind the "eroticized male torture in Joss' work".

one Angel scene in which Angel is tortured (by Spike in In the Dark)

*smirk* This scene of which many many Spangel fics were born, integrated and over analyzed.

one Angel scene in which Spike is tortured (by Dana in Damage);

I didn't find this erotic *blah* now Glory and Spike, that's another matter...

Also, Mal and Wash was just painful.

Angelus... When he kills women, including Jenny Calendar, there is no eroticized torture element to the crime

How about the woman that let to him getting his soul? Me thinks that was torture. Been a while since I've seen that episode, anyone care to weigh in?

... okay, so Joss likes women over men. Is that news?

I have to admit, as a writer and a reader, I do enjoy seeing my favorite male characters suffer. Both emotionally and physically. Says a lot about me I guess *shrug* but hey, at least I’m true to myself ;)

Also, Mal and Wash was just painful.

Though it did lead to Nathan's best performance on the show. When he says "you wanna meet the real me now?", stunning acting.
He's one scary mofo in that scene. It's like the "Get them out of the vault !" line in 'Serenity'. I almost left the cinema to go and evacuate folk from the nearest handy vault ;).

Interesting article. There's clearly a double standard that's only partly explained by being able to show more of the male body on network television. Is it just a "balancing of the scales" thing because of how often women are victimised ? Did Joss et al even intend the torture to take on an erotic element ? Is it fairly widespread to see it that way ?
I think that so much of "Buffy" was about turning convention on its ear... perhaps this is just an extension of that?

I mean, in television as a whole, how much of the time have we seen women being tortured by men? "Law and Order, CI, SVU, CSI, Cold Case, blah blah blah"- every other episode sees a woman tied up, raped, threatened, beaten, shot, stabbed, etc. There isn't always an element of eroticism to it, but I think that it's there more often than not. Perhaps this is just another way of leveling the playing field... women torture men just as much as men torture women. Therefore, no one is more or less important than anyone else in the grand scheme of things.

I don't know that this is necessarily the type of equality I would like to see in the world, though. I'd like to think that when and if women are truly ever considered by society (cross culturally and universally) as completely equal to men that we would be more benevolent than that. That we would not turn right around and try to "oppress our oppressors." But, we are still human, so I doubt that would be the case.

Maybe that is the ultimate point. Women are *gasp* human beings! And thus are subject to making all the same mistakes that men have made over the last few thousand years... up to and including torturing men.

Or maybe Joss just didn't want to see some of his favorite actresses tortured... :)
IMO, it has to do with how women are seen by the characters. Angelus sees both women and men as objects of sadistic torture - indeed it seems the key trait to being a vampire is the need to torture, whether it is by sucking blood from a living victim, slowly killing them, or by more active means of torture. You could say that it goes with the territory.

The difference in the way men are tortured, however, than women is with men, it is not necessarily homoerotic because of Angelus, but his need to torture from different angles - with Jenny Calendar, he tortured Giles more than he did Jenny because he didn't kill Giles - he meant to kill Jenny, but in the set up, with the petals and the candles (am I mistaken that Angelus did that, not Jenny?), he meant to torture Giles. It isn't that he is saying anything romantic to Giles, but that he is staging Jenny's body and the emotional torture of Giles seeing her dead is worth more than simply killing Jenny. It is simply a way to fulfill a sadistic nature.

Angelus seems to enjoy continuous picking, whether it is emotional or physical. His physical and emotional torture of Buffy after "Becoming 1 and 2" are proof of this - he shows that his previous connection with her is fuel for him.

With Drusilla, I think it's more emotional because she is more emotional...she was, at her core, an emotional person because in becoming a sister, she was taught to forsake the body and to embrace God's teaching through her spirit. That the body, while being a temple of God, does not endure like the soul. I'm obviously speculating, but it keeps in line with religious teachings.

Now the author points out that the torture of men by women (Faith, Darla, Drusilla) is more eroticized than men - I think this 1) Defies the stereotype of power and 2) Torture, rape, etc. has nothing to do with sex. It's about power and control over a subject. These are emotionally (and in Dru's case, mentally) frail women who are physically strong. They use their strength to make up for the lack of emotional strength. Faith, despite being a slayer, defected to the dark side because she didn't have the morality that would've prevented others from doing the same. So using their gender against others is one way they can "level the playing field" so to speak.

Sure there may be plenty of homoerotic undertone, if you look for it, but there also isn't if you don't - I'm saying that whether it is there or not is a matter of subjectivity,and it isn't one of those DUH things, which is why Joss is the best one to answer once and for all.

Onto Firefly - I think in Mal and Wash's case in "War Stories" it had more to do with Niska stripping men of their base beings. They are strong, they're protectors, and Niska is taking that away. They can't fight, they can't protect anyone and not only is it physical torture, he wants to take the hope away.
Well, from the point of an author, torture is extremly interesting. It is a way to "force" people, to allow a view inside thier character, that they would normaly never expose.
It's a great symbol too, and a lot of the human mythology is based on the idea, of people taking pain for others. Woman tortureing themself to bring life to thier children, not mentioning religion. And yes, there is a certain sexual vibe around it. I guess the real problem is, that torturing woman would work too, but it is to appealing to some old deep archaic instincts.
But on the other hand, though woman might have been handled more gentil physically, I would totally disagree, that woman not have not been tortured in buffy.
Thinking about it, I wonder if Joss (assuming the erotic quality was intended - though if he didn't intend it that doesn't mean it's not there) actually meant for female viewers to be equal to male viewers of other shows i.e. if, as a woman, you watch it and are turned on, isn't that a reminder that, in fact, all the supposedly "evil" impulses that men have also exist in the female of the species ? That the way forward isn't some pendulum swing backlash but understanding of - and compensation for - all our baser natures ?

Also, inspecting my own feelings, I reckon I feel differently to for instance Mirage's admission than I probably would if a man admitted the same thing of watching women being tortured (even in fiction). One somehow seems more harmless than the other so maybe the double standard comes partly from the real-world opportunity (regardless of propensity) to actually commit these acts ? Or maybe it's just because men torturing women is too close a reflection of real-life events ?
I really can't say that i ever saw any of the torture scenes as sexual - I mean sure, Angel with his shirt off is hot, but when Dru is pouring holy water on him and he's screaming - that really didn't turn me on.

I think, again, people are reading a bit too much in to this - I doubt very much that Joss intended to show "homoerotic" male torture. If anything - it must be on a subconcious level. Most likely Joss could not, or would not, bring himself to show a female being tortured on tv - it's been done before and given his beliefs, not something he'd ever do.
I am a woman and I find nothing erotic about torture. Even if the torturer is half naked. Causing another human being endless pain is not sexy or erotic to me. It would seem that the person doing the torture is getting off on it and we're supposed to enjoy their pleasure. But I don't. I usually walk away. Or fast forward. What gets me off is people actually being sexy, loving each other. Wow. What a concept.
Yeah, I've never found any sort of torture scene erotic. If seeing a gorgeous woman tortured isn't erotic for me, I can't imagine seeing a gorgeous man tortured would be erotic for women. My wife might ooh for a moment at a bare-chested Angel, but I'm sure as soon as the cuttin' starts, that's the end of that. Even the rather violent sex scenes between Buffy and Spike make me pretty uncomfortable. But maybe I'm just a wuss.
missmuffett- but torturing men, then, would be okay?
And yet let's not forget Joss's favorite scene -- his favorite lines, even:

Buffy: Was it me? Was I not good?
Angel: You were great. Really. I thought you were a pro.

I dunno about physical torture, but Joss certainly puts his characters through some serious emotional pain... and we, who fall in love with his characters, suffer right along with them.

There's a darkness to all of Joss's work. We forget sometimes, what with all the laughing, but everything turns out so dark again and again. (Every song in OMWF has dark undertones!) And while we may not get physically turned on by it all, I think we're emotionally drawn to this on some level or we wouldn't keep watching.

I've speculated, on occasion, that Joss is like the Slayer. There's a demon inside that gives him power -- and while it's not the source of him, it does alter him, gives him strengths in certain areas, feeds him some truly painful stuff. Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I agree with the writer. Though some of our females make mention of torture, I don't actually see it. It would have been nice to see Spike torture Dru, but IN A FUN WAY. Then Dru gets to torture Spike. The give & take of S&M would put both characters on equal ground.

Who knows? Maybe we'll get this equality in Dollhouse.
There's a demon inside that gives him power -- and while it's not the source of him, it does alter him, gives him strengths in certain areas, feeds him some truly painful stuff.

We all have those demons though, surely ? The difference being, Joss' inspire him to create great - if sometimes dark - art and mine inspire me to get pissed and then tell my boss exactly what I think of him ;-).

(seriously though, the darkness is within us all, it's just a matter of where you aim it)

Interesting point though. Makes sense to me that in the same way some watch torture in horror movies, people be attracted to viewing emotional pain at one remove. We watch it to "experience" it safely, to kind of practice for the real thing while at the same time controlling it.
ManEnoughToAdmitIt says, "I dunno about physical torture, but Joss certainly puts his characters through some serious emotional pain... and we, who fall in love with his characters, suffer right along with them."

I agree with this phrase. I think that when considering the torture scenes, we, the viewer, also have to keep in mind the moral perspective of the characters. A lot of the characters who are inflicting torture are demons--they embody a person who is not operating with a right/wrong baramoter. While there may be an erotic element to these scenes, I think that primarily it has to do with facing fears, understanding evil, and realizing that suffering is out there and very difficult to deal with.
The scene with Angel and Drusilla and the holy water is the only one I'd consider explicitly erotic. And it mostly just illustrated how cruel she is.

eta: It was a "vampires are bad" scene, necessary for the "chills" part of the "thrills and chills." Glory wasn't a woman, or any other kind of human being. If somebody gets an erotic vibe off of her torture of Spike, they're not in the story.

edited again for typos.

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2008-04-10 16:51 ]

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2008-04-10 16:57 ]
Well, I definitely have picked up on the theme before. It's one of those subtle things that make me like the show so much and shy away form movies like Saw. While this may not be an equal opportunity torture zone, it's also not an equal-opportunity butt kicking zone; rarely is the strong, secretly kick ass character a man either. Reminds me of that Supernatural fanvid that showed all the erotic torture and death scenes of female characters. That is the standard for television entertainment. Seeing a woman or girl weak, powerless, restrained, being physically hurt and threatened, and in need of rescue. A torture scene hits all the big points and makes the situation urgent. Who will come to their aid?

In Joss' shows, it's often going to be the MAN in the situation of ultimate vulnerability, and often enough it will be a female character who rescues. Not always, but often enough to upset convention to be sure. Although some of the torture scenes are blatantly sexual (Dru's torture of Angel was DEFINITELY written that way, with the sexual byplay conversation between Spike and Angel and her desire to "play"), some are not. Even the torture of minions, by ripping out their eyes or what have you, are usually male, and those scenes are never played for sex value.

Although! That made me remember one of the ONLY times I can remember Buffy really torturing someone... not just using Spike as her punching bag, but in When She Was Bad (Season 2 opener) when she holds down the female vampire and stuffs her cross necklace down her throat. It was a really interesting scene and I remember she was really angry with HERSELF at the time, for falling into the trap and losing her friends. To me it showed how determined she was to get them back and that she would stop at nothing to do so. She was being ruthless, for her. I wonder how that fits in?

I personally think that the scenes, even the sexual ones, are played for the tension and the ultimate "release" of that tension by the saving of the victim. For me, it was a huge payoff when Buffy and Xander burst in to help Giles, when Oz and the gang bust in to help Angel, when Buffy rescued Angel from Drusilla and Spike, etc. etc. Putting it in a feminist perspective, for me, is the same thing that the show does as a whole: sometimes men are the ones to be vulnerable, afraid, and powerless, and sometimes women are the ones to save them! Or sometimes men save men! It upsets convention and that's all of the good.
Hi all! Thanks for taking the time to read and talk about my little piece--I'm new to Buffy, at least reasonably so, and I feel all special having been noticed.

That being said, I pretty vehemently disagree with the claim that few/none of the examples I gave of eroticized torture were actually erotic. I think most of them were. That doesn't mean that everyone who watched them had to think they were sexy, but just that there was a sexual undertone, you know? If you look at the dialogue that accompanies a lot of those scenes (not all of them, though), there's definite sexual undertone.
"Although! That made me remember one of the ONLY times I can remember Buffy really torturing someone... not just using Spike as her punching bag, but in When She Was Bad (Season 2 opener) when she holds down the female vampire and stuffs her cross necklace down her throat. It was a really interesting scene and I remember she was really angry with HERSELF at the time, for falling into the trap and losing her friends. To me it showed how determined she was to get them back and that she would stop at nothing to do so. She was being ruthless, for her. I wonder how that fits in?"

Wow, I'd totally forgotten about that. Really really good point. How does that fit in?
The Faith/Wesley scene is the only one that makes me react the way your typical male/female psycho-killer torture scene does (i.e., look away or fast forward). I completely buy into the role-reversal--Wesley vulnerable, Faith with all the power.
Angel & Spike being tortured doesn't bother as much--they're too strong.
But if they showed Faith or Buffy being tortured that way, my reaction would be different--I'd see them as women rather than slayers (I'd fast-forward). So clearly I share the double-standard of the show; it's a matter of what is emotionally closest to home, to life as I know it.

As for sexy, I'm with flakbait's wife--bare-chested Angel flips the "on" switch, tied-up is OK, too, but start with the cutting and burning, and it's right off again.

I think it's hard to argue that some of the scenes are not erotic, though. In your typical torture-porn, it's the scantily-clad woman that brings out the "porn" part of the name, not necessarily any sexual behavior. And lots of people have the same reaction to scantily-clad Angel & Spike.

As to the "And When She was Bad" scene, at that point in the show, vampires and demons were much less nuanced creatures than they later became--I don't think Buffy would have done that in Season 4.

[ edited by jcs on 2008-04-10 17:37 ]
So, still, no answer to whether it okay to torture men? I hate all torture porn and would never go see such a movie.

welcome, avengingophelia! :-)
Saje wrote:

We all have those demons though, surely ?

Well, yeah. Some people get the "great words" demon, some people get the "yell at your boss" demon, and others get mystical strength and accelerated healing. Just luck of the draw, really.

I just like to point out that darkness was inherent in Joss's worlds from the get-go, or at least from "The Pack," and if we weren't on some level okay with that, we'd have stopped watching long ago.
I 100% agree about the darkness being there from the beginning. I've been re-watching early episodes recently and I am surprised at how much more of it I see now that I know the direction in which everything is going to go.

Re: OK to torture...I'm not sure what you mean. I don't think it's OK to torture anyone. But fiction and reality are not the same. And for me, there are levels or something, too. For example, I have 0 interest in movies like Saw, but I definitely see the erotic potential of some of the scenes in Buffy and Angel. So I don't know.
Torture = more dramatic scenes.

Just like making Buffy or Willow cry.
I, too, agree that the darkness has been there from the beginning. I think it's one reason why Buffy is such an enduring show. It makes us think about the good/bad in humanity--in ourselves.

I've often thought about the torture element when I watch Alias. I can't believe how much torture (although not necessarily erotically charged torture) happens on that show! I think it is very politically relevant given the world we live in now, but I also think it is a very postmodern statement about how we interact as humans.

In response to avengingophelia, maybe the torture in the buffy/angel verse can be broken into subcategories. Sometimes the torture is utilized to gain information or power--it tends to be less erotic. Sometimes the torture has a sexual undertone or overtone. I think it might be helpful to think that a different commentary could be read from a torture scene depending on what is at stake for the characters? Food for thought . . .
The scene when Buffy-as-the-First tortures Spike to use his blood to open the Seal is certainly deliberately eroticised - "she" even says "You look better naked". And Buffybot, earlier, comments on his "sexy wounds". So yes, I think it is there, in some of the scenes at least. I see it as a deliberate inversion of the stock "girl is tortured until rescued by a Strong Man" which we see in so many other shows. But there was also probably a slight touch of pandering to an audience's desire to see more Nekkid!Spike.
I'm EXTREMELY touchy on the subject of so-called "equality", particularly as it pertains to the sexes and its portrayal in the Whedonverse, so I should probably use discretion when posting here.

For now all I'll say is that it would be fairly naieve to think that NONE of the torture was intentionally eroticized.
There are examples of females being tortured in BtVS if you look for them:

Cordelia, sitting tied to a chair with Marcie’s thick nylon rope. ... The scalpel is inches from her face.

We really have to get started. That local anesthetic will be wearing off soon. And I don’t want you to faint. It’s less fun if you’re not awake.

"Out of Mind, Out of Sight"

Usually the torture is threatened and then prevented by our heroes. Which is as it should be. No-one actually wants to see Cordelia get mutilated. That would be repulsive.

I did a lot of unconscionable things when I became a Vampire. Drusilla was the worst. She was… an obsession of mine. She was pure, and sweet and chaste.

You made her a vampire.

First I made her insane. Killed everyone she loved, visited every mental torture on her I could devise. She eventually fled to a convent and the day she took her holy orders I turned her into a demon.

For a moment Buffy can't say a thing. Can't even look at him.

"Lie to Me"

That admission by Angel is probably the most horrific thing ever mentioned on BtVS, and is exactly what Angel sets out to do to Buffy in the latter half of season two, mentally torture her, murder her friends, drive her to utter despair. And the mental torture he subjects her to takes her years to recover from. Arguably she is still damaged by it when she meets Riley, which helps put the doom on that relationship too.

I guess the point I'm rambling towards is, you can draw parallels from a handful of scenes to make pretty much any point you like. In my opinion, torture scenes are used in BtVS to heighten the drama, rather than to titillate, and they are not exclusively applied to one gender rather than another. If torture had been used as some sort of eroticism, as is being suggested here, I for one would not have continued to watch the show.
1. I agree that torture of women is implied or threatened (in fact, I think I said that)? I was commenting on it not being shown.
2. Whether you find these scenes erotic or not really isn't the point. The point is whether they can be reasonably read that way, and they clearly can (at least a half dozen people here have attested to that, and you don't have to look far anywhere else to find other people who feel the same way). There are also textual cues connecting the scenes of torture with eroticism, as has been mentioned already (i.e. Spike's "sexy wounds," The First telling him he "looks better naked," the scene where Dru tortures Angel, Angel's comment about Xander "forgetting the safe word," etc.)
Let's not forget the scene of Xander tied up above the Hellmouth seal by a beautiful woman in a very hot outfit in Season 7's "First Blood."

Yeah, I'd say there is a definite male-targeted B&D theme running through the verse. The scene of Drusilla pouring holy water on Angel definitely struck me as eroticized torture when I saw it. Partly because Drusilla is so clearly getting off on it, and partly because you know it's just external - it hurts him but it's not causing deep harm, i.e. something he can't easily recover from.

By the time we get to "In the Dark" it seems less sexually oriented and more martyrfying, in part because it is now coming from another male (it's Marcus doing the torturing not Spike). I also think Glory torturing Spike is a bit more of presenting him as a martyr - showing that he can do good for the right side. But again, as Gill points out there is certainly a blurring of the lines between eroticism and pain.

Why is it there? Well, vampire literature as a genre is about pain and blood as a metaphor for sex. It's right out there in Dracula - the whole novel is about a woman being pierced by a mysterious man who comes to her bed by night, and blood appearing. It's even more forthright in "Nosferatu" where the heroine actively seduces the vampire into staying with her, in order to destroy him. Ann Rice takes the whole thing about as far as it can go.

So, it's part of the baggage when you go building stories around vampires. I think that in the Buffyverse though, women are not portrayed as victims that way because it is too close to reality. In the Buffyverse, women are strong and can fight back and can walk down dark alleys in unsafe neighborhoods because they are the slayer and powerful. It's a great fantasy. But we all know what the reality is, and that as a woman you are always a potential victim, and you don't go walking alone after dark in certain places, or let the meter reader into your house without checking his references, and if you're smart you never even get into an elevator with a man you don't know.

We are faced with the reality of women as crime victims if we read the news, or on shows like Law & Order: SVU, which I watched once and never again, as it was about a serial rapist/torturer/murderer, and I don't need to be reminded that things like that really do happen. I think that that kind of female victimization was exiled from the Buffyverse because it is about an uplifting fantasy of women having the power to fight this, and to show women victimized that way is too much a reminder of the reality. I think that one of the reasons the Spike/attempted rape incident received the kind of attention it did is because it was too close to the kind of threat that women face in reality. After all, virtually everyone Buffy has ever known has tried to harm or kill her, from her mother on down, but these were all attacks that fell within the fantasy realm, the area where superpowered Buffy could fight back. Acquaintance rape is something that almost happens to Buffy as a woman, not as a superhero.

That would be why women are distinctly not as objectified as sexual figures, in the Buffyverse as much as they are in other television series, and men tend to be more objectified sexually. And after all, torturing guys is always another good excuse to show them without shirts on.
And I say that it matters not to me that torture can be dramatic. I don't like it, whether it affects men or women, and I draw no distinction there. That Joss has used eroticized torture in some ways could belie what he has done with his comments about torture porn- is it less offensive if it is less graphic and more eroticized?
avengingophelia said

I was commenting on it not being shown.

Well, yes, I guess if you ignore the entire second half of season two where Angel inflicts mental cruelty time and again upon Buffy, then yes I agree that it was never shown.
I had forgotten about "First Blood." You're absolutely right. And I think you have a good point about the attempted rape in "Seeing Red" being horrific in part because it's person-Buffy, not-Superhero Buffy that is being attacked. How is that different than the other attempted rapes of women on the show, though? Xander's attempted rape of Buffy in "The Pack"? The Trio's attempted rape of Katrina and her subsequent murder in "Dead Things" (which is, incidentally, the only thing I ever had real trouble watching in Buffy)?
I don't know how much more clear I can be: I was talking about physical torture and how it was or was not shown. That's all. I don't disagree about mental/emotional torture. Not in the least.
avengingophelia, I don't agree with your interpretation that the torture scenes depicted in BtVS are erotic, though I fully accept that your opinion is as valid to you as mine is to me. No argument there. The line in your essay which I would contest is:

"What does it mean, then, that men, both human and demon, are shown being tortured fairly regularly, often at the hands of women, and women are never shown in the same position?"

Never? And yet we have Buffy torturing the female vamp for information in "When She Was Bad", Marcie torturing Cordy in "Out of Mind...", Angel's description of his torture of Drusilla in "Lie to Me", the consistent mental torture inflicted upon Buffy by Angel in the latter part of Season Two, the scene with Gnarl eating Willow's skin, and probably a few others if we were pushed to look for them...

All I am suggesting here is that there are in fact depictions of the things you have said "never" happened which you haven't taken into account in your article.
There was also the scene when Angel torched Dru and Darla on Angel, which I would argue was definitely a torture scene. He intended them to suffer and feel pain, and certainly if he wanted them dead there were more efficient ways of accomplishing this. Torture is SOMETIMES eroticized, and sometimes not.

However, if someone thinks that torture is NEVER eroticized on Buffy, then you must have missed all the parts with the VAMPIRES. The ultimate sexual allegory for sex and violence. The scene with Angel tied to the bed, with the soft lighting and the whole implication of him in Drusilla and Spike's BEDROOM, and then for the kill he starts talking up the bondage in a sexual way HIMSELF (to rile Spike) likening it to foreplay... and Drusilla asking Spike's permission to continue. It was definitely set up, purposefully, to play out sexually. It wasn't the first nor the last time. Now, whether or not the viewer would then FIND it erotic is a very different matter. The first time I watched that particular episode, I was twelve. I definitely picked up on the sexual overtones of that scene.

This is all so very interesting. Barboo I loved your comment! I think I mostly agree. It's hard for me to decide exactly what conclusions to draw from this, especially because we are looking at a supernatural fantasy show that presented violence in MANY ways over the years, and then you throw in Angel and Firefly and I just get even more confused. But there's definitely something being said here; exactly what, I guess, is left up to the viewer to decide.
Oh I agree that vampires can be erotic, no question of that. Vampire Willow is just deliciously hot. But torture? Not so much for this viewer.

I just think if we are getting into an analysis of this theme, it needs to include all relevant scenes and depictions, not exclude the ones that don't fit the theme just because they don't fit the theme.
The infamous scene in "Seeing Red" really is all too real. Witness Buffy's line: "Because I stopped you." That's when the magic of the show reasserted itself; Buffy's too strong to be raped.

But bringing up Season Six opens up a whole new can of worm-shaped demons, if we bring in the violence-heavy Buffy/Spike affair. Not torture per se, because torture is pretty much a one-way street and they do each other plenty of damage. But their whole relationship gets started because now Spike can hurt her again. (And it took some handwaving get that back, but they had to fudge it, because Spike and Buffy had to be a violent couple, at that point.) Let's also not forget Angel biting Buffy in Graduation Day -- if that wasn't eroticized violence, I don't know what is.

It is a great part of the darkness at the core of the show: sex and violence paired together. Since I sometimes claim that existence is all about sex and death, perhaps this is part of why I love the show so much. But it's a little unnerving, when you look at it closely.
ManEnoughToAdmitIt said

Let's also not forget Angel biting Buffy in Graduation Day -- if that wasn't eroticized violence, I don't know what is.

I agree. That was erotic, but was it torture?
Well, I read the article last night shortly after this was posted, but couldn't form a coherent sentence at the time (Mainly 'cause it was...0300 hours).

Some other torture scenes that come to mind -

Eyghon-in-Jenny straddling Giles' lap and grabbing his hair, and beating him up (I know she made comments about him "not having the stomach" but I can't remember just what she said.)

Doc slowly slicing Dawn to activate the portal, while her wrists are tied to the tower

The above-mentioned shish-kebobbing of Xander

VampWillow's treatment of "puppy" Angel

I'm sure there's more, but my brain's just not functioning in "recall torture scenes" mode.

I think the main reason we get Giles, Xander, Spike, Angel, Mal & Wash with their shirts off during torture is because their abuser needs access to flesh to inflict the most pain, not so much to titillate the viewers. ('cause, no offense, but...Season Seven Xander is no XanderinaSpeedowet.)

And...was the Three Sisters' treatment of Giles torture, or torment? He'd been winded due to his fall and wasn't able to fight off three nubile vampresses, who were ripping his shirt open and stroking his chest, licking his neck and face and sitting on him. (Oh, my sweet Rupert!)

Which...leads to the battle between Sauramon and Gand...I mean...DarkWillow and Giles. I'm blocking most of Season Six from memory, especially the end (Except for his lovely giggle), so I don't remember what she said to him. But there was a lot of pain involved. And...did she learn that from Rack, who said she tasted like strawberries?
Bringing up AtS, Lilah got Angel to free Billy from Hell by using the visions to physically torture Cordelia until Angel agreed to the task. And Wesley kept Justine, bound, gagged, and locked in a cupboard with nothing but a bucket for several months. Two more females tortured, neither situation particularly erotic in my opinion.
"I just think if we are getting into an analysis of this theme, it needs to include all relevant scenes and depictions, not exclude the ones that don't fit the theme just because they don't fit the theme."

And I don't think that's a fair assessment of what I wrote. I truly didn't think of the scene where Buffy puts her cross in the female vamp's mouth--that's torture and it was shown. I mentioned Willow and the Gnarl, but it felt to me (and still does) like an outlier. I hadn't thought of Angel setting Darla and Dru on fire, but that could fit in as well. But the other ones you mentioned--Marcie tying up and threatening to cut Cordelia, Angel's story about what he did to Dru, etc. were NOT torture that was shown on the screen. In the first case, it didn't end up happening, in the second, it was recollected but not actually shown. So they aren't relevant to the point I was making. If you want to broaden the discussion into something about more general violence, or torture that is mentioned or implied, or emotional as well as physical torture, then that's cool, but that wasn't the point I was making.
Interesting. I hadn't thought of Justine. That's a good point.

This discussion starts to fray around what is meant by torture, I think. Since I was explicitly trying to talk about eroticized torture and how men seem to being tortured in ways that could be eroticized, I was thinking more about that specifically, but clearly the definition could be broader.

Even if it is, though, the point about the erotic image of male bodies in pain remains.
avengingophelia don't get me wrong, I really liked what you wrote. There are just parts of your article I don't agree with, partly because of my own opinions*, and partly because I think the scope of this theme is a bit broader than your article depicts. But that's cool. I'm certainly not trying to give you a hard time. Oh, and by the way, welcome to the board. Still pretty new here myself truth be told :)

(*I think for myself I am having trouble seperating the 'torture that is erotic' from the 'torture that isn't erotic' since I am not seeing much of a distinction there myself, I'm pretty much a 'torture bad, tree pretty' sort of guy.)
Justine's torture is never I wouldn't count it. I am actually quite shocked at comments in this thread that say they have never noticed anything eroticized about the torture scenes in the jossverse. I noticed right away upon all first viewings. I don't think that this amounts to "torture porn" though. These scenes all played into the stories that they were a part of, no matter how disturbing and dark they were. I think of "torture porn" in films as something that is focused on by the director to make up for the fact that the basic story is lacking...when it is gratuitous and pointless, so to speak. I have to admit that I haven't read Joss' article about it though.

And just because some people don't see pain as erotic, don't assume that no one else does. There is, after all, a whole community of people (BDSM) who do see it that way, and who would read it that way whether or not it was intended (and in many cases here I believe it was intended).
avengingophelia said

Marcie tying up and threatening to cut Cordelia ... [was] NOT torture that was shown on the screen... it didn't end up happening

Just to clarify, Cordelia was tied up on a fake throne and threatened with a scalpel from a tray of medical instruments. Her face was sliced and she did bleed, onscreen.

ShanshuBugaboo said

Justine's torture is never I wouldn't count it.

Torture that happens offscreen isn't relevant? Can't agree there, personally. Besides I'm fairly sure we did see her tied up in the cupboard in one of the episodes, perhaps the opener of season four, "Deep Down". I'm not overly versed on the details of AtS however, so that may be incorrect.

For myself, I just don't view a torture scene as erotic, just as I would not view a rape scene as sexy. For me, Spike's resistance against Glory's torture (as an example) serves to portray him as noble, showing how far he has already progressed towards becoming the hero he will eventually become. It is about heroism rather than eroticism.
I'm in the "don't like torture no matter what or whom" category. To me, inflicting pain on another human being happens way too often in this world for me to ever consider it the slightest bit erotic. Most of the scenes described in the article or above are ones that I find hard to watch. To me, seeing Spike, Angel or Mal without a shirt doesn't turn me off, but it's their faces - specifically their eyes - that attract me.

I understand that some people see some of the scenes described as erotic; I don't and I have no idea if they were deliberately written that way or not. Given Joss's strong feelings about 'torture porn', I would lean towards not. The fact that Drusilla is getting off on torturing Angelus - and that he is getting off on the torture (partly because of what Spike is feeling about it), doesn't make it erotic to me - it just strengthens my feeling that these two characters are evil and delight in another's pain. Not at all sexy, in my book!

One of the main reasons I didn't watch Buffy when it was on television, even though some of my friends watched and enjoyed it, was because I have never found vampires or the mythology around them to be sexy. I still don't. I find Spike and Angel to be sexy in certain situations, because of their personalities, which includes un-vampire-like behaviour a lot of the time. I have to add Henry Fitzroy ("Blood Ties") to that short list, too, but again, he's very good looking and most of the time acts as if he had a soul, although that is not something that is ever addressed on the show that I recall.
Furball, I didn't mean to imply that Justine's torture doesn't count as torture...I just mean that, since it wasn't portrayed on screen(except for one really quick shot of her in the closet), it isn't really relevant to the discussion the author of the article was trying to make...which is about the torture that does play out on screen. That's just how I see it. Obviously there is some debate here as to whether "implied" torture is the same as torture that is shown in more detail.
Furball: I agree on the heroic angle. Seeing someone withstand torture establishes their resolve, and resolve is a heroic trait ... doubly so if the resolve is plainly in defense of someone else.

With the Mal/Niska/Wash scene, we not only got to see the extent of Mal's resolve but also the extent of his loyalty, when in the middle of torture he found the strength to do what he could to keep Wash arguing and conscious.
But, see, my enjoyment with fantasy physically/mental (and of do I love the mental, those scars might never heal) torture has nothing to do with it being erotic. Not only does it offer an amazing medium to see the actor play the character in a vulnerable angle (something most common in female actors, so it's quite appealing in the male form to see how they tackle it) but it is also a great tool for writers and readers to see certain characters in a new light, to reveal extra layers that cannot be visible under normal circumstances. Many here have listed amazing performances done by actors under "torture", top of their game some might say.

I agree that breaking blood doesn’t necessarily constitute as torture, there are so many forms of torture that I believe the female characters in the Verse underwent. It was only a select few of the male characters that were privileged to carry the psychological performances (which I guess does come easier for most female performers – maybe it’s genetics lol). And as an audience I take great pleasure in that study. Nothing wrong if it had sexual undertones, but, honestly, that is nowhere near the top of the reasons for my preference.

A popular theme for us ficcers: We like them hurt, because making them better becomes so much sweeter. After all, Hurt/Comfort is quite popular. Hmm, maybe it’s a nurturing thing… ;)
I agree with much of what's been said above, but I can't help but imagine at least some of this thematic tendency is Joss 's deliberately looking for "points" from certain parts of his audience. Yes, I'm both cynical and no longer a true fan, but I also see the reality that it's a business and the creator has to play his angles.

Torture as arousal; I guess it depends on what you've been exposd to at impressionable points. There is also a question of where any viewer's hed is at a certain moment; an imaghe that "worked for me" at 13 might still work for me" now if I indulged my mind in it, but I won't try it.
Joss can a t times appear clueless in many small ways, but I'm sure he was smart enough to know what was going on on-screen, if when it was unintentional. and remembering it later.

I once thought about a bondage-porn fic involving Cordelia being taught a lesson by Buffy and Faith, but I knew that had it happened the rest of S-3 would be greatly changed and doing it would be a pointless exercise.

Hurts happen; I guess I'ven't read enough of them but I don't see why "Hurt/Comfort" should be an entire subgenre of fanfic. Does it count if the hurt is pre-existing, not inflicted in the course of the story? If so, my Harmony-Faith slash piece would qualify. but Ic ertainly ahd no itnent to create something labelable.
I think the main reason we get Giles, Xander, Spike, Angel, Mal & Wash with their shirts off during torture is because their abuser needs access to flesh to inflict the most pain, not so much to titillate the viewers. ('cause, no offense, but...Season Seven Xander is no XanderinaSpeedowet.)

Did Giles have his shirt off in that scene? I don't remember seeing him without a shirt ever. I remember lots of Angel and Spike without shirts. And I stand by my argument that some of the torture was shown as a way of getting the shirts off rather than the shirts needing to be off because of the torture. Marcus could just as easily have stabbed Angel with hot pokers through his clothing.
Haven't had time to read the comments yet, but my short answer to the article is this. There was nothing even vaguely erotic about any of the examples given, either in execution or IMO, intent, except Dru/Angel in (my brain misplaced the name of the ep).

And that was meant to be from Dru's point of view. Which is a relevant point for a couple of reasons.
Dru = Vampire = Bad. Unambiguous, at that point in the storyline, with the notable and well explained exception of Angel.
Dru = insane. Dru = being tortured by Angel before he sired her, was what drove her insane (in human form she was just psychic, a "sin" in the eyes of the church).

Another point I find relevant is that this is fantasy (Vampires, demons, et al). It's a very different thing in "torture porn" movies, with no non-human (fantasy) creatures to remove it from reality.

I'll be back for more .... a pox on RL, I only wish I had even one RL friend with whom I could have this kind of discussion. :-)
Actually, I humbly disagree that there was nothing erotic about any of the torture scenes in intent. I think others have already cited more than one example of scenes that quite intentionally played up the erotic subtext, no matter how sarcastic they may have been.

Also, the fact that this is fantasy, at least in my humble opinion does NOT earn it a free pass when it comes to the subject of torture. We really can't have it both ways... either we invest in these stories and characters so much that they take on a "real" life for us or we don't. If we do than I find it confusing that torture would be okay because it's just a fantasy show.

And I'm really struggling with my kneejerk reaction to what I (quite possibly incorrectly) percieve as a tad of hypocrisy among some fans. As I've stated elsewhere I think true equality means things are EQUAL... as in equal for both sexes. And that means that torture should be no more acceptable or (vomit) arousing whether the victim is male or female. I really don't give a crap if one of those genders has been historically oppressed or abused, it in know way shape or form excuses any kind of "eye for an eye" nonsense.

I'm equally nauseated by seeing women OR men tortured. And yes I feel that way even if the victim is hot and naked.
barboo Which? The Sisters ripped his shirt open when he fell in the pit - it wasn't off completely, but his chest was bared. When Riley pulls him out of the pit you can see that it's open, and when they meet up with Xander and Buffy he's holding it shut (Missing some buttons, Rupes?).

Been a while since I watched "The Dark Age" but I think Jenny/Eygohn had her hands inside his shirt at one point. I'm totally blanking on just what Angelus did to him when he was tied to the chair, other than polishing his glasses, threatening him with a chainsaw, and doing something below camera level.

As for him having his shirt off - "Hush" while he's sleeping with Olivia, "A New Man," altough that's FyarlGiles we see coming downstairs, and "the morning after" he turned into "the funny drunk" in "Yoko Factor," although he did have a bathrobe on when Tara and Willow came for Willow's laptop in "Primeval." (And, come to think, he came out in his robe in "The Freshman" when Buffy first encountered Olivia.)

And, yes, Marcus could have pokered Angel with his shirt on. However, laying bare the skin presents another level of vulnerability - most humans feel some amount of "protection" while they are clothed. Clothing can hide scars, blemishes, other imperfections that they might be self-conscious about. (This does not apply to teenage girls with potbellies who wear skin-tight clothing, obviously.)

I'm not saying people think their clothing can physically protect them from wounds, and I'm fully aware of people who enjoy parading as much of their body as is publically acceptable (See above re: teenage girls). But there's a difference between choosing to go scantily clothed and having someone forcibly remove your clothing.

Wasn't Spike shirtless when he draped himself on the cross? He was intending to cause as much pain to himself as possible.
In my opinion a semi-naked, incredibly sexy vampire, whether chained up, handcuffed, tied to chair, manacled to a cot in the basement, hanging from the ceiling, equals erotic.

But maybe it's just me then.
But I thank Joss that I could think of so many examples!
My own line of thought runs thus: if a villain is getting off on torturing someone, it's no more an "eroticizing" of torture than a villain laughing his ass off at torturing someone is a "comedicizing" of torture.
It's the way the scene is shot to me that makes it erotic. Is it shot for the full horror impact? Wide lens, brutal, obviously heinous? Or is there soft lighting? A darkened, intimate room, lots of close ups? I think there is a difference between violence portrayed erotically and the actual intent to turn anyone on. I think it's just a misunderstanding of what it means that the scene is played in an erotic, soft-core manner, and often talked about by the characters themselves in terms of sex. It's very clear that a connection is being drawn but I don't think it's that the writers want us to think torture = sexy. Or maybe they do, I don't speak for them, but I don't think that's what this article is trying to imply.

I'm trying to figure it out myself. It's very true that these scenes are played out in a very sexual manner, but the "why" is what's getting to me. I think it depends on the individual scene, show, character place, but it's true that it's very rare to see it played that way for females than males on the show. Not never-- in one scene, what's-her-name from Angel is in the closet while Lilah and Wesley have sex. We are taken from a very intimate, warm sexual kind of thing to a very dark and disturbing place.

Is the play of the scene erotically trying to arouse or unease the viewer? Or does it merely say something about the characters themselves, as they relate to torture? The scene in What's My Line definitely seems to me to be saying something about the characters Drusilla, Angel, and Spike and their relationships to each other, and the role violence and sex played in that sphere with them. The intimacy of the bedroom and the way they spoke to each other and about each other reinforced their relationships for the viewers which would soon become very important, and established the sexual tension between Dru and Angel that would be played up later. It set the stage for the depravity of the three of them very efficiently.

Likewise, Buffy's torture of the female vampire said something about her and her head space at that moment in time. Buffy, off her guard and lashing out after her experience being killed by the Master, became ruthless and cruel. I think even in Season 2 it was significant for her character to do that, in front of Angel. She was giving up a lot of her innocence. The point of the episode was that she was no longer unaffected by the things she had seen and done, and having her torture even a vampire drove that point home swiftly and surely. I just checked out the script and it says Angel and Xander "Look on, obviously uncomfortably with Buffy's methods."

Ah, and from the "What's My Line Part 2" script:

The bedroom lit by candles. And ANGEL on the bed, tied to the bedposts - his naked chest exposed.

Drusilla drifts over, kneels before him. She runs her hands along his chest. There is obvious heat between them - heat that Dru plays with just to watch him squirm.

That should settle the argument of whether the intent was to play it erotic or not.
Without getting into the subject of whether or not the torture is eroticized, there is a practical reason for having Angel shirtless in the poker scene. A poker hot enough to burn flesh is hot enough to cause cloth to catch fire, and vampires are notoriously flammable once their clothing ignites.
my point of view: joss whedon depicts very cleary how abuse in childhood leads to problems in later life. either the person becomes violent him/herself (f.e. liam/angel) or she/he will not imitate his/her abuser and strive to do better but may have strong personal problems (wesley). both depends from various factors concerning upbringing, environment, new ancounters and experiences (faith's development). it is a main team in joss' work. any connection of torture and sex subsumes to that field.
I agree with Shey.
Haunt: I'm equally nauseated by seeing women OR men tortured.

Is that the sexy nausea ? ;-)

Interesting discussion. Couple of things: as others have said, being hurt onscreen isn't the same as torture (Xander over the Hellmouth isn't torture - she needed his blood, she cut him. Doc cutting Dawn isn't torture, same deal. Giles vs Willow, again, pain, not torture). Also, 'torture porn' doesn't mean "torture with sexual elements" - the 'porn' part is meant in the sense of "excessively lurid or sensational material" NOT in the sense of "sexually explicit imagery" (though, admittedly, the context of torture in these films sometimes is sexual - I can't say what proportion of the time because I actively avoid them so haven't seen many). Since the big torture porn thread i'm starting to think it's not actually a very useful label just because it's a) very open to misinterpretation and b) quite emotive (i.e. there's a moral judgement built into the name which tends to stifle reasonable debate).

And I also don't really buy the "it's not as bad because they're vampires/fantasy creatures" argument. Most of the time the vampire characters are tortured sans "game face" i.e. they look just like people (and in a visual medium the look of a thing obviously counts for a lot). You might as well claim the torture of Princess Aura in the 1980 'Flash Gordon' isn't as bad because she's an alien (i'd say that's also a pretty overtly eroticised scene BTW).

(though it's obviously not as bad because it's fiction - no matter how disturbing a fake torture scene, watching one you know to be real would surely have to be much worse)

But we all know what the reality is, and that as a woman you are always a potential victim, and you don't go walking alone after dark in certain places, or let the meter reader into your house without checking his references, and if you're smart you never even get into an elevator with a man you don't know.

Well, that's certainly what everybody knows barboo BUT the reality is, in the "getting in a lift" scenario (i.e. stranger violence) from the perspective of violent attacks, it's much more dangerous to be male (up to 3 times more dangerous depending on age - US Stats here though it's proportionally the same in the UK). Sad to say but as a woman, it's the people close to you that (statistically) are much more dangerous. You're safer in the lift than in your living room.

And we're all potential victims of violence, it's just that men's perceptions of danger are different (and there's also possibly more of a deterrent effect since we're - on average - more ready/willing/able to inflict violence in response to attack). The culture of fear that surrounds women never fails to depress me, I can only imagine what it must be like to live with that much largely (though understandably) ill-placed worry.

[ edited by Saje on 2008-04-11 13:09 ]
ailiel that was brilliant. Well thought out and articulately expressed.
And I do still contend that the scenes between Dru and Angel in What's My Line are the only ones that are played as overtly erotic. I took that one on a little earlier but you expanded on
it and made a much better case than I did, for it being an integral part of storyline and character development.

The only other brief scene I can think of that involves torture .... just the hint that it was going to take place .... that had an erotic element was Spike being raised on the cross at the end of Bring On The Night. And I wont even go into the "cross" symbolism.

But part of that was the cool, artsy lighting and the fact that James Marsters is incapable of looking not gorgeous, unless you beat his face to a pulp. Which leads to the continuation of that arc in Showtime, during which Spike is tortured by the first in many guises, none of which were even vaguely erotic. Even the parts with Dru, are a caricature of "sexy".

And to drive home the point that there was nothing erotic about these goings on, by the time Buffy rescues him at the end of Showtine, his face is indeed beaten to a bit of a pulp.
Certainly not like what Glory did to him in s5, or what Buffy herself did to him in Dead Things, but enough to get the point across that there was nothing fun and games about this.

As for the partially naked male bodies (or fully naked - Angel in [the early BtS ep where he's tossed back from hell, into the mausoleum], Spike in AtS Hell Bound), I'd make a case for realism. As in, you don't get tossed back from hell with your clothes on.
And in Hell Bound, Spike was being shown the power of his tormentor, who was making an attempt to cause him to feel ultimately vulnerable, i.e. when Spike "reclaims" his power, he reclaims his clothes as well.

And I absolutely, firmly believe that there is a difference between depicting torture in a fantasy setting, where some charscters are creatures that clearly don't exist in reality, and the "torture porn" movies where all the characters are fully human, in the "real" world.

There's exploitation and there's art on the edge. I content that Torture Porn movies are the former and the device as used in Joss's works, is the latter.
Maybe that's more to do with gore/realism ? Buffy was "on the edge" for network TV but by 'R' rated horror standards it was very fluffy. If e.g. the Angel torture scenes had featured as much gore/realism as 'Hostel' apparently does (not seen it) or portrayed violence and torture as realistically as 'Wolf Creek' (have seen it, wish I hadn't) then I think there'd be fewer people drawing a distinction between BtVS' torture scenes and "torture porn".

Course, only Joss can answer whether he'd have made the scenes gorier if he could get away with it.

(if not i'd ask him why cos I have to say, to me, in some ways, 'torture lite' is arguably more offensive since the creators benefit from the "effect" without showing what it'd really be like, without generating the disgust that should accompany that sort of depiction. I feel the same way about violence on screen in general - sometimes it's easier to defend screen violence that's brutal, messy and horrific compared to the balletic beauty of fr'instance River in 'Serenity'. Love that scene, I really do, but it's pretty easy to read it as Joss saying violence can be beautiful if done well and i'm not sure how happy I am with that idea)
I think the point about clothes and how having the person being tortured bare-chested makes them more vulnerable is a good one. I think there is an article somewhere about Buffy's clothes and how they can serve as armor, and this would be the reverse of that. And we know there is importance in clothing based on Spike's duster, too.

I'll have to try to find the article...
sometimes it's easier to defend screen violence that's brutal, messy and horrific compared to the balletic beauty of fr'instance River in 'Serenity'. Love that scene, I really do, but it's pretty easy to read it as Joss saying violence can be beautiful if done well and i'm not sure how happy I am with that idea)
Saje | April 11, 13:51 CET

Which one, River activated in the bar, or River and the Reavers, at the end?
I think both scenes tied into plot points about River's character, and both were redeemed thematically, in different ways.

The scene in the bar (I'm thinking that's the one you're refering to) had innocent victims & thus some moral ambiguity. But the other side of that coin is that River is the ultimate innocent victim. Making it beautiful, I saw as the equal of making martial arts sequences beautiful (balletic) in films like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Not much moral ambiguity in River defeating the Reavers, that's just a big "Yay, River!!".

Having finally read this entire thread, I think it's brought to the fore something we often forget (someone else mentioned this, up-thread) and that is how deeply, seriously dark Joss's work is, all said and done. And the endlessly fascinating question, why are we all so drawn to this?

I've speculated, on occasion, that Joss is like the Slayer. There's a demon inside that gives him power -- and while it's not the source of him, it does alter him, gives him strengths in certain areas, feeds him some truly painful stuff. Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way.
ManEnoughToAdmitIt | April 10, 16:13 CE

That is a deeply insightful statement. I could write an essay on my feelings about that subject. Artists (of all varieties) have a unique ability to express the "shadow" self that lives within us all. I believe that act is a kind of "exorcism" on the part of the creative artist, and that the way in which we the audience are drawn into this world, serves the same purpose for us.

On that note, I'm rapidly slipping into "tree pretty, fire bad" land. And as I slip away, I thank the godess and the god and all the Lords of Kobol (and Caroline & Simon, et al) for this wonderous world where we can come and play. :-)
And we're all potential victims of violence, it's just that men's perceptions of danger are different (and there's also possibly more of a deterrent effect since we're - on average - more ready/willing/able to inflict violence in response to attack). The culture of fear that surrounds women never fails to depress me, I can only imagine what it must be like to live with that much largely (though understandably) ill-placed worry.

Ill-placed, Saje? How many times have you been sexually assaulted, threatened or fondled I wonder. My score - physically assaulted once - fortunately I actually had martial arts training and was able to throw the guy. He probably could have taken me but wasn't expecting resistance and it clearly freaked him. Verbally threatened with rape if I didn't give in "willingly", once - I kept my head and pointed out that if I started screaming it would wake the neighbors and that might make them a tad upset. Followed down the street by a group of men verbally threatening violence - once. As it happened my brother was with me at the time, they just didn't see him. As soon as he made his presence known they backed off. Sexually fondled, on the street, in the subway, at a public dance - in the latter case by a man I later found out had in fact tried to rape another woman I knew. Did I not try to do anything about it? I went to the dance organizers and was assured that it was entirely accidental, he had just brushed against me accidentally. He later accidentally did this to 3 other women at that series of dances. I organized to get him banned from these events.

Of course those are all relatively minor. I've lost count of the number of women I know who have been actually raped. Not drunk too much and went to bed with someone and regretted. Pinned down by some guy or guys and physically penetrated against their will.

The fact that some of these incidents involved men that were known to some extent - obviously the rape-threatener was someone I trusted enough at the time to let into my house, makes them no less threatening or scary or real. If anything, the fact that someone you feel reasonably safe with could threaten or actually do harm, makes life feel more insecure not less.

I am not dismissing the fact that violence is also directed against men. And that there are indeed areas where men are more often the victims of violence - I'm well aware of the appalling statistics for men of color, particularly in some geographical areas. But the point is that that happens within a specific socionomic locale. Violence and threats against women are more widely distributed, more a common-place part of ordinary life. Yes, everyone is potentially a victim of violence, just as all of us are potentially victims of earthquakes, or auto accidents or flesh-eating bacterial infection. That doesn't change the fact that some of us have more reason to fear certain things than others.
Not really sure what point you're making barboo though I certainly feel for you over your experiences, hard though they may be for me to truly understand. I agree that violence by intimates is every bit as bad (or even worse given the betrayal of trust) as violence by strangers and I already said that women were more likely to be attacked by intimates than by strangers, that, in fact, was the main gist of my post (that the guy in the lift/elevator is statistically - so all the usual caveats - less dangerous than the guy in the living room).

But the point is that that happens within a specific socionomic locale. Violence and threats against women are more widely distributed, more a common-place part of ordinary life.

As I pointed out, the stats (and these are supported by "unofficial", anonymous surveys of unreported crime too) make it clear that at (almost) all ages men are more likely to be the victims of violent crime by strangers (and also, it barely needs saying, overwhelmingly more likely to perpetrate it) than women (this holds even in areas, like Scotland, that have relatively low numbers of non-white minorities). Poor, black women are probably much more likely than rich, white men though, absolutely agreed but that doesn't change the fact that poor, black men are still much more likely than poor, black women.

Regarding rape, yes, clearly women are much, much more likely to be raped than men, same for sexual assault of other kinds. I never claimed that women don't have more reason to fear rape than men.

(FWIW, i've had my bum involuntarily fondled a couple of times in crowded pubs etc. - presumably at least some of the time by women ;). The difference is of course, it's not considered to be a problem for a man - culturally in fact, there's a feeling that no female sexual attention can be unwanted from a man's perspective because that's all we ever think about, right ?)
The scene in the bar (I'm thinking that's the one you're refering to) had innocent victims & thus some moral ambiguity. But the other side of that coin is that River is the ultimate innocent victim. Making it beautiful, I saw as the equal of making martial arts sequences beautiful (balletic) in films like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Oops, missed this Shey ;). Yeah, I agree it's just like making martial arts balletic but, y'know, and ? ;-) I.e. that's equally problematic because glamorising violence is glamorising violence whether it's the Wachowskis or Joss doing it.

In "torture porn" films the torturer isn't presented as the goodie (that I know of) so they're also saying it's morally wrong and yet that's "bad" violence whereas River in the bar (yep, that's the one I meant ;) is somehow "good" (or acceptable) violence ? Seems inconsistent.

Don't get me wrong, I feel it, watching the Ride of the Rohirrim from LoTR:RotK is exhilarating, watching Jason Bourne or Neo or River or Buffy is the same BUT it's fantasy - violence is much closer in feel to 'Wolf Creek' or 'John Rambo' in real life than it is to River/Buffy/Neo. And i'm just questioning the validity of getting the "hit" without paying the price (in for instance the feeling of disgust that I personally had while watching parts of Rambo IV).

(it's, as you say, way more clear cut with River vs Reavers because if there's any violence that's on solid moral ground it has to be "self-defence", which that most definitely was - as well as being a wonderful moment of self-actualisation for River)
River was definitely acting in self-defense, but it's also a big part of the point of the film that the Reavers themselves are victims of the Pax ... So, in that sense, River's attacks at the bar (herself a victim, lashing out in robotized response to the abuses done to her brain) are very reflective of what the Reavers themselves are (themselves victims, their ability to contain their basest urges stripped away by the same government's chemical meddling on a planetary scale).

In neither case do I feel that violence is being glamorized. River and the Reavers (good name for a band, and notice how similar those words are, anyway) are siblings in that they're both "monsters" who never chose to be that way (as opposed to the Operative, who freely admits his choice and - until the end of the film - feels that it's necessary).

The big question that Serenity leaves open ... and I really do hope we get to see Joss and his writers answer it someday ... is whether or not the remaining Reavers - now that it's known what they are - can be saved, can be invited back from that edge they were chemically tossed over.

But yeah, even with all that, it's still at triumph seeing River save her friends, because unlike the Reavers, she _sometimes_ has a choice, and when she does, she makes the heroic most of it.
This topic is long over, but wanted to say a couple of things. Any violence or torture in Joss's shows I believe is a direct result of exploration of a character's nature, what they're capable of and what they evolve into being capable of. I have to say truthfully that if any of those scenes have erotic overtones, I wasn't buying into it. I've seen the Giles tortured by Angel scene several times (his shirt is open and he's obviously been worked over). I cringe every time. Vamp Willow asking the Master to play with the puppy (Angel). He has burns all over his chest where she's "played with him." Really doesn't do it for me. What does do it for me is a character being truthful in their given circumstances.

I just want to look at Wesley for a moment. He did some pretty unspeakable things the more he'd been through personally:

And Wesley kept Justine, bound, gagged, and locked in a cupboard with nothing but a bucket for several months.

Yes, the Justine who slit his throat and left him for dead. And yet, he was saving Angel, his friend who tried to kill him in the hospital.

But the worst thing Wesley did was torturing the young female drug addict when he and Faith were looking for Angelus (who was walking around talking to the Beast Master's voice in his head). Even Faith was appalled. But Wes understood so much about darkness and lies at that point, he knew the girl knew something. Pretty much turns my stomach but it was true to who Wesley had become up to that point in time.

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