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the girl with violets in her lap [userpic]

September 10th, 2005 (10:54 pm)

Why is rape funny when it happens to men?

λ and I went to see The Wedding Crashers tonight. It started out well, too. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are obviously an amusing team; the female lead was very cute; the script was snappy and well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed the first half hour or so.

As you will likely know, the premise of the movie is that these two guys crash a series of weddings in the hopes of landing chicks. Many of you will have seen the scene in the trailer in which the redhead sits up postcoitally and announces ecstatically that she always knew she would lose her virginity to someone as special as Vince Vaughn. Big laughs all around. She says she is in love with him. He gets bug-eyed terrified. Audience laughs harder.

It begins to get funky after that. Shortly after there is a scene in which Vince Vaughn tells Owen Wilson that they *have* to get out of this situation because he just got - I forget the exact line, but it was along these lines - milked dry for forty-five minutes and he didn't know how to get this girl to stop. My alarms started going off at that point, actually, but I ignored them; it's one of Those Guy Movies, after all. My brothers thought this was the most hilarious movie ever. No point in being a humorless lesbian liberal about it all.

Skip twenty minutes. Vince Vaughn has taken a serious beating on the football field, and the girl wants sex. He is sitting on a toilet, battered and bloody and clearly very unhappy, and she jumps in his lap and starts riding him. He tells her he wants her to stop, and she ignores him, and he says he is really in pain and he isn't in the mood, and she ignores him, and he pushes her away finally. She gets very angry and throws rubbing alcohol in a wound on his knee. Desperate and in more pain than before, he tells her that he wants to Get To Know Her Better, and asks if they could try to share something beyond the physical. She accepts this, more smitten than ever.

Funny, right? Nothing of sexual assault about that, right?

You sure?

Keep reading.

Skip another ten minutes. At dinner, she gets frisky and starts jerking him off under the table. He pushes her hand away and she keeps putting it back; he whispers to her to stop and she flashes him an impish grin; he squirms away and she squirms with him. Eventually she brings him to a dazingly intense plate-rattling orgasm in front of her family at the dinner table. People laugh a lot.

Of course that can't be rape. He enjoyed it, didn't he? How could that be rape?

Keep reading.

Late that night he wakes up in bed. He is bound hand and foot to the bedposts and she is sitting astride him, naked. He asks her what the fuck she is doing and tells her to stop, tells her to go away. She says she knows this is what he wants, that she knows he's been telling her he wants her to be more adventurous. He states clearly that that is *not* what he has been telling her. She responds by stuffing a dirty sock in his mouth, securing it with duct tape, and fucking him. People are still laughing.

Well, okay. I mean, yeah, if that were a guy who tied a girl to the bed and then gagged her when she tried to tell him no so that he could fuck her in peace and quiet, well, yeah, that would be rape. But it can't be rape when it's a girl on a guy, can it? I mean, that's like every guy's dream. Guys always want sex! It's funny!

Keep reading.

Several hours later (in the context of the movie) Vince wakes up again, still tied to the bed. He feels a hand caressing his face and says reflexively that he really needs sleep - but it isn't the girl! It's her gay brother! The audience bursts into laughter. Vince is desperate, struggling with his bonds harder than ever, telling the guy he is not gay and he does not want sex. The guy responds by saying that he knows they shared a moment at the dinner table and the time is ripe for them to consummate their love. He suggests that they play "tummy-sticks", whatever the fuck that is. He starts thrusting on top of Vince. Vince is helpless to stop him, obviously, as he is tied up, but luckily they are interrupted by the gay guy's father. When the interruption ceases and the guy tries to resume, Vince eventually persuades him that they will share beautiful sentiments and commence a meaningful relationship in the morning. The guy leaves.

But that can't be rape, right? I mean... okay, Vince said no a bunch of times, and yeah, he was tied up so he couldn't do anything, and yeah, the guy was clearly getting off on him in some manner... and it's not like he was enjoying it, or he'd ever fantastized about it, because, you know, the guy was gay... but... like, it's Vince Vaughn. Vince Vaughn can't get raped. He's a man!

Men can't get raped.

The next morning Vince goes downstairs and confronts Owen, who hasn't succeeded in bagging his girl yet. He has been forced to touch the girl's mother's breasts (having been confronted by her naked form, blocked from the exit, and told he isn't allowed to leave until he feels her tits) but he hasn't gotten anywhere with the girl herself. He is therefore unsympathetic when Vince tells him he had a horrible night and has to leave right now.

I will transcribe as much of the dialogue as I remember.

OWEN: Aww, couldn't sleep? Bed too soft?
VINCE: Yeah, you know, it might have been that the bed was too soft. Or it might have been the midnight rape. ::rest of line is drowned in explosive burst of laughter::
OWEN: ...not leaving yet.
VINCE: I don't care if you're leaving, man, I'm leaving. The ferry's gone in 45 minutes and this ass ::slaps it:: is out of here.
OWEN: Rule #72: you never desert a fellow crasher!
VINCE: Yeah, maybe that took on a little less importance when I had a dirty sock duct-taped over my mouth last night. ::laughter::
OWEN: What?
VINCE: She took my sock, my dirty sock that I had played football in and poured sweat in all day, and she shoved it in my mouth and taped my mouth shut.
OWEN: Sit down. We'll talk about it.
VINCE: I am not going to talk about it! I'm much too traumatized to talk. ::some laughter::
OWEN: ::rolls his eyes::
VINCE: I felt like Jodie Foster in The Accused! ::explosive fucking burst of laughter::

We walked out at that point.

λ and I were both equally angry and we spent a good few minutes outside the movie theater just fuming. How could people be laughing at that shit? As λ said, the rape thing could have been written off as a joke in poor taste if it had happened once, but it just kept happening! How many instances did I talk about above? Five? Six? We only stayed for half the movie. And these things were getting laughs. These were not subtle moments. A person tied in a bed, gagged, bound and struggling and trying to make it stop, getting fucked against their will and people laugh like it's funny? Like it's not rape? And then as if that's not bad enough, he lays it right out on the table - the midnight rape, he says - and people laugh. He compares it to the scene in The Accused, arguably the single most disturbing scene ever filmed in a mainstream movie, and people laughed harder. It's funny! He's saying he was raped but of course he wasn't raped, he's a man! It's funny when men say they were raped!

I was furious.

We went to the customer service desk and I explained that we would like a refund for our tickets because we had been to see a movie that had been promoted as a comedy but was in fact very offensive. The bored-seeming customer service representative asked me what movie. I said it was The Wedding Crashers, and that it had been promoted as a light comedy but that it had contained a number of very inappropriate scenes of rape and sexual violence. He didn't say anything, just asked us if free passes would be okay in lieu of cash. I said sure. He handed them over. He didn't comment on my complaint; maybe he'd heard it before, or maybe it's just their policy to hand passes out whenever someone complains.

I read some reviews for this movie - not a lot, but some. I didn't see a word breathed of any of this. The reviews I saw, in fact, were uniformly positive. My brothers saw it and, as I think I said, reported it as the funniest fucking movie they'd seen in years. I have not heard a single word of controversy about any of this.

Yet scene after scene after scene we were watching blatant examples of rape. Seriously. No gray area here. You do not get any less gray than someone tied up and gagged and struggling and begging. You do not get any less gray than the word being said onscreen: rape.

It was the centerpiece of the comedy.

I want to write a letter about this. I want to write a letter to the movie producers but that isn't going to do shit so I want to do more. I want to write to the Boston Phoenix. I want to write an editorial and cross-post it to every activist community on LJ. I want there to be a scandal. I want this to be out in the open. I want people to know about it, and talk about it, and be as angry about it as I am.

But what do you think would happen if I did that? Say I posted this editorial to feminist, for example. How many people do you think would tell me sexual violence isn't a feminist issue when men are the ones being raped? How many people do you think would tell me that there really *are* valid reasons why men can't get raped? How many people would argue that it's a plain fact of life that men do always want sex, and, I mean, come on, it's Vince Vaughn. It's a comedy. How much shit do you think I would kick up, and when it settled, how many people do you think would actually care that in one stupid summer comedy Vince Vaughn got raped a couple times for comic effect?

Rape happens. It happens to women and it happens to men and it happens to people in between and it happens. It is never funny, it is never wanted, it is never made okay by an orgasm or a stereotype or a perceived come-on or. It is never made okay by anything. It is never a subject for comedy.

Ever.

I am sorry if I sound like a raging crazy liberal lunatic here. But I am mad. It hits too close to home, and it was laughed at. I think that's what got me the most. Not that the movie was made, not that the lines were written or the scenes played out. It was that people were laughing at them.

An entire movie theater full of people accepted that this was funny. Not because they think that rape is funny (I devoutly hope); if it had been a girl bound and helpless and struggling I do not think there would have been so much as a snicker throughout the theater. Letters would already have been written, editorials published, backlash descended.

But men can't get raped, right? So it's just got to be funny.

I am angry.

* * *

ETA: A lot of people have been coming back here to comment and ask me questions about what I've written. I've been trying to respond to as many comments as is at all feasible, but a lot of the same questions have been recurring - mostly because this post isn't as clear as I would have liked it to be. I wrote this post in a moment of anger immediately after the movie; I never imagined it would travel as far as it has, getting linked to in so many places. I still stand by what I have said here, but I may not have said it in the best manner possible. In a calmer moment I decided to clarify some of my more incendiary statements; that clarification is here, if you're interested.

Comments

Posted by: travisjhall (travisjhall)
Posted at: September 13th, 2005 07:11 am (UTC)

Where do you think the expression "scared stiff" comes from? No, I'm not kidding.

BTW, followed a link from a friends' LJ, hope my comments are not unwelcome.

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: September 13th, 2005 01:29 pm (UTC)

Not unwelcome at all, thanks for dropping by.

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