Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

I’ve been wanting to do a post like this for a while now, but I only got around to it now after a friend of mine did it on her blog and I thought to myself, “Yeah, might as well get my butt in gear and do this already.”

So anyway, if you’re unfamiliar with the Bechdel test, it’s used to measure how feminist a work of fiction, usually a film or a novel, is. It was first created by cartoonist Allison Bechdel for her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, and has since become used in academic circles and with critics.

Here are the criteria for passing the Bechdel test:

  1. You have two female characters (sometimes having them named is a requirement, and I’ll do that here).
  2. They actually have to talk to each other.
  3. They have to talk about something other than a guy.

On that last part, I usually take it to mean talking about a guy who is in some sense romantically linked to one or both characters. After all, a lot of stories focus solely on a woman’s quest for love or marriage, and that’s it, and I feel like that’s what this test was designed for. And what if the two women are detectives and they’re talking about a suspect who’s male and how he’s difficult to bring to justice? That should be worthy of passing the Bechdel test.

Now before I begin, I want to make one thing clear: I don’t see this test as the end-all test for how feminist a work is. While some do use the Bechdel test in that capacity, I see it more as a tool to examine various works of fiction and promote discussion, rather than as the only way to get a work to be called feminist. Heck, even film organizations who use the test when rating a movie do it mostly for collecting information on gender inequality in films and to make viewers aware of that same gender inequality more than anything else.

So without further ado, here’s how my novels (I’d do the short stories as well, but there’s a lot of those, so I’ll pass) do with the Bechdel test:

  • Reborn City/Video Rage. I place these two together because they’re part of the same series. And they do pass the Bechdel test with flying colors. There are several named female characters in RC, particularly protagonists Zahara Bakur, Ilse, and Iori. And they do talk to each other about a lot of other stuff besides men, including the gang situation in West Reborn and how being a gangster is not for the faint of heart (a problem for Zahara considering she prefers peace and harmony to violence and gun fights). Similarly in VR, there are at least four or five named female characters, including the ones I mentioned above, and they also talk a lot about things other than men, including the situation they’re stuck in or the history of the war that made the world how it is in their present (our future).
  • Snake. Um…yes, but just barely. There are three or four named characters, including the female protagonist Allison Langland. However, as so much of the book focuses on the Snake’s quest to save Allison and then to keep her safe, she doesn’t have a lot of onscreen time with other female characters. There is a scene where Allison speaks with another character about events to come, but the Snake is also part of this conversation, so I guess it depends on your point-of-view on the subject. If there’s ever a sequel to this book, I may try to do better on that front while writing the story.
  • Laura Horn. Despite still working through the second draft, I can tell you LH passes the Bechdel test. There are several named female characters, including our protagonist, and that they do talk to one another about things other than men. Especially the fact that Laura’s wanted for a crime she never committed. Yeah, heavy stuff. Guys and romance actually don’t come up that much. Yeah, romantic feelings are part of the story, but by no means are they the focus, and I expect that will be the case still when I reach the final draft (whenever that is).
  • Rose. Again, this one just barely passes, and whether it does is a matter of perspective. As I’ve mentioned, Rose is about a woman held captive in the home of a man claiming to be her lover. Rose spends a lot of time on her own or with the guy whose house she’s in. She does have conversations with another female, but this female isn’t exactly human, and a few other things about this being call into question whether or not it counts. There’s also a conversation Rose has with another girl in a flashback, but I don’t know if flashbacks count either. So again, this one’s up for debate, one that might not be settled until after the book is published (whenever that is).

So the final verdict is that one half of my novels pass the Bechdel test, and the other half are a matter of opinion. Again, this test isn’t definitive by any means, and as demonstrated in the cases of Snake and Rose,  there are shortcomings to the test. However, it does feel good to know that half my work does pass the test, and the other half might. Surprisingly about half of all films don’t pass the Bechdel test, while quite a number of movies pass what is known as the reverse Bechdel test, which focuses on men (not going to bother with that, except to say that Rose is probably the only one that doesn’t pass). I like to think it says something good about my personality or writing style.

Perhaps in a few years I’ll try applying the Bechdel test to my works again and see what happens. In the meantime, I think I’ll focus on creating good stories in general. And possibly applying other tests to the stories I write (though I’m kind of afraid of what the results might be and what they say about me as a writer). We’ll see how I feel about it.

What are your thoughts on the Bechdel test? Do your works pass it? Why or why not?

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Today, the Supreme Court declared gay marriage bans unconstitutional in a 5-4 decision, making the United States of America the 25th nation or territory to legalize same-sex marriage.The atmosphere has been jubilant all over the country. Today I was running errands downtown and I saw people getting married in a lovely plaza next to a fountain, couples coming together to be wed in holy matrimony. It was all sponsored by one of the pro-gay rights groups, with pastors and cakes and photographers all on stand by. It was so beautiful.

And why shouldn’t it be? Today, like suffragettes at the beginning of the 20th century and like African-Americans in the 1960s, LGBT community and their allies have reached an important and historic milestone, one that affirms all LGBT individuals who’ve ever felt less than good enough or unwanted from the country or society or from the world that we are human, that we are worthy of being full individuals under the law. This is a great moment for all LGBT Americans.

Of course, this is nowhere near the final victory, just as the Nineteenth Amendment wasn’t the final victory in the cause for women’s rights, nor were the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 the final victories for African Americans. We as a nation still have a long way to go as a country before we can say there is any final victory. There is much that still needs to be done. In the short term, we have to ensure that those who are free to marry now can marry. Some state legislatures will try to make it difficult by including religious exemptions for clerks, or putting the whole business of marriage solely in the hands of clergy, or even saying the state can resist laws or rulings from the federal government that the state finds immoral or against the state’s best interest, whatever that means. The LGBT community and their allies will have to make sure that these sort of extreme measures don’t come to pass, and if they do, that they’re fought with the ferocity of tigers.

Celebrations over the Supreme Court decision today. Oh, what a wonderful day it is.

As for the long term, we need to create and foster a more inclusive atmosphere and culture nationwide. In many states it is still legal to fire someone if they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. In some places being LGBT or perceived as such can lead to harassment, assault, stalking, discrimination, persecution, and even death. Teens in junior high and high schools all over the nation are bullied every day for the way they were born or suffer in silence, afraid that if they allow themselves to be who they are, they will they will suffer more. Some lose everyone they love when they come out. Others will be forced to go to camps or some other form of “therapy” to make them “normal”.

This has to stop. As a nation that calls itself a land of opportunity and prosperity, we need to make it so that LGBT individuals within our borders can live in happiness and safety, to feel comfortable in their own skins and to go down the street without fear of being targeted for how they were born. That is what, in the long term, the LGBT community will pursue in this nation.

For now though, it is Friday. It is the weekend. And it’s still June, the month considered lucky for weddings (though in Ohio it’s also famous for rain and humidity). This weekend there will be celebrations of love, joy, matrimony. Couples will be legally wed in the eyes of the law, families will be brought together in happiness and health. Let us celebrate and love.

On Monday, as we usually do, we will get to work. But we will go to work with renewed purpose.

For what i would like to say to the naysayers and haters on this historic day, see my new post at From The Voice Of Common Sense.

This really interesting article was posted on the Huffington Post the other day. This article, which you can read in full here, discusses how many schools in India are implementing gender studies classes at public schools across India, thanks to cooperation between the Indian government and advocacy organizations. The goal of this, according to the organizers of these programs, is to get students thinking hard about how gender roles affect them and make some changes for the better. Maybe even bring down the  rates of domestic violence.

And so far the programs seem to be working, according to 15-year-old Shakir Parvez Shaikh:

“We talk about how boys and girls are equal as human beings, but how we treat girls differently,” he told Reuters. “For example, girls are not allowed to play cricket or watch as much television as boys because they have to do housework or because it is not safe outside for them. I didn’t realize before … I think it’s unfair.”

A lot of activists see these programs as one answer to a very sad problem. According to the National Crime Record Bureau,  India saw a nearly 27 percent rise in 2013 in reported gender violence, including rape, sexual harassment, and other related crimes. And for many the 2012 gang rape and murder of a woman on a bus in India is still pretty fresh in their minds. This has helped to spur the creation of these programs, which might help today’s youth see things in a different perspective and cut down on instances of institutionalized sexism, gender discrimination, and domestic violence.

When I read this article, two thoughts went through my mind. The first was that it was good that so many teens, boys and girls, were being exposed to these classes. With statistics like the ones cited above, these programs could bring down that rate significantly and help to foster a more egalitarian society. And then I thought, “Why can’t we have that here in the United States?”

And then I marveled at how we didn’t have any of those programs in the United States. Generally speaking, gender studies courses are normally only taught at the university level, which means that students might never be exposed to these ideas in the midst of taking science and literature courses. The concepts of feminism and gender equality do sometimes come up in high school or middle school settings, but they are usually in the backdrop of English literature or history classes, and they may not always be given the attention they deserve.

Current statistics suggest that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be victims of sexual assault, though those numbers may be potentially higher due to under-reported. Women still earn only 70 cents for every dollar a man earns, and in fields such as business, politics or STEM, women may face people who believe that women aren’t suited to those fields, that they are only promoted due to their looks or sex rather than their ability, and trying to be assertive is considered “bitchy”. On the flip side, men frequently under-report domestic or sexual abuse and are expected to be tough, virile and sometimes violent to show their masculinity. If you aren’t those, if you’re not depositing your DNA in as many women as possible, then you’re seen as less as a  men, something I see as absurd.

All these reasons and more are why perhaps gender studies courses should be taught in middle and high schools in America. Getting today’s teenagers to engage in these issues may bring down rates of domestic violence, reduce sexism in the workplace, and perhaps get Americans to stop treating the word “feminism” like a swear word. It seems to be working in India anyway, so why not try it over here in the States?

What would it take to get such a program in schools?

Now, I’m no teacher or education major and my formal training in gender studies consists of one class in my first term here at Ohio State (though I’ve informally found ways to expand my training). But even if I’m not, that doesn’t mean I can’t at least get the ball rolling or start a conversation. So tell me, if you’re reading this, have a background in education, gender studies, or anything else that could possibly relate to this, what would it take to create these sort of programs and implement them in a school system? What sort of course materials would be needed? And what sort of obstacles would such a program face? I’d love to hear what you have to say, as well as your thoughts on what I’m suggesting and if it’s at all possible.*

I know that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to change society rapidly or get rid of a prejudice or stereotype. But at the very least that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. If anything, it means we should try harder to eliminate it, looking at every available option. And perhaps this can be one of them.

*However, if you use the comments section to be hateful or say really mean things, I will not approve the comments. We don’t need any of that here on this blog. I’ve already gotten plenty of that from Second Amendment and anti-circumcision advocates. Not really interested in seeing that again.

I went to a certain event on campus this evening, but I arrived not realizing that while the event is advertised as happening at a certain time, it only really starts much later (a part of me actually knew that, but the part of me that’s a total freak for being on time or missing something won out in the end). The library being nearby, I decided to pop in and check my email before I decided to go home or not. When I logged onto WordPress though, I saw a notification that I had a comment. I checked, and it was from a post I’d commented on a while back.

The post itself had been from a woman who was relating her experiences being sexually assaulted in the work environment, and how several other women she’d worked with had been in the same situation, and the owners of her workplace had tried to sweep it under the rug for the sake of business and for the attackers’ families’ sakes! Naturally, I was upset when I read that post. Sexual assault is a horrific thing that happens to so many people, mainly women but men as well. And what’s just as upsetting to me is not only the act of rape itself, but those who try to cover it up or downplay it or make it seem likes it not a big deal. This sort of conduct not only adds insult to injury to the victims, but it also sends a message, that rape is okay, that the attacker can go on doing whatever because it’s not a big deal, that if we make it into a big deal than it is then innocent people will get hurt and besides, it’s only one measly person who had a bad experience, right?

So I commented on the post. Since so many women had been attacked at this place, I suggested that maybe they band together and bring to the workplace a class-action suit or something, because sexual assault and covering up for it is illegal and a disgusting act to boot. That comment got a few likes during the preceding week or two after I’d read it, but the post got a lot more! Comments, likes, new stories coming out, stories of tragedy and stories of support. One newspaper even did a story on the place, so I’m assuming that got something rolling. At the very least, that place is seeing a lot less business than it had prior to so many women coming out.

Of course, not all of the people commenting have been supportive. The comment I got was from some woman with a generic sounding name. She basically said that while sexual assault was a crime, so was lying about it. That’s it. Lying about sexual assault was a crime.

Now, I’ve seen this sort of behavior before, and I know not to comment lest I end up getting attacked. Heck, I wrote an article on this very subject a while back, so I didn’t want to be a hypocrite by getting confrontational. But I was curious. Maybe because it was supposed to be a woman who commented, maybe it was the subject matter, maybe it was because I was kind of bored and I didn’t want to walk back to my apartment just yet. But I wanted to know who this person was.

So I clicked on the article to familiarize myself with it again. I also viewed my comment in full, as well as the reply comment. And then I started looking through the comment feed, seeing if anyone else had gotten any comments from this person. Sure enough, there were more than a few comments from this person on other people’s comments and they all had a similar message:

  1. Rape doesn’t happen
  2. The women who say they were attacked at this place weren’t attacked. Whatever happened there, they wanted it.
  3. Any woman who says that they were attacked is lying for attention or some other cockamamie reason and they’re the ones being sexist and cruel by calling supposedly innocent men rapists.

Very curious now, I clicked on the person’s username to see their blog. All I got was a bland background. No blog posts at all. Not even a post saying, “Hi, this is my first post. I’m hoping for good things while I write about so-and-so a subject. Please support me and follow me.” I checked the About page as well. Not a single thing.

At this point, any doubt I have has flown out the window. And while I’m not certain if this is someone who’s personally connected to the case and the workplace in question, or just someone who generally feels that they’re being assaulted as a man (yes, I say a man, because based on the language used by this person they’re probably male) by feminists with too much power and really without hacking skills, of which I’m lacking, there’s no real way to find out. But it does tell me something. That whoever this is feels threatened by women who speak out and feminists in general and will go to great lengths to stop it.

As if there weren’t enough obstacles making it seem like a bad idea to victims to speak out. On university campuses, some of which have really bad sexual assault rates, college administrators have mishandled assault cases, expelling or blaming victims and protecting rapists with light or no sentences at all. U Va recently got into trouble for this, and even my dear Ohio State has gotten into a lot of trouble over this. In the justice system, the system that’s supposed to protect us, there are cops, judges, and many more who will say that rape isn’t a big deal or victimhood is a status to be desired or that the victim knew what they were getting into, or that rape has to be “legitimate”. Some of this is even said by politicians at the highest levels of government. And when women speak out, they can face ridicule or disbelief by strangers, acquaintances, or even their friends and family. If their case gets to court, they risk being attacked by lawyers on the stand and disbelieved by juries. There’s a chance the rapist goes free and they have to live with that every day.

In other words, there’s a great fear, and a legitimate fear too, that speaking out will only make things worse.

And it’s the people like my wayward commenter, someone who seems determined to shut up victims and women in general, who are making the situation worse. There seems to be a great terror among certain sections of the population that giving women any sort of equality or power is akin to castrating all men and forcing them to live in a dystopian society where men are slaves to power-hungry lesbian dominatrices. That is simply not true. Feminists (of which I am one) only want women to have the same economic, social, and political rights as men, without taking away men’s rights. But there are those who believe it, and will go to great lengths to make sure women are afraid to speak out or seek equality.

Last month, feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian was sent a threatening letter by a man who claimed that feminists had ruined his life and that if she spoke at Utah State University, he would commit a mass shooting at the event. Because of Utah’s ultra-relaxed gun atmosphere, Ms. Sarkeesian had to cancel the event lest she risk her life and the lives of others. What does Ms. Sarkeesian talk about? Her latest videos, articles, and appearances tend to talk about how women are objectified in video games and seen less as actual people and more as sex objects or devices that (often violently) advance the game’s story.

Violence is a common threat from people who don’t want women speaking out. And while the actual incidences of violence are low, these threats, plus the threat of ridicule, of becoming a punchline in a joke, of being called a money-grubbing slut or a power-hungry feminazi man-hater, makes it much more difficult for many women to speak out. No one wants that sort of attention on them, and for victims of assault, it’s even harder to come out when facing all that.

So what is there to do about it? Well, I’m doing it right now: I’m fighting back. I’m writing an article that exposes what is happening and pushes back against it. And I’m letting people who have been attacked and that are afraid to come out that I’ve got their back. Yes, I’m a man, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe women should be equal in society. Far from it. I’m willing to fight alongside the many women out there who demand to be treated equally and with respect in the world towards men.

So know this, folks. If you’re a woman and/or you’ve been assaulted, know that I support you and I’m there for you. And for those who still think that men are under threat by these women, I’m so sorry you feel this way, but it’s not true and some day I hope you come to this realization.

Thank you, and goodnight, Followers of Fear and everyone else.

I’m a feminist. I believe that women should be given equal treatment to men financially, politically, and socially. I believe this won’t disenfranchise men, but instead make women equal partners to men. In fact, men such as myself can be ardent feminists, and there are plenty of them out there. I also believe that there are people who dislike feminism because of ignorance or prejudice. And I believe that those who actively work to dissuade people from identifying feminism or tear down some of the movement’s tenets and beliefs are doing a lot more harm than good. Normally I ignore what is said, but occasionally something is so blatantly wrong or harmful to women that I have to speak up.

So when I read what Rush Limbaugh said today and then heard it for myself, I couldn’t keep quiet. Normally I ignore what Mr. Limbaugh says. Since the Sandra Fluke debacle two years ago, I’ve actually been surprised that he’s still on the air, let alone that he hasn’t learned from his mistakes or maybe hired someone to edit what he plans to say before he says it. But today might be the worst thing he’s said since he talked about Ms. Fluke.

I couldn’t embed the audio of the clip in question onto this post (if you’d like to hear it yourself, you can check out the Huffington Post article where I first read about it), so I’m talking about it here. In short, Mr. Limbaugh said that he finds the idea of “No” means “No” ridiculous.  He says:

How many of you guys in your own experience with women have learned that ‘no’ means ‘yes’ if you know how to spot it?…It used to be used as a cliche.

So under this definition of consent, when a woman says “no”, it really means “yes” under certain circumstances (and I bet to a guy like Mr. Limbaugh, there are few, if any, circumstances where “no” actually means “no”). A guy just has to “spot” it. I’m just wondering, how exactly do you spot the signs that a woman is actually saying “yes” underneath the resounding “no”? Enlighten me.

And if you think about it, this definition could extend not just to women. Perhaps a young child is actually saying yes to being touched inappropriately, even if they’re being touched by a parent or other relative. And according to Mr. Limbaugh’s definition of consent, if a gay man comes onto him or any other man and the second man says no, the gay man is allowed to go on if they believe “the signs” are there telling them to go on.* It’s uncomfortable to think about, but it could happen.

*I’m not actually insinuating that anyone does or should do this, be they straight or gay men, relatives of a child, or anything else. I’m just trying to put this in the context that Mr. Limbaugh outlines and make sense of the implications.

Also notice how Mr. Limbaugh asks for the opinions of the male listeners of his show, but not the female listeners. Why doesn’t Mr. Limbaugh ask about the female listeners’ experiences? I’m sure some of them have quite the stories to tell. According to the website of the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network, about 1 in 6 women are the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetimes. 1 in 33 men suffer the same sort of attacks, and 15% of children under the age of 12 are vulnerable to rape or sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression, four times more likely to suffer from PTSD and/or consider suicide, and 13 and 26 times more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, respectively. A third of them get pregnant from their ordeals. How many of these women said “no” and that was ignored or interpreted as meaning “yes”? And how many of them listen to the Rush Limbaugh Show?

Mr. Limbaugh also quotes from the student handbook at Ohio State University** on what constitutes consent. Well, actually he isn’t quoting, exactly. Only a small bit of what he says is actually from the Student Code of Conduct (which you can read here). I have no idea where he’s getting this stuff about the thirteen-year-olds consenting to sex. But beyond all that, the point Mr. Limbaugh is trying to make is that all these requirements for having consent is too much and actually getting in the way of romance and seduction. I don’t have the most experience in this, but if you ask me, when two consenting partners are very much in love, care deeply about the other, and want to make each other happy, then all this stuff Mr. Limbaugh believes gets in the way of romance and seduction becomes unnecessary. The couple know each other well enough to know what is safe, what is crossing a boundary, and how to make sure both of them have an enjoyable sexual experience.

And for couples who aren’t at that point yet, perhaps they don’t need to ask permission to do every single thing. But it is common sense to discuss with your partner what you consider safe sexual territory, and to pay attention to what your partner is telling you, verbally or non-verbally. If your partner says no, doesn’t matter if you or your partner are male, female, or some other third gender. No means no, under ALL circumstances.

Mr. Limbaugh makes it seem like you have to go through a maze to have sex, but I don’t think that’s actually the case.

**For future reference, would you please not use my alma mater in your program? It’s not a very good example at the moment, anyway: sad as I am to admit, OSU’s marching band is under investigation for fostering an atmosphere of sexual assault, and there are other investigations occurring as well, last I checked. I still love this school and I’m not proud of what’s happened here, but you can’t fight your demons if you don’t admit to them, so I’m putting them out there.

So Mr. Limbaugh may feel that there are exceptions to the No rule and all those requirements for consent are a bit too much for your average man looking for sex. But with sexual assault so prevalent in our nation, I feel having these things pointed out to us is a good thing. Not only does it make us aware of a problem that needs to be combated, but following these rules helps to make our country safer for all, and helps to eliminate a very terrible problem.

Mr. Limbaugh does make one very good point, and that is we need to change how we teach our boys. I agree, but I think we need to change how we teach our girls too, and maybe how we approach sex in general. Men should be taught that there is nothing wrong with wanting to have sex, provided you are educated about both the benefits and the consequences of sex, particularly unsafe, forced or alternative forms of sex. And girls should be taught about their bodies, all that comes with sex, and that there is nothing they should be ashamed of when it comes to their bodies or their sexuality, no mater what anyone says. And above all, it should be stressed that no one owns your body but you, and you should decide what can and cannot be done with it.

Mr. Limbaugh, I hope what you’ve said today gets talked about by a variety of people. I hope that you make the newsrounds for your comments, because what you said is hurtful and shameful and trivializes a major problem. And perhaps after what you’ve said, there can be some constructive change to stop this ongoing epidemic of sexual assault in our nation. I would very much like to say that.

And Mr. Limbaugh, perhaps after this latest incdent, you might take steps to avoid saying such hurtful and despicable things on your program. And if that’s not possible, then maybe it’d be better for a lot of people (and I say this with all the sensitivity I can muster in such a situation) if you would kindly shut up.

Adam & Eve: the original sex story that’s been denounced as evil and immoral.

I’m actually kind of sick while I’m writing this post, so if it’s not up to my usual quality, I apologize. Also, if you want to make me matzo ball soup or something, please make sure it’s prepared in a manner that is acceptable under the laws of kashrut. For an easy guide to cooking kashrut, please contact your local rabbi or read a guidebook to Jewish cooking.

Okay, enough rambling that unfortunately we cannot blame my current condition on. I don’t know if anyone’s noticed this, but the horror genre–whether it be books, movies, comic books, or TV shows on FX–has a lot of sex. It’s one of the draws of the genre, and it’s also one of the things horror authors are criticized for the most (besides the whole–you know–the fact that we write about scary, bloody things that often kill/maim/cover us in blood). Sometimes it seems that there’s more sex in a horror movie than there is horror.

The question is, why? Why is there so much sex in horror stories?

Well, I’m not exactly sure. Besides demons that use sex as a weapon in ancient legends and folklore, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of material on this subject before the 19th century. I do know that works by early horror writers like Edgar Allen Poe and Mary Shelley, who wrote around the same time, didn’t have a lot of sex in their work, and any that did was only subtly hinted at (for example, “The Fall of the House of Usher” hinted at an incestuous relationship between Usher and his sister, but never exactly came out and said it). However things started to change around the turn of the century. Dracula contained several themes about Victorian sexual mores, and theater productions of horror stories often used sex to draw crowds in. I’m not as familiar with the works of HP Lovecraft as I should be, but I bet there might be some naughtiness hinted at in those stories.

(And if I am wrong, I apologize and ask that you please notify me immediately of the fact)

“Bleh! I am so chaste! Bleh!”

Early horror films like the original Phantom of the Opera film with Lon Chaney, Nosferatu, the Universal horror films and some others skirted around sex (mostly because Hollywood had much more stringent censorship back then), but it was still present in books and comics of the time, which led to comic books being censored as well. However with the fifties and sixties came the sexual revolution, and mores surrounding sexuality loosened. This started being reflected in horror, with Stephen King in the seventies debuting with Carrie and Salem’s Lot, which had plenty of sex and sexual themes in them. Slasher films made use of sex as well, showing sex alongside blood and gore well into the late eighties and nineties. Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted in the late nineties, during which the connection between sex and horror was often explored and commented upon within the show and by its viewers.

Fast forward a little bit, and you have the Scream movies, which poked fun at the supposed “rules of horror movies” (see video below), the Friday the 13th remake which had so much sex, it kind of lost the point of the film till near the end (but still couldn’t salvage the story), and American Horror Story, which actually manages to use sex in an artful way without taking away from the terror of the show.

(If anyone feels my history lesson in horror and sex is lacking something, once again I apologize.)

But like I said, all this sex in the horror genre has its consequences. Some will say that horror is using sex to draw in its audiences, like when you have a pretty girl being tortured while in her underwear (I think that’s a new way of looking at torture porn). Others say that horror authors are making a morality statement when they say “sin” like sex, drugs or booze causes you to die horribly, and the sweet virgin is the only one who survives (albeit with severe trauma). Plenty of critics believe that all the sex, along with the gore and killing, are warping the minds of children and teenagers (I don’t believe that for one minute). And feminists criticize horror authors for objectifiying and sometimes demonizing women and their sexuality in their work.

For that last one, I have to admit, we’ve been guilty of that a few times. So has certain evangelists and nutcases and whatnot, but yeah, horror authors have done this a few times. The video below provides some examples on this.


But this still doesn’t explain how sex has gotten to be such a part of the genre of horror. Maybe it serves as a relief for audiences. After seeing something so scary, a little sex can actually serve to relax people. In some funeral parlors, they’ll actually have lewd statues or paintings in order to make the grieving feel a little better (not kidding). At the same time, sex could act as a way to ramp people up, show them a little nudity, and then when they’re excited, scare them silly with some blood and death.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that if there’s more sex in a horror movie than there is horror, it’s probably because the filmmakers realized they have a pretty weak story to begin with, and need something to draw the audiences in with. I don’t know if anyone else shares that opinion, but I definitely believe it. And it certainly would explain a lot.

And occasionally, sex serves as part of the plot, like how in AHS: Asylum Kit and Grace having sex is used to further certain elements of the story. So occasionally sex can be used in a good way in the horror genre, instead of just making us worry that the people behind the story you’re watching or reading about just needed something after a very bad dry spell.

Here’s another question to ask yourself: Is my story more likely to get this rating than an R or PG-13 rating if I use sex?

I’m still not sure why sex is so intrinsically a part of the horror genre. However, because it is, I think it should be used more wisely. If you write horror stories, unless you’re trying to use sex as part of your story in a tasteful way or as a tool to further character development, then you should probably leave the sex out. Ask yourself this: what does this story gain from me using sex in it?

If you can’t think of a valid reason, then don’t put the sex in. (You can also ask this question for gore, and I highly recommend that you do).