Why Put the "Whore" in Horror?

Why Put the "Whore" in Horror?

Female sexuality suffers in slasher films.
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I love horror films. Forget comedy romps or romance sagas; I’ll take the occult, some demonic activity, and household hauntings filmed through a shaky camera lens over a “feel-good” flick any day. However, my affinity for the macabre movie genre ends at slasher films. I prefer Shyamalan twists and James Wan scream sequences to gory deaths and Jason Voorhees.

Besides the bloodiness of slasher movies, I take issue with the treatment of female sexuality that seems to be ingrained into every film’s plot. When people define classic elements of slasher films, they usually mention either the weapon choices (knife, chainsaw, axe, etc.) or the fact that the movie features a lot of scantily clad women. Think on this-when women die in these types of movies, what are they doing right before they are killed, or as they are being killed? Often times, the first murders of the movie occur as a young, sexually promiscuous woman is engaging in sexual activity and ends up dead because of her “deviant behavior.”

For the sake of a popular example-Lynda Van Der Klok, from Halloween. Lynda has sex with her boyfriend Bob and is immediately punished for her actions. She is lying in bed naked, filing her nails, when Michael appears in the bedroom doorway. The scene is drawn out so that Lynda can ask stupid questions and flirt with Michael, who is standing beneath a sheet and who she thinks is her boyfriend, and so that the audience can occasionally catch a glimpse of her bare breasts. When she’s had enough of Michael’s silence, Lynda gets up and throws a teeny-tiny shirt over her torso (doesn’t button it up so we can still see her chest) and Michael proceeds to strangle her with a telephone cord. Her death takes about 30 seconds, in which time she gasps sexily and arches her back like she’s experiencing sexual pleasure instead of being murdered. Michael is behind her, grunting, and overall the death scene seems more like a grisly porno than a terrifying murder.

But where are the men? As they say, it takes two to tango; what punishment do men receive for their sexual dalliances? In most cases, they end up dead, just as the women do, but it is the differences in their death scenes that promote the desire for purity of women. Bob, Lynda’s boyfriend, is stabbed quickly after sex and is left alone downstairs as Michael slowly makes his way to Lynda. The scene is quick and unfocused, and Bob is quickly forgotten.

The final trope of importance is the “final girl.” In Halloween, the final girl is Laurie Strode, the girl who survives and defeats the monster in the end. The final girl is usually androgynous in the sense that she has characteristics of both masculine and feminine gender stereotypes. Laurie outsmarts and overpowers Michael, both of which are masculine stereotypes, and still remains pretty and pure, which are feminine stereotypes. Another critical characteristic of the “final girls” is that she must be a virgin. The final girl must be untouched by “bad behavior” such as sex, drinking, and drugs; any character to engage in such activities almost always perishes before the movie ends. Remember when Lynda calls Laurie right before she is strangled to death? Laurie gets up off of the couch to answer the phone and throws her knitting onto the couch cushions. It’s Halloween night and Laurie is sitting alone in her living room, knitting.

So, what do these cinematic tropes convey to the audience? First off, the murder of “promiscuous women” sends a message that condemns women who are sexually liberated; if you have sex, you will die. Female sexuality has been limited, confined, and forcibly subdued over the past centuries, and the use of negative imagery alongside sexually active women in popular horror movies perpetrates the idea that female sexuality is something monstrous and must be destroyed. It also strengthens the power of rape culture when we watch and normalize the scene because many of these deaths that involve “the slut” are essentially rape scenes. As I previously mentioned, Lynda sounds like she’s being sexually pleasured rather than dying and her breasts are exposed as she is strangled. And if these women are not being strangled, they’re usually being slashed apart by knives, which are traditionally phallic images in film and literature. The women of slasher films have sex and are raped as punishment, but are remembered throughout popular culture as being part of a “sexy death scene.” Secondly, Bob’s quick demise in comparison to Lynda’s long, drawn out rape/murder scene suggests that male sexuality is not really that bad of a thing; Lynda’s death was obviously punishment for her behavior, but Bob’s was very fast and quickly forgotten, which represents literally all of history in relation to male sexuality. Men are not sexually oppressed like women are. And finally, the final girl. Carol J. Clover coined the term “final girl,” and although some have tried to turn this trope into a feminist icon, the final girl is far from liberating. The final girl caters to male desire in the sense that she is chaste, but embodies masculine traits to the extent that male viewers are able to not only sexualize her, but root for her as well. Halloween is not an isolated incident; Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, these tropes repeat through movies and across plot lines.

Sexuality isn’t the only characteristic of femininity that is attacked in slasher films, and unfortunately it isn’t just slasher films that promote misogynistic ideals. Women are oftentimes the host for evil, and while possessed are not in control of their bodies. They become damsels in distress, in need of rescuing by a priest who, by job description requirements, can only be a man. Other than the misogynistic “final girl,” women are never a source of power or goodness, but instead conduits for evil, shame, and death. Think of Rosemary’s Baby or The Rite or The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The women in these movies are possessed through a violation of the female body and turn the women into vessels of destruction. And when I say destruction, I don’t refer just to the violence that they bring to others. Remember in The Exorcist when Regan, in mid-possession, stabs her vagina with a crucifix which promotes the idea that the feminine body, and (shockingly) sexuality is monstrous. Regan also begs men to “fuck her” several times throughout her possession, suggesting that female sexuality is evil.

As I previously mentioned, powerful women are not commonplace characters in most horror movies. Instead, their power is punished by death or a manipulation of character into something evil. Carrie, for example, shows a powerful young woman with extremely unusual abilities who an opportunity to be good, but instead uses her power for mass destruction. The repetition of the fall of formidable heroines in horror films condemns strong women and seems to send a warning-the power of women is a monstrous thing.

It is easy to overlook subliminal messages in movies like horror films and slasher flicks, but the sexism that permeates the cinematic spooks is every bit as scary as the movie’s murderer. This may sound dramatic, but movies have the power to change the course of culture; we learn from movies, form attachments to characters and places, and these movies stay with us long after they’ve been made. It is absolutely okay to love these films and to continue to watch them, (anyone up for a scary movie marathon?) but it then becomes our responsibility to recognize the misogyny in these movies, how it affects our society, and us, and why it is wrong.

Cover Image Credit: Fan Pop

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

SEE ALSO: To My Closeted Self, I Have Something To Tell You

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. (Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.)

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town. Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community. I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK. What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives. What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all. Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back; same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others. As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being. My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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I Am Proud To Stand #NewnanStrong

This past weekend's events brought our community together, and this surge of support should make our citizens proud.
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In my 19 years of living in the Newnan community, our small town has always been quiet and fairly innocuous. Aside from the rush hour traffic on Bullsboro and the depressingly early time that the downtown square shuts down on Sundays, there has never been much conflict or turmoil in our little corner of Georgia. Therefore, when news broke of the National Socialist Movement, a white nationalist group, obtaining a permit to rally in Greenville Street Park, citizens in Newnan and neighboring cities were shocked.

As the April 21 rally drew near, I was overwhelmed by the response from the community, as those opposed to the group’s message banded together in support of love and equality - directly targeting the Neo-Nazi movement and their ideals. As downtown businesses braced for the possible violence that the day would bring, most business owners opted to close their shops for the afternoon, to stay at home or to protest the rally.

The citizens of Newnan refused to let the rally to dismantle their way of life, and declared that the Friday before the rally should be a community day - hundreds gathered to support their local economy, and help local businesses earn some of the revenue that would be lost due to Saturday’s circumstances.

As authorities laid down barricades and braced for the rally and its attendees, locals took to the sidewalks with chalk drawings, sharing messages of love, hope, and compassion. Quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., notable Bible verses, and trending social media statements were carefully scripted across bricks and benches, tagged with #NewnanStrong.



Thankfully, the day of the rally came and went, with little conflict. The turnout for the National Socialist Movement is reported to have been only a couple dozen - meanwhile, hundreds of Newnan community members showed up, vastly outnumbering the controversial group, and making it clear that their message was unwelcome in our town.

I am astounded by the overwhelming outpour of love and support from all of my Newnan neighbors, and am thrilled to see their message continue to thrive; on social media outlets, many are coordinating to send thank you notes to the authorities and community members that helped coordinate such an effective afternoon of activism, keeping those involved safe, and our beautiful downtown square standing strong.

I hope this atmosphere of unwavering love and support will continue to uphold our community - and based on what I have witnessed not only this weekend but in all my life here in Newnan - I am sure that our city and all of its citizens will continue to stand Newnan Strong.



(photo credits to various Facebook users)

Cover Image Credit: Facebook User

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