Why Put the "Whore" in Horror?

Why Put the "Whore" in Horror?

Female sexuality suffers in slasher films.

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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Facing The Giants In Life

"Remember God has already overcame the World"

Through life we face many giants or mountains...some small and others large. Most of the time we think that God should just remove the giants and that should be it...I mean he is the all powerful God who can do anything right? While this is true he also, wants us to climb the mountains and face our giants, because he gives us battles bigger than ourselves to show that all things are possible with him. But God won't leave us to conquer alone but be our strength or you might say our armor throughout the battles.  For example the story of David and Goliath that many of you have heard but probably never had really broken down before. 

(1 Samuel 17:3) This story starts out with a valley between two mountains and the description of Goliath, a destructible, merciful giant. No one in Israel wanted to fight this giant, except one unlikely person David. He was just regular individual who was a slinger, how could he possibly kill this giant? And of course the King said that David was no match to defeat Goliath, and David started to tell about how he kept his father's sheep and how he had to fight off lions and bears, and if God can deliver him from those then he can deliver him from this giant. So the King sent him to fight. David started out in the armor that was chosen for him but decided that he had to be himself to conquer this giant and most of all have faith in God. So he chose 5 smooth stones and a sling, and went over near Goliath. He knew he had to keep his distance, and while Goliath had a sword and shield, David had a sling, rocks and the power of God. The battle didn't last very long, and ended in a victory of David after hitting the giant in the forehead with a stone.

 I love this story because it is such a good example of facing the giants and mountains in life. Yes, they may be larger then you are but you have to keep in mind that your God is bigger. You have to put on God's armor, stand firm, and keep climbing. You have to always be prepared and evaluate your focus and make sure your focused on God by spending time with him in different ways. A quote that I heard while watching a video by Jordan Lee Dooley said "Focus on your giants and you stumble, focus on God and your giants will tumble." And this quote is so perfect because you can't focus on what the enemy is telling you because he will always find ways to say your not strong enough, your not big enough, you are not able, like the King told David (1 Samuel 17:33).  But through the climb and battles always remember God has already overcame the World. 

~Shay 


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I'm Pro-Life, Just Not In The Way You Think

It is another thing entirely to work for the rights of humans after they are born.

This weekend marks the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade that decided that a woman has the right to seek an abortion legally if she wishes to terminate her pregnancy.

Since 1973, this case has stirred up a lot of controversies, with many failed attempts to repeal the initial Supreme Court decision and both sides fighting for modifications to the initial bill, that would make abortion either more or less accessible.

The gravity of this debate has created a deep rift between people who identify as pro-life versus those who consider themselves pro-choice. Each side has vilified the other and there appears to be no hope of finding a common ground.

As someone who grew up in a deeply religious family, surrounded by people who have been deeply involved in the pro-life movement, I was exposed to these ideas from a pretty early age.

I know what it's like to be surrounded by people who wholeheartedly believe that a fetus deserves the human rights afforded to people who are already born.

These are good people.

I've also attended a fairly liberal university in California. I've worked with a poor immigrant community. I've volunteered in a hospital for people who cannot afford health care. I know what it's like to buy a pregnancy test in terror that it may turn up positive. I've seen what it's like to feel like abortion is your only option.

These are good people.

I don't know now where I fall when it comes to this issue. I guess I'd call myself pro-choice solely because I do not feel that I have the authority to tell another woman what decision she should make for herself and her family.

I love babies. I always have and I always will. I'm not a fan of abortion. If I could save every single baby, believe me, I would.

I agree with the end goal of the pro-life movement, but I disagree fundamentally with every way that they go about to achieve that end goal and I do not understand the correlation between people who fight for a child to be born, but will not fight for that child's rights after birth or when they find themselves in their own unwanted pregnancy. I am not pro-abortion, but I am pro-choice.

It is one thing to call yourself pro-life and to spend your Saturday mornings outside of a Planned Parenthood, either praying peacefully or harassing the women that have come to seek health care (hint: most actually aren't there for an abortion).

It is another thing entirely to work for the rights of humans after they are born; to fight to dismantle the social structures that led these women not to want to be pregnant in the first place; to promote a society that sets women and children and families up to succeed.

I know that birth control and comprehensive sex education help lower abortion rates. A movement that wants to prevent abortions but also tries to prevent these resources isn't focusing solely on abortion prevention, they're relying on sexual oppression to achieve their goal. And it's backfiring.

I'm pro-life. Just not in the way you're thinking of.

I'm pro-life for the over 20% of American children that are living in poverty.

I'm pro-life for the black men who are arrested at an extraordinary rate for largely non-violent offenses.

I'm pro-life for the 40,000 veterans that have fought to serve our country and then end up on the streets every night when they get home.

I'm pro-life for the 63,000 children who are sexually abused every year.

I'm pro-life for the men and women who need food stamps to feed their families.

I'm pro-life for the 45,000 people who die and will continue to die every year because they can't afford health coverage.

I'm pro-life for the 1 in 6 women who will be raped in her lifetime.

I'm pro-life for the immigrants in this country, both those who are here legally and those who are not, that are taken advantage of because of their vulnerable position in society.

I’m pro-life for the members of the LGBT+ community that are discriminated against and that commit suicide at alarmingly rates as a result of the harassment they receive.

I'm pro-life for the young women who find themselves pregnant in a situation that they cannot afford, that is dangerous for them or their families, and that would make their lives even more difficult. I stand by them and I advocate for their right to choose, even if that choice is not one that I would make for myself.

Cover Image Credit: Instagram

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