I wasn’t sure if I wanted to respond to the Newsweek article about the alleged proliferation of working women’s bondage fantasies, especially since I didn’t think I could add to Mammalingo’s insightful post. I thought all week about Mammalingo’s analysis of Roiphe’s article, wherein Roiphe posits that the “current vogue for [sexual] domination” is happening precisely because we are in “a moment of time when women are ascendant in the workplace . . . 4 out of 10 women are outearning their husbands, [and] when the majority of women under 30 are having and supporting children on their own.” In short, Roiphe says, at this moment, “in hard economic terms– women are less dependent or subjugated than before,” so therefore, “[w]e may then be especially drawn to . . . semipornographic idea[s] of female submission at a moment in history when male dominance is shakier than it has ever been.”
I agree with Mammalingo’s analysis of Roiphe’s article:
“[I]t sounds like a flimsy thesis — based on a little hand-picked anecdotal evidence and the popularity of a single book [Fifty Shades of Gray] (that I wouldn’t mind reading if you’re done with your copy) —was just an excuse to run a photo of blindfolded supermodel. And what the hell does your sex life have to do with being a feminist?” – Mammalingo, posted April 22, 2012.
I want to join the conversation, not attack to Roiphe, but to question her use of the movie, A Dangerous Method (2011). Roiphe uses that movie as a “further signal of the current cultural interest in sexual domination,” because there are scenes where a young Carl Jung is spanking his patient as played by Keira Knightley. But, it’s not an example that supports her thesis. A Dangerous Method attributes its writing credits to John Kerr and Christopher Hampton. Presumably, Kerr and Hampton are male. The director? David Cronenberg. The score, cinematography, and editing were all done by men. So how does this become fodder for a thesis about a woman’s desire for domination or abuse? It sure looks like it’s male desire being projected onto females. After all, the movie was written and directed (and controlled) by men.
And, how about the commercial success of A Dangerous Method? The article says, “[e]very so often a book or a movie comes along that absorbs us and generates discussions about bondage and power,” and among Secretary (2003) and The Sexual Life of Catherine M. (2001), A Dangerous Method is listed as one such absorbing movie.
I saw it, but not because I can’t get enough spanking on the silver screen. I saw it because my therapist has a maddening practice (bordering on medical malpractice) of taking 2 weeks off around the holidays, and I missed him. So I went to see a movie about the birth of psychoanalysis. I can’t find anyone else (besides my therapist) who even saw the movie. In terms of critical success, it wasn’t exactly Titantic. As of April 22, 2012, it grossed $5.7 million in the United States. Compare that to the Hunger Games, which was released in March 2012 and has earned already $357,066,467. It’s not clear at all that A Dangerous Mind is solid proof of how much those of us who work love rape sex.
Finally, I have one more thing to say on the topic, for which I have no proof, but I have utter conviction. My theory is that any increase in women’s bondage fantasies, if it exists, is a direct result of sexual trauma. Sexual fantasies are conflict-laden and a place where we work through trauma on a very deep level. Therefore, sexual fantasies may spring from a vast reservoir of unprocessed trauma, including abuse, molestation and rape. Might the working woman who allegedly wants to be dominated really be seeking to work through earlier trauma? While the statistics vary, up to 28% of women report suffering sexual abuse in their histories. My theory is that those same women who suffered abuse might have turned into highly successful working women who now are working through (enacting? reenacting?) sexual trauma through their sexual fantasies.
I can’t prove any of this until (1) I get my Ph.D in psychology, (2) get some grants, (3) take statistics, and (3) research for years. Maybe someone already proved this.
I simply can’t imagine having the conversation about anyone’s rape fantasies without acknowledging sexual trauma, which is far more prevalent than anyone wants to contemplate.
I will refrain from reiterating that there is not a single gainfully employed woman I know who looks like the annoyed, vampy, run-way model on page 23 of the article.