Various degrees of sexual violence are often depicted on prime time television shows but here I want to think about sexual domination which is almost always nuanced and complicated. While HBO’s Girls has been the primary focus of this blog, other shows have managed to eroticize the sexual domination of women. The other show I have in mind is ABC’s Scandal.

While the entire first season of Girls consisted of Adam and Hannah’s strange sexual encounters, we began to worry about Hannah because of the things that Adam would say to her during their sexual interactions. His violent thrusting and the narration of strange sexual fantasies often involved vulnerable women (young women, “school girls,” prostitutes, etc.). What’s startling was that Hannah seems to go along with all of this. In the recent episode, Hannah has attempted to recreate these strange sexual moments because she fears that Adam is drifting away from her. Hannah clearly feels that she must sexually submit to the wishes she perceives Adam to have, all packaged as love.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=611357468941856&set=a.269611826449757.62018.123031417774466&type=1&theater

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=611357468941856&set=a.269611826449757.62018.123031417774466&type=1&theater

Likewise, I have watched a similar storyline develop on ABC’s Scandal. We are meant to believe that Olivia Pope is independent, strong and completely in control —at work that is. However her sexual relationship with the president (who is married) almost always depicts his outright domination over her. Viewers are meant to think this is the way love is. Usually, Olivia is clearheaded and successful at most tasks but there have been several instances where she “loses” her way due to the romance. The sexual domination is so pronounced on Scandal that even Olivia’s own father seems to have something at stake in dominating his daughter.

Viewers have managed to cheer on Olivia, because the adultery is packaged as a love affair. Olivia and Fitz cannot help the way they feel about each other. Being president is Fitz’s destiny and that is why they cannot be together.

Olivia and Fitz

https://www.facebook.com/ScandalABC/photos/a.587423511287435.1073741827.212455292117594/587423727954080/?type=1&theater

The ethical question becomes one about the danger of depicting these relationships as “love.” Are we meant to walk away thinking that love is outright sexual domination? While Scandal’s writer Shonda Rhimes has been brilliant at nuancing the power relations between the characters, we are still vividly aware that it is Olivia whom seems to be caught in a web of men who use her to fulfill independent destinies related to their careers.

For Hannah, on Girls, it is not the case that Adam was simply exerting power over her but now she is playing an active role in her own subjugation. It could very well be the case that Adam loves Hannah and Fitz loves Olivia but it is quite concerning that this love is consistently depicted as the domination of the female protagonist.

Tagged with →  
Share →
Buffer

Leave a Reply