Fantasy Land

This week’s guest columnist is Ami Angelwings, the blogger behind Heavenly Comic Reviews and Super Cute Rants of DOOM. Ami is a 25 year old Asian girl in Toronto and she likes – really likes – Supergirl.

Hi :)

I’m really tired. I just… had absolutely no idea what to write for this guest column. :(

I have some things I want to say but I just fear I won’t be able to express them properly. :\

I’ll try tho!

*nods*

Kk. This is something I think most of us feel or at least get the feeling of, whether consciously or subconsciously, and I kinda wanted to talk about it.

It’s the sexual fetishization of female superheroes. I’m not talking about “omgsheshotohnoezcalloutthefeminists”! I’m talking about how superheroines as a concept appears to be a common male sexual fantasy, like the sexy nurse, or the french maid.

Specifically, I notice that female superheroes in bondage, being depowered, or submitting to evil, is a genre in itself.

In many comic blogs, authors tend to note that they get a lot of weird google searches that lead people to their site, especially ones about supergirl being raped, or tied up, or something. I know *I* do. In fact that appears to be a good chunk of my search engine traffic! XD It seems like every day somebody runs into my blog looking for pictures of Supergirl in bondage or naked or in torn clothing or something.

In fact there are whole sites devoted to this genre. There are videos and stories and of course pictures (which I dun feel I need to link to, b/c they’d immediately be NSFW without a warning).

You’d think that a site called “hero-girl” or “superheroinecentral” would be something like girl-wonder wouldn’t you XD

My point isn’t that men shouldn’t have sexual fantasies or that this stuff is bad or whatever. My point is that it EXISTS and that superheroine outfits have become a sexual fetish costume for many men like the french maid outfit or the sexy nurse outfit. :\

My point is that something that should exemplify POWER and STRENGTH for women is instead just another kinky fetish costume for men. :( And the worst part of it is that while a male stripper version of Batman or Superman would prolly have to modify the costume greatly (cape but not tights for instance or mebbe just the briefs). Not much actually has to be done (or even IS done) for female costumes. Which says a lot about the “original” costumes to begin with. :\

In fact, it could be argued that very often the female costumes (of Supergirl and the female Green Lanterns for instance) are just hyper sexualized versions of the male costume. Something that you’d see a stripper using the Superman or Green Lantern motif use for instance. Which is again depressing. :(

But that’s not what I really wanted to focus on. What I wanted to talk about is that not only is there apparently a demand for sexy women in superhero costumes but that there’s a demand for them to be humiliated, defeated, de-powered and often raped.

Just look at the common theme in many of the sites there. Many aren’t even trademarked characters. So it’s not just about fantasizing about Supergirl. It’s the IDEA OF SUPERHEROINES BEING DEFEATED that is a turn on for some men. In fact it seems like the idea of a woman in power being brought down is a common fantasy for many men. Their bosses, or teachers, or feminists, or policewomen, etc… It does seem to manifest itself in many erotic fantasies.

Which isn’t necessarily bad. We all have sexual fantasies right? XD And opposite concepts often make for delicious fantasies. The good school girl being a bad, bad girl, the sexy nun, etc etc…

But isn’t it odd that these things, depowering, humiliating defeat, rape, captivity, torn costumes, stripper versions of superhero costumes, etc happen in MAINSTREAM REGULAR comics?

THIS isn’t porn. THIS isn’t some fetish website for superheroines in bondage enthusiasts. This is DC and Marvel.

This is stuff people complain about a lot and we all wonder where it comes from, whether it’s deliberate, and whether it’s different between men and women.

Well… it definitely is different. And it’s very creepy how close legitimate comic book scenes of female superheroes in peril mimic what’s on those sites.

Which leads me to a thought; male superheroes are for men. Female superheroes are also for men, apparently. And not only are they often treated as just there for male consumption, but also it seems that the idea of depowering and defeating and humiliating them is a turn on for some men or at the very least some sort of “balancing of the scales” in their mind.

Why IS the idea of superheroines being defeated or brought down so erotic? Is it the idea that powerful women are an abnormality and should be fixed? Or is it the thrill of “defeating” somebody who fights back, somebody who resists and must be broken? If this is so then superheroines definitely beat policewomen and teachers and bosses in that category.

Who is more powerful than a Wonder Woman or a Supergirl? And who is more unattainable than they are?

Is it an extension of wishing to rescue or humiliate or bring down the popular girl in school that you want but who ignores you?

Are artists and writers and fans seeing female superheroes not as avatars for the strong brave woman inside every girl but more as a way for them to live out their own fantasies where they can save the strong superwoman, or watch as she lays defeated?

Is it comforting for men to feel that no matter how powerful a woman is she can be brought down, or that deep inside they are the same as any other woman? Or that there’s an inner slut inside all of us?

Is that a reason that when a superheroine turns evil she dresses in black and starts wearing less and often is very hyper sexualized?

I dunno :O

I’m not a guy. I’m certainly not the guys who visit those sites XD And honestly I can’t say how mainstream they are, but certainly there are parallels which makes me ask questions.

But I think it’s important to ask those questions and not dismiss things out of hand. I think it’s important to look at the sexualization of women in comics and realize that it’s not the same as how men are and aren’t sexualized in comics. I think it’s important just to examine these topics and discuss them. :)

This is why I’m often suspicious of new superheroines, because sometimes, especially with the old bad girl comics of the 90s, it seems that while women are the “main characters”, they aren’t there to empower anybody and they’re not even there because the creators like women as their heroes, but because the writers and artists just prefer looking at hot girls in skimpy outfits as their work. And it’s just so much more fun. Like guys who make women characters wearing NOTHING in City of Heroes because it’s just way more fun for them to see a wiggling thonged backside when they adventure.

That’s not empowerment and let’s not pretend it is.

Remember when all of the Wildstorm universe got the gender switch and all the men turned into women? I’m sure the artists weren’t complaining one iota about having to draw even more balloon topped, wasp waisted women.

Why is it that almost every adult superheroine costume comes with gogo boots and often some sort of edit that makes them even more revealing than usual?

The cape is a sign of power for men, it’s a french maid’s skirt for women.

The S is a symbol of truth, justice and the American way for men, but it seems if you put it on a woman it just makes her “hotter” for men, like “OMG SHE’S A SUPERHERO, SO HAWTTTT”.

And what’s worse than that is that this sexualization of superheroines doesn’t seem to revolve around them as some sort of goddesses to be worshipped (though that would also be annoying) but as obstacles to be brought down.

There are people paying for videos and pictures of women in superhero costumes being raped and tortured and depowered and stripped and having their clothing ripped apart. And it’s hard to not see the similarities between that and covers and panels of superheroines in the same situations, hurt and having the costume around their hips and waist and chest torn apart, wearing heels to fight, being captured and tied up in sexually provocative positions, being knocked unconscious in ways that accentuate their curves.

So maybe there IS a market for this stuff after all. Maybe some of the people buying these comics really do enjoy watching heroines get raped and beaten and humilating and tied up and bloody and dying.

I have no idea.

But superheroes mean a lot to me. A LOT. Supergirl means to me as much as Superman means to the guys at Superman Homepage.

She’s a symbol and an inspiration.

Female superheroes, their costumes, their insignia, their capes and tights and strengths and weaknesses, should be iconic, powerful images that bring us hope and spur on our imaginations, not just for what feats they might be able to accomplish, but for what feats WE can as well.

To have them reduced to a sexual fetish for men is demeaning. To have female halloween costumes be on par with the sexy nurse and sexy witch (srsly why is every costume a sexy [insert profession here]?) and have gogo boots be apparently mandatory is insulting.

And to have to wonder if our heroes are being treated so badly in their stories because some men are taking pleasure out of breaking our symbols down?

That’s unfair.

I’m not claiming to have all the answers. :\ But I wanted to write about this because it’s been on my mind and it is a feeling I get from comics and from some comic fans (especially some male fans I’ve hung around in school).

I’m hoping to spur on discussion about this though or at least just some thinking in general. :) I think questions are never a bad thing :D

I think writers and artists, critics and editors, everybody thinking about this and other issues about comics and women in comics cannot be a bad thing, whether they agree or disagree or find another way of looking at it altogether. :) With more awareness will hopefully come change. Change in the way characters are written, change in how they’re drawn, and maybe an understanding that women read comics as well and that we see ourselves in our heroines, and they are not just sexual objects to be posed and degraded for male pleasure.

But ultimately I just wanted to say what was on my mind. :D

And now I must sleep. XD

I’m a girl. I read comics too.

I’m not pissed, but I am worried. :o

But also hopeful :)

Good night. :3

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One Response to “Fantasy Land”

  1. [...] II. A guest blogger at Girls Read Comics talks about the fetishization of superheroines. [...]