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Ariel MEI
April 26, 2021
When They Made Wonder Woman a Rapist


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When They Made Wonder Woman a Rapist

A man with no name wakes up in his apartment. Scanning the room, he tries to recall the previous events only to find the memories missing.

It's a not unfamiliar story. Chanel Miller woke with no memory of being raped in an alley, and learned the details through the news and following a media storm as her assault was cruelly minimized as ¨20 minutes of action”. 16-year-old Jada was given a drink at a high school. She woke the next day to find naked pictures of her unconscious body circulating the rounds, and an explosion of viral posts by people mimicking her limp position. It's not an unfamiliar situation that this man with no name suddenly finds himself in.

He doesn't remember that another person knocked him unconscious and took control of him. While his mind was off, his body was endangered. It was used in fights and for sex. The people using him briefly acknowledged this man's attractiveness, his occupation, the abundance of selfies. After awakening, this man even encounters one of his assailants. He doesn't remember her, and she shows no remorse for taking advantage of him.

A Fictional Story with True Realities

Unlike Chanel Miller and Jada, this story, the man with no name, is fiction and a character from a movie. And unlike Chanel Miller and Jada, the victim is male. Although male survivors exist, their stories are buried and hidden at best or used as a punchline at worst. In the case of the man with no name, his victimization was used as a plot point in a larger story that was romanticized and portrayed as ¨healthy¨ while bafflingly overlooking his rape and abuse.

This situation is even more enraging because the physical and sexual assault of this man could have been easily avoided. In this movie, the man with no name serves as a physical body for the male love interest who comes back from the dead through a magical wishing rock. The writers are already using magic and could have quickly brought back the male love interest without introducing the man with no name. The unnecessary victim himself was only credited as ¨handsome man¨, another layer of his objectification.

An Analysis of “Handsome Man”

By choosing to have the male love interest possess the man with no name, they changed the movie’s tone from campy action-adventure rom-com into a summary of the dangers and consequences of patriarchal structures and our society’s rigid structural expectations of gender roles. The writer’s choice to depict a nameless man’s physical and sexual assault represents the vacuousness with which we view the sexual assault of male survivors. Their choice to romanticize the relationship between the main characters, who have been transformed into the nameless man’s assailants, also represents the mindlessness. The characterization of this man with no name is traumatizing to both male, female, and non binary survivors. And the reaction, or lack of, to his assault adds additional layers of damage.

Deciding to simply resurrect the deceased character instead of having him inhabit another person's body would have avoided this unforced error. Deleting a few lines of text would have changed the story from horrific to campy. A brief moment of internal reflection could have kept them from making Wonder Woman a rapist.

Gender Constructs- Sex and Emotions

Culturally, heterosexual boys and men are conditioned and taught that they can prove their manliness by having multiple sexual partners. Failure to do so can result in being emasculated, or stigmatized. They are labeled as somehow ¨wrong¨ or ¨failing¨ at life. Boys are often trained in our society (also dependent on their background) to treat female partners and potential partners as sex objects. Cultural implications also imply that women somehow prefer it that way.

Boys and men are trained to curb, control, and minimize emotion besides a few predetermined ¨acceptable¨ ones. Emotions such as pride, bravery, and anger are labeled manly. Aggression and violence are also deemed acceptable. Stray from these, and men are labeled feminine, weak. Are you unhappy with your situation? Then work harder or fight harder to get what you “deserve”.

The flipside for heterosexual girls and women is to be virtuous. The expectation is to deny sex, coyly demure at the thought. Girls and women are not taught realistic and healthy boundaries around sex, only that they will be categorized as either a good virtuous person, or a loose person. Conversations around setting healthy boundaries with sex and consent are limited or non existent.

Unlike men and boys, women and girls are trained to express themselves. They are painted as nurturing and sensitive. Women and girls are expected to be sweet and people pleasing, even at the expense of their own boundaries and wants.

Collision of Sex and Emotion

When these two parallel tracks of sex and emotion collide, the consequences for females follow the stories of Chanel Miller and Jade as discussed previously. We see the results in the MeToo movement, in the encouragement of sexual harassment from leaders in power, and prevalence of male partners who use coercion and force to achieve sex. We see the deadly consequences in the murders of trans women by cis men, who occupy a terrifying intersection of misogyny, homophobia, and trans phobia and whose existence can be interpreted by cis men as a threat to their internalized standards of ¨manliness¨. On a broader scale we also see the tragic consequences in mass shootings, many of which were perpetrated by men with a history of violence against women such as the recent shooting in Georgia. (1).

When They Made Wonder Woman a Rapist

The consequences for men can be seen in the recent WW84 movie. In the film, Wonder Woman wishes on a magic rock for her dead boyfriend to return. He does. However he returns in the body of the man with no name. The love interest, occupying the man with no name´s body, proceeds to follow Wonder Woman through intimate moments and physical altercations. Because the man with no name never consented to any of these actions, this classifies as physical assault and rape. And therefore, as the person who had sex with him without his consent, Wonder Woman is a rapist.

With this depiction, we also see the consequences for men and boys through the assault of the man with no name. The glibness with which the writers treat this man's assault symbolizes our society's treatment of male victims; that they don't exist. That men cannot be victims. Particularly, society holds fast to the view that men cannot be sexually or physically assaulted by women.

The Impact on a Broader Scale

Rape culture against female victims and the stigmatization and silencing of male victims is one fallout of toxic masculinity, but it’s not the only consequence.

Men and boys’ use of sexual violence against women and fems is tied into their internalized need to have sex as a way to prove self-worth. Therefore the sexual coercion and assault of women and girls as a way to fulfill this expectation is the external reflection of men and boys acting on these expectations. The reverse is when men and boys turn these messages around self worth, sex, and hiding emotions and turn it inwards. In this case, the male gender role becomes a breeding ground for depression, isolation, and mental health issues. (2, 3)

Consequences of Unfulfilled Expectations

When men and boys feel they are unable to fulfill societal expectations, they are labeled as ¨weak, broken, wrong¨, and this stigma can lead to feelings of inadequacy, insecurities, and depression. Mental Health America reports 6 million men suffer from depression every year (4). At the same time, because society stigmatizes men who show ¨feminine¨ emotions such as vulnerability, men feel they cannot seek help for their issues and turn to substances as coping mechanisms. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports the annual number of men who die due to alcohol related causes at 62,000 compared to 26,000 women (5). And because men and boys are restrained from speaking out, seeking help, and being seen as ¨weak¨, this can lead to suicide. The CDC reported in 2018 the suicide rate for males was 3.7 times the rate for females (6).

Everyday Gender Norms

At a more basic level, we see rigid gender norms play out in everyday life, and how men are preyed upon in predatory jobs. Many workplaces prey on toxic masculinity, playing on expectations to coerce men into dangerous jobs. I worked a blue collar job where I saw this first hand, and as ¨one of the guys¨ was on the receiving end of it.

We worked a dangerous job. We worked in the middle of busy roads handling dangerous equipment where the average work day was 12 hours with low pay and questionable safety protocol. Technically we had options such as calling for ¨flagging¨ for working in roads and calling a backup guy for dangerous situations. However, if we asked we were told to man up and just get it done and move on and make money. There was always more work that needed doing, and you should just suck it up and work harder. Unless, of course. you “don’t have what it takes.”

The Suck It Up Mentality

This mentality, suck it up and just figure it out, was so pervasive. In one instance, I saw a coworker come to work with a broken thumb. I saw it swell to the size of a melon and turn a deep purple over the course of a week before he finally went to the hospital. He didn't want to lose a paycheck and bore the burden of supporting his family. Another coworker with the same mentality came to work without lunch the first few months I knew him. I ended up giving him my lunch even though he was bragging about how he could ¨power through it¨.

Working 12 hour shifts was normal, including additional on call shifts and overtime shifts. The first time I did this, I was finally sent home after 36 hours of working after my work car camera caught me falling asleep while driving. I hadn't slept in nearly 36 hours, I was so tired. The man who also had the on call shift was sent home an hour after me after backing over his gear in a foggy haze.

Despite these conditions, the guys there were devoted. They even fought for more overtime, and bragged about their 70/80 hour weeks. They bragged about people who threatened them with weapons, about getting shocked by live wires, by how they were tough enough to ¨suck it up and take one for the team¨.This is a phrase by the way, from when I asked my manager if I could go home 2 hours earlier the day before thanksgiving. An 8 hour shift instead of 10. Suck it up and take one for the team.

Confinements of Toxic Masculinity

Here is where toxic masculinity circles back around. The same social construct that contributes to male survivor stigmatization also confines them into material situations like this predatory job. While my coworkers bragged about how tough they were, in reality it wasn't a happy environment. They felt trapped. Trapped by a need to make money for their families, egged on to prove they were tough enough to cut it, to out man each other. Any attempt to complain about working conditions, pay or safety was well outside the culturally acceptable behavior, just suck it up

Statistically, some of them would take out their unhappiness at home, at their partners or family, or on themselves. The societal pressure that prevented them from expressing their feeling of being trapped and preyed upon by their job is socially frowned upon, then internalized and repackaged as a more ¨acceptable form¨ at their families perpetuating cycles of abuse, or at themselves, bolstering the growing mental health and opioid crisis (7, 8, 9)

It may be more obvious how toxic masculinity harms women and fems, but we must be vocal about how it damages men and boys as well. Male violence cannot be excused, but we must examine the motivating factors behind their actions if we want to end the cycle of violence. In the case of toxic masculinity, we have a better chance of changing what it means to be a man if we take into account how toxic masculinity is damaging to men as well.


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