Watch Powerful Heroines Humiliated Like Never Before!

Watch Powerful Heroines Humiliated Like Never Before!So, there’s some discussion going on about a site called Superheroine’s Demise. What, do you ask, is this site? Well, it’s a pornography site that focuses exclusively on the violence and humiliation of female super heroes. Honestly, although I define as sex-positive, my kneejerk reaction to this site was, “Ugh, yet more misogynistic porn. Just what the world needs.” And after several hours to think about it, I still can’t shake that feeling.

Maybe part of it is because I have issues with pornography, period. I’m not flatly against it, but I have yet to find porn that isn’t in some way problematic. Maybe, also, because I feel like I should be uncritical of this because humilation play is a valid fetish. But, you know what? I’m not uncritical of anything. So, fuck that. I don’t like this site because I think it’s misogyny dressed up in a super heroine fetish, and this post is going to be discussing why I feel that way.

I. Fantasy? Reality? Where’s the Line?

Heroines Defeated and Caged!Part of my problem with this site is the problem I have with comic books: I believe that the objectification of women here influences the way the consumers of the porn view women. On the one hand, at least this site is honest about wanting to see strong women torn down and humiliated (comics just resort to things like the women in refrigerators syndrome), and honest about acknowledging it as a fetish/fantasy. On the other hand, dressing up women in spandex and mixing up the storylines doesn’t change the fact that getting off to the humilation of women is normalized in Western society.

Where is the line between having a fantasy of degredation and wanting to make it a reality? For me, the line is a lot more clear in real life where two people play together than when a person with a fetish watches pornography. In the former case, there are easy guidelines to follow — safe words, boundaries, etc. In these circumstances, consent is clear. The sexiness of the situation is, in fact, based on the fact that both parties are getting enjoyment out of it. But with porn, it’s a single party: the porn watcher. The fantasy on screen doesn’t involve a beforehand with the parties talking about the scene that is about to happen, nor does it show the aftercare that one normally goes through. It’s just the scene, and the only thing that is there to stop the lines between fantasy and reality blurring is the assumption that, somewhere in the watcher’s mind, there is an acknowledgement of this being a scene.

“But wait,” you say, “it’s super heroes! Of course there suspension of disbelief. No one could mistake that for reality.” Maybe so, but it’s also actual women (and the occasional male villain) involved in these scenes. There’s a theme of dominating a strong woman — which I would argue is a common male fantasy, especially in a society where men are encouraged to see women as stripping them of their power (or, as Gay Prof says: “straight men are [encouraged to see themselves as] losing power… [to] a tyrannical matriarchy where women threaten to hamper men’s natural rights to denigrate others, ignore women’s point of view…”). Given the prevalence of this theme in real life, it’s hard to be sure that those who watch humiliation pornography, even with caped crusaders, don’t have it spill over into their real life thoughts and lives.

II. The Ideal Woman?

Another thing that bothered me about the site was the way in which the super heroes were described. Part of fantasy is often times an idealization of a situation, but the way in which these women are idealized is… well, honestly, I find it creepy. While I’m only going to pull relevant parts of the Mission Statement, I would recommend browsing it in full first to get the original context.

First off, the attraction of the heroines themselves:

The image of supergirl or batgirl standing proud, hands on hips, ready to destroy their foes with just a flick of their powerful wrists is quite, quite sexy. Perhaps it’s the tight costumes they wear, or perhaps it’s their indescribable beauty matched with purity, power, and justice.

Strong is sexy, but...Given the way that female super heroes are depicted in comics, it’s not surprising that we have the “sexy woman who kicks ass” paradigm. And I can’t complain too much about the whole being the objects of lust. It is, after all, porn. And, admittedly, I understand the sexiness of powerful women — and I’d agree that erotic stories are a fine place to explore those kinds of power plays.

When I was reading the mission statement, I was nodding my head up until that last line excerpted. Indescribable beauty? Well, cheesy, but… well… okay. Purity, though? Purity?! Arguments on the cannon elements of the purity of super heroines aside (my take: it depends on who we’re talking about), this description screams “guilded cage” to me.

In real life situations, people who “idealize” women like this do so in place of seeing the humanity behind those same women. They are delicate flowers to be protected, not equals to be understood. The “respect” for their “power” is just a way to erase the reality of the woman while having a perfect way to make her feel bad if she objects. Actually, maybe my argument about the “purity” of super heroes varying from woman to woman isn’t just an aside after all.

This brings us to the second, but still necessary, element of this fantasy; the firm subjugation of these women:

See batwoman brutally defeated in hand to hand combat, and humiliatingly stripped, bound and photographed. See superwoman thrown through a wall and left sprawling on the ground in her shredded costume with plaster and debris all over her.

After all the talk about the “sexiness” of power, the what it comes down to is that the real sexiness here doesn’t come from these women’s strength, but in seeing that strength stripped away. Like I said above, power plays can be interesting. It’s the juxtaposition of these two issues — the gilded cage plus the end product of women’s subjugation — that bothers me well, if not the most, then certainly more than either issue alone.

It is, perhaps, the ultimate humiliation: a woman who is used to being dominant is not only physically beaten, forced to be submissive, but her personhood is erased. Completely. Without her personality, her powers, or her role in life she becomes yet another hole to fuck, or face to punch, or body to cage. Gee, sounds like mainstream porn to me!

III. Fanboy’s Dream Come True

Whether or not it’s true, the Mission Statement also portrays this fetish as a normal one for a comic book fan to have:

Simply put, this site is a comic book superheroine fan’s dream come true.

The implication here bothers me. Even moreso, because I think there’s truth in it. If you accept my premise that the fantasy of dominating powerful women is a pervasive one for men in Western culture, then it would obviously follow that (male) comic fans would have this fantasy, too. Not to mention those who write and draw these heroines. In essence, the fetish of humiliating strong women is perpetuated by the comics themselves, in turn influencing comic book readers to see it as erotic, which feeds the idea that this is what comic fans want… lather, rinse, repeat until you have these themes becoming codified into mainstream thought.

And, frankly, if I’m iffy about the line between fantasy and reality (and the ability to distinguish between a consensual fetish and the abuse of women) on a site that specifically markets itself to a fetish crowd, then you’d better believe that it bothers me that themes like this exist in comics, but in much more subtle ways. Most people don’t consider themselves sexually deviant. Most people would pale at the idea of looking into “risk-aware consensual kink” fetish practices. To most people, it would be very easy for this line to be blurred. If, of course, we’re assuming it hasn’t already been.

IV. Conclusion

Perhaps because it hits too close to home, it’s hard for me to see this site as being confined to purely fantasy. The theme has appeared in too many “normal” romance stories, or random bits of popular culture. It has affected my own life. And, you know what? Seeing that site makes me uncomforable. It makes my skin crawl. I really, honestly, and completely don’t like the idea of people getting off to the humiliation of women except in a strict BDSM scene in which clear boundaries are established. And given the history of violence against women in Western society, I really don’t think that there’s anything wrong with the way I feel.

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This entry was posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, BDSM, fetishes, etc., Comics, cartoons, manga, and anime, Pornography, Sex, sexuality, and sexual politics. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Watch Powerful Heroines Humiliated Like Never Before!

  1. Darth Sidhe says:

    I think your second-last line is what articulates how I feel about the site. I was having trouble reconciling my “your kink isn’t mine, but it’s still OK” philosophy with the way this site made…well, my skin crawl, as you said. While I was thinking about it, the same thought came popping up: “This really bothers me. They’re just wank objects like this. But what makes a picture of a woman in a cage different from a real-life scene in which a dom puts a woman in a cage? And why am I okay with a real-life scene but not this website?”

    In a properly done actual dom/sub humiliation scene, there will be preparation and debriefing/aftercare as well as the scene itself. If a dom wants to keep up a relationship with the sub, they’ll make sure the sub feels valued and safe and as if they are benefiting from the relationship. The kind of porn you have linked squicks me because there there is no prep and there is no aftercare, and since fetishes are rare by definition, it is frightfully easy to get inaccurate and dangerous ideas about them.

    Here, there isn’t even a context of a relationship or the chance to educate by saying, “Hey, what you see is fantasy, and if you go around thinking about women like this all the time they won’t actually like you very much, and those women who get off on being humiliated sure as hell won’t let you do it to them.” Then again, I don’t think those who consume porn on a regular basis want to be educated, but rather simply to get off in the short term — which is rather a pity, because experience has shown me that showing a woman you genuinely value and respect her as a person is a large step toward her trusting you enough to want to engage in fetish play.

    Side note: the term “risk-aware consensual kink” is replacing “safe, sane and consensual” more and more these days, if only because by calling it “safe” you may be downplaying the risks inherent in certain firms of play. That, and it’s fun to say RACK. Heh.

  2. Dora says:

    Really nice analysis, and I agree with it as much as is possible without having actually looked through the site (I’m at work at the moment). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with turning a critical eye on this kind of fetish porn, because it *is* a product of our misogynist society. No porn exists in a vaccuum, right? You aren’t accusing this site of being *the* source of sexism, but rather a single (and particularly oogy, for comics fans) expression of it.

    Also, I think critiques like this are a good way of bridging the gap between sex-positive and anti-porn feminism. While the two sides, of course, are never going to mesh perfectly, both of them share the goal of promoting healthy expressions of sexuality (which is why it’s hard for me to decide which “side” I’m on, though I lean more towards sex-positive). So here you’re debunking two myths: 1) sex-positive feminists uncritically accept any and all porn, and 2) criticizing specific parts of porn is inherently anti-porn.

  3. tekanji says:

    DS: Updated for the new terminology. Thanks for the heads up :)

  4. tekanji says:

    Dora: You’re right :) I think part of it was after all the trolly-troll-trolls I got on the BK commercial, I’m wary of criticizing things because people like to see things as either ALL for or ALL against. And, I mean, I’m not going to censor myself because of some dumb shit anti-feminists who in most cases didn’t even read my post.

    Any good fetisher (is that a word? o.O) will get that I’m not attacking their fantasy, per se, but rather reacting to the problematic link between violence against women and pornography centering around their fetish. Because, like I said, this shit does spill over into real life, and porn is different from doing a scene.

    And as for the “sides” of feminist sexual politics — I totally agree that we’re all working for the same goal. That’s one reason why it drives me crazy when someone from one side will start attacking the other with ad homs. Really, people, feminism doesn’t need more infighting. If people would just step off the personal zingers, it would be easy to see that there are a lot of areas in which we have common ground.

  5. Jeff says:

    I think it’s interesting that while this gets discussed, there’s no superheroine-fetish site that doesn’t involve degradation. You’d think that with cosplay being as popular as it is, there’d be *something*. And I haven’t checked out the site itself, but if the pictures you posted are representative, my reaction isn’t one of lust so much as wondering who the heck these women are supposed to be. (And Superwoman? Not a hero; she’s part of the Crime Syndicate.) I realize this is mostly a trademark thing (DC would sue into oblivion anyone who tried basing a porn site on their characters), but still, if they’re going to claim they’re “a comic book superheroine fan’s dream come true” they might actually display some knowledge about comics.

    Superheroes can be incredibly sexy, because of the way power affects the interpersonal dynamic. My girlfriend writes Huntress/Question fic that’s really effective because of the way the characters are simultaneously larger than life and all too human. I’ve even seen comics-based fanfic with BDSM elements that I could consider erotic (and I’m about as vanilla as they get as far as that goes). This, on the other hand, ain’t it. It’s simply fanservice for misogynists.

  6. kristy says:

    That stuff makes my stomach turn!

  7. Lyle says:

    It’s the last part of the mission statement that creeps me out the most because it is probably right… which, again, leaves me asking myself why I bother reading any superhero comics. Sigh.

  8. lori says:

    I dunno. I have mixed feelings in all directions. I am very much not down with BDSM assimilationists who insist that portrayals of women humiliated must follow strict scene protocol whenever they are portrayed, because *my* fantasies never ever involve negotiation or aftercare. That shit may be realistic, but it’s not (usually) hot.

    I think what I would prefer is less of a tone that these people shouldn’t be producing or consuming porn (because it veers way too close to the idea that they shouldn’t be having those fantasies, i.e. thinking strong women subdued scenarios are sexy, i.e hello, thought police), and more of an analytical tone — this is what these fantasies really say about our society and its perceptions of powerful women. This is also why I don’t believe the comics storylines are any less (or more) problematic than the actual porn. At least the porn is honest about its titillation value.

    And I guess I am more OK with fantasy porn, i.e. girls in superhero outfits, even in scenarios like this, b/c the fact that you shouldn’t — *can’t* –model this behavior seems so much more obvious than in “mainstream” porn. Nobody’s likely to use a superheroine abduction DVD as an educational device, in other words, while people unfortunately do this all the time with, say, Rear Entry volumes 1-92.

  9. SunlessNick says:

    Darth Sidhe posted:
    ‘I was having trouble reconciling my “your kink isn’t mine, but it’s still OK” philosophy with the way this site made…well, my skin crawl, as you said.’

    I would assume that most rape porn that uses some degree of story and character uses characters made up specially for the occasion, and whether I like it or not I can at least accept that it might be different from how the porn-lover sees women in real life. But taking characters from other sources – especially characters that are meant to be powerful and respected – and putting them into rape porn… I find it much harder not to imagine the men concerned fantasising about doing it to real women.

  10. Samkus says:

    Its sites like these that make me question the value of the internet. But Darth, there is one site that does state what u wish:

    “This site is devoted to my renderings, drawings, stories and material of fabulous costumed heroines in peril. This is fantasy material. I in no way endorse violence nor exploitation of women. This is merely fantasy material based on sexual fantasies we’ve probably all had about 70’s and 80’s super heroine related TV shows, movies and comics (http://www.superheroinecentral.com/mrx/xpage/xblm.htm)”

    Most likely, the viewership of these sites feel shame “after-the-fact” because, as was stated, it turns women into objects and the men watching get to “defeat” the woman inside of them. Im not sure why this is the case, however. Perhaps it is because these authors and viewers have been raised in an environment where women were mistreated and if they were to bond normally with women, they would see there is more to them. But, why superheroines? To tell you the truth, I understand the description of the women as “pure” and why that adds to the excitement. These superheroines arent only representing womanhood, they are also representing and objectifying truth, justice, liberty and freedom. These are all “pure” concepts. Its the id in the viewership that like to see these concepts embedded in women tore down. I am trying to think of why this should happen, but all i could think of is the idea of objectification, but i think that is more a symptom rather than the cause. It probably has a lot to do with the psyche. We must realize however that in reality, we live in an invisible world and it takes mind over body to see it.

  11. Groan bdsm says:

    Thanks for this post, it’s amazing.

  12. LoveLife says:

    We all know that sex is 90% or more fantasy, and the fantasy draws on our own strengths, weaknesses, desires, moods and creativity. One of the real issues, as pointed out here, is the distinction between consensual fetish and abuse of either men or women. All too often the women is victimized and in a manner is brainwashed into feeling that she is involved in a consensual fetish. The techniques used by Masters looking to recruit willing subs is a slow training and mind altering process that may initially be fed on an fantasy urge, but soon leads to much more.

    But there is another issue that sites like this bring forward, that is the silent victims . . . the husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, relatives, children . . . all who end up losing a person who gets subdued into the BDSM lifestyle. I read about the President of Cox Television, Andrew Fisher, who was accused of having a sadomasochistic sex affair at the Mayflower Hotel. In divorce documents filed evidence was presented of communications between Andy Fisher and woman who worked for a US Senator. The information related to an ongoing sadomasochistic sexual liason over many months.

    In the divorce proceeding, the parties are arguing over whether evidence of sadomasochistic behavior and perverse sexual addictions of the husband should be allowed at the trial. Lawyers for the wife, Robin Fisher, filed trial subpeonas for James Cox Kennedy, Chairman of the Board of Cox Enterprises, along with Andy Fisher, and the husband of the woman accused of the affair, Lesley Rich.

    The battle to cover up the evidence in this matter is raging in numerous states. Imagine the impact this has on families of both the victimized woman and Mr. Fisher who makes every effort to cover up any such activities.

    Lets think twice before we condone and popularize this set of fantasy and behavior, and weigh it against all the potential harm to everyone involved.

  13. rcdc says:

    lovelife – as a practicing femsub and feminist, i really must strenuously object to your portrayal of BDSM. in your discussion of Andrew Fisher – who is the victimized woman? if you say his wife, i would agree. but because he didn’t trust her enough to be open about his desires and cheated on her, not because his desires happened to be BDSM related. that is a failed marriage like any other. i also think your portrayal of masters (i noticed you capitalized that; were you in the community once?) as svengali types is demeaning to the vast majority of women who come to BDSM because they like it. yes, there are dom/dommes (male and female) who coax their subs into doing too much, who go too far. but that’s not a Master thing – that’s an a**hole thing.
    as for the overt portrayal of consent in porn, i think it can be very difficult. my fave porn site has aftercare interviews with all participants. and you catch the subs smiling through the whole thing, even when they’re “abducted” or “punished”. i think in a lot of ways, alt porn has the opportunity, because it’s small scale and because the legal departments are more cautious, to really be at the vanguard of transparent consent, of altering the fantasyland of porn.
    that said, while i thought this post was interesting, i would have found it more so (and more rigorous) had it ALSO looked at a fem domme superheroine porn site. many men fantasize about power play with women, but feminist discussions always seem to assume that the vast majority are male dom scenes, when in reality, both men and women split about 50-50. where does fem domme porn fit into this?

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