Jan 292013
 

damsel-in-distress-5

I’ve always been moved by the image of the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks. Seemingly helpless, she daintily struggles to escape her bonds and scans the horizon for a hero who might save her before the train comes barreling down the track.

The iconic trope is viscerally revolting to me, but not for the evil villain, the violence, or for the possibility of the damsel’s gruesome demise.

What repulses me most is the damsel.

I don’t understand how she came to find herself in that situation in the first place. It angers me that she doesn’t fight the villain harder and that she doesn’t struggle more to escape her bonds. It disgusts me when I suspect she exerts more effort craning her neck to see if a hero is coming than she does in trying to free herself.

I hate that after she is saved, the woman’s relief seems to stem more from having been rescued than it does from having survived.

When I see her struggle on celluloid or frozen in peril on book covers, I can’t help but want to scream at her.

Get the fuck up, bitch.

Fight. Struggle. Figure it out and save yourself.

Quit waiting for someone to save you. Even if a hero comes to rescue you, expending precious energy looking around for him isn’t going to make it happen any faster.

If you’re unable or unwilling to fight, if you’ve resigned yourself to your fate, I hope you get what’s coming to you and I hope it’s not the hero.

Some part of me hopes you get the train.

 

 

  19 Responses to “damsel in distress”

  1. It’s the victim mentality. It’s infuriating and it persists in many people today. Drives me up a tree. Bad things happened? OK, that sucks, now either allow yourself time to mourn/get over it and move on or do something to change your situation. You do NOT have to be a victim of your life! Gah!

    /end rant

    • @MsSusannah:

      “It’s the victim mentality. It’s infuriating and it persists in many people today. Drives me up a tree.”

      I agree — it is maddening.

      However, the “victim mentality” is a lot different than whatever mentality accompanies an actual victim. Since people process things differently, there isn’t a single mentality that all victims share. That, I think, is proof there’s a big difference between people who have a “victim mentality” (people who aren’t really victims but looking for excuses and easy ways out) and people who have been victimized.

      Unfortunately, “victim mentality” people screw it up for actual victims because of our collective inability to tell the difference.

  2. yes. this.
    That’s all.

  3. I’ve seen that movie, and the one thing nobody ever tells you is that if the hero comes to the rescue once, he’ll have to do it time and time, and again. Once she realizes that some schmuck will jump in front of a train for her, she’ll take full advantage of it.

    Some damsels don’t have enough common sense to stay away from villains and railroad tracks.

    • evil villain with mustaches

      @slapshot:

      “Some damsels don’t have enough common sense to stay away from villains and railroad tracks.”

      True. But also, some damsels can’t tell who the villains are and can’t spot the tracks. Unfortunately, in real life, the villains don’t always sport evil mustaches. :)

  4. Uhm, don’t you think that maybe there’s some internalised misogyny going on here? Obviously, the tied up damsel trope is an intensely frustrating and upsetting one for most women. But how about instead of calling her a bitch, which is kind of fucked up, you think about the men who have put her there – not the villain, but the writers and directors and producers who dictate a cultural narrative that involves women being helpless?

    • @P,

      “don’t you think that maybe there’s some internalised misogyny going on here?”

      I can see how it could be read as misogynistic. Of course, there’s no way for you to know this, but this isn’t about women or victims in general. It’s my reaction to the trope, and my hatred of the woman represented is because I’m the woman. I have such a visceral reaction to the trope because I see myself in it.

      It’s about self-loathing, not loathing women. Since I’m a woman, perhaps my reaction does indicate some sort of misogyny, but I assure you, it’s only directed towards one particular woman.

      “calling her a bitch, which is kind of fucked up”

      Sure, it’s kinda fucked up, but this is where I work the fucked-up stuff out. :)

      “But how about instead of calling her a bitch, [. . .] you think about the men who have put her there – not the villain, but the writers and directors and producers who dictate a cultural narrative that involves women being helpless?”

      I get what you’re saying, but what I wrote wasn’t intended to be a soapbox sort of rant (I’ve done a few of those, but this isn’t one of them). It’s not a criticism of the culture or of individuals who create and maintain such negative narratives about women.

      What I wrote was my emotional response to the trope, written as honestly as I could manage, as near to what’s in my head as possible.

      I wish my emotional response was to critique villain, the facilitators of cultural narratives, or the culture that enables such representations… but it’s not. My emotional response is to hate the woman because she symbolizes one of the things I hate most about myself.

      Thanks for your comment. As it pertains to representations of women, you’re 100% right and I’m in total agreement. As it pertains to me, alas, I am not so lucky. :)

  5. The rescuer (I don’t really like to call that role the hero anymore) needs the train and villain as much as the damsel in this metaphorical game of life.

    @slapshot – I have seen damsels (or better called victims) (male or female) actually look for railroad tracks in a metaphorical way. You are right, then they go looking for a rescuer. They need the drama.

    The rescuer is as much to blame. And when I train people in the helping profession they hear my philosophy on this one. If they want to be a rescuer, it can lock those being assisted into the victim role, and worst of all it inevitably forces someone to look like the villain whether they deserve it or not.

    D – I think you are right, that lady should get up and kick that guy’s butt for tying her up. Or if the rescuer saves her he should then teach her some self defense afterwards thereby changing himself from a rescuer into a real hero so she can keep herself off the tracks the next go around.

  6. D, I’m channeling my mother (the psychotherapist) for this comment, because this is exactly what she would say to me. I couldn’t help but ask you the same, because… I’m irrationally fond of mimicking my mother’s probing questions. Please note I would be just as annoyed as you are to have her ask me this, but I MUST ask. (it’s a slow day at the office)

    My mother would ask you: “So D, what part of your shadow is represented by the damsel?” We often react most strongly to certain qualities in others because on some level we recognize those particular elements present in ourselves. For example, my father’s passivity drives me up the wall. I react to it, because I *know* there’s a passive part of me, an aspect of my slave identity that wants to let my Dom do everything for me. sigh… It has taken me a long time to poke around in the dark recesses of my psyche to accept that unattractive piece of me.

    Do you think there’s any “damsel” inside you? Or am I just offering annoying commentary?

    • @Heather: You and your mother are right on. I didn’t realize it when I started writing this, but it was clear to me long before I posted it. I didn’t intend to be cryptic about it, but I thought over explaining might take away from what’s there. As you already know, I have a tendency to over explain and be just a little bit verbose. :)

      “Do you think there’s any “damsel” inside you?”

      What I dislike most in others is that which I see in (and dislike about) myself. So, yes. I’ve got some damsel in me, and I hate her. Her and I will never be friends.

      Thanks for the comment. Your Mamma is a smart one — I can see where you get the brains that go with the beauty. :)

  7. I started to write a comment response to this yesterday. But then it got longer and longer, so I turned it into a post of it’s own…

    http://www.femdom-resource.com/2013/01/31/let-me-have-just-a-little-bit-of-peril/

    I have to say I differ slightly in my views from the original post and most of the other comments here.

    -paltego

    • @paltego: I was surprised when I read your post! In hindsight, it was silly of me for not realizing my post would be read as some sort of comment about D/s and submission. This is not the case.

      Like you, my response to your post has grown into something longer, and so I plan to write my own in response to yours in response to mine… how’s that for confusing? :)

  8. On a lighter side… maybe the damsel is full of lust and wishes unconsciously that a train full of aroused men will make a pass on her!
    I’ve read Paltego’s answer post. It looks like if it’s the Dom or the Sub that identify with the victim. If you’re the Dom you get annoyed if not you get excited. Two faces of the same coin?

    • @Ricforkim:

      “a train full of aroused men will make a pass on her!” [emphasis added]

      Actually, I think that’s the fear — the train will make a pass on her! If the men on the train make a pass at her, that might be another thing entirely. ;)

      “I’ve read Paltego’s answer post. It looks like if it’s the Dom or the Sub that identify with the victim. If you’re the Dom you get annoyed if not you get excited. Two faces of the same coin?”

      This may be the case for paltego, but absolutely not for me. I didn’t mean for this to be any sort of statement about D/s (not real D/s, nor fantasies of D/s). In fact, while I realize paltego and I were responding to the image/trope from two totally different perspectives, I actually have some issues with what he wrote (perhaps the language he used?) and I’m drafting a continuation of that discussion very soon.

  9. Please add to the above image:

    The B-rated horror film. The teenage blondie with the 34 IQ and the 38 DD bra-size who runs away squealling bloody murder from the evil monster. Enroute she trips no less than seven times over her own two feet. Inevitably she runs into the house, upstairs, and locks herself into the bathroom, where the monstre will “never” find her, because he can’t (polite cough) hear her crying and sobbing out of control. Of course when he does find her and devours her, I find myself clapping and cheering, and sadly disappointed there isn’t more blood flying across the silver screen. (Yes, in shark films, I root for the shark, too.)

  10. i half agree, i hate the fake damsel in distress thing,

    but when you get a damsel tied so well and so helpless she cant get free and she is in that zone burnt energy trying to get free and you see the surrender in her eyes, this is the true damsel in distress look i crave!

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