As a free-standing piece of writing, “damsel in distress” is cryptic at best, and at worst, it’s unintentionally misogynistic. I didn’t intend to be cryptic, nor did I intend to be misogynistic. I didn’t intend to elicit criticism either, but still, I was surprised it didn’t garner more than it did. In hindsight, it might deserve more than it received.
I suspect the lack of criticism is because I’ve developed a readership that understands the various purposes this blog serves for me. Sometimes it’s a soapbox, sometimes it’s a journal, and sometimes it’s just a place to put the thoughts I don’t know what else to do with.
With that said, I appreciate all of the comments. I responded to some, and I want to extend some of my thoughts here.
If the thinking is that I missed the submissive’s perspective, that must mean my initial post was interpreted as the/a dominant’s perspective, as a sort of commentary on D/s. That was not my intent. The “damsel in distress” trope holds absolutely no connection to D/s for me. I wasn’t thinking of D/s roles when I got the urge to write about it.
In hindsight, I can see why paltego would have interpreted my post as a comment on D/s, and I can also see why he (or anyone else) might find the trope compelling or arousing. I have no issue with that — as long as we aren’t hurting anyone, we’re all entitled to our turn-ons.
But I do take some issue with the explanations that followed. Among them, this:
I understand paltego is referring to the trope as it holds symbolic meaning for him; he isn’t commenting on reality. I get that.
But the language he employs is precisely why the trope does not represent D/s for me.
His explanation seems to symbolically position the “victim” as the submissive. In this sort of general discussion, for me, a victim is not synonymous with nor symbolic of submissive. Not even close. And so, his interpretation doesn’t work for me.
As is my (annoying) habit, I’ve got to pull this one apart.
I disagree. The villain doesn’t desire the victim – the victim is not the object of the villain’s desire. The villain desires control, and so control is the object of his desire. The victim is merely a thing upon which the villain exercises control, and so, she[*] is secondary to the object of the villain’s desire. She’s merely a vehicle.
The language here suggests the victim wants to be desirable, and therefore wants to be victimized. This doesn’t work for me because victims don’t want to be desired — I imagine their overarching want is to not be victims.
True. However, a submissive gives up control willingly. A victim’s control is taken without her consent.
For those reasons, the villain/victim trope doesn’t work for me as an analogy for a dominant and submissive. As a hot image that suggests powerlessness? Sure. But not analogous to D/s. Perhaps pulling it apart and over analyzing it breaks the magic, but that’s what I do… I’m the destroyer of fantasies. :)
While I stupidly hadn’t anticipated a D/s interpretation, I did anticipate some question about internalized misogyny, and perhaps, rightly so.
Of course it’s fucked up to call her a bitch — that’s why I wrote about it. This blog is where I work out my issues, P. Welcome! :)
As for why I don’t think about the men — the writers, directors, and producers who dictate the cultural narrative that presents women as helpless, I don’t care about them right now. I care about her.
I care about her because I’ve been her. Sometimes I am her. And I hate her.
For me, it’s not about the trope or the cultural narrative, it’s about me. I’m a narcissistic like that.
While I didn’t realize it when I first started drafting my rant against the poor woman tied to the tracks, I quickly realized it was psychological projection. Sometimes it’s called “you spot it; you got it” — it’s the psychological equivalent of “she who smelt it, dealt it.” It’s the theory that we identify and react most strongly to characteristics and behaviors in others that we possess or fear in ourselves. In that regard, Heather hit the nail on the head:
I abhor weakness and inaction more in myself than in anyone else. When I see it in others, my reaction is because I recognize it in me.
Oddly enough, I have no trouble keeping the ideas of weakness and victimization separate when it comes to others. I have some trouble with it when it comes to me. It’s narcissistic, but I hold myself to a different standard. I don’t mean to, it’s just the way I’m wired.
Here’s a hypothetical:
If my best friend called and and told me someone had mugged her and stolen her wallet, I’d never question why she didn’t fight to keep it. It’s not her job to fight for it, nor to fight back. It’s the other person’s job not to steal things.
But if I were mugged and had my wallet stolen, all I would think is: Why didn’t I fight back? Why didn’t I fight harder? I could have kept my wallet safe… why didn’t I?
- Nell Fenwick tied to the traintracks, from Dudley Do-Right, television series, image from Nell – Every Damn Show
- Trouble on Tracks, from StudioBueno, Deviant Art
- Rita Tushingam from Smashing Time, film, image from RitaTushingham.info
*The “tied to the railroad tracks” trope nearly always employs a female victim and male villain. For that reason, I’m going to refer to a female victim and male villain here. Of course, victims and villains can be of any gender identity, but for the sake of clarity, I’m sticking with the visual representation as presented in the trope.