You must forgive me for the gratuitous pun I'm about to drop. Here's my [paper thin] rationale; as Bill explained about Fangtasia's silly name in Escape From Dragon House, “You have to remember that most vampires are very old. Puns used to be the highest form of humor.”
So here goes...during my first go 'round with the Sofia Sanchez-Grant piece I referenced in Wednesday's You Smell Like Dinner post, a certain phrase really got its meat hooks into me: slab of flesh.
What comes up for you when you hear this?
Maybe something along the lines of one of the first things that pops up on Google image search using this rough idiom as a search term?
Try to imagine my surprise when, about halfway through the article "The Female Body in Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman and Lady Oracle" it hit me. Those words, staring up at me, right there on page 85 as part of a beauty parlor episode!
OK, OK, maybe they weren't actually staring up at me, glowering at me from the page. But this being such an incongruous stringing together of words for the context in which they were used, it sorta felt like they were.
Sanchez-Grant chose to excerpt this illustration of the character Marian's visit to what she calls "a female space dedicated to the presentation of the female body" (2008, p. 84) quite deliberately. Also on page 84, she wondered if "culturally-ordained female spaces" are less hostile to women than is "masculine terrain" (i.e. sports arenas, etc.) and interpreted the following passage from Atwood's Lady Oracle as a response:
Marian had closed her eyes, leaning back against the operating-table, while her scalp was soaped and scraped and rinsed. She thought it would be a good idea if they would give anaesthetics to the patients, just put them to sleep while all these necessary physical details were taken care of; she didn't enjoy feeling like a slab of flesh, an object. (Sanchez-Grant, 2008, p. 85)After reading what Sanchez-Grant calls a "surgical, somewhat violent description" of a trip to the salon, I scrawled a dark, etching line below the words I bolded in the excerpt above that almost tore through the paper. I wanted to make sure I'd remember to come back to this passage, because although for Sanchez-Grant this scene's meaning lay in its mirroring of the "incompatibility between patriarchal femininity and women's own feelings" (2008, p. 85) - my mental wheels started spinning in the direction of True Blood.
dear #TrueBlood: Would it kill you to show us a little full frontal nudity? MALE full frontal nudity".
Her emphasis on the male offers the perfect segue for what the phrase slab of flesh brought to my mind. We HAVE already had full frontal nudity on True Blood - FEMALE full frontal nudity.
Let's look at how the nude, frontal female body was presented in Season 3.
In these scenes (both curiously involving Eric), the nude, frontal female body was presented violently.
The naked, unnamed WWII-era female werewolf was pinioned to the wall by nails jabbed through her body as Eric interrogated her. True, she was clearly depicted as the "bad guy" and Eric was painted as the righteous one in disguise. But still, this scene - at least for me - sickeningly called to mind the sexualized torture Jewish, gypsy, and other women were subjected to at the hands of the Nazis as well as the rape and all other manner of indecencies women around the globe have faced in war zones.
If it was a love scene, at last year's Dragon * Con Sam Trammel dubiously characterized Yvetta's dungeon dalliance with Eric as a rough one. A highly aroused and stimulated, nude Yvetta was shackled to the floor and ceiling by her arms and legs in the dank bowels of Fangtasia while Eric thrust into her. Apparently for hours. Vampire stamina. Wow. OK...I'm getting distracted...
Sure, it was consensual, and yes, she certainly seemed to have enjoyed it. Women can - and do - enjoy unconventional sex and I have no quarrel with this whatsoever, as long as it's safe, sane, and its parameters are mutually agreed upon.
But might this scene (and the one above it) be a a comment on the sicker, darker, more twisted views of sexuality and the aesthetics of torture porn?
Are we slabs of meat on a hook? For whose gaze are these images intended? Who might find them titillating and why?
In his piece "How Internet Pornographers Market to Men vs. Women" on the sentinel site NetNanny Mark Kastleman reviews the typical attributes of the potential male online porn consumer in the cold, hard terminology the pornographers use:
Vision is the key perceptual sense in males-they "like to look"...They yearn to see body parts and things being done to those body parts...Males have up to 20 times more testosterone than females coursing through their mindbody. Testosterone fuels sexual drive and aggression. As a result, it's a turn-on for most viewers to see males dominate, be aggressive or even violent in sex with females... powerful imprinting of the images in the cells of the male mindbody.
I think it's also telling that we have not seen the male body depicted in such a way on the show. Even the [absolutely horrifying] story arc centered on Jason's use as a breeding stud in which he's bound to a filthy bed presents him as shirtless - his pants pulled down, but not fully exposed. One of the Hot Shot women even conscientiously drapes his groin with a rag after dismounting, ensuring that we, the audience, see nothing below the belt that we're not supposed to.
There are other connotations for slab of flesh, too...
Raquel Rivera's concept of gastronomic sexuality further in a way that certainly isn't appetizing to me as a vegetarian.
I struggled in a back-and-forth with myself about whether or not to post the infamous June 1978 Hustler cover with a women's legs sticking out of a meat grinder, captioned with publisher Larry Flynt's quote, "We will no longer hang women up like pieces of meat". My sense of propriety won out; I couldn't bear to muddy our tavern with such a distasteful, offensive image. But you can click on the link above to see it on Sociological Images; I think it drives my point home.
It's also interesting to contrast the way the nude female body has been represented thus far in season 4; we've seen much more artful, demure depictions. Think Luna's voluptuous form reclining in the grass as Sam approaches, one knee bent just so to obscure her lower half from our view.
And good on you Sam, you unwaveringly looked her in the eye!
Rivera, R. Z. (2003). New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone. New York: Palgrave.
Sanchez-Grant, S. (2008). The Female Body in Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman and Lady Oracle. Journal of International Women's Studies, Vol. 9, #2.