Bad Sex and Childbirth
So, I have been mulling over what I dislike most about certain cliches on TV, and a couple of them have to do with sex and childbirth.
Example One: What she needs is a good 'seeing to'.
This idea is often associated with uptight women, but actually there are many movies and TV programmes where this idea is applied to an even broader range of women. Dexter Morgan: I am looking at you. In one series, a woman who had been horrifically sexually and physically abused managed to overcome her fears and face up to a new future by a) killing the perpetrators and b) having a damn good shag. Yep, months of imprisonment and ritualistic gang rape were wiped clean by one good seeing to. One man's penis achieved more than any amount of therapy would in real life. Because, of course, once you have a good shag, it makes up for all the bad ones. In other words, women, even if your body has been so abused that you are afraid to be touched, you should open yourself up to a 'good' man and he will cure you of your ills. In this particular case, the 'good' man is emotionally unavailable, stunted and warped. Even a serial killer, if he's good in the sack, will get you over that life ordeal that nearly killed you.
Example Two: Childbirth doesn't take that long.
There are many sit-coms movies etc that show women having babies, and they do now attempt to show women in pain, looking sweaty etc. but I have never seen one where they show just how looooooooong childbirth goes on for. Yes, there are stories of women who are caught unawares and give birth in the supermarket/park/bath/wherever. The reason we hear those stories is because they are unusual and dramatic. Judging from the unscientific anecdotal evidence I have gleaned in real life, then childbirth can go on for days. In MediaLand, the first contraction to the grand finale seems to average a few hours. In real life, the birth of a first child from established labour (not the first contractions) takes around 12 hours. Me? I went to bed for the night - twice - after contractions had started. The woman next to me post-delivery, had done a whole morning of running errands and getting the weekly shop in before she bothered to head for the hospital. So often we see female characters 'pop off' for a while, then everyone starts to get the good news. I have never seen an example of people saying, 'It's been three days, and she still isn't ready to push yet'. Even when we know the truth, it is still hard to believe it, as we are so often sold the lie.
Why have I linked these two things? Well, because sex and childbirth are times when men require women to use their bodies to benefit all of humanity. Without sex and childbirth, our species would not survive. Women really do have to be 'up for it' in order for all of us to continue. So, of course, it is important that we are encouraged to use our bodies for these things. If we don't want sex we are damaged or frigid. If we don't want children, we are selfish, or not feminine. Without the co-operation of women, men would be unable to survive as a race. The inverse is equally true, of course. I am sure that there is plenty to write about how men are expected to want and enjoy sex every hour of every day. Still, I don't see any media representations that attempt to persuade men that they should become fathers. In fact, often the opposite is true - that women are seen as somehow 'tricking' men with their wily ways, because women are all so desperate to have babies.
It's a neat twist. First, we have to be convinced that having sex is good for us. Then we have to accept that childbirth will hurt but we'll soon get over it. Finally, we are blamed for trapping men into our devious plan.
In real life life, this isn't how many relationships work, but certainly the majority view of the media asserts these things as truths. Why? It seems to me that whenever it is essential for women to perform a role, that women are then told exactly how they should behave in order to fulfill it. We may be sold the myth that our bodies are our own, but in MediaLand, we really aren't given much choice.