The one with a lot of comments

200801310237Found via the V, the website Superheroines Demise which is totally, completely and utterly NOT SAFE FOR WORK.

We had downloaded a few photos with the intent to post with really bad parts blanked out, but they are all so yucky that we decided not to. Let’s just say that people who were incensed by the Playboy cover are going to completely Hulk out — if not die of an aneurysm right on the spot.

This site and its ilk have surely been discussed in the blogosphere before. It will come as a surprise to no one that there are websites that specialize in sexual fantasies involving superhero characters — in this case, specifically, superheroines being dominated, and beaten up, their clothes ripped off, etc etc. Or as one caption puts it:

– 36 intense photos of Golden Angel writhing in agony. This nasty terrorist zaps her to incapacitate her. Lying on the cement, bloodied and bruised, he removes part of her uniform! This story gets pretty wild. Enjoy.


We’ll set aside for a moment the question of whether seeing women “bloodied and bruised” is sick as fuck or not. No, what’s really interesting about this site is how similar so much of the imagery is to actual comic books.

Valerie has been following the current New Avengers storyline in which Tigra is repeatedly brutalized and humiliated. Writer Brian Bendis hints that it’s just so she can make a triumphant comeback against her oppressor. That’s certainly a valid storyline taken on its own merits. The question is how much the artwork resembles Superheroines Demise. Because if it looks like that, there may be some kind of ulterior motive.

Ww67See, what amuses us the most about all the various controversies about stuff like the Heroes for Hire cover is when people claim not to see what the sexual element of the art is. I recommend a spin through Superheroine’s Demise so they can acquaint themselves of what sexualized brutality against women in spandex looks like.

And to give equal time, it’s not just the ladies who are the targets, as this letter to Dan Savage shows:

I’m a 42-year-old gay man with a superhero fetish. Like a lot of fetishists my age, I assumed I was alone until the Internet came along. I’ve since met several times with like-minded guys for costumed roughhousing and bondage. The first time I did it, it was incredibly hot, but since then, it’s felt like something’s missing. Even when they’re sexy and friendly, it just feels lacking somehow. At times, I even feel a bit ridiculous. (Given that I’m a white-collar professional pretending to be a Lycra-suited crime-fighter, I’m sure it’s not much of a stretch to see why I feel silly.) So my question is this: Am I just being too uptight, or are there some fantasies that are better left to the imagination?

Part-Time Batman


Savage responds with the frank pragmatism he’s known for.

Some fantasies are better left to the imagination, PTB, but yours hardly strikes me as one of them. A superhero/bondage fetish—always a combo platter, thanks to the frequency with which Lycra-clad superheroes are bound and gagged—is charming and harmless compared to some other fetishes. But if acting on your fantasies isn’t working for you, PTB, if indulging makes you feel bad, well, then don’t indulge.


So next time you claim your interest in superheroes is completely innocent and devoid of fetishistic aspects, well…you’re going to have to PROVE it! Illo above from the Savage column by Misako Takashima.

Comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    A girl once told me that she wanted to dress up as Pikachu and then have sex. Indeed, there were other requests (of a more “brutal” nature, I suppose you’d call it). Not that this is entirely on topic, but at least anecdotally it seems that this is not only for men, and not just your standard super heroes. Of course if the confines of this discussion aren’t carefully defined, this will quickly turn into the morality of sado-masochistic play, and there’s practically an entire cottage industry trying to psychologize that. I just couldn’t help but think that if you spent all the time, effort, and money on making a nice Pokemon suit for yourself, why would you want to mess it up by having me pee on you while you wear it? Then I was worried I had answered my own question.

  2. Steve Taylor says:

    I don’t know. I’m trying to sort out the importance of this whilst balancing my checkbook to pay off blowing up and torturing Muslims. Which, apparently costs more than we originally expected.

  3. But still a bargain.

  4. So next time you claim your interest in superheroes is completely innocent and devoid of fetishistic aspects, well…you’re going to have to PROVE it!

    I think the SD website summarizes this heroine/sexual oppresion pretty well:

    ” I am a classic fanboy who grew up watching the batman TV show with Yvonne Craig and Adam West not to mention the Wonder Woman TV show with Lynda Carter – and reading whatever comics I could get my hands on. I was taken with the fact that these beautiful, yet innocent and virtuous women would parade around as sexy alter ego crime fighters in their skin tight, revealing costumes. There seemed to be a torturous dichotomy there – a conflict of sorts. You know? Why were women who stood for truth, justice, and the American way fighting crime in garish clothes that rubbed their sexuality in our faces? Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for women rubbing their sexuality wherever they want to – but these were Superheroine’s. Women who’s characters by day were bookish, mild-mannered, covered-up librarian types and by night – POW! hot babes in costume.

    Thing is – and here’s where the dichotomy struck me – yes – they were in the hot costumes with the thigh high boots and high cut leotards – but their characters weren’t hooking up with guys or acting all overtly sexy. If a gal is walking down the street in thigh high boots and tights and cleavage like you read about – I’m thinking she’s a sex kitten. But no – Wonder Woman and Batgirl were women of virtue. So… why the costumes? Tease… right?”

  5. I once had a couple come into a comic book store, in AZ, where I worked and tell me they had a whole Batman/Catwoman thing going on. They also told me they’d never read a comic in their lives and it was their first time in a comic book store. Take from that what you will. I wanted to through them out for talking like that in front of kids (and their parents) but it wasn’t my shop, so I held my tung. Not that I have anything against peoples fetishes, but it’s hard enough bringing in young readers as it is.

  6. Didn’t this already come up in the feminist comics blogosphere because SD had an endorsement from a well-know comics creator?

  7. Torsten Adair says:

    I do not condemn or condone this sort of thing, but I an not surprised this sort of thing exists. Sex sells because it is an interesting aspect of humanity, and storytellers know that it holds the attention of the audience. Larry Gonick mentions this while discussing that great soap opera, the Trojan War (which started with a queen having intercourse with a divine swan). Odysseus’ journey has two versions: the one we all have read, and the version told by men when drunk. The Brothers Grimm recorded many folk tales involving wickedness (Sandman : The Doll’s House refers to this). Tijuana bibles are the direct predecessor to the current Slash fiction found on the Internet.
    In regards to the fetish mentioned above, DC Comics, in The Big Book Of Urban Legends, features the folktale of a couple who enjoy this sort of thing.
    There is a perverse humor found in taking innocent or everyday nouns and giving them an adult spin, as can be seen in the Disneyland Paris video mentioned here. >>>

  8. I would expand on your comment, Torsten, to say that most if not all of our entertainment depends on the thrill of transgression.

  9. Torsten Adair says:

    >>> What we each find funny or sexy or crude or childish is a matter of opinion. Sometimes we can share that opinion or fetish with like minded individuals (like Trekers) and sometimes we must hide those pleasures in a plain brown wrapper at the bottom of a suitcase stored in the attics of our desires.
    As for myself, my guilty pleasures are innocent until proven guilty. Now where can I find a spandex bandana…?

  10. Steven R. Stahl says:

    How many people are aware of http://www.superstories.net, a Web site featuring prose stories about, mostly, heroines being dominated, controlled, raped, and generally being mistreated? Fantasies aren’t limited to graphics.

    SRS

  11. I think the issue of Heidi’s contention here is not the shocker that a) people fetishize superheroes, or b) sex and violence are common features of popular culture, that “sex sells”, or even c) that sexual innuendo and sexuality can be seen in mainstream superhero comics.

    Her point is that Superheroines Demise specifically fetishizes the violence and defeat of its superheroines. The main story is always: a strong woman is proven not-strong. From the Superherioines Explained By Villain section:

    “We create high production photo stories and videos where the superheroine kicks some henchman tail – enough to make us believe that she’s a heroine to reckoned with – then it all comes crashing down. She is defeated, defrocked, and you name it – we’ve done it.”

    – fine, it’s a porn/fetish fantasy site for consenting adults.

    However, as Heidi points out, this same fetish- or its visual markers, anyway- is displayed in several ostensibly non-pornographic superhero books. It’s practically a trope. It’s reasonable to extrapolate that the same fetish behind the Superheroine’s Demise- the desire for a defeated, violated woman- operates in both the texts and images of these mainstream superhero books, but as subtext. Sure, the heroine-beatdown might not be the main point of the comic, and might be slightly more subtle, but it’s there all the same.

    In other words, if the images are the same, the kinks are possibly the same, and the same mysogynistic tendencies MIGHT be in play. But should we advocate displaying this kink in a non-pornographic context? – And I’m not just talking about the superhero comics themselves, but the pervasive merchandise and satellite media (movies and TV) that are extensions of the comics, and the larger cultural attitudes regarding heroic mythology (super or otherwise), sexuality, violence, gender, and power.

    And just a note- if you’re frantically balancing a checkbook, reading comic blogs might not be good use of your time.

  12. …neither is engaging in yet another online debate regarding women in mainstream comics. Why I’m commenting, I don’t even know. It’s not like I read them much.

  13. Ceaser says:

    Now that we’ve found at least two appropriate outlets to read and partake in superheroine abuse and sexuality, maybe it’ll leave the comics page…

  14. Did ya notice that there’s a email from George Pérez on the front page of the site, complimenting them on their site and making a “request” for future photo shoots? Supposedly he did some illustrations for them as well… Crazy!

  15. Alexa says:

    I agree with Tinpan. Honestly, I don’t care that porn like this exists. I know a few BDSM enthusiasts, including a female sub, and their kink is okay with me. But when the exact same imagery pervades not!porn, a medium that should appeal to a vast portion of the population, a medium that once upon a time did, that’s where my spleen comes from.

  16. Steven R. Stahl says:

    A porn influence can be pretty obvious, as Ms. MacDonald will see if she reads Ms. MARVEL #18-#20, which has a villain, the Puppet Master, using mind control to capture and then sell women, including heroines.

    SRS

  17. It seems to me that the jury is still out as to whether this dominance imagery “pervades” the superhero genre as Alexa claims. Heidi names three examples of similar-looking image but doesn’t (at least in this post) claim that it’s pervasive. Steven Stahl cites one other example that may be the only one I’ve read, too long ago to remember anything except a general impression that MS. MARVEL was a really vanilla book.

    I think you need more than four examples to prove pervasiveness. Should I check out WOMEN IN REFRIGERATORS?

    Another general impression I’ve had is that there are more triumphant, kickass female characters in comic books than at any other time in comic-book history. But maybe that’s just me.

  18. torrent29 says:

    I’m a little surprised that this was not more well known. There are many websites out there and irc channels to boot that cater to those who enjoy some of the fetishes that are alluded to here. They are not just limited to beating up heroines or anything like that but all share a common love of the idea of a damsel in distress or something similar.

    There has always been an air of sexuality in comic books, and it has driven sales, and it has been alluded too many times. Just look at the Watchmen, there are two moments that come to mind that show that part of the attraction that Nite Owl has for Silk Spectre is because of her outfit and the sexuality it conveys.

    Lets face it, there has always been sexuality in comic books, the danger of it, the outfits, much of the imagery is there.

    Lets remember something here, these fetishes, all of them, came about because of the comic books, not vice versa, those comics, inspired people to explore the fetishes that they have.

    I dunno, it seems to me that its a whole lot indignation over nothing, and speaking as someone who could never quite get the image of Batgirl being tied up by the Joker and Catwoman out of his head, I can relate.

    The kink has always been there in comics, it always has been, and most likely will always be there. From the bondage, to the death traps, to the revealing costumes, the fetish is alive and well.

    I have to admit that there is some surprise here about this site, its been around a good 10 years and there are more out there – many more. Superheroinecentral.com comes to mind.

    Not to mention the irc rooms and such set up.

  19. Steven R. Stahl says:

    “Steven Stahl cites one other example that may be the only one I’ve read, too long ago to remember anything except a general impression that MS. MARVEL was a really vanilla book.”

    I meant the current MS. MARVEL series, written by Brian Reed.

    The sexist nature of depicting superheroines in comics shouldn’t be a debatable issue, if one looks at how so many of the costumes are designed. Crystal in the “Ultimates” line, with most of her torso exposed; the current (?) Supergirl with the exposed midriff; the Young Avengers’s Hawkeye, also with an exposed midriff; Firebird, in BEYOND, reportedly sported a redesigned costume that exposed her midriff, even though that would arguably go against her nature; DC’s Power Girl, with a cutout in her costume that exposes part of her breasts (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_Girl ). The costumes’ designs have never served a functional purpose, and never will. The sexism in that aspect of superhero comics is so deeply embedded that complaining about it is practically useless, but the sexism is useful to refer to when more extreme situations, such as the depiction of Tigra in NEW AVENGERS #35, come up. People who regard sexism in comics as natural and routine won’t recognize misogyny in a story unless they’re virtually hit with the evidence.

    SRS

  20. “Another general impression I’ve had is that there are more triumphant, kickass female characters in comic books than at any other time in comic-book history. But maybe that’s just me.”

    Yeah, but there’s also more boob- and butt-shots in comics than ever before. It gets pretty tiresome, because we’re all old enough to KNOW that the “artist” is trying to push our buttons. And this from a guy (me) who likes checking out said parts as I walk down the busy streets …

  21. “I once had a couple come into a comic book store, in AZ, where I worked and tell me they had a whole Batman/Catwoman thing going on. They also told me they’d never read a comic in their lives and it was their first time in a comic book store. Take from that what you will.”

    Jealousy … to have a girlfriend that would don a costume … as opposed to the garden variety girlfriend who rolls her eyes at the mere mention of “comic books.”

  22. Rich, I was more implying that that’s the only way some people see superheros. Re-read my comment with that in mind, and I’m sure you’ll get it.

  23. The Beat says:

    Torrent29, thanks for stopping by to represent the target audience. I don’t mean that sarcastically, BTW.

    What’s most interetsing about your post is this, I think:

    “Lets remember something here, these fetishes, all of them, came about because of the comic books, not vice versa, those comics, inspired people to explore the fetishes that they have.”

    I wonder if that is really true? I don’t know enough about the psychology of this particular fetish to analyze it, but some fetishes are based on specific pre-existing items, but others go much deeper such as the foot fetish or bondage in general. You couldn’t say that bondage came about because someone invented handcuffs.

  24. I’d say, on the side of the reader, whether or not it’s a defeat fetish depends on the part you like. Take the classic “lifting the machinery” scene from Spider-Man. If what tickles your fancy about it is the splash page where Spidey lifts the machinery off his back, then it’s not really a defeat fetish, but a success fetish. (Note that I’m not using “fetish” sexually here.) On the other hand, if you get your jollies from the page preceding it, with Spidey trapped under the machine and slowly giving in to despair, then that would be a defeat fetish. And, regardless of the previous two, if you’d prefer Spidey were in his tighty-whities during the scene, well, that’s when we’re into the realm of sexual fetish.

    Moving on to the subject of the site in question, yeah, that’s a sexual defeat fetish. Doesn’t take Batman to crack that case. Hell, Roy Raymond could figure this one out. We then move on to the comics themselves. Two questions arise:

    (1) Is a sexual defeat fetish what the creators are expressing when they create scenes like this?

    (2) Regardless of the answer to (1), if readers are indulging such a fetish from scenes of super-heroines (or heroes; I don’t think it’s a full discussion until we point to Ted Kord’s brains on the floor) suffering ignominious defeat, should creators refrain from showing such scenes?

    Answering my own questions, I would say

    (1) It depends on the scene in question, and probably the creator. If the hero/ine pulls a victory out of the clutches of defeat, then we have to return to the Spidey question above and try to figure out which scene the creators were more into. If she doesn’t, then we have to do much the same thing, and look at how it’s portrayed. So, speaking of overall trends, I’d say it’s inconclusive as yet, and I’d welcome someone doing a fuller study. As a corollary, I’d say that you can have creators indulging a defeat fetish without it being a sexual defeat fetish. A lot of noir writers really like having their detectives get the shit beat out of them over the course of the story. It’s usually not something that’s sexualized, though; the brutality is meant to be, well, brutal, not erotic.

    (2) This is trickier. On the one hand, I don’t think it’s a good idea to indulge people who get off on seeing women or men get brutally beaten. (This is of course separate from the more genteel beatings that usually go on in superhero comics, which are perfectly all right.) On the other hand, as a writer myself, I’m loathe to say certain topics should be taboo just because of how degenerates might interpret them. I mean, does that mean we shouldn’t have any scenes where a building catches fire for fear it’ll inspire a budding pyromaniac? I’d have to go with “No.” (I realize I’m answering a question only I raised, but it’s one that needs addressing, I think.)

    Overall, I’d support a general toning down of the sex overall in mainstream superhero stories. Yeah, there’s always going to be an undercurrent, but it could stand to be more under these days. There’s no reason I need the best available shot of male or female junk in every panel, regardless of what’s going on.

    As for scenes where people get the shit kicked out of them, the audience pretty much has to be the watchdog. If we want Marvel and DC’s comics to look less like Superheroines Demise, then we ought to tell them so. Vote with your wallets and your letters. Shake a finger at it when it’s done distastefully, and praise it when it’s done tastefully.

    Two final thoughts:

    If someone wants to make super sexed-up superhero comics for 18 & over audiences, more power to them. There’s a market for it, and maybe if the perverts can get what they’re after there, they won’t go to the mainstream for it.

    And, I’d like to see someone do a “sexualized violence” comparison between Marvel/DC superhero books, and non-Marvel/DC superhero books. I’m guessing it’d be, pardon the expression, revealing.

  25. Steve Taylor says:

    Uhmm,…I didn’t say I was “frantically” balancing my checkbook.

    The bottom line is that the website is bullshit and it’s bullshit when the only way the authors of any form of entertainment have to trade on exploiting people or things in order to turn a dollar. It’s abhorrent and evil no matter where it crops up. (It’s the kind of thing that Superman taught you to fight against.) It’s negative to dwell on undermining and subverting someone else to your will for,…whatever reason. It’s wrong to defame a person or gender or ethnicity or whatever,…just to make a buck.

  26. “If someone wants to make super sexed-up superhero comics for 18 & over audiences, more power to them. There’s a market for it, and maybe if the perverts can get what they’re after there, they won’t go to the mainstream for it.”

    Perverts?

    Aren’t we being a tad harsh?

    (and no, I personally don’t like comics like that)

  27. Before there was superhero bondage porn, Marston was supplying it to his readers on a monthly basis in the pages of Wonder Woman.

  28. Nenena says:

    I’m going to take this opportunity to pimp the excellent column that Ami wrote about this a while back:
    http://girl-wonder.org/girlsreadcomics/?p=107

    And to give Ms. Pantoja a slice of word pie.

  29. Steven S.;

    Let’s not confuse voyeurism and dominance. I know people like Laura Mulvey have tried to conflate them, but they really are separate concepts.

  30. michael says:

    Jonathan, you know, on a porn review site, Rog, a guy who interviews pornstars, one of the girls mentioned how her roomie was into Pokemon and had actually missed a porn convention to be in one in Japan. I wonder if it fit into any of her fetishes?

    Anyways, forget about that Playboy cover, how this ‘Demise’ site gets by a lawsuit is beyond me!!! O.O

  31. On the question of whether the fetishes preceded any particular item (comics, films) that “awakened” the fetish in the fetishist, I would say: of course. But there’s no way to determine that because there’s no way to go back in time, isolate a targeted fetishist in childhood from all corrupting influences, and then observe scientifically that he doesn’t evince his fetish. Logic– my logic, anyway– says that if Scene A has a sexual effect on Person B but not on Person C, then the cause is not inherently in Scene A but in Person C.

    Michael rightly points out that in some cases, a motif like “the detective’s beating” is there to convince us of the hero’s peril, not to tantalize. And yet, even if such a scene is not “about” sexual titillation, there’s a sense in which it is about transgression in another form.

  32. Jesse Post says:

    Ick . . . that George Perez email on the site is really, really creepy. I think it might be a fake. But that might just be me not wanting to accept reality. Ick!!