I still haven’t seen the latest film version of Les Mis. The promos were enough for me; the shot of Fantine singing “I Dreamed a Dream” while choking back tears as her hair was being shaved from her head was a sickening image that haunted me for days. I will never watch Les Mis for the same reason I will never watch Schindler’s List: When you have a clear understanding of the horror you are confronting, the safety of the fourth wall isn’t enough to keep your insides from shaking loose in rage, horror and sorrow.
Anne Hathaway ended her Oscar acceptance speech with the statement: “Here’s hoping that someday in the not too distant future the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories and never in real life.” Yet, the Hollywood machine that made her a star has woven the pornographic exploitation of women into contemporary pop culture. In her criticism of the liberal reaction to Lovelace, feminist writer Megan Murphy observed,
“…the only thing that’s really changed since the 70s, when Deep Throat came out, is that porn has successfully woven it’s way into our everyday lives. It’s our fashion, our entertainment, our celebrity culture, it’s in the bars and at the parties we go to. That the foundation for our current reality was built, in part, on the abuse and exploitation of this one woman, Linda Lovelace, is not insignificant.
Linda Lovelace was called the poster girl for the sexual revolution, if that tells you anything about the sexual revolution… Women really got screwed on that one (pun acknowledged). Informed of our liberation, we became free to become the public, rather than just private, sexual playthings of men. What was different now that we were “liberated” was that we had to like it. We had to be turned on by our own objectification and enjoy whatever male culture deemed sexy. Our own “liberation” was used against us, to shame us into subordination — albeit with smiles on our faces, moaning and groaning in feigned ecstasy.”
Clinging to what Murphy has dubbed the “empowerment narrative” many liberal critics panned Lovelace as “pro-family, anti-porn” careful to note that today’s porn industry has resolved many of the problems of its preceding generation. Having covered the disturbing trend of male sexual domination in pop culture, both in HBO’s Girls and presidential-themed romance novels, I can’t help but agree with Murphy’s conclusion: the liberal media willingly turns a blind eye to the disturbing trend of female sexual abuse in pop culture.
Sexual abuse, including rape, are prohibited in Scripture. In a Blaze article addressing modern myths regarding the Bible and various sexual behaviors, Rabbi Aryeh Spero and Rabbi Moshe Averick bring clarity to the argument that the Bible requires a woman to marry her rapist:
“The ‘rape’ that is talked about in Dvarim (Deuteronomy), is obviously not criminal rape; it is talking about a case where a relationship between a young man and woman got out of hand,” he said. “Sexual relationships in a Torah society are strictly forbidden before marriage — dating is only for purposes of marriage in the Orthodox community.”
Averick also pointed out that in Jewish law, women cannot be forced to marry against her will. If a man does not fulfill his duties as a husband, the woman is “entitled to initiate divorce proceedings.” The “rapist,” or fornicator, is not allowed to initiate such proceedings but is obligated to fulfill spousal duties.
…Spero added that a rape victim could “opt out” of marrying her rapist if she so desired, for, “if not, men could forcibly bring to altar any single woman he desired simply by raping her.”
Our contemporary understanding of rape is better illustrated through the story of the rape of Dinah. After Shechem rapes the daughter of Jacob he decides he wants to marry her after all. Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi trick Shechem and his tribesmen into getting circumcisions. While they’re in recovery, Simeon and Levi enter their city and kill the whole bunch, Shechem included. When their father asked why they took justice into their own hands they simply replied, “We cannot let our sister be treated like a common whore.”
The treatment of today’s women is a different story. Given the raw fact that 100,000 – 300,000 children alone are at risk of being trafficked for sex every year, it would appear that the “misfortunes of Fantine” are still far too commonplace in our culture. As long as feminists continue to downplay or ignore the proliferation of sexual objectification in our media, the crux of our empowerment narrative will involve nothing more than dreaming a dream. But, hey, that’s what sells.