Women's Fightback: Batman and “heroes don’t do that”

Submitted by AWL on 29 June, 2021 - 5:11 Author: Katy Dollar
Catwoman and Batman

The internet is alive with debate on Batman’s sex life, specifically cunnilingus and the caped crusader. Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacher, co-creators of HBO Max’s adult animated series Harley Quinn, shared why a scene of Batman performing oral sex on Catwoman got removed.

“It’s incredibly gratifying and free to be using characters that are considered villains because you just have so much more leeway,” they said. “A perfect example of that is in this third season ofHarley [when] we had a moment where Batman was going down on Catwoman. And DC was like, ‘You can’t do that. You absolutely cannot do that.’ They’re like, ‘Heroes don’t do that.’ So, we said, ‘Are you saying heroes are just selfish lovers?’ They were like, ‘No, it’s that we sell consumer toys for heroes. It’s hard to sell a toy if Batman is also going down on someone’.”

Concern from DC about the toy market is not about producing Batman content not suitable for children. The DC Batman canon is already packed with content most people wouldn’t show to kids. This rather is about discomfort with female sexuality and pleasure not exclusively in the service of male pleasure.

DC aren’t alone in their view that female pleasure is uniquely adult and offensive, above rape and torture. MPAA standards, which are supposed to reflect the opinions of “the majority of American parents” have age-rated films for US release. The dreaded N-17 rating (No Children Under 17 Admitted even with parent or adult present) can seriously limit a film’s release, meaning films are often edited to avoid it. The MPAA’s rating system has been criticised for censoring female pleasure, whilst accepting violence.

Blue Valentine was given an NC-17 rating purely for depicting Ryan Gosling’s character performing oral sex upon his wife. ForCharlie Countrymen to get an R-rating and wide release, Evan Rachel Wood’s sex scene (in which she receives oral sex) was cut. Similarly, to receive an R-rating, the MPAA demanded the makers of Boys Don’t Cry cut a scene of Chloë Sevigny’s cis character achieving orgasm through oral sex from a trans man, played by Hilary Swank.

The Director described the “devastating” negotiations with the ratings board. “The MPAA indicated that one orgasm went on too long,”

Television has always been streets ahead of the silver screen in showing female sexuality, in part because it sits outside these ratings. But the “Heroes don’t do that” scandal shows the puritanical and sexist concerns sit with execs and marketing men as well as censors.

In the US the average person loses their virginity at 17. We cannot allow a culture that says they should not know about the variety of sexual expression and pleasure at the age they are beginning their sex lives. Religious reactionaries seek to control the sexuality of women and LGBT+ people in part by making it invisible.

We want young people to learn about different sexualities and discover their own. We want not just an education system that teaches about the variety of sex and sexuality, but also a broader cultural landscape which reflects that.

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