Rape in Straw Dogs
The film Straw Dogs
(1971) was supposed to be about a mathematician named David
(played by Dustin Hoffman
) who goes to the country with his wife
to do his research
. The subtext
is supposed to deal with "masculinity
". David has been pushed around before and now he starts to get pushed around again by the locals in rural Cornwall
. In the end, after a triumphant stand, he saves the day. For me though this movie was overshadowed
by the one constant and disturbing theme
: if a woman teases a man she will get what she deserves.
This man who has been harassing the couple comes to the door when the husband is away. The wife is scared of him, knows he is dangerous, but lets him in. Eventually what the movie has been building up to occurs, he makes an advance on her, she has been flirting and teasing him through out the movie, she slaps him, he slaps her back, and we begin the rape scene. Intially the rape scene is disorienting because she is resisting and then not really resisting but is saying stop and it's all very confusing and powerfully done. Finally, after it's apparent that she seems into it, another guy comes in and does full out rape her with the first guys help and she is definitely not enjoying that. Okay, that's all fucked up enough and terrible (the reason Straw Dogs was originally banned in the UK, five days ago its was un-banned, was because she seemed to like the rape) but on its own is not so surprising, people have written about rape being something which a woman ends up enjoying before, as disgusting as that message is. What is worse is the way the scene is interpreted through the following scenes.
The husband, who is home now and doesn't know about the rape, is fighting with his wife and calling her a child and saying she always acts like a little girl, an idea expressed throughout the movie used here as foreshadowing, and that she needs to grow up. The scene after that a young girl ends up leading a known pedophile into a dark barn and she starts to seduce the pedophile. He somewhat resists, and when voices are heard he accidentally strangles the young girl who led him out there. Throughout that whole scene we flash between the wife at church, her rape at the hands of the two men and the pedophile with the little girl. That is a fucking ridiculous message to send, that the woman who was raped in her home was the same as a stupid young girl that leads a pedophile into an alley to seduce him and ends up being strangled. It's obvious that is the idea the director is aiming for because the young girls only function in the film is to tease the pedophile to contrast the wifes teasing of the men who rape her. There are no other female roles in this movie except a quiet preachers wife. The movie ends with Hoffman killing everybody while he yells at his cowardly wife who just runs around screaming. The only role a woman has in this movie about masculinity is that of a rape victim who brings the act upon herself. If the wife is being compared to a stupid young girl then who are her rapists in the comparison? Just men who can't control their urges like the quiet mentally slow pedophile, who resists, until finally his desires take over when faced with a naive temptress. A temptress who has put him in this situation in the first place and thus brought the consequences on herself.