Sexualized Saturdays: Poison Ivy

Okay, first I want to explain a few things about Poison Ivy so that we can better understand her sexuality within the context of her character development.

Poison Ivy is an ecoterrorist and a straw feminist. A straw feminist is a character who is labelled as a feminist only in a effort to ridicule or prove feminism wrong.

I should also mention that there is such a thing as an ecofeminist, who believes that the oppression women have suffered is similar to the suffering and oppression inflicted on the environment. This form of feminism, like most other forms, dislikes a hierarchy that puts one group above another, whether it’s men over women or humans over the environment, and recognizes more of a symbiotic relationship of all things.

So, Poison Ivy, at her worst, is probably a straw ecofeminist. She hates all men and cares only for plants, but in later years, maybe in an effort to down play her original straw feminist bent, Poison Ivy starts to hate all of humanity. In current incarnations Poison Ivy herself has morphed into a plant like human and she believes that humanity should be wiped out since they harm nature. Despite her hatred of all humanity, there is one person Poison Ivy does seem to care about, Harley Quinn.

It would be easy to simply claim Poison Ivy is asexual since she seems completely uninterested in people. Despite often seducing them to achieve her own ends, Poison Ivy never seems to have genuine attraction or affection for anyone. It would also be easy to claim Poison Ivy is a lesbian since she only seems to care about Harley Quinn, but things are much more complex than that.

Before she was Poison Ivy, she was Pamela Lillian Isley, a botanist working with Dr. Jason Woodrue who seduced her and turned her into the plant-human hybrid she is today. Woodrue is the reason that Poison Ivy hates all men. And though I stated that eventually her story is changed to hating all people, Poison Ivy still has a special hatred for men. Batman, Two-Face, Woodrue, and especially the Joker are targets for her wrath against men. That doesn’t, however, mean she’s not attracted to men. As mentioned earlier Poison Ivy’s hatred of men is there to paint her as this straw feminist character, but she is still obviously interested in men. She liked Woodrue before he betrayed her, and in season two of Batman: The Animated Series in the episode “Home and Garden” Poison Ivy married her very male doctor. Yes, he’s later revealed to be a plant, but she could have made a female spouse if she was more into that.

So, I really think that Poison Ivy isn’t necessarily a lesbian. She has just been given this male-hating persona, which somehow equates to lesbian, sadly. Even in recent years making her hate all people hasn’t changed the fact that she defiantly hates men more.

Later, Poison Ivy is often paired with Harley Quinn when the two form an unlikely friendship. Harley is the only person Poison Ivy seems to like or care about. Though it’s never explicitly stated that they have a sexual relationship it is heavily, heavily implied.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are often shown scantily clad, or naked together, and even Batgirl has questions about their relationship. They both seem to really care about each other too. It has often been remarked that if it wasn’t for Harley constantly intervening, Poison Ivy would have killed the Joker a long time ago in order to protect Harley. And though much of their relationship could easily be attributed to a male lesbian fantasy in comics, I tend to think that they actually have something.

Poison Ivy seems to be stuck in the friend zone with Harley. I do think that Harley and Poison Ivy have maybe experimented sexually, but Harley if anything is more Joker-sexual than bisexual and her devotion to the Joker won’t allow her to make any commitment to Poison Ivy. Harley is beaten and almost killed by the Joker and then runs to Poison Ivy’s comforting arms, Poison Ivy then wants to kill the Joker to avenge Harley, but Harley stops her and goes back to the Joker–and the cycle continues.

There is no concrete evidence for their relationship, but I think there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that shows Poison Ivy loves Harley Quinn, maybe even despite herself, but Harley is too involved with the Joker to see Poison Ivy as anything but a friend, thus bringing about the central conflict in their relationship.

21 thoughts on “Sexualized Saturdays: Poison Ivy

  1. Interesting essay! I kind of think that neither of them are truly bi or lesbian but rather connect sexually because of how they each approach personal relationships. Ivy is used to using her sexuality to control people (historically, men), and instinctively falls back on that when dealing with Harley, who is in turn so passive and eager to please that she reciprocates because of that. I do think you’re right that there is an actual emotional connection and love between the two, though like all Batman villains (and heroes) they are so damaged that it’s hard to see clearly.

    • I would agree that Ivy doesn’t know how to relate to people anymore if she isn’t controlling them through her sexuality. So, I would agree she falls back on that when dealing with Harley, and of course, Harley easily falls into the same submissive role she usually plays with the Joker. But the emotionally connection between the two I still think is really strong. Other people Ivy manipulates using her sexuality she treats like toys or puppets, but not Harley. Harley also is more aggressive in her relationship with Ivy than with the Joker. She pushes Ivy more and Ivy indulges her, which encourages Harley to be less submissive than she usually is. While Ivy is forced to care more about peoples feelings when she is with Harley. So yeah, I think Ivy did unintentionally fall for Harley at some point and I do actually think Ivy sees that clearly, but she doesn’t like admitting it to herself. Harley I don’t think sees it. She’s still to blinded by her love for the Joker.

  2. First-class analysis. Speaking as somebody who reckons himself a feminist ally, I’m still a complete sucker for these sorts of redemptive villain ships. Azula and Ty Lee have had the same dynamic applied to them in Avatar: the Last Airbender, a romance that brings the best out of two characters on the uncomfortable side of the good guy/bad guy divide. That said, I don’t think the implication in their case was intentional.
    Which is hard to take seriously because I am a straight bloke, after all. I flipped through the Harley and Ivy comic displayed above and I find it disappointing that all the complexity and genuine romance is often passed over in favour of goofy comedy and male-gaze pandering. You could take these characters on a real journey along these lines but as far as I know, outside of the fanfiction community nobody’s tried it.
    Carry on!

    • I agree. I think their relationship, thoroughly and authentically explored could take them on a real journey that would help the two characters grow remarkably. Sadly, the fear that LGBTQ characters won’t do as well as the pandering to the male-gaze has put a stop to further development on Ivy and Harley’s relationship. This happens so often to female characters. Apollo and Midnighter are taken seriously, because the authors aren’t thinking about sex appeal when writing them. They just write the relationship, but with two women the writers seem to be mindful that many male viewers will find this “hot” so the relationship tends to be shallow. Most authors who have written Harley and Ivy admit they have a sexual relationship, but make it very clear within the comic that their primary interest is still men in order to play into that fantasy.

      It’s a shame really. I would love more than anything to see Ivy and Harley develop more as this tragic couple, but I’m not certain that will ever happen.

      • As a straight guy I hate when non porn tries to be psuedo porn. First, its insulting, like without tits every other scene I won’t watch. Second, its distracting from the main plot, if I’m watching a show I want a plot, and sex for the sake of sex is distracting. Third, it takes up time that should be spent on character development.

        The reason for this psuedo porn is that people are so afraid to admit they have sexuality that instead of watching porn they need to pretend that its not just porn, but something else. Its the same reason people go to hooters instead of a strip club, you can pretend you aren’t just going for sex.

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  5. I’d argue that Harley and Joker are psycho sexual, as in there sexuality, like everything else about them is insane, and in no way conforms to any thing like normal human sexuality.

    • Normal may have been the wrong word, a better one being sane, with a clear pattern related to biological or physical urges. It is more of just an expression of there deep seated psychosis.

      So Harley and Ivy wouldn’t do it because either is bi or gay, instead they both use it to fulfill there psychotic fantasies/compulsions.

      (I’m half asleep right now so my writing won’t be the best.)

  6. Good write-up. There’s no question Poison Ivy began as a straw feminist. While there are self described radical feminists who really do hate men (One example can be found here: http://witchwind.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/piv-is-always-rape-ok/), and there are women who get a power rush from controlling men (http://girlsrule-subsdrool.tumblr.com/post/36247987549/how-to-seduce-me-dont-come-to-me-on-your-knees), Poison Ivy’s origin story was created by a man who gave her a single reason to dislike one man, and claimed that was reason for her “feminism”. It’s designed to make her fail – in the comic books, she has yet to come up with a good counterargument to – “But not all men are like that!” or “I’m a woman too, and what’s wrong with you?” Is Gotham City just the least misogynist place on the planet?

    They only made her hate all humanity instead to cover up how painful their take on feminism was to read.

    It’s kind of like how Bane in the Dark Knight Rises claimed to be a liberator, but Gotham’s police are all pure as Mighty Mouse, and the poor get almost no lines at all, so his ideas have no real power.

    As for her only relating to men, sexually, it’s handled as deeply as the Mad Hatter using a mind control device, when it’s not Villain/ess has Hero/ine tied up (only with vines instead of ropes.) She usually ends up being the one objectified instead of the men. Bruce doesn’t even need safe words.

    It’s why she’s a second tier villain. Nobody reading her adventures ever thinks “There but for the grace of God go I.”

  7. Because it’s completely impossible to say that they are just close friends rigth??? Why is that everytime same-sex characters are portrayed as really close friends in media, somone is gonna yell GAAAAAAAAY!
    They are not gay, just close friends >.<

    • I wouldn’t have commented to this old post if I hadn’t seen John Molten go, “What are you saying?? Why can’t they be close friends?? Why they gotta be gay?”
      Um, why do a male and female in a series close to eachother have to be romantically shipped and squished together in various fanart/fanfiction?
      This is just the same as any character shipping, but if it’s two of the same sex that makes it strange?
      Hi, welcome to the internet.
      And in any case, the romantic feelings described by the writer are backed up by evidence and they even use comics and episodes as reference.
      Much more then most people do when describing characters who they think have feelings for eachother in other various media.
      Let my people ship. *slams down staff on the ground*

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