I have noticed more than once how authors have used magic as a way to punish women when they have sex. Whether it’s in fantasy or horror, more often than not, women are punished with curses or death for enjoying sex, and it’s a trope that really needs to be put to rest. In horror movies two teens having premarital sex are almost guaranteed to be murdered by the monster. But women are punished far more often for sex than men. Heck, sometimes women are punished for sex even when it’s against their will. It sucks a lot that even in fantastical stories, we can’t get away from this mindset.
Trigger warning for rape/rape culture after the jump.
This trend goes back to even ancient mythology. In Greek mythology Medusa was considered so beautiful that even Poseidon lusted after her. He attempted to rape her and Medusa fled to Athena’s temple, thinking the goddess would help her. But Poseidon still rapes Medusa, and Athena is offended such a thing happened in her temple. So instead of taking it out on Poseidon, she punishes Medusa by transforming her hair into snakes and making it so that anyone she looks at is turned to stone. Later in the story of Medusa, a king sends the “hero” Persus to murder Medusa by chopping off her head. In this narrative women are punished even for nonconsensual sex.
In Supernatural, Bela Talbot experiences a similar punishment. At the end of Season 3, we learn that Bela was being raped by her father as a child. The young Bela is then tricked by Lilith into selling her soul in exchange for Lilith killing her father. In the show, our unknowing male heroes are constantly insulting Bela and Bela’s actions by saying things like “what, didn’t daddy love you enough?” Bela is shamed for making the demon deal by Dean and eventually dragged to hell by hellhounds. Though Dean doesn’t know why she made her deal, the audience does. The whole ordeal came off very much as if the show was magically punishing Bela for being raped.
Then we have Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Joss Whedon actually pulled this shit quite a bit. I think the worst case was in the episode “Where the Wild Things Are”. Buffy and Riley have just begun their new relationship together and so are in the honeymoon phase, as it were, and are often shown throughout the episode having sex. However, they attend a party at a house that used to be a home for wayward teens, where the teens were punished physically and emotionally by the woman running the home, especially for sexual desires. She rewarded them for “good behavior” but punished them when they showed any signs of desire. The spirits of the teens have since turned into poltergeists and are releasing all their pent-up sexual feeling by draining energy from Buffy and Riley. Furthermore, Buffy and Riley will die if they can’t stop having sex because the ghosts are draining their life energy. So again while none of the characters blame Buffy or Riley for anything, we have the show punishing them both for having consensual sex. In fact, one could argue the sex was not really consensual, since the spirits pushed them into having neverending sex. So, though Buffy and Riley went into things wanting to have sex, their will and autonomy was taken away from them, and their sexual energy was then used to fuel the spirits and harm other people in the house.
Women being punished for their sexual desires and even for being raped is not only a common theme in our media, but also a sad reality in many women’s lives. Having magic and mythical forces punish our favorite female characters for both consensual and nonconsensual sex just gives credence to the idea that these beliefs are correct. It’s something that we definitely need to change. It certainly is a sad reality when we can imagine a world with things like ghosts and demons, yet we use them in our stories to punish women for their sexuality.