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The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their ‘Liberated Sexuality’


Yesterday, two new comic books from the “New 52” relaunch of DC Comics provoked some online controversy: Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws. They were controversial in particular because of the way they depicted women, notably with the aggressively fanfictiony on-panel sex between Batman and Catwoman, and Starfire’s transformation into a promiscuous tabula rasa who can’t even remember the names of the men she sleeps with, and seeks out emotionless sex with both of the two male main characters while they essentially high five about it.

Since pointing out my issues with Starfire yesterday, I have received numerous e-mails — from men — accusing me of slut-shaming. Since there are a lot of people who don’t understand the sexual dynamics that are in play here both creatively and culturally, I’d like to dissect this a little bit and explain why these scenes don’t support sexually liberated women; they undermine them, and why after nearly 20 years of reading superhero books, these may finally have been the comics that broke me.

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Yeah, I hate this notion. 9 times out of 10, female characters are created by men. They have no agency of their own, they have the agency CREATED for them by male artists and writers who usually put in their own notion of what they THINK a sexually “liberated” woman is, which in turn, ends up being nothing but the ‘pin up girl who fucks a lot’ mindset.