Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Buffy's Sex Life: Discuss!

So it was a toss-up whether to post this here or on LJ, but I'm putting it here because I'm betting a certain someone and I get into a gigantic Buffy/feminism tussle.  Yeah!

Anyway, Friday in my English class* we discussed an article** about Buffy.  The bit I had a problem with was where Rutkowsky, who portrays herself as a sex-positive feminist, described vampire foreheads as "swollen," "bumpy," "grotesque" stand-ins for sexual organs.  Ok, swollen, check, bumpy, depends who you talk to...but grotesque?  Did someone have a few too many abstinence-only sex ed classes?  In any case, wound up in a spirited discussion of how the state of people's sexual organs is, actually, my business, and everyone's business, in fact.  Oh, and about how Twilight sucks.

*Buffy spoiler alert*

The interesting bit was where the prof and I got into a wee argument on how sex is treated in Buffy.  There I was thinking how cool it was that Buffy and her buddies are allowed to have sex and be protagonists, but I guess the truth is I hadn't thought about it that much.  When you do think about it, Buffy is punished for having sex...kind of a lot.  There's the whole Angel deal, which I kind of put aside because Joss Whedon wishes he'd never done it, but then moving on from there: Buffy gets with Parker and is wounded and brooding for like five episodes because hook-ups will damage you emotionally.  She only recovers when she's allowed*** to smack him over the head a few times.  Then there's Riley...remember when their sex fed a whole house o' evil?  And how about him shagging Faith in Buffy's body?  Or how it ended, in a vampire whorehouse?  Conclusion: Joss Whedon, what happened to the horror-movie victim girl kicking ass AND having sex?****

*Which is totally fabulous in that I get to shout things like "Unpack your invisible knapsack!" and "Gender is between your ears, not between your legs!" the entire class period.  The rest of the class says things like "But where is the white male in television?"
**"Why Chicks Dig Vampires: Sex, Blood, and Buffy" by Alice Rutkowsky, apparently not available in its entirety online
***Buffy turns into a cavewoman.  It's complicated and involves beer and warlocks.
****Joss Whedon always hated how in horror films, it's always the interesting woman who dies first.  She's fun, exciting, and has sex...and is usually killed seconds after the act.  Buffy was him taking back that girl.


  1. Man, I forgot about the death-sex house! And here I was thinking that Buffy had had a healthy relationship at some point.

    At least it's not fully gendered--Angel is even more anti-sex. (Best case scenario: you lose your soul. Worst case scenario: you get Connor.) I think Buffy/Angel are still progressive in that the side characters get to have plenty of healthy, positive sex (Anya, Willow [WITH GIRLS OMG], Cordelia, Fred, and so on, even Joyce...heh), but Buffy and Angel never ever have healthy sex EVER*. Maybe Joss really likes the Celibate Hero/ Really-Should-Learn-To-Be-Celibate-Already Heroine thing? Something about sacrifice, being focused on the greater good, or... something?
    It's a trope!

    *So far? I'm halfway through season 4 of Angel now.

  2. Cordelia can't have healthy, positive sex! She gets pregnant! 18 times! With demons! And the demon-pregnancies! I guess I'll pretty much concede the rest of them, but really, if you're a demon that lays eggs in human heads, can't you at least put them in Wesley's head or something? Jeebus. Give Cordy a break.

    I think the difficulty with Buffy is separating the horrible horrible break-ups from the good sex that preceded them? Can we do that?

    *I'm halfway through 5! I'm still holding out for Angel n' Buffy! I belieeeeve!

  3. I want to agree with Panthera here, and take it a little bit further. I think it's unfair to only look at Buffy's sex life in terms of the endgames of the relationships. I mean, there's only two ways relationships are going to end up (well, three including death)--marriage or a breakup. But a relationship can be pretty good during its course and then sort of choke at the finish line... does that mean that the good times were worth nothing? Point is, I think we can separate horrible breakups from preceding good sex.

    Which is not to say that there's not some pretty bad Sex Kills stuff in BtVS and Angel, there definitely is, but it's not across the board--it's mostly localized to Buffy and Cordelia, who even then each have their own significant exception to the rule.

    I will say that I too am friggin' tired of Cordelia getting impregnated. Seriously, Buffyverse never gets tired of that stuff.

  4. But Cordelia had the Gruselag! I mean, sure, at first if she had sex with him she would lose all her powers... but hey, all she has to do is use a magic potion! All about safe sex, y'all. And sure, he was kinda bland and looked like an illustration in a Dungeons & Dragons manual, but Cordelia was certainly allowed to be insanely excited about sleeping with him. So, good for her! That one time.

    I forgot all about the weird break-up with Riley... they had some good times before then, right? She had plenty of times with Spike, all right, but that was all wrapped up with so much sex=violence sex=power sex=self-punishment stuff that it's hard to call it healthy. Plus, you know, the obvious thing.

  5. Talk about yer spoiler alerts--was trying not to mention Groo specifically (I think it's Groosalugg, by the way). But yeah, the issues with sex are definitely restricted to the hero/ine characters--most (I think all?) other castmembers get at least one functional relationship at some point.

    I think it has to do with a "sex is for the mortal folk" kind of thing--as far away as Joss gets with his liberal "let Willow & Oz/Tara, Xander & Anya, Giles & Olivia, Fred & Gunn, Wesley & That Chick For That While, Cordelia & Groo, Buffy & Riley have loads of some pretty okay-for-the-universe sex" from the "sex is bad" perspective in popular culture & TV, I think the fact that his main characters are always messed up about sex (Buffy, Angel) reveal that it's harder to shake off the idea of sex as debilitating than one might think. Or, you know, because it makes some friggin' great TV.