Like many of my fellow Rejects, I am currently recovering from the insanity that was Fantastic Fest 2011. Over the course of four days I viewed a relatively tame amount of films (10 – I’m not a champ this time around), each one, even the crap ones, expanding my movie watching mind. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I selected the most sexually involved films I could, pausing briefly for a palate cleanser of adorable in A Boy and His Samurai, and I look forward to sharing some of my insights on the loneliness of loving a sex doll in the coming weeks. But for now, let’s jump right into the eccentricities of loving something we shouldn’t.

As a sex writer, I’m constantly asked to voice my opinion on any frisky business ranging from the sweet nibbles of a new lover all the way to the “am I weird for liking this and that?” Typically, I provide a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card by giving a basic of sex-positive response along the lines of “you like what you like” or “your kink isn’t my kink, but your kink is okay” (unless the kink involved is so taboo I have to flip a table and walk away). But last week the same topic kept coming up: The sex appeal of the bad girl. Yes, there’s nothing new in feeling attracted to a girl who can beat you up, take your money, and then kiss you on the cheek before she leaves you bound naked to a chair. What made me scratch my head was the girl in question.

This next bit may make you feel a little icky, down there, but just like the first time you saw James Spader getting all handsy after a car accident in Crash, the woozy feeling will be worth it.

Last year’s bummer of a superhero film Kick-Ass featured a most precariously sensual character, Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz). Hit-Girl is the ultimate male fantasy; she’s tough, rough, compact-size, and undeniably insane.  It is almost difficult to not find her attractive when she’s bashing in bad guys’ faces and helping guide Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson, yum o’clock) on his own wayward hero’s journey.  She is also a child trained by her father to kill without remorse. Despite her adult like mannerisms and actions, she is nevertheless a woman stuck in a child’s body. And feeling any sort of sexual pull to her is both taboo and undeniable, for some.

Along the same lines of questionable sensuality are the ladies of Sucker Punch, a mostly polarizing film about girls so physically oppressed by men they must regress to the farthest corners of their minds. Sounds simple enough, but these are also young women whose fantasies put them in a strictly adult world. Rather than envisioning themselves fighting their harassers in sensible clothing, they are highly stylized and sexualized by dressing like Porcelain dolls. Who kick ass. I see no problem here as I support anything to do with sexy women kissing and killing with the utmost abandon, but I’m just a humble servant to all that is hot.

I think the best approach for us to dissect what makes Hit-Girl and the lady fighters of Sucker Punch so appealing is to, unfortunately, break it down by the sexes. Looking at why they are sexy from these two perspectives and then wrapping it all up in a pretty little universally desirable bow may just be the most direct way to scratch the surface of this barely (or not at all) legal conundrum.

Disclaimer first: I do not begin to suggest I understand the way men think. You have to trust that I am a woman, and therefore am suspect in everything I say, however I do think I have a fair understanding of what men find sexy or not sexy in film. I say this because the same categories of women appear in films time after time. We have our svelte, wispy girl-women who manipulate men with their gentleness or heightened sexuality, see Jessica Chastian. Joining these are the oft-mocked femme fatales, made famous through noir casting of Barbara Stanwick and Rita Hayworth down to Angelina Jolie. And rounding out the list are our quirky darlings, Emma Stone and Zooey Deschanel. I’m skipping many others, but the combination of these three categories allows a sneak peek into the sexualization of the childlike bad girl.

Men know a child on screen is, in fact, a child. However there is still something incredibly compelling about watching that child grow into a woman over a 90-minute period of time. I’m not talking about a soap opera style “quick age,” but rather the titillation felt from watching the girl conquer a film’s issues. Hit-Girl and Sucker Punch’s Baby Doll (Emily Browning) both outwardly appear childlike, however they fight as if their lives depend on it—which they do. It’s easy to say their costuming choices directly contribute to their sex appeal, as both girls are dressed in school girl outfits, however only Baby Doll is meant to distract her opponent with her short skirt and plunging cleavage. Regardless, both girls stir something from the farthest recesses of one’s mind—that the same passion they put into killing is the same passion they would put into bedding.

Despite the fact that both Hit-Girl and Baby Doll represent bookends on a sexually aware spectrum, these two ladies exemplify women who just don’t give a fuck what men think. Women are trained from a young age to reject our sexual needs, mask our desires with pouty lips and subtle glances, and be all around willing to lose ourselves at the powerful hands of others. While we are allowed to love sex, we are still expected to keep all that “on the down low.” These two offer woman viewers a chance to live vicariously through them. Both tough, both sexual, both completely aware of the desire they elicit from the men opposite them.

Obviously Hit-Girl’s childlike innocence and strict adherence to right and wrong makes her seem almost corruptible, but a man who tried would be met with a worse fate than any of her victims. The girl is crazy, and when you dance with crazy you may end up without your feet. Baby Doll, on the other hand, is actually an adult woman dressed like a seductive child. She is meant to be gazed upon as a sexual object, like a grown-up version of Hit-Girl, yet she is even more uncomfortable with her desirability. While Hit-Girl used her child’s face to disarm her victims, Baby Doll uses her skill of dancing to black out the minds of those around her. She doesn’t want the gaze, while Hit-Girl fully embraces it. A child aware of her power is just as appealing as a vulnerable sexpot.

Explore more cinematic sexuality with Reel Sex


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