No Means No, Not “Get Started and I’ll Change My Mind”: The Rape In Cemetery Man
I like Cemetery Man; really, I do. Michele Soavi has an eye for color (that seems to be a running theme of Italian cinema). It has a humor and style that’s always appealed to me. The shot of Valentina’s glass coffin, then her disembodied head following Gnaghi around as he plays music? Great balance of beauty and absurdity. The quick shifts from day to night, sunshine to rain, are just bonkers. I appreciate the out-there ending too. So while I do enjoy it overall, there’s one scene with which I have a massive amount of trouble: the second instance of She (Anna Falchi) confessing her rape and the enjoyment of it. This one is a damn-near deal breaker for me.
|You nearly lost me there.|
When Dellamorte (Rupert Everett, who was perfect in this role) meets She for a second time, they’re both sexually traumatized. He’s already lost one version of She during sex, and has been wrongly slandered as impotent; She, on the other hand, expresses an extreme fear of penetration. Dellamorte’s response is to go along with the impotent label to win her heart, then take extreme measures to make sure that his physical desire for her doesn’t become problematic to the ruse (finally getting a suppressive shot as opposed to the penile amputation he sought). After the fact, She returns and explains, “The mayor raped me… I liked it. Not the violence, no, but then, it was wonderful. This means I’m cured. I don’t have a phobia anymore. This means that I can’t marry you now. I’m going to marry him.” She explains that she still loves Dellamorte, has explained such to the mayor, and can still be friends with the man she loves because he can’t satisfy her.
|Queue my meltdown in three, two, one…|
Are you fucking kidding me.
First off, rape victims don’t decide midway through that they’re actually having fun and just go with it. It’s a physically and mentally painful, degrading and depressing experience that requires a lot of healing. Many victims have trouble with sex after an attack. Not giving consent and having that edict violated is horrific. No one should have to go through that. The act of her then deciding that she enjoyed it cheapens this violation and makes it even worse, because it implies that She couldn’t make up her mind and that her attacker knew her wants better than she did; in essence, She was in no shape fit to make decisions about her own body. Fears and consent be damned – She just needed a good deep-dicking.
I get that there are women out there that have rape fantasies; I’m not going to knock that. However, there’s a huge difference between the consent granted to lose control to your lover in a role-playing exercise and actually having someone fuck you when you say no. The problem with explaining the situation away as a fantasy is that She expressed an upfront fear of the notion of male genitalia and penetration. This was a woman that was so afraid of these aspects of sex that she wanted to marry a man that was incapable of making her face those fears. That’s a fairly emphatic statement that she wasn’t craving her rape, and wasn’t looking for someone with whom to act out a consensual fantasy. She states that the violence was not to her taste, which again cheapens her experience. The self-described violence of her attack is made worse by the fact the She chalks it up to taking pleasure in the experience of her violation. It sends the message that, after the fact, the victim will realize how much fun he or she had.
Moving right along, rape victims often have no desire to ever see their attackers again… so why on Earth would She agree to marry her attacker? Aside from the obvious need to move the plot forward – Dellamorte had to lose his love again, after all, in order to meet the third incarnation and lose her as well – this makes no sense. There’s no one else in town that could possibly fulfill her sexual desires? Someone else couldn’t possibly have consensual sex with her? I’ve heard criticisms of the Bible against women having to marry their attackers; I’m not going to debate that one here. I’m not gunning for religion. I’m gunning for the idea that a woman would be legally tied to someone that has no regard for her consent. It happens every day, and it’s wrong. So what is stopping She from moving on and finding someone else that respects her? Is this what She is reduced to? Why would you throw something like this into the mix?
Oh, one more thing – did you notice that Dellamorte pushes her away when she states, “The mayor raped me”? Yeah. Go back and watch it. Not pleased in the least. If I start in on that one, we’re going to be here all night.
If I could cut this one piece out of the film, I would do so without hesitation. Aside from that, I was able to enjoy the rest of it as a whole. Like I said, tons of humor, lots of beautiful shots, nice use of color. But really, in this one minute, my confidence in this film was shaken to its core. It’s been like that since I first saw it. Consent is consent; either you have it or you don’t. If you don’t, back the fuck off. It’s that simple.