Sexuality in the Land of Oz
by Wayne Wilson

A Sex Education in The Dark

. . .What violence has wrought on sex is more than deplorable. Violence resolves itself into different orientations that are by varying degrees sanitized, humorous, absurd, and graphic. These perspectives do not always remain apart - sometimes they blend - but they all cast sexual expression in a supporting role. To choose one of the more mystic perspectives, consider the absurd orientation to violence. Consider, in particular, its distinctive application to one of entertainment's more visible pastimes: the sexual humiliation of women.

. . . One scenario of absurd violence takes the unwitting woman and fancifully renders her dead meat. Apparently unkillable villains like Michael from Halloween (1978), Jason from Friday the 13th (1980), and Freddy from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) prey on the female, who, oblivious to her last few breaths, shows us a tantalizing moment of terminal passion. The artistry centers on the style of execution - a different girl, a different way to die. This formula demands that the females (and a sampling of males thrown in for variety) exercise sufficient denseness to deserve their death. Filmmakers often apply the formula by exhibiting nubile teenagers without a sound thought to their name, roaming about in places they shouldn't be. Not too surprising, they leave themselves open for a sexual atrocity or two.

. . .Sex, in this context, becomes the filmmaker's instrument of rapture. Arouse your audience sensuously, then bring out the blade, the axe, the sledgehammer, the chain saw, or the vampire fangs. Edward Donnerstein, Daniel Linz, and Steven Penrod (1987, p. 114) note that in one variety of horror films, known as slasher movies, filmmakers frequently preface the absurd violence by including a previous scene of eroticism. A teenage girl undresses for bed and projects a titillating image, vulnerable and poised like a promising victim. The authors point out that the effect of pleasant arousal followed by aggression lulls viewers into a desensitization to violence. The positive arousal that arises just before a horrific scene not only makes the violence more exciting, but more acceptable to moviegoers.

. . .And what if we add one final ingredient? Suppose we deem the girl expendable (say, she's a bitch). Having her appear cruelly seductive just before her grand demise suggests the makings of a good murder. A subtle, cinematic rule is worked to perfection: The girl dies horribly because her unseemly behavior indicates that she deserves to die. Moviegoers find her death especially enticing since the girl also loses her ability to seduce - perhaps a talent that she used selfishly before her murder. Directors of exploitation movies know how to score a cinematic knockout: use sex, then violence; the one-two punch of horror films. . .(p. 6).