Sunday, 14 August 2016

Carson Grubaugh's Re-Read Challenge: Church & State II

(from Carson's Re-Read Blog, August 2016)

Cerebus Vol 5: Jaka's Story
Cerebus Vol 6: Melmoth
Cerebus Vol 7: Flight
Cerebus Vol 8: Women
Cerebus Vol 9: Reads
Cerebus Vol 10: Minds
Cerebus Vol 11: Guys
Cerebus Vol 12: Rick's Story
Cerebus Vol 13: Going Home
Cerebus Vol 14: Form & Void
Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days
Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day


Paul Slade said...

Hi, Carson. I'm really enjoying these analysis pieces.

Tell me, how do you read the switch from upper case lettering ("HOW DARE YOU! AAAK!") to lower case ("Oh! Ah!") in Astoria's thought balloons on the first page of the rape sequence you extract here? To me, the first two balloons imply she's feeling shock and disgust, while the final two suggest (at least momentary) pleasure. If intentional, that seems an oddly off-key note to strike in such a brutal and damning rape scene.

Carson Grubaugh said...


They do kind of read that way, unfortunately.

A forgiving read of those two balloons would be resignation rather than pleasure.

The whole scene is extremely emotionally complicated, Astoria kicking it off in a way. I know it has to be one of the scenes detractors turn to in their accusations of misogyny but it isn't like this is the only work of literature that has a rape scene that blurs the lines between straight-up rape and some other, more complicated situation. Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead comes to mind(a book I find much more morally abhorrent than Cerebus).

Barry Deutsch said...

I read those word balloons as indicating Astoria's involuntary physical arousal response to what Cerebus is doing to her - which does not mean that Astoria is consenting to or enjoying the rape. From an article in Popular Science:

"Arousal and orgasm during rape happen. Probably much more often than we know. It is not a sign of guilt or pleasure. It in no way indicates consent. It is a sign that our bodies react, just as they do with a rapid heartbeat or an adrenaline rush.

A analogy is tickling:

"Quite simply, our bodies respond to sex. And our bodies respond to fear. Our bodies respond. They do so uniquely and often entirely without our permission or intention. Orgasm during rape isn't an example of an expression of pleasure. It's an example of a physical response whether the mind's on board or not, like breathing, sweating, or an adrenaline rush. Therapists commonly use the analogy of tickling. While tickling can be pleasurable, when it is done against someone's wishes it can be very unpleasant experience. And during that unpleasant experience, amid calls to stop, the one being tickled will continue laughing."

Although I've sometimes seen it come up, in my experience this scene is not usually "one of the scenes detractors turn to in their accusations of misogyny." I don't think this scene is at all an indication of misogyny. Rape happens; depicting rape is not in and of itself misogynistic, although of course a particular depiction of rape could be.

Barry Deutsch said...

Oh, also, I wanted to add to Carson that I'm really enjoying these Cerebus re-read posts of yours, particularly your comments about Dave's layouts. The captioned format is a very clever and effective approach.

Dave Sim said...

Well, the idea was also that Astoria was the first of her feminist kind in Estarcion. She's not a Cirinist, she's a Kevillist and a big part of that role -- which she created -- is of would-be manipulator in the (otherwise) purely masculine context. When you're the first, men are just going to cast you in one role or the other with which they're familiar: she's a whore or she's at least behaving whorishly. So, she's going to get raped. It's the Middle Ages, guys, not Feminist Theocracy City.

She could have just stayed with Lord Julius, but that wasn't what she was doing: playing "woman behind the man, getting what she wants". She wanted her own power and to impose her own ideas on society. To do that, she just got used to and inured to getting raped. A lot. As long as she was moving upward in the hierarchy -- which she always was -- that was a price she was willing to pay.

She was really just improvising in the context. Relative to what she must have gone through previously to this point in her life, getting raped by Cerebus would have been a minor event. First of all, given his size, his dick wouldn't be that big. And second of all you can see what kind of staying power he had.

No, she was just surprised that the Good Orthodox Tarimite was overruled so easily by the horny male.

Him standing up with her panties on his head and trying to Be the Pope would have been worth the price of a scarcely noticeable (relative to her experiences) rape.

And she gobbed in his ear. That's pretty much what the experience was for her. "Here. How do YOU like it?"

Eddie said...

There also doesn't really appear to be a secret way out of the cell, based on the depiction of it, despite what she says. I always wondered if she was planning on actually killing Cerebus (not just knocking him out), and as a result becoming the sole pontiff of the Eastern and Western Churches. Which, I suppose, is a 'secret way' out of the prison.

Michael said...

Except rape has nothing to do with size or staying power. Rape is a violent experience, physical domination / degradation through force.

"Rape is experienced by the victims as an act of violence. It is a life-threatening experience. One out of every eight adult women has been a victim of forcible rape. (National Victim Center and Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992) While sexual attraction may be influential, power, control and anger are the primary motives. Most rapists have access to a sexual partner. Gratification comes from gaining power and control and discharging anger. This gratification is only temporary, so the rapist seeks another victim."

Dave Sim said...

Hi Michael - Yes, but we're talking about Astoria. My character. Believe me, I KNOW Astoria.

It was a conscious decision on her part to NOT experience rape as a violent experience OR as degradation but, instead, as the price she would have to pay on several occasions to achieve what she wanted to achieve politically. I always admired her tenacity, endurance and self-assurance even while I knew that she wasn't going to get what she wanted. Or, rather, she would get it but, as Pope Cerebus said, "You can get what you want and still not be very happy."

As with the Cirinists I was faced with having to make something exist that I didn't -- and don't -- think can exist: a successful matriarchy that supplants a patriarchy in the case of the Cirinists and in Astoria's case a woman who single-handedly decides to create a Feminist Theocracy in a Middle Ages-like context.

We aren't talking about rape in the 20th century, we're talking about rape in the Middle Ages which is comparable to what you're talking about but founded more in a "0"or "1" dichotomy: lady or whore. A lady either has her family protecting her or she has a husband protecting her. A whore is considered a species of subhuman, detrimental to the societal good. In that context, she's to be made an example of. Making an example of her is a civic virtue in the Middle Ages.

Astoria's strength came from not being humiliated by acts which were intended to humiliate her. Like modern feminists she saw herself as interchangeable with men in all particulars with the notable exception that she believed herself to be superior to them. She was a better man than the men, in her mind.

Dave Sim said...

She was named for Mary Astor who playing Brigitte O'Shaughnessy in THE MALTESE FALCON. Enduring rape and not allowing it to affect her -- AT ALL -- on those occasions when she got backed into a corner -- which didn't happen often, she's very resourceful -- was just one of her tricks. Like Brigette O'Shaughnessy, she's a pathological liar and that's probably her most effective trick. She can think of a lie on the spot that will turn her victim a good 90 to 180 degrees out of whack and like BO'S she could also turn on the tears on command. Just look at the number of scams she runs on Cerebus shortly after meeting him. Look at the way that she had the Roach wrapped around her little finger without giving him anything. She was good at that, too. The Roach would have been the latest in a long line of protectors who kept her from getting raped most of the time. And got virtually nothing in return for their trouble.

Dave Sim said...

By trying to turn Astoria into "just another rape victim" -- "they're all alike" is really what you're saying -- you're COMPLETELY missing the point of what makes Astoria Astoria: she doesn't fit ANY rape victim profile. Or any profile period. And she made herself that way by sheer force of will because she knew that NOT making herself into that person would mean that she couldn't achieve what she wanted to achieve. She would have to settle for something less...and she wasn't about to do that.

adampasz said...

Thanks, Dave, for your explanation of this scene, which I find more and more disturbing as I get older. I respect that -- for better or worse -- you let the characters act on their own accord within the world you had constructed.

Dave Sim said...

Well, yes, and Astoria is an EXTREME ANECDOTAL EXCEPTION. She's, like, the G. Gordon Liddy of Estarcion.
You couldn't make up G. Gordon Liddy. Read a few pages of WILL at random. There you go, that's Astoria. She will WILL herself to be who she is. If you suggested to her that she would be traumatized by rape, she'd laugh in your face.

You can't really rule EXTREME ANECDOTAL EXCEPTIONS out of order, I don't think. I heard about a guy who did a 6,000 page graphic novel. SERIOUSLY! You could look it up. :)