A piece in today’s Times by Matthew Moore, Media Correspondent:
Female viewers’ fascination with the victimisation of women is to blame for the prevalence of sexual violence and rape on television, Germaine Greer has claimed.
Crime dramas criticised for gratuitous depictions of attacks on women are only trying to satisfy the desires of their audiences, according to the feminist writer.
“Female victimisation sells. What should disturb us is that it sells to women,” she said.
Greer’s comments follow a backlash against sexually violent scenes in primetime television dramas, with BBC series The Fall, Luther and Top of the Lake, and the ITV thriller Paranoid all accused of normalising or glamorising brutality against women.
The final series of the Scandinavian crime drama The Bridge, that starts on BBC Two this month, opens with the discovery of a woman who has been buried up to her neck and stoned to death. Producers have been accused of exploiting violence against women as a plot device but Greer, 79, lays the blame on female viewers.
“Who is watching and reading the proliferating imagery of female victimhood? Women, that’s who,” she writes in the Radio Times, claiming that women make up 60 to 80 per cent of crime fiction readers.
“The endless array of female cadavers laid out on slabs and dragged out of the undergrowth in crime drama on TV is designed to reel in a mainly female audience.”
Greer suggests that large numbers of female viewers enjoy fantasising about sexual assault. She cites a small 2008 study by US academics that found that 32 per cent of women had fantasised about being raped by a man, while 52 per cent fantasised about some kind of forced sex. “The fantasy is commoner than these figures suggest,” says Greer. “The man who groans and clenches his teeth as he struggles to resist the heroine’s fatal charms has been a staple of ‘chick-lit’ ever since Jane Eyre. The delusion that rape is the result of overwhelming sexual desire is a female delusion.”
There is evidence to support Greer’s assertion that women are drawn to tales of murder and rape. In 2010 Illinois University researchers found that women were disproportionately likely to review true crime books on Amazon and US police procedural series such as CSI and Law & Order tend to attract largely female audiences.
In a book, On Rape, due out this year, she argues for more awareness of the difference between “sleaze and assault”. In the Radio Times Greer contrasts women who outed themselves as victims of Hollywood predators with what she calls a lower-profile approach taken by men who claim they were abused. Male victims “refrain from exhibiting themselves” because women have no desire to see them, she argues.
“The display of female victimhood in entertainment media is not the result of a conspiracy between wicked men to objectify, reify and sexualise women but a straightforward capitulation to market forces.”
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