Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wonder Woman And Sexuality

So I went to half priced books and came across an issue of Wonder Woman (#219) published back in September of 1975! I went crazy! I mean, how many times will you find a comic book that old just in the racks of a second hand bookstore? And it was only $3! I didn't by it, however I did notice something on the cover that made my head tilt to the right a little bit. take a look at the cover to the right. I know it may be difficult to read what Wonder Woman is saying so I'll type it out for you.

"What are you waiting for? I've made myself HELPLESS! Now KILL ME"

As I read that, and look at Wonder Woman's demeanor, The sociologist starts to come out in me analyzing every aspect of of this cover.

Here she is the strongest comic book woman to ever be created, and she tied up, with a sexy smile and look on her face, with men huddled around and guns pointing directly at her. And of course, there's Elongated Man making a guest appearance in this issue who so suspiciously is stretched out (or erect) with a video camera taping the whole scenario. Everything about this cover screams of bondage and sexual tension. However, I wanted to make sure I wasn't just being a horny male and assuming something that isn't there. So I did a little research! Yeah for that huh?

Wonder Woman was created by a man named William Marston. He modeled Wonder Woman after to women, his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and Olive Byrne. These three apparently lived together in a polyamorous reletionship. These two women he believed were incredible beautiful and strong women.

Another interesting fact about this man is, he is the inventor and creator of the Lie Detector Test or the Polygraph. So I find this interesting since he did start everything with lie detection, and the only item that Wonder Woman carries is the famous "Lasso of Truth."

According to Boston University alumni magazine, Wonder Woman was created to help bring women into the mix of male dominated superhero comics. (Superman, batman, Green Lantern) It was an attempt to show that Women can be strong characters in a leading role of comics, and not just a weak, lesser "damsel in distress" type of role. When I discovered this, I it made me happy to learn that at least some people were trying to change the image of woman during World War II.

However, what I learned next maybe me say to myself "oh, nevermind."

According to wikipedia.com, Marston wrote a book called "Emotions of Normal People" back in 1928. in this book he claims that people behave on two separate axes, active or passive. the results of his findings came out this way.
  • Dominance produces activity in an antagonistic environment
  • Inducement produces activity in a favorable environment
  • Steadiness produces passivity in a favorable environment
  • Compliance produces passivity in an antagonistic environment.
His findings were as follows, Men have a notion of freedom which is very anarchic and violent, where as Women is more focused on love. This in essence makes Wonder Women the ideal sex symbol for many men.

Marston later made a statement in and issue of the American Scholar back in 1943....

"Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don't want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman."

I then learned something I did not know, although I should have known! Wonder Woman, in her early years was known most popularly by her "bondage" moments. In the case of the cover of issue 219 shown above, she is being tied up by her own lasso. Yes, the ultimate male sexual dream!

Marston was one of the few people in the early years of the super hero genre of comics that view it as an educational medium. He felt he could use Wonder Woman as a way of helping every embrace parts of themselves they never had before. In the book Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones, Marston is quoted saying,

"The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound ... Only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful human society. ... Giving to others, being controlled by them, submitting to other people cannot possibly be enjoyable without a strong erotic element".

So William Marston, even though he lived a very much polygamous reletionship, understood that stupidity of men and women and created a female super hero who was both a symbol for men and women. Men because they enjoyed the thought of a female who could kick their royal ass, and for women because she was a strong women in a time where the woman's place was in the kitchen.

It's interesting to me because the intention of the creation of Wonder Woman was something I had never thought of. But now that I think about the history of women, especially in art, and how women were portrayed during WWII, it all makes perfect sense. But it makes me wonder, what do men get more excited over, the fantasy or the reality. Especially now when I hear alot of my friends get more excited over the animated, strong females then they do with thier own wives or girlfriends.

"That Pocahontas is a babe." "Laura Croft could kick my ass! that sounds like a hell of a time!"

So what does this imply for comics today? Now, more and more, the women are becoming younger and younger looking. Back when Justice League: Europe started back in 1989, Powergirl Girl looked like a mature adult, who looked like she was in her early 40's with the body and muscle structure of a women that age. (who took steroids of course.) Now, she looks like she's barely 20. The only thing that makes her seem older is her attitude and the way she carries hersel. But even the way her entire body is drawn, she still seems much more slendor and danty than she did in the late 80's. Has Marston's idea for the comic book heroine dwindle away into something meaningless? Or are comics now just enhancing on the concept of strong beutiful women? it seems to me that comic book women have become incredibly strong women, who look underage. is this the ultimare male fantasy, or is it something else? I dont know, im just ranting.

1 comment:

  1. hmmm...this is so interesting. It kind of makes me want to read wonder woman now and see what I think. I can't believe you didn't buy the comic book though!