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After a similarly glowing response at both the Telluride and Toronto Film Festival, the film has become an unlikely front-runner for this sexual attraction to monsters Oscar race. That whole part about the inter-species sex scene has raised more than a few eyebrows since the film first screened. Some critics have been unnerved by the story, but there are also plenty of women who are incredibly excited to see this romance play out.
Critically acclaimed romance films are hard to find in modern cinema, much less so with a genre focus that stretches the boundaries of attraction in such a manner. That's not to say that women are suddenly super attracted to fish-men, but there is a long and fascinating history in culture of depictions of women and the monsters they love. Historically, this trend can go all the way back to the ancient Greeks and the various forms Zeus took to force himself onto women, as well as the motif of Death and the Maiden as a common feature in Renaissance art, but the most commonly used version of this trope originates in fairy tales.
The story of Beauty and the Beast is the obvious forefather for generations of women finding love in the monstrous. While there are countless variations of the story from French and Italian storytelling, as well as the parallels with Cupid and Psyche from Greek mythology, they are bound together by that striking image of the gorgeous maiden who finds companionship with a monster, whose brutishness melts away to reveal a kind heart.
The French story was an allegory for young women in arranged marriages, but through the centuries the story has been retold through film, television, literature, and song to explore more personal and romantic themes. Part of that appeal -- the image of the powerful beast, more animal than man -- is what keeps women coming back to the story.
There are countless girls who watched the now-iconic Disney adaptation and felt that twinge of disappointment when the Beast turned out to be nowhere near as attractive as a man. Beauty and the Beast ifies much of what makes the monstrous so appealing to women -- the brooding hero, the tale of redemption, the gothic romance archetypes of passion -- but the story almost always ends the same: The beast becomes human, and so the happily ever after is reliant on returning to the status quo of partnership.
Obviously, that has its own appeal -- there's a reason the bad boy trope is so popular in romance -- but what about when the beast stays a beast? What about when that's the prize and not the puzzle to solve? By and large, they're immense in size, tightly muscled and scream "power," but they often have a softer side, one that's been clamped down by a tough past or penchant for darkness they must either fight or embrace.
Even in the most horror or science fiction-slanted story, many of these monstrous heroes embody many of the romance tropes that women have favored for decades -- the brooding alpha, the bad boy with secrets, the ultimate display of macho strength but with a soft center. The women in these cases tend to be humanoid, often indistinguishable from human women. How often have you seen a sci-fi film with a sexy female alien who looks entirely sexual attraction to monsters except for some contact lenses or prosthetic ears? The beastly male is just an extension of everything we know and interrogate about masculinity.
Pop culture by and for women is chock full of men who represent sheer untamed id. Not only that, but it can be controlled and interrogated in a way where the power belongs to the women. The chances are that the idea of really dating a so-called bad boy fills you with dread or bad memories from more innocent times.
Domina Francoa writer and relationship coach, discussed the ways this particular fantasy can offer freedom to women:. I think as with many other edge behaviours, fantasies or kinks there is an aspect of a release from ability of one's sexuality and an illicit sense of freedom. If a fantasy is removed from reality or disassociated from your presented identity in society there may be less stigma associated with it. Albeit one may be judged for fantasizing about a monster the point remains that this is something that can not actually be put into practice and could be more difficult to shame.
Sex fantasies with a mythical, supernatural entity would certainly have lower stakes versus fantasies of a similar nature with human partners which could actually come to fruition and lead to real life slut shaming. Take a few minutes to do some searching on Amazon and you'll be surprised to discover the selection of romance and erotica novels where human women are seduced by everything from aliens to demons to monsters to even the occasional sexual attraction to monsters.
The use of monsters can also blur the lines of gender in fascinating ways, as mentioned by Franco:. For women seeking to use the trope in non-heteronormative ways, the possibilities are also endless. Allison Moon, a sex educator and author of Girl Sex and the Tales of the Pack series, a saga of novels centered on a group of lesbian werewolves, explains:.
Not that it is violent, but sexual attraction to monsters it is misunderstood, shadowy, or frightening to mainstream society. Western society has long considered queer people as aberrations. Lesbians were often witches in ancient societies— unmarried and spending their time in covens among other wise, unmarried women They have their own rules, and that is often undeniably sexy. Werewolves, mermaids, vampires … we like the idea of surrendering to the power of the otherworldly.
We like the idea of being erotically possessed. Sci-fi lets them imagine brighter futures for our gender or more horrific alternatives or ones free of gender altogether. Romance gives us freedom to control our fantasies in a way society often dismisses or shuns. Even horror lets women tangle with death and pain in a controlled environment. Combine the three and you have one of the most potent ways for women to creatively explore everything that excites and scares us.
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