Hi there. Since I’m new to Endangered Bodies, I thought I’d write a little introductory post to get myself started. My name is Jude Deluca. I’m 25 years old, a white, cisgender, asexual American. I was born on December 25th, I enjoy reading comic books, writing, the Golden Girls, and listening to music from video games. And I’m a survivor of sexual assault.
I attended two all boys Catholic schools between grades 6 and 12. I was bullied and harassed pretty badly in both schools. In middle school, I was assaulted by three boys riding home on the school bus. Unfortunately, I can’t remember how old I was when it happened. Only that it happened between 6 and 7th Grade. There was no penetration, but the boys shoved my head into their crotch regions. I recall everyone on the bus laughing, until the boys stopped and saw how badly I was frightened and crying. No one did anything to help. The only punishment the boys received was a threat of expulsion from the principal if it ever happened again. I didn’t speak to any therapists or doctors, nor did my parents really understand what happened to me. I’ve come to realize many of the behavioral problems I had in school from that point stemmed from my assault. In 12th grade, during art class a student inappropriately touched me twice. I smacked his face when he tried it a third time. He spent the rest of class trying to make me apologize. My teacher did nothing. It’s only because of my work with my therapist that I’ve realized how badly these incidents affected me.
I’ve told you all this because I want you to know where my writing is coming from. For the longest time, comic books were a place of refuge for me and they still are. It’s a dream of mine to be a published comic author and work with the characters I care about. As such, when I was told about the existence of Endangered Bodies, I considered writing about the presence of rape and sexual assault in comic books, and how they are portrayed and handled.
I’m not going to assume that many of you are very familiar with most mainstream comic books. And if you are, it’s most likely because you’ve seen or heard of the movies and TV shows based on them, correct? I’ll try to give as much context as I can to avoid confusing anyone. But comics are indeed just as valid an art and storytelling format as literature, film, music, cinema, what have you. Yes I’m not gonna lie, it’s very easy to pick a random comic and find pages of overly muscled, gun toting men with women in disturbingly skimpy clothing bending backwards in such a way you’d think “Where is she keeping her organs?!” I assure you, there are dozens of writers and illustrators out there who strive to create comics that don’t involve the description I just gave you.
The presence of rape in comics is similar to the presence of rape in TV and movies. It’s a sore subject, and quite often it’s a subject handled very poorly. If it’s a female character getting assaulted, it’s so a male character can have something to angst and obsess over. The woman is hurt to affect the male. If a male character is raped, it’s done for comedy or revenge. I’ve actually compiled together a list of known comic characters that committed or were in the process of committing sexual assault, and it disturbs me how long it is. This is why I wish to talk about it. Basically, the bodies of victims are trivialized for the sake of shock drama or dark comedy, and it affects how survivors, how we, perceive our own bodies. And as Endangered Bodies is about body positivity, I believe that talking about how the bodies of rape survivors and the handling of rapists themselves in comics are relevant topics. They’re topics that, through a more critical analysis, can lead to better understanding behind toxic stories and prevent further damaging writing which could have negative effects on the public and private psyches of rape survivors.
(From Team Titans #2/Art By Kevin Maguire)
Meet Mirage. Mirage can create illusions and look like anyone. Mirage has used those powers to trick Nightwing into sleeping with her, by pretending to be his girlfriend. This is a woman who, has not only just admitted she has committed rape-by-fraud, but thinks it’s hilarious. While Nightwing is getting jokes about it from his teammate Pantha.
When the concept of rape is trivialized in comic books, it has the same effect as it would in a TV show or a movie. It lends to this idea that the bodies of victims do not belong to them. Women are objectified and men are treated like a joke when they are the victims of assault. And it creates the sense of defeat, that talking about our assault or just that we’ve been assaulted in general makes us a joke. A prop. Something for someone else to cry over while we try to figure out how we feel and what we do from this point. Who do we turn to that will take us seriously? On the flip side, there is also the portrayal of victims seeking justice, but as they do they become warped and borderline villainous, losing any sympathy they might have gained from the readers as their abuse is used to justify their horrendous actions. I’m reminded of a line from a miniseries called “Batman: The Ultimate Evil.”
"If you excuse a serial killer because he was tortured as a child, you disrespect the thousands of children who were treated even worse and never, never imitated their oppressors!"
With these writings, I plan to do the following: discuss the cases of individual characters that’ve been sexually assaulted, those that have committed assault, and also review some individual stories that talk about sexual assault. My goal is to bring a deeper kind of understanding behind the handling of these characters and the writing they were involved in. This is in the hope of creating a better understanding as to why some of these stories are toxic ones, or at the very least bring them to the attention of a much larger audience to ensure that a more critical eye is given towards comic writing and ensure they never happen again.
Also, I want this to be a learning experience for myself as well. I want to talk with you, those who read what I’ve written, and I want to discuss with you what you think of the subject. I know this is a sore subject to discuss, and I don’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable. Thank you for giving me this opportunity, and I hope some good can come from it in the future.
I am a survivor. I am not a joke, and I am not a prop. None of us who are survivors are props or jokes for someone else. Through this writing, in tandem with what Endangered Bodies seeks to do, I want to empower my readers and dispel these negative ideas about survivors of rape and rapists. Our bodies belong to us, and we deserve better than the subtext of being told either they don’t, or if they do, no one cares?
Until next time.