I've been stewing on this for a fortnight now, ever since I watched the Divergent movie. Spoilers ahoy, obviously.
[Spoiler (click to open)]
So Divergent is a post apocalyptic Chicago divided into five "factions" - Abnegation, Amity, Erudite, Candor, and Dauntless. They're living communities based on valued traits. Abengation, where our heroine, Tris, grows up, is all about altruism and austerity. Sexual pleasure, just like every other kind of pleasure, is frowned upon 'cause it's selfish.
When a kid's around sixteen, they choose the community they want to live in, and it need not be the one where they grew up. Tris chooses Dauntless, which is all about being daring, and getting adrenaline rushes. Those guys there have more liberal attitudes towards sex, naturally. Tris starts lusting after a guy, Four. She has all these sexual feelings that she doesn't know what the fuck to do with. That scares her. Her fear is of intimacy at large. And that's what shows up in this simulation she undergoes wherein you go through all your fears. She overcomes that fear by saying to Head!Four, "LOL we are NOT popping our cherries in a hallucination of all places." She kisses Head!Four and then the simulation ends.
In the book there is ALSO an exchange between Tris and Four that amounts to Tris saying, "Well I'm nervous 'cause I'm a virgin unlike you" and Four replies, "Well, actually, I'm a virgin too." I found that incredibly refreshing. They never actually go all the way in the book but it was nice to see someone avert the trope of "A Man Is Not A Virgin", and to be privy to a female character's internal monologue that includes sexual desire, you know?
Enter the film. In the film, during Tris and Four's first kiss, Tris abruptly says, "I want to take it slow." Which in and of itself is fine, but I'm so over this framework wherein guys are horny and girls rein the guys' sex drives in. I'm so NHFT, especially because in the book, her internal monologue reveals that she herself is horny. But that's the least of my problems with the book to film changes. The main offender is the change they made to Tris' simulation of fears. It's no longer intimacy (which was consensual in the book). Instead it's of Tris and Four kissing then Four forces Tris on the bed and attempts to rape her. She overcomes the fear by kicking him in the nuts. They added a hallucinatory rape that WAS NOT ORIGINALLY IN THE BOOK. And just all around perpetuating the man as aggressor, woman as gatekeeper framework of sex, which is part and parcel of rape culture.
Some people thought it was wonderful that Movie!Tris asserted her agency by fighting off the Four in her simulation. I'm glad they could take away something positive from that scene. Truly I am. But honestly, the story of a chaste girl who defends her sexual purity is quite old. How many 90s sitcoms had episodes about girls putting the brakes on their dates getting too hot and heavy?
Oh well. At least Theo James is a beautiful man.
- All right, let's talk about THAT scene in the Divergent movie