Thursday, 18 June 2020

365 Dni - Why I'm OK with Dubious Consent in Romance

The Polish film 365 Dni (now available on Netflix) is causing a bit of a stir around the internets. The film is based on the book of the same name by Blanka Lipińska, an erotic romance very much in the tradition of the sort of books I read and review here.

I haven't read the original book and there doesn't yet seem to be an English translation. Although I imagine that will be rectified pretty soon given the attention that it's getting. There is probably a hard-working translator turning dialogue like "Nie jestem workiem ziemniaków" into "I am not a bag of potatoes" as we speak.

The heroine is not one of these. She made that quite clear.
I have watched the film of course. And it's, well. it's not great to be honest. It's clunky, poorly-paced and bafflingly edited. The actress who plays the heroine, Laura, Anna Maria Sieklucka, while very pretty, doesn't really have the emotional range to convey the seemingly contradictory emotions and motivations of her character.

That said, I am happy that this film is there, onscreen, and causing a bit of bother. Fifty Shades of Grey was released in 2015 and the third and final part instalment Fifty Shades Freed was released in 2018. We have not exactly been deluged with smutty erotic cinema offerings since then, have we? The film industry releases about three hundred Marvel superhero films every year. You'd think there would some demand for Fifty Shades-esque kinky romance.

The biggest controversy with this film is the issue of its Dubious Consent (or DubCon as it is referred to in smutty book-writing circles). And the consent portrayed in this film is about as dubious as you can get, given that the 'hero', Mafia boss, Massimo forcibly drugs and kidnaps Laura and holds her against her will telling that she has 365 days to fall in love with him.

I think we are all in agreement that abduction and imprisonment are Not OK in the real world. I believe there are actually laws against it.

There is, however, a long tradition of such things being portrayed as romantic storylines. Rudolph Valentino was always at it. Kurt Russell kidnapped Goldie Hawn in Overboard and as I recall she had a delightful time of it. Even Disney have turned their hand to Stockholm Syndrome romance. Twice.

My first fantasy Dom
Near the beginning of the film Massimo tells Laura "I will never touch you without your consent." The thing is he keeps touching her. Every five minutes the bloke is slamming her up against a wall, licking her neck or threatening to frig her off on a private plane.

I think what he actually means is "I won't stick my penis inside you without your consent" and to be fair to him, he doesn't actually do that until he has Laura's enthusiastic say-so. So I suppose he is almost a gentleman in that regard. He probably should have been a clearer about his intentions though.

Rudolph Valentino is literally 365 times sexier than Massimo.
Is abduction a valid plotline for a romance story? Well,I think that it is. It's a common enough trope in historical fiction and sci-fi erotica. There would have been a lot less outrage about 365 Dni had it been set in medieval times or on the futuristic Dom planet of Bidiessem. Mafia romance is a popular genre in erotic fiction. Its longstanding appear is precisely because its heroes don't obey the rules and will take what they want without necessarily waiting for explicit consent from the object of their desires.

The important thing to bear in mind here is that 365 Dni is a work of fiction written by a woman and written for women. The intended audience is not men who fantasise about kidnapping women. This will be watched for the most part by women imagining themselves in Laura's predicament. Mainstream Porn - and Hollywood in general - is still primarily focused on the needs of men and the male gaze. Women are objectified throughout the entertainment industry. For all the nudity on display, Laura is not an object. She is the subject, the protagonist and the Audience Surrogate.

I am a feminist and a sexual submissive and sometimes that it is a troublesome line to straddle. But while I am absolutely adamant about Informed Consent in real life, in fiction (and in my own personal daydreams), I am happy for those lines to be blurred.

Lines being blurred
I think we need to be grown-up enough to recognise that women are allowed to have fantasies like these. It doesn't make us idiots or doormats or apologists for the Rough Sex Murder Defence.

It means we're a bit kinky, obviously. But, hey, if you're following this blog, then you probably already knew that about yourself.

(While we're on the subject of kink, it's worth mentioning that, aside from a very odd bondage scene, there is next to no BDSM in 365 Dni. Probably for the best given the outrage that has already kicked off about this film. Can you imagine the furore if a fictional character was not only kidnapped but then beaten while she was in captivity. I'm all for more spankings in mainstream movies but lets not run before we can walk.)

The film is oddly named because it doesn't take Massimo anything like the 365 days to meet his target. Laura - Spoiler! - declares her love for him around week 8, I think. Despite the unpromising committing-a-serious-felony sort of start of their relationship, she is won over by the tattooed mumbly mafia guy who has asked her to teach him how to be gentle. I presume there will be more to follow given that the film ends of a cliffhanger that makes Fifty Shades of Grey's breakup scene look half-hearted by comparison.

I will no doubt watch any sequels that come along. I will also likely watch anything else that Netflix decides to acquire in this genre.  Because while 365 Dni might have been naff and awkward and not blessed with any kind of workable plot, it is still a film based on an erotic novel written by a woman that handsomely delivers on sexy shag scenes.

Neflix, if you're reading, please note that that's definitely something that I want to see more of.

In fact, Netflix, if you're looking to commission a whole bunch of new kinky romance stories, you might want to check out a blog post I wrote a few years ago about spanky romance books that I really wanted to see onscreen. I even took care of the casting so, quite frankly, I have done all the work for you there. Or, if you like, you could turn one of my books into a film. I'm sure it would upset just as many people on Twitter as 365 Dni did.

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