08 May 2021

Snow White and the Stolen Kiss.

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Some people are complaining about the Disney cartoon movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.


The handsome Prince brought the sleeping Snow White back to life and love by kissing her as she lay in spellbound sleep. The Prince didn’t ask Snow White’s permission; Snow White was in no condition to give permission. Consent and permission are never part of a fairy tale.

I got into an argument with my husband about this. He was annoyed and surprised by all the fuss over what seemed to him to be an innocuous scene from a fairy tale cartoon. I see it differently.

From the time I can remember, I was fed a steady diet of fairy tales, in the bedtime stories my father read to me, in the books my grandparents gave to me as gifts, and in cartoon movies.The heroine was always beautiful and special, in some sort of terrible circumstance, and always rescued by a handsome, smart and strong Prince who carried her off on his horse to ‘happily ever after’.

Like many of those heroines. I lived in terrible circumstances, abused, starved and and unwanted.  I was alone and forlorn, and yearned for rescue. I escaped into fantasy; at first it was fairy tales and Disney cartoons of the 1950s and 1960s, and the Tarzan of the Apes movies with Johnny Weissmuller.  When I started reading on my own, books like Anne of Green Gables,  Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith, the Regency stories written by Georgette Heyer, and other romance tales fed my dreams of a better future, in which I would be rescued by a wonderful man; a theme so often repeated as to seem both possible and real. Like much of the world, I was fascinated by the wedding of Princess DIana, the living embodiment of a fairy tale.

Sometimes the heroes were rough, and would rape the heroine. The man would be so strong that he would subdue the heroine, overcoming her resistance but always for her own good, to get to ‘happily ever after.’

My girl friends and I played out this theme with our dolls; it became an unconscious program for my expectations about the future and about men. I never connected to nor recognized my own abilities, feelings, and strengths, never learned to connect with the power of my sexuality, and was conditioned to accept whatever physicality meted out to me by any boy or man. My mother reinforced this by telling me that the elementary school boys were hitting me in  because they liked me. She never defended me, nor encouraged me to defend myself or to speak out.  Boys and men could caress or be violent,  I was conditioned to accept whatever treatment I was given, even as I hoped they would be kind and loving.  As the heroines were always were loved by the end,  I waited, yearning for the magical time and the right man.

This programming  conditioned me to be passive and to expect the men I slept with to know how bring me pleasure. I thought that love was enough to guarantee the ‘happily ever after” because the man would know what to do.  I had not been taught to distinguish between sexual attraction and love; if the sex was good, I was ready to get married. I had no clue that I had a responsibility in relationship to take care of myself, nor that I had any rights to respectful treatment.  I  accepted and even romanticized rape culture; because there is no consent in a fairy tale, I did not expect it in real life.

What can be done today, now that we have the awareness to analyze and react to fairy tales from a grown up perspective? Let’s use them to educate children about boundaries, consent, feelings and relationships, instead of as a framework for human relations.  I wish that I had had that sort of education at the beginning of my life; I wish that the men who abused and raped me had had that education too. It would have helped to consign rape culture to history, where it belongs, instead of indulging in stories that perpetuate an unrealistic notion of romance.









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