Oh boy. This is a heavy topic, brought to you by a video going viral on twitter over the last couple of days though I’m absolutely certain I’ll go back to talk more about this later: there’s a real problem with sexualising infantilised women. Not just in popular culture, of course, but historically and currently in the real world as well. Perhaps more so, which is why I’m saving the real world for later.
But for right now, the video. It details a trope aptly named born sexy yesterday that is surprisingly present in sci-fi movies since… well, basically the beginning of sci-fi. I’m not going to get too deeply into it since I think the video speaks for itself, but the basic premise is that by putting an innocent naive mind in the body of a mature, adult woman, men create something that represents the best of both worlds. They get to feel superior without coming on to actual children. An adult woman who is emotionally, intellectually and sexually equal to a red-blooded straight white man is too much of a threat to his masculinity, but an adult woman with the man of a child, who he has to protect and teach, who has no previous experience with which to judge him? Excellent.
The interesting thing is how this trope is somehow always a male fantasy. Stories about infantilised women serve to paint the man as a protector, as someone desirable even though his character rarely is, whereas the stories that infantilises men (Big is a great example) allows him to feel loved despite his lack of experience or likability. In that scenario the woman takes on a mother role and yet somehow still finds a sexual or romantic interest in what is essentially a young boy in a grown mans body. In both scenarios it’s about his needs, and him being the one who gets away with shit.
Just watch the video before I summarize the whole thing, okay?
This whole thing is so fascinating to me. I’m a big fan of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and I frequently think about how media sexualises teens by constantly casting twenty-somethings to play sixteen-year-olds, not to mention the constant treatment of POC (especially WOC), disabled or queer individuals as non-adults so you bet we’re going to dig deeper into this patriarchal shit-hole later on.