Go Arya Stark! But please, not Lolita …
Ewwww … Mr. Campbell, I don’t feel at all comfortable aligning a promiscuous child alongside a lady in her twenties, when discussing the agency of females in art and entertainment. Your recent article on the subject, and why people are still uncomfortable with women taking charge of having sex, had me interested and engaged when you began referencing Arya Stark.
Yes, I admit, I was involved, I was one of those Game of Thrones fans who wasn’t too keen about Arya jumping into the proverbial sack with Gendry with her boobs out. This wasn’t because she was leading the sexual charge though, it was because, that once little girl, has grown up in front of my eyes over eight long dramatic years. I would be no more be interested in seeing my goddaughter or niece do the same thing.
But listen fella, you do have a point. And I do seem to have one rule for some and another for others. I have been literally glued to the GOT phenomenon since it started, and fascinated by Westeros and the story of the Stark family ever since. However, my favourite characters have always been the Lannisters, and this fact is where my hypocrisy starts sharply raising its head. Why was I more comfortable with Jamie Lannister shagging his twin sister Cersei than I was about Arya Stark reaching twenty, growing breasts and wanting to lose her virginity?
I also nodded along when you included Emma Watson as an example, that of a young female actress moving on from her Harry Potter character, before being in danger of submerging her sexuality for the foreseeable future. Since working on grittier and more grown up film projects and undertaking her role as a UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, Watson can now more easily be viewed as a sexy woman. Someone we would much rather see snogging than Hermione, no matter how much Hermione ever grew up.
But is it me? Is my privileged and very English upbringing, in the so called civilised world, stopping me from pondering the actions of Lolita in a discussion about female sexual agency? Lolita was after all only twelve years old when she first made her advances towards Humbert Humbert, a middle aged professor who was dating her mother.
Surely a precocious twelve-year-old isn’t really a fully formed sexual being and in control of their own agency, no matter how worldly wise and ready for sex they feel? Of course there will be twelve year olds in this world who are older and wiser than their years, and perhaps even some who do want to initiate and control sex with a very much older gentleman. I just can’t see it happening very often, and without causing a great deal of damage.
This links perfectly to Jodie Foster and her role as the child prostitute Iris, in the film Taxi driver. A character that will exist in real life in many countries across the world. A young person who will have had to express sexual agency to get through life, just to survive. But that’s not the same as Maisie Williams becoming a gorgeous woman and having sex on the TV screen at twenty two. No one was really comfortable watching Foster at that age fiddle with the zip on Robert de Niro’s trousers were they?
Staying with Jodie for one moment, I’ve always thought her iconic role in the movie Bugsy Malone as Tallulah was interesting in its lack of adult sexuality. She played the part of Fat Sam’s gangster moll, star of the speakeasy and sometime sexual harasser of Bugsy himself. The film is famous for every role being played by a child or teenager and although Jodie Foster’s Tallulah was a precocious floozy, she emanated little sexuality. Just as the male members of Fat Sam’s gang and Malone lacked any male sexuality. They were all kids, to me it wouldn’t have felt right if they had showed true sexual initiative and power.
Yes, in the book of Lolita we may interpret that ‘She wanted sex, she took control and got what she wanted’ but there is one striking fact to consider. Humbert Humbert might insist that Lolita seduced him, but the Lolita storyline is always narrated by Humbert, and everything is told from his point of view. The view of a middle aged man. Therefore, we won’t ever really know if Dolores Haze, the enigmatic Lolita, was truly expressing intelligent sexual agency as a twelve-year-old, or whether Humbert is just a dirty abusive user.
When precociousness is creating sexual agency, I truly don’t think the world should be ok with girls who think they want sex.
But Mr. Campbell, you are right, we should all be absolutely au fait these days when any young woman wants to take control of a sexual situation. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, and it’s definitely better than not being in control at all.
You will be pleased to know that I was fundamentally thrilled for Arya Stark when she had her way with the handsome blacksmith before the Battle of Winterfell. And even more delighted when she ended the day the most empowered person of all. But no more spoilers, some people haven’t even got to the sexy scenes yet. Go Arya!