Birth and Pop Culture: Alien Babies and Torture Pregnancies
(Note: some of the images in the linked video may be triggering to women who have suffered birth trauma or assault).
Via Sociological Images, which has had some excellent posts about pregnancy, birth and reproduction, comes this video by Anita Sarkeesian about the trope of “Mystical Pregnancy” in our culture, especially in science fiction. By which she means, a human woman being impregnated by a sinister force, without her consent, and usually experiencing a traumatic birth of a monstrous/alien being in the process.
And although the Christian religion (and lots of other religions) generally portray a mystical conception and birth as a positive thing, the television depictions of women being forcibly impregnated by demons, monsters, or aliens are definitely not.
Disturbingly, a high number of female characters on science fiction shows seemed doomed to experience a forced-pregnancy/birth plotline, to the point that it’s become a cliché. No matter how tough and strong a female character is, it seems that television writers (most of them male) still feel a strange compulsion to demonstrate that she is uniquely fragile and susceptible to violation.
Those of us who spend a lot of time thinking about birth, trauma, and consent will definitely find these images disturbing, but also, fascinating in what they reveal. Ms. Sarkeesian calls out script writers for using monster/alien births as torture porn, and she’s right about that. But when it comes to what motivates the writers and connects with the audience, I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t also about the ambivalence we all feel at the common sight of a vulnerable laboring woman surrounded by technicians and machines, at their mercy, in pain, and without choices or consent. After all, most of the horror in these scenes comes not from the (often cheesy-looking) monstrous baby, but from the woman being tied down, trapped, helpless, hurt, and violated by the entire experience from conception onward.
What do you think, readers? Do you find it hard to watch shows with these kinds of plotlines?