When it comes to the depiction of female rape in American horror, the line between violence and sex is especially blurred. Whether the rape is part of a revenge narrative (American Mary, Girls Against Boys), a mode to distinguish otherness (Cannibal Holocaust, The Last House on the Left) or a means to convey a political point (The Entity, Deadgirl), the usage of sexualized violence against women in horror narratives is so pervasive so as to become an acknowledged trope of the genre. These scenes, while often explicitly violent, also tend to incorporate close-up shots of naked breasts and writhing bodies and function to make the moment expressly and uncomfortably linked to sexuality.
Conversely, the specter of male rape in American popular culture is relatively uncommon. Often linked to a specific setting such as a prison (The Glass House, Fortune and Men’s Eyes), problematically associated to homosexuality (The Mudge Boy) or immediately and uncomfortably repressed by the other characters (Deliverance), male rape is typically portrayed-when it’s portrayed (it’s telling that I needed to go outside the horror genre to locate films)-as expressly violent without the added sexual subtext. Even in those cases where rape is tied to queer identity, the act itself is shown as being specifically about dominance.
Given that frame of reference, it was with great interest that I recently watched Curtis Harrington’s excellent The Killing Kind (1973). The film opens with the brutal gang rape of a young woman, Tina (Susan Bernard), on a beach. Terry (John Savage) looks on but does nothing to participate in OR to prevent the violence happening in front of him. He is then grabbed by the rapists, stripped, and thrust upon the woman being violated. Terry’s forced penetration of Tina means that in that moment he is both rapist and victim. Read more