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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Comicbook Superhero

This week's assessment comes from Mike. He wrote in with my first comicbook superhero to assess! Wild Card* is an unorthodox superhero. She became a vigilante as a result of a series of acts of domestic and sexual abuse against her. Another superhero saved her on one occasion, and she aspired to be like him. Instead of living like a victim, she decided to use her sexuality as a weapon to punish men like her attackers. She works as a street magician, wearing a distracting outfit while she plies her craft of excellent slight-of-hand. Being a vigilante and doing some good gives her meaning and the freedom of navigating the city at night is liberating. She carries herself with a devil-may-care facade and craves independence, yet latches onto strong, seemingly dependable types. Her father left at an early age, and she has had numerous rocky relationships with no real solid ground.

* Name has already been changed to protect the fictional.

Mike wants to know: Would it be plausible that a victim of sexual abuse would ever choose to use her sexuality as a weapon (combative of otherwise)? Or would it be that she would completely shut herself off to any sort of sexuality?

I love your description of her, Mike. She's clearly seeking approval and affection from men, probably a result of her absent father and issues with abandonment, yet she wants to appear devil-may-care. The reality is that she is anything but, but her alter ego of Wild Care lets her meet this need.

Alter egos/identities throughout fiction and film usually are the polar opposites of the person's "real" persona. Superman = strong, strapping, sure of himself; Clark Kent = mousy, stuttering, lacks self-confidence. Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Interesting how the "real" persona's perceived "weakness" is found in perfection in the alter identity, doing/saying what the real person never could.

It makes sense that Wild Card would use the fact that her sexuality brought her unwanted attention and trauma in order to bring that very outcome to people like her attackers. It's the best form of poetic justice, right?

To officially answer your question, a woman who has been abused as Wild Card has would likely react one of the two extremes you mentioned. I've seen abused women who absolutely would choose a world with no men over a world with them. They could go their entire lives and never see one, talk to one, or have one touch them. Shunning men comes as easily as breathing to these women.

Then I've seen women who came from a history of sexual abuse who almost seem to seek it out in the next partner and the next. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that they want to be abused, but that the abuse finds them. Perhaps that's all they know, all they know what to expect. Maybe they don't have higher standards and so settle for what they have known. Maybe they have incredibly low self-esteem and believe that's all they are worth.

So yes, a victim of abuse could definitely use the very assets that put them or found them in negative situations as a weapon. I've heard of women infected with STDs go on a rampage to infect others, using their feminine and sexual wiles to do this. While this is terrible and unethical (depending on the circumstances, I'd have to report this type of reckless behavior if it came out in therapy), they are using their sexuality as a weapon.

I imagined someone like Angelina Jolie or a vampire off of True Blood in this role. (I know, random.) Someone with a horrid past who maybe didn't overcome it so much as chose to shackle it to her future. Someone who perhaps feeds off the pain and bitterness that put her in such a broken place and allows it to fuel her anger or rage toward other would-be attackers and clean up the streets as a result.

The interesting conundrum would be that if Wild Card's "real" persona ever were to truly heal from her past wounds (like with, say, therapy) she wouldn't be nearly as effective in her role as Wild Card. It's what she most dislikes about her that becomes her salvation. Talk about effective tension-grabbing dissonance within a character!

Best of luck with this unorthodox superhero, Mike! Thanks for writing in, and as always, additional questions are welcome in the comment section.

You still have all week to enter the giveaway for Trish Perry's 
new release, The Perfect Blend. Click HERE!

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Mary Aalgaard said...

Great topic today. That sounds like an interesting story line.

Stephanie Faris said...

Great question and great answer. I think many victims of sexual abuse have gone the other way when it comes to sex. I've seen women who somehow shut themselves off emotionally when it comes to sex and are fully able to use it to manipulate people...because they have such a warped view of it. Sex is such a complex thing and so easily skewed.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

so true, stephanie. so true. i'd love to know what Pretty Woman's complete emotional/sexual background was.

RMK said...

Thank you for the thorough analysis, Jeannie. I'm glad my thought pattern regarding her wasn't off base. I wanted to handle this kind of trauma responsibly in my work and I think you helped me get a better grasp on it. I have other characters with baggage I may send your way soon.

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.