The fear of Jennifer’s (sexual) Body

Movie poster for <i>Jennifer's Body</i>
Movie poster for Jennifer's Body

While our culture is being inundated with stories about romantic, supernatural males, such as vampires sweeping everyday ladies off their feet, we get a story about a supernatural girl literally eating horny high school boys.

Jennifer’s Body is a thinly veiled retelling of the age-old story based on fear of women’s sexuality. What could be scarier for boys than a woman with sexual power?

Jennifer’s Body links a girl’s assertive sexual behavior with the death of male sexuality. This concept takes form when we see Jennifer, played by Megan Fox, seduce boys in her town. Jennifer then quite literally kills their sexuality by eating her victims.

According to, the reason Jennifer is possessed in the first place is because of a botched human sacrifice. alludes to the idea that the sacrifice goes wrong due to the fact that Jennifer, the human intended to be sacrificed, wasn’t a virgin — as if there weren’t enough slights on female sexuality, Jennifer’s Body throws virginal status in the mix. The obvious result of sexual activity for a woman is demonic possession. (Ahem, that’d be sarcasm.)

Megan Fox plays a demonic teen in <em>Jennifer's Body</em>
Megan Fox plays a demonic teen in Jennifer's Body

Like the movie Teeth, where a young woman goes on a rampage, killing unsuspecting men with her mutant teeth (which are in a sexually strategic place), Jennifer’s Body is helping to spread fear of women’s bodies and sexualities.

We often see sexually powerful men, such as Edward from Twilight, who are not necessarily threatening, but just plain sexy. Can you think of an example in pop culture of a sexually powerful woman who is not seen in some way as a threat to men? I’m drawing a blank.

<em>Teeth</em> is a gory exploration of the mythological "vagina dentata"
Teeth is a gory exploration of the mythological "vagina dentata"

Movies like Jennifer’s Body and Teeth are marketed as dark comedies, but this type of label undermines the cultural impact story lines like these can have. Just because something is presented as a joke doesn’t mean it can’t still have a negative effect.

For example, racist jokes might be intended to be funny, but they still carry implications of how the joke-teller sees the world. Can you see how “comedies” like Jennifer’s Body impact the way people view women’s sexuality? Tell us what you think in the comments section for this blog.

I don’t want to tell anyone not to see the movie, but I do think it is important to think about what movies like Jennifer’s Body say about girls’ and women’s sexualities. Next time you see a movie look for the assumptions and the hidden story lines, you might be surprised by what you find.

If you see flaws in the movie and you want to do something about it, you can let Diablo Cody, the film’s writer, know what you think about Jennifer’s Body by sending a message through her myspace page.


9 thoughts on “The fear of Jennifer’s (sexual) Body

  1. If anything, it’s a fear of male sexualities. The men are being eaten when they express interest in the female. It’s the oppostite of what you’re claiming?

  2. Hmm, I see where you are coming from, Sander, but I disagree. In the context or our society, men are almost always portrayed as being sexually dominant and coercing females into sexual activity.

    When a female is dominant sexually, she is portrayed as evil. She can’t just enjoy sex, or actually desire it. She becomes a monster that has to punish men (brutally) for their sexualities–she simply uses sex as a weapon.

    So, I would say it’s not a fear of male sexualities, but perhaps a punishment of male sexualities that induces fear of women who are more sexually desiring, dominant, assertive, or aggressive.

  3. And Ashley, in response to this question: Can you think of an example in pop culture of a sexually powerful woman who is not seen in some way as a threat to men?

    It took me a while, but the only character I could come up with was Samantha from Sex and the City. Her power might threaten some men, but it also attracts a lot of them, and she pursues sex simply for the pleasure of it–not as a means for some other end.

  4. It’s true that in modern cultures, men typically resent females being dominant. It’s traditional for a gentleman to propose to a lady love, and for a couple hundred years just a little while back, women were pictured as most attractive while fainting.

    This might be because of the Catholic Church. Yes, yes, it’s been blamed for quite alot in recent years, but this goes past that, to the very dawn of Christianity (and monotheism). Prior to this, you had your female dieties such as Astarte or Ishtar who created a fearful respect toward women.

    Once Christianity was introduced in its modern form, this, along with legends of powerful Amazons, was denounced as heathen practice. In the original Genesis, Lilith (Adam’s first wife) is banished from the Garden for considering herself Adam’s superior and being in a dominant position during sex. It goes downhill from there, what with Eve’s “deception” and the ensuing fear that one day, females might want Lilithian power back.

  5. I really haven’t had high hopes for this film, which seems to be a part of what I consider the porn-horror genre. Meaning, it’s an excuse to show a hot woman naked, with little to no real plot put into it.

    It seems to me, this film really is about playing into Megan being the latest “It” girl, and showing off how sexy she is. Like, Lara Croft did with Angelina Jolie.

    Unfortunately because horror films are marketed towards young males, it’s difficult to avoid horror films where women aren’t sexualized along with the plot of the film. I think Rob Zombie’s Death Proof was interesting, because it shows the women in what would be considered a stereotypical male role.

    It also asks the question, would it be any less disturbing to see a pack of girls fight a man to death, than it would be the other way around? Particularly in the sense of women feeling empowered at seeing strong women in horror films. That being relentlessly violent for both genders is a bad idea.

    One of the best horror films I’ve seen involving strong women, is Silent Hill. The director said on the director’s commentary, that they didn’t realize until the end of the film that the cast was all women, and they had to hire a guy to play a stock role to fill things out. Interesting, since usually it’s the woman being put into a male filled film, just for “eye-candy”.

    I also however, have to admit I do have something of a girl crush on Megan Fox. So, I don’t know if I’d see the movie just based on that, being that it would be a horribly shallow reason to do so. I think the best course of action is to wait until the film is released, and then see what other people say about it.

  6. This movie is an example “pop” culture’s westerized castration of women. Little girls are castrated in cultures who fear a womans sexuality and so often in our westeren culture we “punish” woman who possess their sexuality. What a shame. It depresses me deeply

  7. Hmm. I see what you are saying, but I think that in the case of this movie and in the case of “Teeth”, these women are sexually powerful and violent towards males. However, they are never allowed to enjoy the sexual experience and have a meaningful connection with a partner that they initiate. The media often tells us that if a woman has sexual desire or power, she is evil, or must be punished. However, if she does not express sexual interest and is submissive, she can be taken by a man.

    Could you imagine if the four main friends in American Pie were girls?

  8. well this made me think of david letterman and his affairs with his co-workers. did he use sexuality to scare his female coworkers into thinking that they may potentially lose their job if they don’t have sex with him? OR did they use their sexuality to get what the wanted, which could have been a raise or promotion? the point is, this use of sexuality for power could go both ways. men can scare women with it, or women can use it to get what the want. but i don’t really think that women can scare men with their sexuality. or actually maybe the could. what if a female boss threatens her male co-workers that if they don’t have sex with her, she’ll fire them? idk, this is very confusing 0_0

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