Nov 132023

Lipstick is a 1976 rape revenge drama.

The first two acts are a straightforward drama. Chris McCormick, a famous model known for sexually provocative pictorials, agrees to meet with the music teacher, Gordon Stuart, of her teen sister, Kathy. Gordon, angered by Chris’ indifference to him and the glamour of her lifestyle, assaults and rapes her in her apartment, including tying her to her bed. Kathy briefly witnesses the end of this.

Chris reports this and decides to press charges, despite the female district attorney warning of the low chance of a conviction and the stresses of a trial.

In the courtroom, Gordon’s defense cross-examines Kathy.

Defense: Have you read a novel entitled Story of O?

Kathy: No.

Defense: Have you heard of it?

Kathy: Yes.

Defense: From friends?

Kathy: One friend.

Defense: So you know from this friend that there are people who derive sexual pleasure from being physically restrained, tied up? Some of them even enjoy being beaten up?

Kathy: Not my sister.

When Chris is on the stand, the defense goes after her reputation. He displays giant versions of her nude or nearly nude photographs, then grills her about what she thinks about in her job.

Defense: Do you use sexy thoughts to get you a little bit hot? Thoughts of oral sex?

Chris: Yes.

Defense: Sodomy?

Chris: No.

Defense: No. Oral sex yes, sodomy no. […] Do you have daydreams of being overpowered? […]

Chris: Sometimes.

Defense: So the answer is yes.

Chris: Yes. Yes.

Defense: So one afternoon, you invite this young man to watch you going through these erotic daydreams of being raped […] of being overwhelmed, to see these sexual fantasies on the beach– helpless, half-naked, lusting.

He gets her admit to having masochistic fantasies.

When Gordon testifies, he claims she initiated the bondage and said she wanted to be marked where it wouldn’t show. He even says that he wanted to make love to her “in an affectionate way”, but “She wants something else.”

The verdict is not guilty.

However, the film throws all restraint out the window in the film’s third act. Chris is doing a photo shoot, and Kathy wanders off by herself. By sheer coincidence, Gordon is preparing for a music and dance exhibition in the same building. (Even in 1976, would a man with a rape charge on his record be allowed to work with teenage girls in leotards?) Gordon assaults Kathy, which eventually leads to Chris, wearing a red dress, gunning him down with a hunting rifle in a parking lot.

Lipstick demonstrates the theory that the mere idea of female masochism is dangerous and contributes to rape culture.

  One Response to “Lipstick (1976): The Celluloid Dungeon”

  1. […] feminism and female masochism (as concept and as practice) is complicated. (See my discussion of Lipstick (1976) for an illustration of how masochism could be used to excuse rape.) I do think the script goes out […]

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