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Breaking Dawn: Part 1 – The Morning After – Will there be bruises and feathers???

November 16, 2011

With the wide release of Breaking Dawn: Part 1 looming, what scene are you most anxious to see?

If the stars and attendees at Comic-Con are any indication, most people name the wedding or the birth scene. Not me. I am most anxious to see the morning after scene. And, I do mean ANXIOUS, not EXCITED, as I have trepidation regarding how this scene will be handled. Though Bella admittedly WANTS sex with Edward, does she also want the bruises that result?

There has been much debate regarding if the morning after scene represents sexual violence, violent consensual sex, hidden messages about women being “punished” for sexual desire and so on. As a recap, here are some details from the book:

Before Edward and Bella do the deed, when they are standing in the moonlit ocean, he says “if I hurt you, you must tell me at once.” This quote lends credence to those who argue we cannot place blame on Edward, as do other quotes where Bella notes she does not remember ever feeling pain.

As in the above parody, Edward is let of the hook for causing so many “decorations” on her body.  While Bella seems to relish her newly “decorated” body, he feels remorse, saying to the waking Bella the next morning: “How badly are you hurt, Bella? The truth—don’t downplay it.”

Bella assesses her body, noting “stiffness, and a lot of soreness” and “the odd sensation my bones all had become unhinged at the joints,” but also notes her happiness on “this most perfect of mornings.” Here, we could read this as understandable post-sex session soreness and equally understandable post-multiple-orgasm euphoria.

The problem is though, Bella is not just sore, she is covered in black and purple bruises – bruises which cause Edward to say “Stop acting like I’m not a monster for having agreed to this” and “Look at yourself, Bella. Then tell me I’m not a monster.”

To this, Bella “followed his instructions unthinkingly” (as she does all too damn often in the books!) and at first only focuses on “the fluffy white snow” that clings to her skin and hair. It is only at Edward’s insistence she looks at her arm that she has “large purplish bruises” that “blossom across the pale skin.”

Here, Edward is again presented as the kind, caring guy, and she as the oblivious, feather-covered sap. Sure, she is blissed out in post-coital mode, but must she speak of her bruises in flowery terms (“blossom”)?!? This description problematically suggests, as does the later use of the term “decorated,” that Bella’s body is beautifully and lovingly MARKED by Edward, harkening to the age-old notion of woman as man’s property to mark on as he pleases – the one that the institution of marriage they just entered into is historically based on.

As Bella looks at the bruises that “trail” up to her shoulder and across her ribs, Edward places “his hand against the bruises on my arm…matching his long fingers to the patterns.” So, indeed, he has quite literally marked her with his handprints, turning her body into a decorated object of “violet blotches.” However, Edward is not held up as the baddie here and Bella is presented as the happiest she has ever been.

Edward does not share her euphoria though, insisting “I’m… so sorry, Bella…I knew better than this. I should not have–…I am more sorry than I can tell you.” So, flipping the traditionally gendered script, he has morning after regrets, she does not.

But might we read her euphoria as more indication that she does not take sex seriously enough – that she is a “bad girl” who wants it too much and is punished for her desires? Or, are we supposed to read her as a sexually liberated, kinky vixen who likes her sex rough? While both readings are tenable, given the strong pro-abstinence messages of the saga, the religious underpinnings of the text, and the “sex is dangerous” message that permeates the books, the first reading is more apt.

Further, Bella is not really presented as sexually confident or in the know – she has to ASK if Edward enjoyed it, and says incredulously to his insistence that he most certainly did,  “Really? The best ever?” That she asks this “in a small voice” only furthers the notion that she is sexually naïve, small, and silent – or, in other words, a “good girl” gone bad – a bruised apple, so to speak.

Perhaps no other scene in the saga so crosses the lines between sex as bad, sex as enjoyable, Bella as good girl or Bella as slut. Yet, the representation of Edward and his acts are not complicated – while Bella’s sexual desires are left open to reader interpretation (we can read her as punished for her desires or read her night of headboard busting as a sexual triumph), Edward is framed as full of remorse and dutifully goes off to cook her enough eggs for two (hint hint).

After his departure, she stares in the mirror (as depicted in the above parody), thinking about how she will hide the bruises: “There was a faint shadow across one of my cheekbones, and my lips were a little swollen, but other than that, my face was fine. The rest of me was decorated with patches of blue and purple. I concentrated on the bruises that would be the hardest to hide—my arms and my shoulders. They weren’t so bad. My skin marked up easily….Of course, these were just developing. I’d look even worse tomorrow. That would not make things any easier.”

Recall that Bella is concerned with hiding the bruises not for others (they are on a deserted island!) but for Edward’s sake. So, she puts on a white cotton dress “that concealed the worst of the violet blotches” and trots off to the kitchen for her scalding hot eggs.

The chapter closes with her asking “You aren’t going to touch me again while we’re here, are you?” to which Edward answers “I will not make love to you until you’ve been changed. I will never hurt you again.”

Once again, Bella’s wants are refuted and Edward calls the shots. But, Bella’s insistence there is nothing to worry about regarding her bruised body, the bitten pillows, or the busted headboard can be read as a failure to recognize the dangers of sex with an uber-strong vampire – or, to put  it another way, for her, the danger sex poses for females like Bella but NOT males like Edward.

A sex positive message? A pro-consensual violent sex is sexy message? I don’t buy it. More like punishing silly, oblivious Bella for wanting it too much… And her punishment is only just beginning given that her pregnancy is hardly a “blessed event” but one filled with pain, broken bones, and the promise that “the creatures” like the one in her womb “use their own teeth to escape the womb.”

And how will the film present the birth? Will Bella scream in “a blood-curdling shriek of agony: and then vomit “a fountain of blood”? Will we hear the “crunching and snapping as the newborn monster” tear through her “from the inside out “ and the “shattering crack” as her spine is broken?

No doubt, we will see the gooey scenes of her loving her “little nudger” and her going ga-ga over the newborn Renesmee. But, I do wonder if the more horrific details of Bella’s pregnancy and delivery will be included, and, if so, if there will be any indication that this is her “punishment” for her sexual transgressions. I doubt it – instead, in keeping with the traditional happy ending message the saga ultimately upholds, pregnancy and motherhood will be framed as her reward…

13 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2011 12:07 am

    I’m looking forward to all of the movie, but for the most part, I just want to view the loup garou. The Twilight vamps, according to Meyer, are these god-like creatures with gifts beyond the fancies of imagination and who have been bequeathed immortal life. And yet, they cause me more problems than I care to admit. For all their white purity, I’d become a member of the Quileutes over taking up membership with the Cullens, any day. Why?

    For all their godly ways, the Twi-vamps are far too human, still. I mean, given that evolution is about a life form that has advanced even further in specialization to further ensure survival, then why are those vamps still having sex? Is it little wonder why we did not ever see Rice’s vampires have physical sex for reproduction? The dark gift was passed along orally, into the bloodstream, much like a virus–those super tuned, almost life forms that have discovered the paths of making a living from the living. Now, it only they’d stop killing their hosts, they, too, would be immortal. But alas…

    Back to vampires… Rice’s vampires indulged in a sensuality that suggested the pleasures of sex without the messiness or the necessity of it actually occurring. Their form for reproduction was separate from this sensuality. Intention, too, was different and more advanced. If Rice’s vampires wanted to reproduce, they willed it so by their actions. With sexual reproduction, it’s a hit or miss proposition and much depends on the viability of the hosts, the health of egg and sperm, and the chemical compatibility of the two donors. So, yeah, Rice’s vamps have moved forward alongside humanity, which is kind of neat if you think about it.

    I’ve already written about the impossibility of a Twi-vamp causing pregnancy in anything, so I won’t go there again, but I will be having a very hard time suspending my sense of belief where the Twilight vampires are concerned. I’ll be telling myself, it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie…

  2. dreamerjess147 permalink
    November 17, 2011 5:04 pm

    This is interesting. I had always thought of that scene as simply consensual (albeit reluctantly on Edward’s part), rough, kinky sex. You make a good case for it not being so, especially considering the rest of the series.

    I still think it’s possible that Meyer meant for the scene to be sex-positive (Mormons can enjoy sex too, can’t they? And there is the perception of it as a sacred act, making two one…), but the negative messages about sex she has imbibed from society are being unconsciously woven into her book. Okay, my psychoanalytic side is showing. but that’s a possibility, don’t you think? Especially since Meyer considers Bella a forward-thinking feminist.

    I had always allowed myself to be dragged along to the Twilight movies by my best friend, but I adamantly refuse to see Breaking Dawn Parts One or Two, precisely because of the violence of the pregnancy. It was agonizing to read about; I can’t imagine how distressing it would be on the big screen…

  3. Roxie Moxie permalink
    November 17, 2011 5:55 pm

    Yes. But not at as many blossoms.

  4. November 18, 2011 1:18 pm

    I’m also anxious to see how they handle the morning after scene, especially given how complicit the novels are in terms of US rape culture (not just in this scene, but in terms of the overall discourse of intimacy before Bella becomes a vampire). I’ll definitely be taking a break from writing seminar papers and grading student essays to go see the film, notebook and pen in hand. I was wondering if you are planning to present at next year’s national Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference (it’s in March, I believe) given the recent release of your edited collection?

  5. November 20, 2011 6:30 am

    Even though I can see why you come down on the side of sex-as-punishment, when I read it, that’s not what I get. Bella mentions her soreness in passing, but I think if the sex were meant to be a punishment, it would be stressed more.

    The creepy I read into it was Edward’s refusal to take “I’m not hurt” as an answer. As I say, her narration genuinely convinced me she was happy and that her words matched her actions. However, Edward won’t accept any answer except what he expects her to feel. Her actual feelings don’t matter (in contrast to the presumed intimacy of the previous night’s activities). Instead, he brings down her good mood and makes it all about him and putting her in a position where she must placate him, instead of expressing her true feelings or having a dialog that might actually build intimacy, rather than suppress it.

    • dreamerjess147 permalink
      November 21, 2011 3:16 am

      I agree with KJ.

    • November 23, 2011 1:16 am

      Even if she isn’t that sore, her body has been beaten and battered. Her “flowering” bruises are what make it seem like she is punished for having sex. I agree that it is creepy that Edward continues to completely dismiss her feelings and desires (and I agree that this is one of the ways that Edward prevents dialogue and makes Bella feel as though she must placate him), but at the same time, it is also creepy that Bella completely dismisses the way her body was abused.

  6. Louise permalink
    December 20, 2011 6:48 pm

    I think the troubling bite point between the problems 1) The sex is violent and damaging to her body and 2) Bella expresses that she isn’t hurt, is that Bella seems to have had no agency at all in whatever the undescribed sex acts were.

    She is free to have an opinion and desire about them only before the act, and then again after the act. Edward might express remorse in the morning and distance himself from his actions, rather passively. But we know that during the night he was very active. There is little sense that Bella was, or even that she can remember in detail what happened. Even if she enjoys the sex they had and doesn’t feel herself to be hurt, I don’t get a sense that if the pain had crossed the line at some point in the night she would have been agentic enough to stop that.

    This is the big problem with how the sex is discussed, and whether to consider it consensual and deeply wanted ‘rough sex’, or a deeply problematic, violent episode.

  7. deenohh permalink
    November 12, 2013 11:21 pm

    As Louise has stated about Bella’s lack of agency, This seems to be a constant throughout the series. Edward controls and has controlled much more than there sexual activity. He has been controlling and manipulative since the beginning of the relationship. He has controlled who she see’s,& where she goes. He has lied to her. disabled her vehicle, stalked her, made her feel at times weak, unattractive and unintelligent. He has used his precognizant sister to keep tabs on her whereabouts, activities and even the decisions she was making (A major example of this is after Bella told jake she loved him but could not be with him after he was injured in the newborn fight. She leaves Jake and stops on the side of the road crying, near hysteria over what she is giving up. I and many others felt she might have realized what she was really losing, what she was actually giving up and return to jake.. At this point Edward shows up out of the blue having been warned by his sister what was happening, to be the one to comfort her.. If Edward had not showed at that exact moment who knows how it might have gone??) Edward has even gone as far as using physical restraint when he felt it was required. He has controlled the pace at which the physical relationship has progressed and used sex to manipulate Bella into marriage. Most people kind off gloss over hat Edward is 17 years only in looks. that he is really a very worldly 108. The books have always described all this creepy,abusive behavior as being loving, concerned and protective. Bella being a young emotional inexperienced person buys right into it.thinking she has to give up everything she would normally cherish – her family, her friends,her future goals even her very life and soul to be with Edward on something like even terms.

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