Women and Spike Lee, IV: Rape

The exploitation of women extends even further in some films, to the point of rape. Rape in Spike’s films serves to assert male power over women: putting the unruly woman back in her place. In School Daze, Julian exhibits his complete control over Jane, handing her off to Half-Pint on a whim. Julian tells her that if she loves him and G Phi G she will do what he asks, then tells her she has to have sex with Half-Pint. He sends her into the room with Half-Pint, and she goes, unwillingly. Afterwards, he breaks up with her saying that she has betrayed him. Thus, Jane is an object to be passed around when Julian grows tired of her, and then cast off without remorse. In She’s Gotta Have It, Nola is punished for her sexuality and unwillingness to conform to societal expectations of monogamy. Jamie the “nice guy” gets fed up with her refusal to be monogamous and rapes her to assert his dominance. He is jealous of her sexual encounters with other men, and asks her “is this how you like it?” and imagines the other men in her life and how he thinks they might have sex with her. He asserts his control over her body, asking “whose pussy is this?” until she answers that it is his. Thus, her freedom and sexuality is punished by the film. She can be allowed to act on her own desire in the first half of the film only if male dominance is reasserted in the end. After the rape, she enters into a monogamous relationship with Jamie, showing that her behavior has been corrected. Though in the end she reasserts herself and her control over her body, the damage has already been done. The film cannot contain a sexually liberated woman who goes without punishment.

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