Natasha: You can watch if you want, James.
Logan: Yes, James. Don’t mind me.
Bucky: Shut up.
Natasha: Yes, Logan, Please do. You’re not out of the woods with me, yet. A little warning would have been nice.
I guess I wish I lived in a world where I could go off on a rant like yesterday’s without feeling the need to clarify: you can be anti sex trafficking without being anti sex. But, if I’m honest, the feminist movement has a bit of a historical problem with this. There’s also a Dude in the Comments Section with a historical problem. Like, every time someone blogs about Uncomfortable T&A Pose, take eleventy billion, Some Dude will show up to whine about how feminists are censoring female sexuality. (For this dude, “female sexuality” is defined as sexy things he wants to see women do.)
Here’s the tricky truth of it: we live in a society that both pressures women to have sex they do not want and shames them for having it. Sexual liberation isn’t really about the freedom to be sexy— it’s about the freedom to have the sex you want. The other tricky thing is that fictional characters do not want. They’re fake. But we need to believe in them.
That means that they need to be believable. believable doesn’t have to mean realistic— but if a story’s going to chuck the laws of physics out the window it’s generally got to give us something else to keep it from spinning apart. Without internal logic or consistency, there’s nothing for us to hold onto. Superhero comics are actually a perfect example of this, because they are a place where wearing underwear over your tights is a kind of visual shorthand for bravery, but fans still try to mine them for threads of logic. We’re all searching for the mathematical formula that will make the sliding timescale comprehensible. Fans will notice if, several years and creative teams later, Teddy from Young Avengers is wearing the wrong amount of earrings.
This detour brought to you by the letter O and what I’m actually trying to say here: when it comes to the fake people sex stuff, you have to convince me. I’m all about what these women want, what I can believe they want. The reason so many comic book sex scenes fail is that they twist anatomy around to make sure we see everything, then use magical shadows and sheets to make sure we see nothing that counts. If every woman has the same hairstyle and bodytype it is difficult to believe these parts of their character design are really tied to character. And if women are always drawn sexy, pouting and thrusting in every panel, it is difficult to believe in that sexiness as a choice.
So, like, yeah, I don’t have an issue with plunging necklines, just the idea that a stealthy superagent would choose to go backflipping in one. Natasha’s attitude toward sex and sexuality is going to be informed by her quest for bodily autonomy, the harassment she’s had to deal with, all of her love affairs turning out to hopeless & tragic or Matt fucking Murdock, and the fact that she enjoyed them anyway. It wouldn’t be believable otherwise.
Anyway, this is a scene with boob that I like, one that works because of specific characters and specific contexts. We understand that Bucky is a ~gentleman, that Natasha might not be a ~lady, and that Logan’s a little bit creepy uncle— but Natasha’s self-confidence is such that the last bit doesn’t phase her. All of this makes sense so I believe it and none of it means the creepy dudes from pages past were right about her sex life. They were just right to be afraid of her.
From Black Widow #5, by Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuña.