Warning! SPOILERS for Don’t Worry DarlingWhen director Olivia Wilde heralded Don’t Worry Darling‘s showcase of female pleasure, one would have likely anticipated a relatively sex-positive narrative in the film — though that is far from the case. Thanks to rumors of on-set drama swirling around the film’s release, the staggering tone-deafness of Wilde’s remarks has gone relatively unnoticed in comparison. When deprived of all context, Don’t Worry Darling‘s sex scenes between Florence Pugh’s Alice and Harry Styles’ Jack may appear a step in the right direction for portrayals of sex in film. However, the psychological thriller’s final twist ruins Wilde’s good intentions.
Don’t Worry Darling takes a page out of the book of The Stepford Wives, as Wilde’s film centers on the mysterious Victory Project, a 1950s-inspired utopian society in which men work an undisclosed job each day while their wives tend to housekeeping and child-rearing duties. When Alice suspects something’s amiss in her life and the world she lives in, her husband Jack gaslights her in order to safeguard the sinister reality of his boss Frank’s (Chris Pine) creation and the fact that Jack, himself, imprisoned Alice in a false reality to suit his own desires.
In an interview with Vogue published in December 2021, Wilde, who also plays Alice’s friend Bunny in Don’t Worry Darling, boasted on behalf of the film’s depiction of female pleasure in its sex scenes. According to Wilde, she intended for the audience to “realize how rarely they see female hunger, and specifically this type of female pleasure.” The problem is that the film’s twist of Jack forcing Alice to live in a simulation diminishes any significance of female pleasure, as this implies that Alice did not consent to any of their sexual interactions in Victory.
Olivia Wilde’s Female Pleasure Claim Doesn’t Hold Up
Don’t Worry Darling‘s sex scenes cannot be pleasurable from a female perspective due to the absence of Alice’s agency. She seems to enjoy when Jack performs oral sex on her, and Jack appears pleased at catering to his wife. However, she has consented to none of what she’s experiencing. What’s more, Alice’s desire for Jack is illusory in Don’t Worry Darling, as, unbeknownst to her, Jack’s dapper appearance and British personality are altered from his real-life identity.
Jack’s tendency to please Alice during sex, instead of the other way around, may constitute a departure from the norm in Hollywood’s depictions of sex between a woman and a man. Still, the film’s plot twist means that this deviation exists only aesthetically. In reality, Jack remains the sole beneficiary, because he chose this life without informing or consulting with Alice. Jack enlisted in the Victory Project solely to suit his needs as a man who feels emasculated by modern society and thus emboldened by vengeful incels – namely Frank. To make matters worse, when Jack finally concedes the truth to Alice before the end of Don’t Worry Darling, he insists that it’s the life she wanted, embodying the gaslighting technique of a man who expects women to bend to his will.
Wilde’s comments ignore that agency and consent are necessary for pleasure. Despite Don’t Worry Darling‘s depiction of sex catered to a woman rather than a man, the sequences are marred by Alice’s unawareness of her circumstances. Evidenced by Alice’s resentment toward Jack upon learning of her enslavement at his hands, the film’s sex scenes carry do not represent female pleasure or empowerment. In actuality, they merely represent another Hollywood example of men’s manipulation of women for their own benefit.
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