It Takes Two to Tango
by An Ordinary Man (the novel)
Bernardo Bertolucci just announced that the stick-of-butter scene in Last Tango was not consensual. Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider are no longer with us to confirm this, although both had spoken out against the film before they died. If, indeed, someone has been raped in the course of an artistic endeavor, it is no defense to claim it was for the benefit of the art. But I’m not sure what really happened here and I am certainly not sure what it means. So let me throw some things out.
1. Study the image above. Brando’s pants are very tight and up over his buttocks. Not having first-hand experience with either his anatomy or his tailor, there is still some question as to whether or not an erect penis would be sufficiently liberated to achieve penetration here without substantial discomfort to the male. For what it’s worth, I have never had sex with my pants that high.
2. Study the image below:
Schneider is lying on the floor, bare-assed, with Brando right beside her, down by her naked hips. In a real-life situation, he IS going to play with her ass. And by that, I do not mean simply caress her butt cheeks, but by going deep into the murky depths that lie there. There are no ‘no trespassing’ signs on any square inch down there; it is ALL on the plate. Things are going to happen that might surprise both parties absent a nearly constant stream of feedback. Do not offer your ass to a male without being fully aware of this, and stay on your back if it’s unacceptable.
3. Nineteen or not, what the hell did she think the stick of butter was for? I simply cannot image laying there like that and seeing a stick of butter materialize. Even if she wasn’t aware of its potential as a lubricant, this clearly was not the set-up for an eating scene and it wasn’t exactly hidden. What was butter doing there?
4. I am involved in a relationship with a younger woman that we both want to turn sexual, at least once. She is older than 19, but the proportional difference in our ages is almost the same. One of the things holding me back is whether or not one is ever really ‘okay’ with what can happen during sex. Did you really mean to do that? Did you really let them do that? Did such-and-such really happen? Looking back at last night in the light of today is rarely a good idea. Consent at the time? Sure, but does that translate into approval the next day, when oxytocin levels have returned to normal? Sex without a certain degree of second-guessing is not sex I think I’d like.
Our war on good sex continues.
Postscript: I just watched the scene on YouTube. She knew all about the butter – she brought it to him. Wouldn’t she have asked what it was for; what it had to do with the scene? Maybe she was overwhelmed by it all and let what happened happen because of that, underscoring the fact that sex without true love is always dangerous.