“Last Tango” Director Must Be “Free” To Rape

Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando, Last Tango In Paris

Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando, Last Tango In Paris

Last Tango In Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci helped Marlon Brando rape actress Maria Schneider in the film’s infamous “butter” scene.

In a graphic assault, Brando used a stick of butter to anally violate Ms. Schneider, who learned about the scene just before doing it:

They only told me about it before we had to film the scene and I was so angry.

I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can’t force someone to do something that isn’t in the script, but at the time, I didn’t know that.

Bertolucci said he didn’t tell Schneider because:

I didn’t want Maria to act her humiliation, her rage, I wanted Maria to feel … the rage and humiliation.

She suffered for his success 

Maria did feel like she was being raped and humiliated, and she cried real tears.

She also suffered as many rape victims do: trauma, serious drug addiction and depression.

Yet the film’s director felt no regret:

To obtain something I think you have to be completely free.

Well, his artistic success is all that really matters, isn’t it?

He must be completely free? But what about her?

He must be free? She must not?

Bernardo Bertolucci’s attitude reminds me of the “libertines” who once insisted on complete freedom from both social and moral restraint.

Beatnicks and the Marquis de Sade, for instance. Or, in the 1970s a man was acquitted of gang rape after convincing a San Francisco jury that he was a libertine who rejected all sexual limits. And his victim was a libertine too, he claimed, which was obvious since she had had consensual sex before. ???

Libertines have sought freedom to commit incest, rape, murder…

But this is really freedom only for the powerful.

The powerless victim isn’t free at all.

Only the powerful are free

The parent who commits incest is free. But the traumatized sons and daughters are not.

The libertine is free to rape and murder. But their tortured — and dying — victims are not free.

And the Last Tango director felt free to facilitate the rape of an unknown 19-year-old actress, who felt she had no choice but to suffer.

In “Pornography and Freedom” John Stoltenberg worries that “sexual freedom” too often means freedom from responsibility, consequences, or seeing the person.

Freedom cannot truly emerge without justice, he adds.

Without justice, only the powerful are free.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on December 7, 2016, in psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. Every mention of this I come across, my stomach turns inside out again, in rage and despair.

  2. Reading about what this director did just in order to obtain “authentic” acting is outrageous. Forcing someone to do things like that is an ultimate no and he shouldn’t have even considered it to begin with. I really wish do wish she could have been more confident with herself and stand up defending her desire to not film anything close to that. Having herself filmed being raped is such a horrible thought and this man took advantage of his “higher position” compared to the actress for he was in charge of the film and could have easily replaced her if she said no.

  3. In my opinion, this art form can not be accepted. First of all,this constitutes a violation of women. There was no chance for show their will and rights. Secondly, the movie as mass media will affect people’s thinking and the development of culture. The director was so selfish. He doesn’t feel guilty to force a woman to do things she doesn’t want to do. The only thing he considered about is the movie’s visual-effects and his benefits. Not to mention what if Children watch this movie. How would it affect the young generation?

    • Yeah, I think it’s problematic on two levels. First, the one I wrote about where a woman was made to feel hurt and humiliated just for movie scene. Second, this sort of thing helps to eroticize pain and humiliation aimed at women.

  4. “But this is really freedom only for the powerful.

    The powerless victim isn’t free at all.”

    What you said is very true.
    Powerless victims aren’t free at all.

    That could also be said about a baby that’s been abused or an unborn child that’s being terminated without being able to defend themselves. But they are powerless so nobody cares.

    • I guess you are getting to the antiabortion point. And I wish no woman ever felt a need to get an abortion. But the way you stop abortion is not by creating laws against it. The countries with the least abortion restrictions also have the lowest rates of abortion — Scandinavia. The countries with most most abortion restrictions have the highest rates, Like Latin America and Uganda. Restrictions just cause desperate girls and women find a way to get an abortion regardless of the laws, and resort to doing do it themselves or going to dangerous back alley abortionists, and end up dying.

      If you don’t like abortion support laws that actually work.

      Why does Scandinavia have such a low abortion rate?

      1) they have good sex education
      2) contraception is readily available
      3) girls don’t feel shamed about using contraception

      Countries with high rates of abortion are the opposite of that.

      In addition, the society can do something to support motherhood with things like childcare so that mom can work or go to school, food stamps so that she can afford to feed her child…

      But what you find is that people who are against abortion are also often against things that keep people alive (look at laws in red states): pro-gun, anti-Medicaid, anti-Obama care, anti-prenatal care for poor women, against pollution regulations, against food stamps …

      Pro-life until birth.

      • “The countries with most most abortion restrictions have the highest rates, Like Latin America and Uganda.”

        The proportion of pregnancies ended by abortion in Africa is 15%, the lowest for any continent.

        Countries in Africa where abortion is illegal:
        Angola, Benin, Central African Rep.Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Dem. Rep. of Congo, Gabon, Guinea- Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauretania, Mauritius, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda , Egypt, Libya, Sudan.
        Countries in Africa where abortion is legal only in the most extreme circumstances (like deformity and rape) Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger, Chad, Algeria, Cameroon, Equatorian Guinea, Namibia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Zambia.

        Countries in Africa where it’s legal:
        South Africa, Malawi.

        Anyone can cherry pick their statistics.

      • Don’t know where you got this info.

        The World Health Organization — which is a trusted source — says otherwise.

        Click to access induced_abortion_2012.pdf

      • I got my statistics from the Guttmacher Institute.

        You’ve got to remember that abortions per 1000 women are different to % of actual pregnancies ending in abortion. Because in Africa the population distribution is extremely skewed and in some places half the population is under 15 years old and therefore almost every woman is a potential abortion candidate. That means that almost every woman is of child bearing age which is a lot different to most countries. The number of abortions per pregnancy is therefore a much more interesting statistic than number of abortions per woman. Your statistics therefore may well be right but also irrelevant.

      • You are missing a lot of other data like the fact that the poorer you are the more children you want to have to make sure that some of them survive. The African continent is poorer than average meaning women want to have more children. You didn’t take that into account.

        Otherwise, part of the reason why abortion rates are so low in Nordic countries is precisely because women have contraception and don’t get pregnant in the first place. Another point you did not take into account.

        The fact is that the abortion rate tends to be higher in places with strong restrictions because the same people who intact strong restrictions also fight against birth control and shame women for using birth control. It all leads to high abortion rates because desperate women and girls we’ll try to do it themselves or go to illegal back alley abortionists.

      • So they are not poor in Uganda and Latin America? Who knew?

        The disturbing thing is that you cited a statistic in favour of your preconceived thesis. When that statistic was refuted with wider data, you said don’t worry about that, just accept your thesis regardless, because you have another theory.

        And this is why it is not the case that “anyone can do statistics”.

        “Otherwise, part of the reason why abortion rates are so low in Nordic countries is precisely because women have contraception and don’t get pregnant in the first place. Another point you did not take into account.”

        Really. Percentage of teen pregnancies ending in abortion: Slovakia: 22% United States 46%, Sweden: 87%, Denmark 68%, Norway 57%.

        I also note the number of teen pregnancies per 1000 girls is similar between Sweden and Slovakia at about 30 for Sweden and 32 for Slovakia. And roughly 66% of women in both Sweden and Slovakia use modern birth control.

        Apparently if our goal was to stop teen abortions, the best thing we could do would be to make it socially unacceptable like it is in northern Slovakia. Making it illegal would certainly advance that cause.

        “The fact is that the abortion rate tends to be higher in places with strong restrictions because the same people who intact strong restrictions also fight against birth control and shame women for using birth control.”

        The correlation between birth control and abortion being socially unacceptable is basically limited to certain Catholic countries, even then it rarely holds anymore with 2/3 of Slovakians using modern birth control. You cited Latin America, the rate of use of modern birth control in Costa Rica and Nicaragua is about the same as the United States at about 70%. And yet abortion is illegal. Basically, this thesis of yours, at least in this day and age, is fanciful.

      • Sweden has a very low abortion rate, but on the rare occasion that a teenaged girl does get pregnant she is highly likely to abort. The fact remains: the Swedish abortion rate per woman is very low.

        That’s why you can’t go by the abortion “rate per pregnancy” to get a correct understanding of the abortion rate.

        Otherwise, there are a lot of cultural factors that affect things. So let’s look at the United States where only one thing changed: access to contraception. When Obamacare made birth-control free the abortion rate here plummeted.

        The main reason why the abortion rate is so low in countries that also have low abortion restrictions is that low restrictions are correlated with sex education being widespread, contraception being readily available, and girls not being ashamed to use it.

        The abortion rate tends to be high in countries with high restrictions because those countries tend to be sex-negative, meaning young people aren’t taught the facts of life, contraception is not readily available, and girls tend to be ashamed to use birth control even when it is available. And “punishment” for girls having sex is even often seen as needing to keep the baby.

        If you want a low abortion rate you need a sex-positive society. And sex-positive societies don’t equate women with sex and then demean both women and sex (Sex is evil, women = sex, women are evil). You find that attitude in patriarchal societies. Not in partnership societies.

        And again, patriarchy and men are not the same thing. Many men are against patriarchy because they see how it hurts everyone, including themselves. Patriarchy is marked by valuing men over women and giving men more power than women. And yet men are often hurt by it. Domestic violence is higher in patriarchies and little boys are traumatized by watching their mothers get beaten up, rape is high and patriarchies — which causes women to not want sex, which harms men, women’s sexuality is punished in patriarchies — again, which causes women to not want sex, which harms men, it’s dehumanizing to men to put down women, traits that are associated with women are put down even though they are very positive, like nurturing, kindness, expressing emotion. Men are put in a straitjacket when the only emotion they’re allowed to express is a “strong” emotions like anger… which makes everyone miserable – the angry man and everyone he’s angry at. Patriarchies are an expression of domination culture which creates winners and losers (a few dominate people below them) and since few are at the top of the pyramid most people end up being losers, which hurts self-esteem, creates anger, the hurtful cycle goes on…

        I could go on, but men are hurt in many, many ways by patriarchy.

        A number of studies show that making abortion illegal doesn’t stop it.

        US states closing clinics. Video. Follow the dots: http://www.upworthy.com/rachel-maddow-connects-the-dots-only-the-dots-are-women-s-rights-and-they-re-disappearing-2?c=ufb1

Abortion rates were lowest in Western Europe – 12 per 1,000 – and highest in Eastern Europe – 43 per 1,000. The rate in North America was 19 per 1,000. Sedgh said she and colleagues found a link between higher abortion rates and regions with more restrictive legislation, such as in Latin America and Africa. They also found that 95 to 97 percent of abortions in those regions were unsafe.
        Do Restrictive Abortion Laws Actually Reduce Abortion Rates? http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2012/01/26/abortion-laws-and-global-abortion-rates/

        A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women seeking it. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/world/12abortion.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=abortion%20restrictions%20abortion%20rates%20countries&st=cse

  5. Completely uncalled for, inconsiderate and disgusting of this director to take it upon himself to make his scene more believable at the expense of another person. This “libertines” mindset is totally out of line and puts people like this vulnerable young lady at an inferior level to those who are exercising their so called freedom. I honestly don’t even really know how to put my thoughts into words. It’s very upsetting and disappointing to read things like this because it reminds me of how sick some people really are. Poor girl, I wish she had had the strength to get herself out of that situation immediately and it sucks how much that experience impacted her life after it happened while the director was living happily ever after.

    • It’s outrageous and yet people who see things through the eyes of the powerful — which is very common — Will probably hear what the director had to say and actually think it makes sense. And that’s pretty sad.

  6. Read about it and, I was shocked! How could a person do such a thing to a girl! Art for art’s sake…realistic acting..huh!!

  7. Well said, Georgia. I absolutely agree on every point.
    Sexual freedom – or any freedom – must always stop at another person’s humanity and dignity.
    I would apply this to all physical acts, as well as most verbal and emotional actions.
    Nobody has a right to hurt, humiliate, or degrade another human being.

  8. “Brando used a stick of butter to anally violate Ms. Schneider”

    Oh come on, this NEVER HAPPENED, and nobody claimed that it did. In the MOVIE it supposedly happened to the CHARACTER, but it never happened to Ms Schneider.

    A lot of people who struggle with English comprehension have started to claim that she was raped, but no such thing occurred.

    I’m pretty surprised really that this actress was on the movie set with cameras rolling, director observing, and is somehow upset that she’s involved in a particular scene. Anyone who’s been to acting school does this impromptu stuff 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s not like Brando took her to some secret room with nobody else there or something. It was a movie set with 50 people standing around filming for goodness sake. Maybe she just wasn’t cut out for being an actress.

    • Well, that’s not what either the actress or the director say.

      I’ll get to your other comments later.

      • Rubbish. Every single article says she played the part of a character that was raped, not that she was raped. Go on, point me to the quote where anybody said she was raped. If that was alleged it should be very easy to point to the quote (not to mention that the police would have got involved, and the director would hardly be admitting to a crime).

      • Take a look at the links. The director said he didn’t tell her until the last minute because he wanted her to feel humiliated and hurt. She says that she really did feel humiliated and hurt in that it felt like being raped. They both say that she hated him the rest of her life.

  9. The director obviously took his job to an extreme, and it’s never right to feel like you can conquer your workers, because at the same time, you are hurting them. And it’s sad to see that the director didn’t cared about anyone but himself!

  10. What the director did to the young victim of rape was very uncalled for-outrageous. He should not be free of rape because as the director and actress, they both agreed to the agreement of acting-not reality. The director should have not taken it upon himself to make that decision, as the young women being an actress she could’ve simply acted the part. I do believe that libertines are the only ones being “free” to do as they please, while the other victims become traumatized and neglected their own freedoms.

  11. I read this story yesterday and was shocked. It makes me feel somewhat ashamed of the fact that I saw this movie at the time and enjoyed it. You can only imagine how this creep treated the lesser actresses and extras in his films.

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