Note: The following article contains discussion of sexual abuse and misconduct that some readers may find upsetting.
When the thriller 365 Days dropped on Netflix on Sunday, people were quick to laud it as a successor to Fifty Shades of Grey, but even hotter – some were even saying it's the sexiest film ever.
But the film has a sinister side hidden underneath the sexy soundtrack and steamy scenes.
In 365 Days (365 Dni in the original Polish), meek and overworked sales director Laura (Anna Maria Sieklucka) takes a break to Sicily to repair her relationship when she is unexpectedly kidnapped by young, sexy, charismatic Sicilian mafia boss Massimo (Michele Morrone). He imprisons her and tells her that she has 365 days to fall in love with him.
We know what you're thinking: why doesn't she plan her escape ASAP? Well, because Massimo tells her she's the girl he's always dreamed of! Oh and he'll kill her parents if she attempts to run.
What ensues is a terrible 50 Shades-style plot of manipulation, peppered with "kinky" sex scenes. But anyone who has tried BDSM knows that the reality is nowhere near what is portrayed here.
The sex is barely consensual, if any type of sex with someone who has forced you to enter into a relationship on threat of killing your family can be called consensual. By any definition this qualifies as coercion.
At times Laura is put in situations she definitely isn't comfortable with, such as being tied up and left as a punishment. There's also a particularly triggering scene where Massimo shoves her up against a window, exposes her and forces his way into her to have anal sex. Alarm bells were blaring at this point: he wasn't fulfilling fantasies, he was humiliating her, owning her.
The sex scenes on their own are pretty astonishing – in a bad way – but there's also what happens outside the bedroom. Laura is clearly terrified of Massimo and spends much of the movie walking on eggshells and trying to minimise any problems so as not to upset her kidnapper/ "boyfriend".
The emotional abuse is excused by viewers who are finding it "hot" (perhaps not even picked up), as it appears she gives her consent, but again she's doing what she has to do to survive. Massimo also makes her tell him all her sexual fantasies, so that he can push her boundaries and tell her she wanted it really. These are tactics used by abusers to shift the blame on to the victim.
In a world where lawyers read out intimate details of a woman's sex life at her murder trial, it's understandable that people think this is what she wants. That she enjoyed being choked during sex becomes, "I choked her too hard during sex and killed her, but she loved it."
The reason this isn't seen as a terrifying thriller about a woman being held captive, brainwashed and raped by a psychotic power-hungry man is simple. Massimo is attractive.
Films like this: 50 Shades, Twilight and countless more are only popular because the manipulative male lead is ridiculously good looking. His murderous mob tendencies make him a bad boy instead of someone you should stay away from.
If he was instead an overweight, ugly, 60-year-old bloke, the ending would be more akin to an episode of Criminal Minds where the girl escapes after outwitting or attacking her kidnapper and they catch the sicko and lock him away.
Sadly, this is not the case and the hunky abuser once again is being heralded as the dream man.
Rape Crisis England and Wales works towards the elimination of all forms of sexual violence and sexual misconduct. If you’ve been affected by the issues raised in this story, you can access more information on their website or by calling the National Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999. Rape Crisis Scotland’s helpline number is 08088 01 03 02.
Readers in the US are encouraged to contact RAINN, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline on 800-656-4673.
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