"I Got 99 Problems but a Bitch ain't One"
- Jay Z
"I'm sayin, Porn doesn't have to be dehumanizing."
- Brandon Graham
"The old, slow, creaking descriptions are a thing of the past; today the rule is brevity - but every word must be supercharged, high-voltage.”
- Yevgeny Zamyatin
Indian Summer, by Hugo Pratt and Milo Manara, has sexualizaton in spades. Manara may be the foremost artist in the genre, alongside Guido Creepax. Opening with a rape, and featuring incestuous relations throughout, Indian Summer is a work of exploitation. Exploitation though, which is used to critique the Puritan settlers morality as a whole, making it something so much more.
The Primary concern of Indian Summer is male ownership over females. Through physical force, religious persecution, and genuine love, every prominent female within the narrative is subject to male ownership in one form or another, in life and death.
Sheva, who's rape begins this tale, is referred to only as Reverend Blacks niece for the first 70 pages of this book. Labeling her in relation to a male, and not as an individual, creates a sense of ownership over Sheva. She is ultimately Blacks property.
Her rape is brushed off as a natural occurrence, due to man's "need" during the Indian Summer to let off their sexual frustration "I DISAGREE! AT THIS TIME OF YEAR ALL YOUNG MEN PURSUE GIRLS". A season which can only be compared to the mating season of animals "PERHAPS THEY WERE LIKE ALL YOUNG ANIMALS IN THE EARLY DAYS OF INDIAN SUMMER. BEFORE THE COLD NIGHTS OF WINTER – THEY NEEDED TO PLAY WITH THE FEMALES". The assault of a female isn't a crime in this book, in this society, but harming a males property is.
Sheva's rape, unlike most comics (Identity Crisis), isn't an extension of comics need to "fridge" characters (killing or as i use it, utilizing the rape of a female character as a means to push the narrative of a male character forward), but is a critique on male ownership. Sheva moments after being raped, is saved by Abner who presents her with a gift / trophy (the slain Indians scalps) as a act of courtship (The Scalps have intrinsic value amongst Indians "NO WARRIOR FROM THE NORTH WOULD HAVE LEFT THE TWO SCALPS") and proceeds to kiss her, a declaration of ownership. This attempt at ownership is challenged by Reverend Black (her previous / current owner at the time) which results in hostilities and violence between the two as they jostle for control over her. Ultimately resulting in Blacks scalping, and Abner taking Sheva away with him.
Sheva's reaction to her rape is horror, not at the fact that she was raped, but at the possibility her uncle (and "owner") will abandon her "Black: WHY? HOW DO I LOOK UPON YOU? Sheva: AS IF YOU WISHED TO PUNISH ME. Black: WHAT DO YOU THINK? DO YOU DESERVE TO BE PUNISHED? Sheva: I DO NOT KNOW UNCLE... I DIDN'T WANT TO... I WAS SIMPLY GATHERING BLACKBERRIES" .This possibility is reinforced, due to it previously occurring to Ms. Lewis* who was cast out by Black after she conceived the child of another man.** Following Phyllis treating her with Red Horn*** the chance of cuckolding is ruled out, this removes the possibility of Sheva reliving the fate of Ms. Lewis "YOU HAVING NOTHING TO FEAR" whispers Phyllis, as she holds Sheva in her arms. Phylls is the only character who knows Ms. Lewis's story at that point, making her words all the more reassuring.
Reverend Black, then turns the rape of his niece into a sexual fantasy. While engaged in sex Reverend Black begins to question Sheva about the assault, forcing her to describe it in detail "THEY COMMITTED ALL MANNER OF ACTS AGAINST ME.. Black: WHO EXCITED YOU THE MOST? TELL ME!" while repeatedly exclaiming "YOU WRETCH...YOU WRETCH"
Ownership over females is touched on further with the cases of Ms. Lewis and Phyllis. Ms. Lewis was a servant to Elder Black who routinely "BEAT ME AND OFTEN RAPED ME",forcing her to "CONFESS THESE SINS EVEN AS HE COMMITTED THEM". A fetish for sexually charged confessionals which also seems to have been passed on to his son, Reverend Black.
Elder Blacks ownership was breached by two parties, Reverend Black and a unnamed French Hunter. In the case of the French Hunter Ms.Lewis gave herself to him freely "A HANDSOME MAN HE WAS", rejecting the ownership of both Elder and Reverend Black. The French Hunter subsequently impregnates her, and unlike in the case of Sheva, her herbal remedies were not strong enough to ward off pregnancy. Following her self-devaluation (a pregnant female, or one with children, has little / diminished value as a mate choice)**** she was exiled from the community. But not until she was branded, with the letter L representing "LILITH, ADAM'S FIRST, REBELLIOUS WIFE" for her rejection of male ownership.
Phyllis continuous her mothers rebellion "DON'T BE SO HYPOCRITICAL, MOTHER. YOU WELL REMEMBER TEACHING ME HOW TO USE IT (her sexuality)", she is prized by Lewis (her brother), and like Reverend Black becomes an object for him to posses. Her sexuality is at the forefront of her being, making her a rejection of the male concept of ownership. After Lewis attacks her for displaying her sexuality she rebukes him "NEVER LAY HANDS UPON ME AGAIN, PIG". Pig can refer both to a disgusting male, but also has connections with figures of authority (police) who would wish to censor her.
Utilizing scripture "THE SACRED TEXTS ARE REPLETE WITH INCESTUOUS PERSONS. ANAH, THE DESCENDANT OF ESAU, WAS THE SON OF HIS FATHER'S MOTHER...SO YOU SEE, EVEN THE SCRIPTURES SPEAK OF FORBIDDEN LOVE" Phyllis is able to justify her own sexuality, while also condemning male perversions of it, which they utalize to justify there ownership over females "Lewis: WELL, YOU HAVE PUT THE BIBLE TO GOOD USE! Phyllis: NO WORSE THAN THE USE TO WHICH THE BLACKS HAVE PUT IT...BOTH FATHER AND SON".
Following Phylls's death, Lewis the one male who wished not to just mate with her, but too own her, rushes to her corpse and declares "DON'T ANYBODY TOUCH HER! NO ONE MAY TOUCH HER! NOW SHE IS MINE!"
Lewis's declaration, shows how absolute male ownership is. Dorothy Talbye, a friend of Ms. Lewis, who is incarcerated for preaching that "THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN ARE EQUAL TO THOSE OF MEN" kills her daughter to free her from this cycle of male ownership "ONLY DEATH WOULD ALLOW HER DAUGHTER TO ESCAPE THE TORMENTS AND HUMILIATIONS OF THE HYPOCRITICAL NEW WORLD PURITANISM", but Lewis shows us, even in death females can be owned.
"...I'M DYING...AND I LOVE LIFE SO..."
- Ive read the book, and scanned through it several times and cant find mention of Ms Lewis's first name, this can either be attributed to my idiocy, or as a extension of the "ownership" the Black have over her, like his niece who remained nameless for the majority of the book, so to does Ms. Lewis. It hearkens back to The Crucible "Let me have my name"
- This is a common practice in several bird species, who will attack and cast off their female mates if they view the presence of another male in the surrounding area, as a defense mechanism against cuckolding.
- Pilgrim Plan B
- Speaking in a Biological sense.
- Further evidence of male ownership is Jeremiah's masturbatory gestures, which are rebuked, not for there content, but for who they are directed at. When Jeremiah gestures at females who have been established as another males property he is quickly scolded, but when not directed at anyone they are allowed to carry on.