by Kitty Blain
Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape
Last week, I watched 365 Days, the current Number 1 Trending film on UK Netflix. A young woman called Laura is kidnapped and imprisoned by ‘bad boy’ Massimo, who tells Laura that he is going to keep her captive for 365 days until she ‘falls in love with him’. The reason she doesn’t immediately plan her escape? Massimo tells her she’s the girl he’s always dreamed of, and he will kill her parents if she attempts to flee.
At first glance, it could be mistaken for an average, erotic psychological thriller. However, within the first 15 minutes of this film, Massimo forces a flight attendant to perform oral sex on him, choking her to the point her eyes are streaming. He ties Laura to her seat in the aeroplane so she cannot escape her captivity, and fingers her without consent. He later chains a struggling Laura to the bed and forces her to watch a sex worker perform oral sex on him. When a member of a rival family attempts to rape Laura, he blames her for it, throws her off his yacht, then pulls her out of the water and blames her for that as well. He shoves her against an open window, exposes her and forces himself inside her to have anal sex. These are just some of the ways that ‘sex’ is depicted in the film - non consensual, humiliating and objectifying.
Netflix’s category for this film? “Romantic”.
The idea that women* should feel romanced or aroused by being treated as an object, raped and sexually assaulted is abhorrent and should not be allowed on this platform, let alone promoted as the most popular film by Netflix.
This film teaches that Massimo continually rapes her because he ‘can’t control himself’ as she is just so attractive, and it is a compliment to her. That men should pursue women* until they give in rather than respecting their wishes. That women* secretly enjoy sexual violence and non-consensual sex, as although Laura resists at first, she eventually ‘gives in’. The story line tries to mask the fact we are watching an abuser and his victim, instead painting it as romantic relationship. Massimo’s violent rape and assault of her is presented as the ‘fulfilling’ sex life that she had been seeking with her previous partner.
I spoke to a few of my female friends about this film. I was surprised that, whilst a lot of people thought it somewhat shocking, no one really thought it as distressing as I did, and I couldn’t work out why. How could they not see that this was a terrifying film about a woman being held captive, brainwashed, emotionally abused and raped by a psychotic, power-hungry man?
Simple. Massimo is attractive, and we are taught that attractive, nice guys don’t commit rape. Rapists lurk in dark alleys, of course, visibly obvious as criminals. This narrative that Massimo cannot be a rapist because he is a handsome, muscular young man who is also ‘nice’ to Laura, buying her clothes, ice creams and whisking her into his life of luxury, is incredibly dangerous. ‘Nice guys’ do commit rape, in fact, 90% of rape perpetrators are known to their victim. Fulfilling the ‘bad-boy’ stereotype doesn’t absolve Massimo from his crimes.
But films like these contribute to this porn-fuelled rape culture that means women grow up conditioned into not realising that this violent sex is actually rape. Netflix itself contributes to this normalisation of abuse by qualifying the film’s 18+ certificate with ‘sex’ and ‘sex violence’ rather than describing it honestly as ‘sexual assault’ and ‘rape’.
This film will contribute to impressionable young people growing up believing it is not only acceptable to assault and rape women*, but women* enjoy this and consider it sexy. It will maintain the perception of women* as objects of male desire rather than sexually autonomous.
This film will perpetuate sexual violence.
By promoting this on its platform, Netflix is condoning the emotional and physical abuse, sexual assault, rape, gaslighting, objectification and over-sexualisation of women*,and glamourization of abuse in this film.
Please join me in preventing the further damage that this film will cause, and call on Netflix to remove 356 Days from their platform by signing my petition.