Warning: Triggers and Spoilers. And waffle.
Sex & Monsters
In Prometheus, the Engineers are ancient Titans who created humanity… and, it is implied, seeded the galaxy with their DNA. There is something very noticeable about them: they are all men. Meanwhile, there is a definite vaginal look to a great many of the alien bio-weapons they created and which then subsumed them. However, I don’t think its really possible to read the battle between Engineers and their bio-weapons as a battle of the sexes. The weapon creatures are also phallic and penetrative, as in previous iterations of the Alien universe. All the same, it’s true that presenting the creators of life (in their own image) as exclusively dudes does imply that generative power resides in the male alone. It is enough for one Engineer to dissolve his DNA into the waters of a planet to kickstart the process that will lead to animal life (if that’s how the opening scene is meant to be read). The Engineers are male but apparently sexless, capable of asexual reproduction. The deadly runaway bio-weapons, which seem hermaphroditic, look like the intrusion of sex into a male but sexless world. Sex is thus a terrifying eruption that destabilises a male utopia. The sexual nature of the weapons suggests that the Engineers – we might even be tempted to facetiously re-christen them the ‘Mengineers’ – find sexual reproduction to be inherently threatening. They set about devising weapons of mass destruction and what do they come up with? Biological goo that sets off a chain reaction of tentacle rape, fanged vaginas and violent monster pregnancy.
Foz Meadows at her blog Shattersnipe (which I heard about from Jon Blum) has made some apt observations about the film’s dubious concentration upon highly impractical female underwear, grueling ‘ladypain’ and forced impregnation. She goes on to say:
Insofar as the alien attacks go, I’ll give Scott some credit for trope subversion: twice in the course of the film, male characters are violently orally penetrated – and, in the process, killed – by phallic alien tentacles. This is visually disturbing on a number of levels, but given the near universal establishment of tentacle rape as a thing that happens to women, I’m going to give him a big thumbs up for bucking the trend. That being said, what happens to Shaw is awful on just about every level imaginable.
And so it is.
One of the interesting things about the original Alien is that it is a man – Kane (John Hurt) – who is the victim of the facehugger rape and the violent birth of the phallic infant Alien. So, although the alien pregnancy also suggests infection, cancer, parasitism and other horrors attendant on life, there is clearly a way in which the original Alien is a personification of sexual violence. This violence is directed at both sexes and emerges through the violation of a man and a subsequent male pregnancy… however, the creature itself is also intensely male. It has that famously phallic head and yet another phallic symbol springs out of its mouth, this one complete with a snapping set of teeth.…