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Netflix's ‘365 Days’ Condemned for ‘Glamorizing’ Rape and Sex Trafficking
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Netflix's ‘365 Days’ Condemned for ‘Glamorizing’ Rape and Sex Trafficking

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For weeks, ‘365 Days’ has been at the top spot on Netflix’s charts, with millions of people tuning in to watch the erotic thriller starring Michele Morrone and Anna-Maria Sieklucka. The film has been criticized for its plot in which a Mafia leader kidnaps a woman and keeps her captive for 365 days, until she falls in love with him.

Now, U.K. singer Duffy (a survivor of kidnapping and rape) has penned an open letter to Netflix asking them to remove the movie, saying it ‘glamorizes’ rape and sex trafficking. Each year, 800,000 people are trafficked, a number which includes children. Human trafficking is a very real and horrifying epidemic and it is impressive for a celebrity like Duffy to use her platform to bring attention to this devastating reality.  (Visit Children of the Night or Thorn to learn how you can help victims of human trafficking.) 

As a sex therapist who has worked with innumerable victims of sexual violence, I think it’s important for us not to just parse out the plot-points of ‘365 Days,’ but also to really look at why this movie is so popular and why we keep seeing this theme of BDSM and dubious consent in popular romance films, such as ’50 Shades of Grey.

I applaud Duffy for speaking her truth and using her power to bring attention to the very real and devastating issue of sex trafficking, but I also think we need to examine how '365 Days' made it to Netflix in the first place, and then became the top-watched film for the entire month of June.

First, let's look at the creator: The author of the book series on which the film was based is a woman. Blanka Lipińska wrote the trilogy and helped write the screenplay.

She credits ’50 Shades of Grey’ (also written by a woman) with inspiring her, so while we are talking about the very real and horrific existence of sex trafficking and sex slavery, I do think we need to pay attention to the fact that women themselves are creating this media and then consuming it.

In fact, submission and domination is a very common fantasy for women, which I believe is due to the fact that women like to feel desired, and because it allows them to tap into their sexuality without fear of judgment.

Many women still fear their sexual sides or feel shame for their sexual needs. It’s a product of our sexist society in which women aren’t permitted to enjoy their sexuality the same way that men do. But, in a BDSM scenario, the control is taken out of their hands (in a consensual way) and they are able to let go and simply receive pleasure without feeling inhibited.

Still, Duffy’s issues (and other critics’ issues) with the film ‘365 Days’ are also worth examination.

This movie takes the plot of ’50 Shades of Grey’ to the extreme. Laura is literally kidnapped and held against her will. It’s very understandable that this plot will be triggering and deeply disturbing to some women, especially victims of sexual violence like Duffy. 

I must stress this: There is a difference between BDSM between consensual partners and being violated against your will. While some women may have rape fantasies, that's all it is: A fantasy in their minds, not a reality they actually wish to occur.

I worry that a film like '365 Days' may blur this for the viewers, making them confuse consensual BDSM play with rape and violence against women. There is a world of difference, and not every viewer may be able to realize that, especially younger viewers. 

While it is worrisome to see this film at the top spot on Netflix’s charts, I do hope '365 Days' sparks a deeper conversation between partners about fantasies and what the difference is between consensual play and violence, and how to tell the difference. 

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