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On Sexuality, Performance and Bomb Girls

The representation of sexuality in Bomb Girls, particularly female sexuality, has been on the whole very positive. In that we see women wanting sex, women who have desires and acknowledge them.

Female sexuality is particularly prone to being a performance. Where a woman’s desire is trapped up in what someone else (a man) wants from her.  It becomes about pleasing and catering to the sexual desires, fantasies and whims of a man versus what a woman herself wants. Even the idea that women want love and will give sex to give it isn’t portrayed here. Which is a relief.

In Bomb Girls, female sexualities are not presented in this light. Gladys wants sex, she’s eager for it and has her own desires for her relationship and sex life with James.  With Lewis, Gladys has the opportunity to engage in some sexual exploration and she wants it. She wanted to get “some experience under her belt” And finally James himself has to recognize that Gladys is a sexual being with her own desires.
 In the 2nd season, Gladys’ desires do get her into trouble - but they are still hers.

Lorna Corbett is starving for affection, physical or otherwise from her husband Bob - and when she doesn’t get it at home she goes looking for it somewhere else. Or rather the opportunity with Marco presents itself and she goes for it. She desires sex, misses that it is no longer a part of her marriage. 

Vera Burr has no shame in seeking out sex if she desires. This is complicated somewhat by the fact she does this to feel wanted and beautiful. But it is still her desire, and not her fulfilling the desires of someone else.

Even Betty’s desire is her own. In this time period her desire falls under the category of mental illness, but it is still her own and she’s allowed to live in it. Even when she beards up with Ivan - her lack of desire for Ivan is apparent. (To apparently everyone but Ivan…)  With Solider Bond Girl (or Teresa as I hear she is to be called) Betty’s sexual desire is all there is. This isn’t motivated by love, or anything that can’t be resolved by what two bodies can accomplish easily behind closed doors. It’s entirely about her lesbian sexual desire - and given a willing partner she is able to fulfill it. And also, at last, feels like she is no longer alone in her sexual desires.

With one exception : Kate Andrews.

This is played straight with Kate Andrews. Who does not seem to have these desires, or if she does, completely unable to articulate them or process them in any way.

I’ve covered the fact that Kate’s existence is largely performance based. Especially since the death/murder/manslaughter of her father.

For the first 24 years of her life Kate existed in a space where women did not have their own sexual desires.  If they did? They were the wicked sinners punished by her father’s idea of a vengeful god. She grew up listening to this all the time. The fact is, that Kate will never truly escape her demons. They still exist inside her mind, and she will eventually have to face them and try to reconcile them with her present.

With Eugene Corbett, Kate wanted him like she wanted the bottle - a way of forgetting and trying to be normal. Trying to be like the factory girls she sees around her drinking and dating soldiers.  With Ivan? She shows kindness to him which he takes as flirting and promptly begins dating her.

Kate is never shown expressing desire for sex. In terms of romance she has been playing the good girlfriend to Ivan - but he’s not allowed to get emotionally close to her the way Betty was permitted to last season.  She doesn’t show him her range of emotion, she presents what people want to see - what Ivan wants to see; and a young woman smiling and dancing and enjoying herself.  She’s echoing others, and it seems somewhat hollow in those rare moments when her emotions break through her composure.

Some of us in this fandom see hints towards Kate loving Betty. I am in that group, but that’s not really what this post is about. (Although I could write one at some point…)

I’ve seen a lot of Kate hate in this fandom. Especially towards how she’s conducted herself in regards to Betty.  I would like to say this in her defense. It is unfair to expect Kate to act like a “grown woman” who knows herself, her heart and her desires.  She’s coming from an oppressive world. She was dragged around the country by her fundamentalist father, was probably homeschooled somewhat, and has had little exposure to the outside world. She probably has no concept of what it means to want someone sexually. Never mind able to reconcile a concept with her own feelings.  I would also guess that at best, Kate has only a “that’s how you make a baby” understanding of sex that may very well stem from Biblical passages. Anything else she’s learned regarding the mechanics of it, or the desires that rest behind it - has been snippets of what she’s picked up while working at Vic Mu.

Kate is much more like a terrified confused 15 year old girl who’s just found out her best friend is in love with her. And worries about her own feelings towards said friend.  She has no way of glancing into other’s minds and seeing if their friendships are like hers with Betty. And no way of seeing if what she feels towards Ivan is what the other girls feel towards the boys/men they date.