Image via Legacy Effects

Why Do Movies Assume That Women Want to Fuck A Monster Like the Fishman in ‘Shape of Water’?

Because in real-life, they’d go nowhere near that slimy d

The Oscars have spoken and one thing is clear: Get Out should’ve had some fish dick. The Shape of Water’s win for Best Picture proves that the only story that could beat out a wildly popular tale of interracial hell is a wildly popular tale of interspecies love involving one woman, one fishman and one controversial amphibian peen. Much has been made about how, exactly, that dick even works, but the bigger question is why it’s widely assumed women have no problem jumping on a fish d in the first place, even if it is retractable.

What’s more, this isn’t exactly new: We’ve been sexually pairing women to do it with vile, hideous creature beasts in art for years. The Shape of Water is just the latest in a long line that easily begins in Greek mythology, when Zeus took the form of a swan and a bull to seduce the ladies. Some version of that could certainly be hot, yet in The Shape of Water, it’s a… fishman.

In director Guillermo del Toro’s film, Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works in a top-secret government lab that just happens to be holding a scaly fishman captive. She takes one look at this guy:

And like any woman who’s navigating a bit of a dry spell, she decides she can work with this. While I would argue most hetero women prefer men with faces that don’t feel identical to a wet handbag, we all make our choices.

No judgment, Elisa!

Fishman, by the way, is supposed to be sexy. The film’s art book explains that del Toro knew that in order for audiences to believe their relationship, “the amphibian man had to have a great butt.” He crowdsourced this with his own family members. “Every female in the del Toro household was crucial,” he said. “‘Too much derriere, not enough derriere, the shoulders are not beautiful enough.’ The butt we show abundantly in the movie. It was a very delicate sculpture process because it always had to be run by my household.”

I think if you asked most women whether a great ass and sculpted shoulders could make up for a frog-faced wet thing that eats cats, they would say, “No thanks, I’ll take my chances on Tinder.” But I get it. Del Toro has to make Fishman the most bangin’ fishman bod on Earth to make up for all the scary up top. He used a principle in attraction that men have long referred to as a “Butter Face.” And because women are presumed to be less shallow, and believed to be happy to trade looks for power (Fishman in the movie is some kind of God), this turned out to be a wise choice, at least by some metrics.

Still, Fishman piqued many a logistical sexual interest. One of the first questions people asked about the film was whether or not she fucked the fish, because how? Then, some of the staffers of Jezebel said they’d be willing to take that fish dick inside of them — but not because he was so hot. Their reasons ranged from repulsed, fascinated curiosity to repulsed, fascinated curiosity. The body helped, but it didn’t change the gross. Mostly, though, women were just interested in the fish dick itself. A dildo-maker who conceived a dildo based on Elisa’s description of how fucking the fishman worked said the dildo sold out immediately.

The Fishman is extremely problematic as a lover, but in fairness, there is no truly good monster for sex. My friends agreed that the Fishman was a hard pass, and that in order of monster fuckability, it goes like this:

  • Vampires
  • Werewolves
  • Centaurs

That’s because these are monsters who are ugly yes, but mostly men, or at least half men, or at least mostly live as men most of the time, or who were once men. Maybe they “wolf out” at night, but look great at breakfast. Maybe they can’t go out during the daytime, but cut a dashing figure in the evening. The point is, their general form most of the time is a man-like form. Or with the centaur, a half-man form. If you noticed that the one recurring pattern in this paragraph is that the things heterosexual women want to fuck involve human “men,” congratulations.

In a roundup exploring the strange libidos of movie monsters at movie site Flashbak, they agree with me, at least in the sense that monsters who most want to fuck human women should theoretically be semi-human themselves, even though they’re all beasts as well.

“It’s hard to comprehend what a giant ape may want with our women,” the perfectly named Yeoman Lowbrow writes. “However, it’s understandable when that monster happens to have once been human. The body may have become grotesque, but the libido still hangs around like that party guest who overstays his welcome.”

Yet, according to their research, the majority of movie monsters women are portrayed as believably wanting to fuck fall into a few unattractive categories:

  • Aquatic: See The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Alligator People and that sea monster from Humanoids From the Deep
  • Primate: See King Kong, Gorilla at Large and notably Night of the Bloody Apes, where the “the half-human, half gorilla is horny beyond all reckoning, molesting woman after woman.”
  • Mutant: See the subterranean creature in Adventure at the Center of the Earth and the zombie in Nightmare City.
  • Formerly Human: Almost always werewolves in too many werewolf movies to list out.

My only issue with their categorization is that I think zombies count more as “formerly human” more than they count as mutants, but that’s just a quibble. Putting aside the fact that there are no movies where female apes, sea monsters, mutants and werewolves fuck human dudes, we must address the hotness gap of monsters on screen. Time and time again, women’s interest in the visual appeal of a man’s face and body is typically diminished or treated as nonexistent. Even when the creatures women are paired with romantically aren’t that scary, they also aren’t ever allowed to be hot. Yet when men fuck alien-monster women, being hot is the prerequisite. For every Lea Thompson seducing a duck in Howard the Duck, men get a My Stepmother is an Alien featuring Kim Basinger, a Daryl Hannah in Splash, and a Natasha Henstridge in Species.

There are a few exceptions of course: The fact that Johnny Depp is somehow still good looking when made over into a scissor-wielding goth is an exceptional accident of Edward Scissorhands. Jeff Bridges is an alien in Starman who is comparatively easy on the eyes. Apart from these two rare examples — okay, Jeff Goldblum in The Fly makes three — women are sold the short end of the hot stick on monsters.

But psychologists would say this is actually the point. When women fuck ghastly, beastly monsters in movies and art, it’s a play on a power fantasy that isn’t that dissimilar to the rape fantasy, which, generally speaking, hinges on the idea that such fantasies free them of the responsibility of their unwieldy desires. In other words, being overpowered allows a woman to enjoy rough, transgressive sex without having to initiate it herself or admit she really liked it. Such subversion is a way of making it exciting and empowering. Worth noting, experts argue we shouldn’t call such desires rape fantasies, but more accurately, fantasies of “consensual ravishment” or “agreed-to-aggression.”

I still don’t know why the monsters have to always be so gross, but such fantasies also fit the primary dynamic of monster erotica, too, and it’s unlikely to abate. Explaining its popularity, which has soared in recent years and portrays sexual relations between women and everything from Bigfoot to a T-Rex, writer Alice Xavier tells Gizmodo:

“I think with the monsters, it’s about power and danger and exoticness amped up to the Nth degree,” says Xavier. “One of the big themes in monster erotica truly is the power dynamic. The monster is big, scary, dangerous, dominating, and uses his monsterly qualities to overpower and seduce the maiden. And I think the idea of being seduced by something so wild and animal and dangerous…it’s kind of like being forced to play with fire and finding out that you enjoy it. It’s kind of this warm, fuzzy corrupted feeling.”

We can get with warm and fuzzy — just not wet and slimy, retractable dick or not.