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Sex Abuse in Black Swan

Black Swan was one of the most enjoyable films I saw last year. It was also easily the most disturbing. My best friend and I went to see it together as no one else would go with us, and we both were too scared to see it alone. I am glad I didn’t see it alone, as it pretty much freaked us both out for at least the rest of the day.

Though many of the themes of the movie were completely visible to me—particularly the destruction of dancers and the agony they endure to be thin and, of course, perfect—one theme didn’t fully hit me until I read a few reviews about the movie on the blogosphere after seeing it. Though something lingered in the back of my mind—something very disturbing that wouldn’t go away, yet that I could not touch—I didn’t realize what it was until I started reading about the mother-daughter sex abuse reviews.

Like many other viewers, I thought, “What? I don’t remember any mother-daughter sex abuse in Black Swan!” Abuse, certainly, but not that kind. And after seeing Precious, we’d all recognize it if we saw it, right?

But thinking back on what we did see, I’m becoming more and more convince that it did, in fact, occur in the film. The mother stripping off Nina’s clothes to check her for scratching was certainly disturbing and sexual, but was it really a sign of sex abuse? It was definitely an instance of humiliation and disrespect for privacy, for sure.

Other moments, however, add up as well. Remember when Nina was searching for something to keep her mother from her room? That may have been just to ensure privacy—or, in fact, to ensure that her mother did not enter her room to abuse her. She does, in fact, stand outside her daughter’s room in black negligee and ask if she’s “ready for me”.

The fact that her mother is there when she is pleasuring herself, and later, is the focal point of her view in her last moments of life as she plummets of the stage, could again be either signs of the emotional abuse or, in fact, sex abuse. Even some of the songs on the soundtrack, from “Mother Me” to “Cruel Mistress,” could be interpreted as such.

Some bloggers have pointed out that these instances do, in fact, fit the definition of incest—the sexual or emotional needs of the authoritative person in the relationship being met by inappropriate acts, or with acts with a sexual overtone. In this case, the emotional abuse could be interpreted as sexual abuse, even if actual sex acts did not take place. Like most of the moments in Aronofsky’s grotesque and emotional film, however, it is left ambiguous, where we are still unsure what is real and what isn’t.