A to Z Challenge: West Side Story

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Four more days left on this A to Z Challenge where I have been focusing on giving a voice and bringing awareness to the numerous cases of child abuse and sexual assault happening worldwide. With that in mind, and after two very heavy posts about children who were abused and murdered let’s focus on the ‘fictional’ West Side Story and the infamous Anita near-rape/taunt scene.

The Near Rape of Anita

In West Side Story, the supporting character of Anita, a Puerto Rican immigrant living in New York City, is taunted and (nearly) raped by members of the Jets, a white street gang.

In the motion picture, starring Natalie Woods and Rita Moreno, Doc (Ned Glass) manages to stop the rape before it officially happens but the damage is done.

Anita is furious (and rightly so) and the Jets have crossed the line too far this time. They are no longer kids rumbling and picking fights in the street. So what happens? Anita, in anger, retaliates by telling them that Maria is dead leading to the final battle and Tony’s murder.

What I have always found interesting about the film and several stage productions I have seen is that Anita’s near-rape is more dramatic and startling than any of the murder scenes (Tony, Bernardo, and Riff).

Continue the Conversation

Why is that? How is it that we as a society are quite unaffected by scenes of murder but sexual assault will have us gasping in shock or turning our heads in shame?

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  1. Anna - Alina

    April 27, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Hmmm never heard about West Side story! So thaaanks for sharing ♥

    1. Joy

      April 27, 2016 at 10:19 pm

      it is a musical version of Romeo and Juliet w/ whites vs. Puerto Ricans in NYC.

  2. betty

    April 27, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    I wonder if it is because sexual assault is still a taboo where murder seems so "routine" in that we have desensitized ourselves to it since it seems to be so rampant these days. Sexual assault violates in a whole different way than murder I think.


    1. Joy

      April 27, 2016 at 10:19 pm

      I would agree but it is sad that murder is not seen as taboo too.

  3. Kathleen Valentine

    April 28, 2016 at 12:04 am

    I also think it has something to do with female vulnerability. At least in the movies the victim is usually a young, pretty, and rather fragile girl. Whereas the murders are of tough guys who were probably asking for it.

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    1. Joy

      April 29, 2016 at 5:21 am

      Interesting how our society rationalizes and depicts murder and rape in the movies and books. Thanks for your insight Kathleen!

  4. Courtney Turner

    April 28, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    I'm included to agree with 2 – and 3 above. Innocence that is abused or hurt is more shocking, like the murder of a pregnant woman or the killing of children. Maui Jungalow

    1. Joy

      April 29, 2016 at 5:22 am

      Indeed. Thanks for visiting Courtney!

  5. TheCyborgMom

    April 28, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    That is an interesting question. I would guess that sometines killing can be justified (self-defense), but rape or sexual assault is never justified. That's my guess.

    1. Joy

      April 29, 2016 at 5:22 am

      Thanks for sharing, Katie!

  6. Carrie-Anne

    April 29, 2016 at 5:59 am

    Maybe people react more strongly because sexual assault is much more personally experienced, something we could imagine happening to ourselves, whereas violence could seem like something abstract happening to someone else, not a complete invasion of one's body and boundaries.

    1. Joy

      April 30, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      It is definitely a very interesting comparison.

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