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In the Middle of the Night

by Lee Conderacci

In this scene, David sneaks into Nicole’s bedroom uninvited in the middle of the night, while she is asleep. He pulls the covers off her; she is wearing only her bra and panties. She awakens to see him there, undressed, and her facial expression seems to indicate that she is at least slightly disturbed. She does not smile or demonstrate happiness to see him. He bends down to her and begins to kiss her all over her body; he removes her bra and panties. Throughout all of this, Nicole says nothing, but her face looks uncertain, uncomfortable, disturbed. She remains curled up on her side. She is not actively engaging with him. David rolls her onto her back, lies on top of her, and begins kissing her forcefully. Nicole does not actively resist or say no, but she is not enthusiastically consenting here. For a moment, she takes his head in her hands, looks him in the eyes, and says one word: “David.” He replies, “Nicole, I love you,” and then, without asking or verbally checking in with her, he lies on top of her and begins to have intercourse with her.

In this scene, Nicole does not say no or actively resist; she goes along with what is happening. But this is not enthusiastic, affirmative consent. There are a number of issues with this situation that make it ambiguous at best, and it might even be considered assault. Firstly, David has intruded into Nicole’s bedroom in the middle of the night and awakened her from sleep; she is in a vulnerable state and likely groggy and confused. Secondly, before she has a chance to register what is happening, David is on top of her, kissing her. Even if she feels like this is wrong, or not what she wants, she may not have the clarity of mind at this moment to resist. Thirdly, when Nicole does pause the action to say, “David,” he replies by saying “I love you,” which is an incredibly manipulative move. This is her boyfriend, and he has just told her he loves her for the first time; this is a tremendous amount of pressure, and even if she does not want to have sex with him, this puts her in a position where it would be difficult for her to say no.

Ultimately, this is an encounter in which David does not give Nicole the opportunity to say no. He is the actor and the aggressor, but he is also her boyfriend; he has created a bond with her via intense love bombing, so she likely feels conflicted about resisting his advances. Additionally, he is physically larger and stronger than she is; even if she did try to resist, he would most likely be able to overpower her. David does not take care to check in with her verbally, or via eye contact; he does not move slowly or tentatively to give her opportunities to stop or pause the action. He starts having sex with her before she even has the chance to question it.

This is Nicole’s first time having sexual intercourse; the audience gets the sense that this is not how she wanted it to be. It is a stark contrast to the euphoric rush of the fully-consensual encounter on the rollercoaster, which was all about her pleasure and a shared intimate experience. In this scene, the action is all for David’s gratification and desire, and it seems to be disturbingly one-sided.

Fear: In the Middle of the Night

The movie Fear is a suspense thriller which centers around an abusive relationship, in which the abuser uses various tactics to seduce his victim and gain her trust in order to manipulate and control her.

from Fear (1996)
Creator: James Foley
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Posted by Lee Conderacci
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