Alone amidst X-men: Rogue, sexuality, and mental illness

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Abstract

In this article, I examine the ways in which the character of Rogue has been defined by her sexuality and mind-body relationship; by her psychological struggle to accept that she is unable to express or explore her sexuality without harm to others, and the consequences of that expression. Her inability to touch another person without harming them through absorbing their memories and persona is reflected in a constant narrative focus on a frustrated sexuality. For Rogue, skin-to-skin contact means allowing her mind and identity to be overwhelmed and overtaken by that of another person, robbing her of bodily and mental autonomy

I examine post-Freudian critique and analysis of hysteria as a diagnosis that has been used to stigmatise and control women (their mind and their bodies) who do not conform to the passive sexual and social roles expected of them. Rogue’s central struggle is one for control- of her deviant mutant body, of her sexuality and of her mind-body relationship. With the ability to steal the physical and psychic abilities of others through sensual expression and a hyper-sexualised physical presentation, she can be seen as a hysteric through Michel Foucault’s proposition that hysteria exists as a label for female sexual agency; a label created to control that agency through the structures of patriarchal, medical power.

I argue that Rogue’s sexuality and mind-body can be read through the frame of Audre Lorde’s concept of the erotic, and Meg John Barker’s writings on sex to problematise and challenge the presentation of female sexuality and desire in comics as inherently phallo-centric and heterosexual.

Rogue also illustrates a dichotomy between different approaches to the treatment of mental health and its relationship to female sexuality: that of passive acquiescence to paternalistic, patriarchal medical structures of psychiatrist led diagnosis and treatment; and that of active self-care, self-knowledge and self-acceptance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425
Number of pages437
JournalJournal of Graphic Novels and Comics
Volume11
Issue number4
Early online date3 May 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • graphic novels and comics
  • female sexuality
  • gender in popular media
  • hysteria
  • mental health

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