Are the princes in Disney's “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White” sex offenders? According to a Japanese sociology and gender studies professor, the answer is yes.
Kazue Muta, a professor at Osaka University, wrote on Twitter last month that two Disney movies portray "obscene sexual acts on an unconscious partner,” Fox News reported. She also charged that the movies promote "sexual violence." A complete translation of Muta’s tweet reads, according to Japan Today:
When you think rationally about "Snow White" and "Sleeping Beauty," that tell of a "princess being woken up by the kiss of a prince," they are describing sexual assault on an unconscious person. You might think I’m ruining the fantasy of it all, but these stories are promoting sexual violence and I would like everyone to be aware of it.
The tweet came in response to an actual news story where a man in Japan was arrested on a train for kissing a sleeping woman.
Muta's comments sparked outrage on the internet among Disney fans who believe the fairytale story is innocent and doesn't depict sexual violence or assault.
"No matter how you interpret those stories, what the princes did is not sexual assault!" one person said, according to Japan Today.
"You can’t apply modern law or ethics to fairy tales," another person said.
Yet another said: "So if we can apply real-world laws to fiction, can the reverse also apply?"
What do the stories actually depict?
In "Snow White," the prince does, in fact, kiss an unconscious Snow White. However, the story "attempts to soften the act by establishing a prior relationship between them in which she and the prince fall in love at first sight," Japan Today noted.
Meanwhile, in "Sleeping Beauty," fairies lead the prince to kiss Princess Aurora under the belief that his smooch will cure her of her napping curse.
"If you’re going to take a hard-line stance on his actions, then those fairies ought to take a major part of the accountability," Japan Today stated.
How did Muta respond to the backlash?
In an article for the Women's Action Network, Muta explained her perspective on the issue is a type of "literary criticism" that seeks to "overtrun [sic] the male-centered view of the world which controls or underlies the works" and expose the apparent sexual violence in male-centered fairytales.
"There were many critical replies that state ‘Because the princess and prince lived happily ever after in the end, there is a presumptive consent regarding the kiss, so there’s no problem,’” Muta wrote. “However, this understanding of it is actually dangerous. This kind of thinking fabricates the mindset of ‘the ends justify the means,’ and to what extent does this allow sexual violence to occur?"
"Changing social recognition in this atmosphere is a tough job, but we need to keep speaking all the more," she explained.