Slave Arena
Slave Arena

I set out to create an image that depicts the degradation of women. Guilty. No getting around that. The central idea is the three figures in the middle of the frame—the fat slob with one girl under his foot, and another at his side with the idea that he won, they lost, now they're his playthings. But I found those three alone didn't quite convey quite what I wanted. It could be an image of some bedroom role-playing, some backwards society where women exist as objects, or every male's secret fantasy. So, I needed a way to convey a sense of win/loss, a coliseum with serious consequences, so to speak.

So slowly the rest of the picture evolved with chain link fence, the girl on frame right tied up with her own clothes, but even that didn't quite convey the sense of "they fought and lost." So, I thought about it and added the girl in the foreground laying in an unnatural position which I think does the trick. No one lies down and falls asleep in that position. Someone knocked her out (probably beat her up first) and left her there. Unfortunately, then I had an image heavily weighted to the right, so I added the girl on frame left to balance it out. I also gave her a slightly unnatural posture to, again, emphasize that she didn't sit down. Someone put her down and left her like that.

I deliberately drew them with varying levels of clothing, which I hope informs the viewer they didn't walk into that cage in bikinis/undergarments. That it's something that's being taken from them one by one as they regain consciousness and face the penalty for failure. And since losing their freedom and future isn't humiliating enough, I had to set it in a caged in arena so they suffered a crushing defeat in public and have a bleak and hopeless life ahead of them. What can I say? I wanted to make it as bad for these characters as I could short of showing explicit acts of obscenity.

After I drew the misogynist slob and his victims, I sketched in the support posts for the fence. Then I drew the audience, adding the chain links almost last. And I knew the chain links would obscure them, but had no idea to what extent so I went ahead and drew the audience full detail. I tried to keep the pencil work relatively light for the crowd because I was afraid if I did them too dark the chain links would make the image too busy. On the actual drawing and the full sized scan, at a glance you can clearly see the fence and see that there's lots of stuff behind it. And if you look closely you can make out most of the details. Unfortunately, the scanner captures at 200% or 300% resolution, and for viewing on a screen the image has to be resized. On the smaller screen-friendly resolutions only a handful of details make it through. But, at least you can tell there's stuff going on behind it ....

This drawing is unique in that I did do some quick test sketches for isolated elements. The girl at the bottom of the frame and the two girls sitting against the fence, I roughly sketched out on a separate sheet to make sure the pose would work and make sure I could draw it within reason (funny, because the central three look the best, and had no warm ups/tests). I also did some tests for the chain links because I knew I'd be drawing on top of the crowd, which would make erasing impossible. So, I wanted to make sure the chain links would look okay before proceeding.

And, for the record, drawing chain links takes frickin' forever.

Now, as for why I choose to draw five women at the mercy of one man? I dunno. I'm fascinated by the idea of competition with consequences where winners gain more than a medal and prize money (and product endorsement deals) and where bad things happen to the losers. I think all people share that same fascination on some level or other; however it usually manifests in a much more veiled form of, let's say, Star Wars where if the evil Empire wins the Dark Side will spread throughout the universe, all hope is crushed, and everything that ever was is doomed. If the Rebels win? It'll all be okay.

I didn't draw this to try and make any kind of sophisticated statement or challenge any kind of standard conventional beliefs, but as I'm thinking about it while typing up this commentary, imagining what people might say or think or object to or glean from this image regarding its creator ... I can't help but wonder if the degradation of five fictional women is worse than the Empire kicking the Rebels asses at the end of Empire Strikes Back (or the Death Star murdering an entire planet in New Hope.) If so, is it because in Star Wars the good guys ultimately win, and in this drawing the (apparent) bad guy wins?

Then I wonder what people's reactions would be if the winner were a woman, and if she had five men under her boot. Would it be perceived as domestic abuse? Violation of the men's rights as human beings? Or would it be "sexy"? Right here on Dark Side of the Soul, I have a drawing of a girl in an arena stepping away from a battle where she killed her opponent, and not a single person said anything about, "she blasted him to death? that's awful." Nothing. Nada. No objections nor the veiled non-objection objection, "uh ... that's ... umm ... interesting."

I dunno. All I know is, I'm interested in conflict with winners and losers, with spoils for the victors and consequences for the defeated. And I think that's reflected in pretty much any drawing I do with a narrative element to it. This particular time, it takes the form of conquered women under a man's boot.

Draw your own conclusions.