Sleeping Beauty vs Rape Culture

The romanticized Disney story about a young Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip falling in love, defeating a witch/dragon, and living happily ever after is not the original story of Sleeping Beauty.  The original story was  written by Giambattista Basile and was called Sleeping Beauty.  The original story was  written by Giambattista Basile and was called The Sun, Moon, and Talia.  


The Sun, Moon, and Talia is about a young girl named Talia who is prophesied to fall asleep if she gets a splinter from a flax (spinning wheel).  Her father orders all the flax to be destroyed but, alas, Talia finds a flax, gets a splinter and falls into a deep sleep.  She is put away in a locked room to sleep.  Meanwhile, a young king is out hunting and his bird flys into Talia’s castle.  He climbs into her room sees her and I quote, “he found an enchanting girl who seemed to be sleeping. He called to her, but she would not wake. As he looked at her and tried to wake her, she seemed so incredibly lovely to him that he could not help desiring her, and he began to grow hot with lust. He gathered her in his arms and carried her to a bed, where he made love to her. Leaving her on the bed, he left the palace and returned to his own city, where pressing business for a long time made him think no more about the incident.” (Basile).  Nine months later… Talia gives birth to twins; Moon and Sun.  One day one of the twins sucks on her finger and out comes the splinter, thus waking her.


Talia is overjoyed to have her children and does not care a wit of how they got there.  Eventually, the King remembers her and visits again.  He falls in love with Talia and his children and she becomes his lover.  However, are you ready for the next kicker… the King has a wife.  When he goes back to his wife he mumbles Talia’s name in his sleep and she discovers that he has a lover and children.  She becomes angry and long story short, she tricks the King into thinking he has eaten his children and tries to kill Talia in a fire.  The King stops her from killing Talia and instead makes his wife burn in the flames.  In the end, the King and Talia reunite with their children who were being hidden by the cook’s wife.  They live… Happily Ever After.


Rape Culture is defined as “acceptance of rapes as an everyday occurrence”, “encourage gender violence, ranging from treating rape as merely “rough sex to blaming the victim for inviting rape”, “validate and rationalize normative misogynistic practices”, and a “culture that shames all female sexuality” (Steele, 2016).

Now, you may be thinking, Disney didn’t incorporate the rape aspect into the film, it was only a kiss.  However, it was a kiss where consent was not given.  It makes me wonder why Disney would make a film based off a crude, misogynistic story in the first place.  Even though Disney replaced the rape with a seemingly innocent kiss, they still created a film that was mainly meant for young girls.  They validated the idea that women need a man and true love’s kiss to save them.  They also validated the notion that women should not have a choice to be kissed or not.  This is important to note because the young children watching this movie start to believe it is o.k. for a man to kiss (or do more) an unknowing women for the sake of “true love” or because the women needs to be saved.

I realize that this film was made in a different time (1959) and this film would most likely not have been made today.  Disney has become better at reinforcing the idea that women don’t need men first through Mulan (1998) and more recently through Frozen (2013).  However, it is important to remember that Sleeping Beauty is a film that children still watch today and the sexist ideas continue to be reinforced in the minds of children.

Basile, Giambattista. The Tale of Tales: Or Entertainment for Little Ones. Print.
Sleeping Beauty. Prod. Walt Disney. By Erdman Penner. 1959.

Steele, C. K., Dr. “Sex and GenderAbuse and Empowerment.” CSU, Fort Collins, CO. 29 March. 2016. Lecture.


4 thoughts on “Sleeping Beauty vs Rape Culture

  1. I’m sitting here with my jaw dropped. Seriously. I had no idea that Sleeping Beauty was based on this story, and honestly, it’s crazy that someone even thought it would be a good idea to do so. Yes, they didn’t go as far in the movie, but you make an excellent point about the kiss that Sleeping Beauty receives. There’s no consent — what does that tell the kids watching this movie? That as long as you want it and she’s asleep, it’s okay? Excellent post, definitely an eye-opener.


  2. I love this post. The rape culture in older disney has always fascinated/upset me. I think you are right to say that in today’s society disney wouldn’t produce something like this but plenty of other media outlets have. With all the progress we have made with ending rape culture, it still exists. And to a lot of people, an kiss without consent triggers zero red flags. Referring to your question on why would disney make a film based on such a crude story, most of the disney classics come from old stories that are no less vulgar. Overall, I think this post really works with the idea of rape-culture and it is written really well. Great Job.


  3. Just a note. Like all of Basile’s fairy tales , Sun Moon and Talia IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HAPPY OR HAVE AN HAPPY ENDING. It can happen, but often doesn’t.
    Basile’s “Petrosinella” (Rapunzel’s first known version) depicts the most feminist, cunning, and active “Rapunzel” ever, and only for this she have a real happy ending, while he purposely added a bitter ending to “Cagliuso” (Second known version of “Puss in Boots” after Straparola’s “Costantino Fortunato”) because the human main character in that tale didn’t really deserve his good luck. Basile simply was a satiric moralist. His goal was to show the “upside down world” he wieved. In his tales the powerful ones are often petty and selfish, the main characters too are often flawed, and the humble ones need to be clever and cunning not to win, but at least to live, to keep on playing another day. That’s the teaching of “Sun Moon and Talia”. None really cared of her, not even her parents. Nothing good came to her by sleeping or passively accepting her fate. Only a clever move saved her life. She really didn’t have an happy ending (it needs more than a single clever move in a whole life), but it could be worse.


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