“It’s a Trap!”: Sexual Imagery in Star Wars

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Spring 2015


This video demonstrates how heroines and heroes sometimes have to overcome an aggressive male or female sexuality in order to mature and find freedom. In A New Hope, Leia’s nun-like flowing white robes indicate a virginal purity. Her famous tied-up hair buns also suggest a reserved sexuality. Nevertheless, the metal belt she wears accentuates her hips and waist, while the circles on the belt also serve as yonic symbols. Leia continues to wear pure white outfits in The Empire Strikes Back. However, there is now an exception: her red outfit in Cloud City. The new color of her dress reflects her growing acceptance of Han Solo’s erotic advances, as does both her letdown hair and the Klimt-like circular symbols on the outfit. The most striking costume change for Leia is, of course, the metal bikini she wears as Jabba’s slave in Return of the Jedi. In her new role as sexual object, Leia wears a skimpy dancing girl outfit with more circular and winding shapes suggestive of the female body and sexuality. While the biblical Judith beheads Holofernes with his own phallic sword, Leia strangles Jabba with the very chain he used to oppress her sexually. This act is also similar to Britomart’s rescuing of Amoret from Busirane in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. Returning to Star Wars, Jabba’s Palace is full of more sexual imagery. Jabba himself is clearly phallic, being snake-like and often foaming white at the mouth. His Twi’lek majordomo Bib Fortuna and his slave girl Oola both possess phallic headtails, or lekku. One of the most fascinating instances of Jabba’s sexual corruption is an easily missed sandstone relief on his sail barge that depicts Jabba surrounded by a harem of slave girls. This is similar to Britomart’s seeing murals in Busirane’s castle that depict the ancient gods raping human women. In Return of the Jedi, Leia and Luke work together to destroy Jabba and his sexual perversions. In the case of Luke, this involves escaping the vaginal Sarlacc Pit. While Jabba’s Palace often suggests a female fear of male penetration, the Sarlacc Pit conversely suggests a male fear of female consumption. The threat of vaginal enclosure for the male heroes is emphasized by the presence of vagina dentata around the Sarlacc’s mouth, which also resembles the medieval Hellmouth. A similar vaginal space is the moist stomach of the phallic space slug in Empire Strikes Back. This yonic space appears at a time of great sexual tension between Han and Leia. The wet trash compactor in A New Hope can be seen as a similar vaginal space, especially when its walls threaten to crush the heroes inside it. In short, Star Wars repeatedly features its heroes and heroines defeating predatory sexualities in a medieval allegorical manner.

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