Wonder Woman, an illusion of feminism

Did you know that the comic book character, Wonder Woman was created by a disgraced Harvard professor, who most likely had a polyamorous relationship with his wife and a former student? The two women, Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne were probably the inspiration for the famous comic book heroine. On close inspection, sexual fantasies and sadomasochism were subversively featured in the comics. I didn’t realize this until I watched the unauthorized biopic, “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women“. The beautiful actors portrayed them as glamorous ménage a tois lovers, but the real life photos reveal average-looking people. Marston family relatives contest the accuracy of the film and deny any S & M, polyamory or polygamy in the family but the clues are retrospectively apparent in the original comics.

Wonder Woman created in 1941, represented feminism to generations of both kids and adults, but there’s an undercurrent of misogyny, (female objectification, fetish/fantasy/wish fulfillment of a heterosexual male having sex with lesbians) within it’s message of female liberation. All super heroes classically wore tight, form fitting athletic costumes (with the spandex underwear displayed on the outside), but Wonder Woman’s outfit was a pornographer’s dream. Her cleavage showcasing bodice, shaped like a golden phoenix, with blue starry short skirt (updated to underwear without tights) paired with racy scarlet knee length boots, all tell the story! She doesn’t even wear a mask. Instead she hides behind nerdy glasses, as her alter ego, Diana Prince. She comes from a tribe of militant Amazons on a hidden island away from men, is that why she calls herself Prince? Women who wore glasses were considered ugly, not worth noticing. They were the intelligent, plain Jane, spinsters: librarians, teachers, nurses and secretaries that machismo men didn’t desire. The ridiculous idea that Wonder Woman couldn’t be recognized when she wore glasses, shows how Marston viewed females. In order to be noticeably beautiful you had to present cleavage, long bare legs, have loose waving hair, and wear a swimsuit with knee high boots, right Professor Marston?

(Superman and Batman are dressed head to toe they even have capes, but poor half-naked Wonder Woman has to show her ass-ets)

Marston was obsessed with the subject of dominance and submission. He believed that people categorically belonged in one of four personality types. His theory was wasn’t original or new, ancient cultures often believed in personality types, but he called his theory, DISC which stood for: Dominance, Inducement, Submission, Compliance, (Inducement and Submission was relabeled, Influence and Steadiness), which sounds much less offensive doesn’t it? Sadomasochism involves power, control, dominance, obedience. In S & M, pain, humiliation and torture are relabeled as pleasure, excitement and sexual liberation. Why do people buy into this? Easy access to and submersion of pornography in our daily lives has a desensitizing effect. We live in a nihilistic, jaded society. Look at the barrage of commercials, advertisements, media; provocative sex is constantly sold to us, ingrained in us during childhood. Have we been brainwashed to think regular, non-kinky sex is unimaginative? I think so. I’ve been called a prude by an ex-lover for not wanting a polyamorous relationship. He convinced himself that “normal” was following the popular trend but I’ve always questioned group mentality and coercion. Sadly it seems that one-on-one sex is considered old fashioned now: boring, vanilla, routine.

Wonder Woman was a dominant personality, a princess warrior. Since Amazons lived in hidden seclusion on the island of Lesbos, she never met a man before Steve Trevor. When I was a child I never considered why Amazons would live away from men, but the (especially male), adult reader was probably tantalized to imagine Steve surrounded on an island full of beautiful, Goddess-like women. His presence changed the course of their perfect society, they even competed over him (ha!) and the best alpha amazon, Wonder Woman left her paradise world to escort him back home. We the audience already guess that she’s fallen in love with, or eventually will fall for him. But why? Steve Trevor is both a helpless victim and a savior to her normalcy as a newly established heterosexual woman. She leaves Lesbos in preference for him, but whenever she’s upset she still calls out, “Suffering Sappho!” her repeated exclamation of frustration. Sappho was a famous lesbian poet from ancient history, this was a very intentional mention by Marston.

As a dominant personality, Wonder Woman wielded mystical power with her golden lasso of truth and her bullet deflecting bracelets. The golden lasso was used both as a lie detector and as a rope to confine the villains, (Marston in real life helped to develop the unreliable device, which is still inadmissible in court). He had her character bind and hog tie females and males with expert bondage flair. In the same guise of innocence, much like female mud wrestling, Wonder Woman could catfight, grab, wrestle, man-handle the evil doers while displaying her physical prowess. It’s female objectification without the overt sexuality. The audience notices her strength, while we’re also programmed to find her sexually desirable. Marston’s seemingly liberated, Wonder Woman hides her power behind a facade of nerdy glasses but underneath the demur front, is a hyper sexualized, dominatrix vixen.

LYNDA CARTER WONDER WOMAN (1976 Stock Photo, Royalty Free Image

(I liked Lynda Carter, but her costume was selling sex not empowerment).

S & M bondage, sexual role playing, having group sex or multiple partners was seen as an avant-garde movement of actualized liberation; but it’s now a commonplace variation of sex within mainstream, westernized cultures. I think it’s a shame that radical feminism advocates objectification as self expression and prostitution as a socially advanced right for young women, to promote and sell their bodies for money. How is that liberation? The human body is gorgeous, but it doesn’t have to be constantly sexualized and prominently displayed as a sign of worth. William Moulton Marston, go roll in your grave and leave lesbians alone, you’re not their spokesman or savior. Yes he supported birth control and voting rights for women but his Wonder Woman is a double standard fantasy. Fetishism is not Feminism.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women Trailer REACTION – YouTube
— Read on m.youtube.com/watch


  1. This was, as always, a very interesting point of view, Judy. You have a brilliant way of writing passionately about things you truly believe in and you convey them with a sharp bite. That Marston was in a polyamorous relationship with the two women, Holloway and Byrne has been established without doubt. Their children knew it, though, of four kids, at least two became privy to it much later in life. What Marston’s family disputed was the film’s portrayal of a sexual relationship between Holloway and Byrne which they say never happened because they had sisterly affection for each other. Also, the film takes quite a lot of cinematic licence as to how Marston’s came up with Wonder Woman’s storyline of female empowerment. It was Elizabeth Holloway who asked him to make his superhero a woman. As to whether it really was about female empowerment… I’d say, in many ways, yes. It was in more ways uplifting than it was demoralizing. Is wonder woman a symbol of feminism? Well, which version are we talking about? Because her storyline has been changed in dramatic ways and too often. But the original story that Marston brought was indeed meant to make her a feminist icon and a superhero whose origins lay not in bloodshed or personal tragedy but in her principles of compassion, love and equality for all. Was that equality really presented in the way she was dressed? Nope. She was still made to wear clothes that’d appeal to the male gaze. There is never an iota of doubt in that. Her skimpy clothing was a strange choice given that even Superman, the man of steel who can’t be hurt by anything a mere mortal would fear, wouldn’t ever dare step out wearing just a speedo. No, Superman in a thong or a speedo will drive the collective toxic male masculinity to drop a vicious, vitriolic hate bomb on the internet. Which is, let’s be real, their usual modus operandi!

    But despite her physical portrayal, WW immediately set herself apart from the crowd of brooding, violent male superheroes of her time. She was compassionate. She didn’t just spout platitudes of equality, she followed them through in her actions. Her romantic angle with Steve reversed the situation where unlike where a woman was (and painfully still is) always the damsel in distress, this time it was the woman who’d come to rescue her love.

    Steve’s mortal fragility in his relationship with WW when juxtaposed against the traditional role a woman had been playing in male superhero’s life was, once again a welcome change in power dynamics. 

    As for the presence of scenes in which WW was too often tied up or chained up, I agree with you that this definitely felt like it was done to ilicit an errotic response from readers. Marston himself used to take great pleasure in setting up these scenes. He used to rationalize it with chains being a central theme taken from the suffragette movement but still, I think he enjoyed it more than he ever admitted publicly. But again, WW would always rescue herself by breaking chains or ropes and that, at least at that time, was far more positive than most media images would ever dare depict. My point is that even though there were a few negatives, but ultimately WW was indeed a symbol of feminism. Yes, her story was over time changed again and again and some times it would become antithetical to everything she intially stood for, but the original story and the hero was more a force for equality and positive upliftment than of misogyny or sexism. 

    Also, sadomasochism is not about humiliation or torture. It’s about giving up control while keeping consent squarely into focus. It doesn’t have to be physical pain, but role play can allow you a certain emotional submission that many find freeing. Polyamory may not be for you or for me, but it definitely suits a lot of people. As long as sexual connection is ruled by mutual consent of adult parties involved, then whatever one’s kink is, who are we to judge it?

    As for your ex calling you a prude for not being into polyamory relationships, I believe you dodged a bullet with that one and frankly, fuck him. I think if two people can connect with each other emotionally and sexually then every position is a banana split sundae with three scoops of cream on top! Everyone else’s opinion on the “right way” of having sex can go ahead and screw itself into oblivion.

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    1. Superman in a Speedo haha! I “wonder” how the public would respond now to that, if all the heroes wore skimpy outfits, I’d have no issues with wonder woman’s costume. ;).
      Thanks about your response to my ex, he wasn’t very convincing! I stood my ground.

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      1. Men portrayed the way women are while also dressed up in strings or bare nothings – to that I say, hallelujah! Let our sexist world seethe under discomfort. Walk a mile in our shoes and all that shit. 😊
        I used to hate wonder woman’s skimpy outfit and DC’s penchant for making her appear weaker than Superman 🙄 but I loved Patty Jenkins adaptation of the character and Gal Gadot was awe-freakin-some! Have you seen the movie? Frankly after that movie all my dislikes about her dress evaporated. She, WW, became more than sum of her bare body parts, which the comic strip usually reduces her to. Anyway, more opinion pieces please. I love reading your take! ❤️

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  2. Thanks for sharing very informative. I did not read comics as a child nor did I watch any of the Wonder Woman films. I can see how the obvious use of abusive sex was used in the comic books and films. These writers and film-makers have promoted and encouraged abuse towards women feeding sick minded men with unrealistc fantasies as most women are looking for love and this kind of relationship does not give to a loving nature which should be shown to people as normal.

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    1. I’m glad you liked the post. I agree, the writers and film makers are responsible for teaching and encouraging the dehumanizing of women as fetish objects to use. S & M is a sick practice, it’s not liberating at all! Our society slowly was groomed to accept it as normal sexuality but hurting and humiliating as a form of sex is the opposite of natural sex. I write about this often because it upsets me to know that we’ve been tricked and demoralized.


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