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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Link Between Men's Desire and Violence

Sex and violence seem to be inextricably linked for the male characters of the story. The babysitter's boyfriend, Jack; his friend, Mark; and the father of the children the babysitter cares for, Mr. Tucker, all fantasize at some point about raping her. They also fantasize about voyeurism and watching her naked through windows, and Mr. Tucker even fantasizes about masturbating in the bushes while watching her in this way; this is also a form of violence. Further, the television is constantly on, and on one detective program, the victim is a "half-naked girl" against whom some obviously grave and mortal violence has been practiced.

Desensitization to Violence via Television

Television has become a huge part of contemporary lives, and not for the better; in fact, it can and has desensitized us to violence, as Coover points out. The fact that the television is on and playing a show in the men's fantasies of raping the babysitter indicates how big a part of their lives it is. Perhaps the shows—some of which feature general violence (like gunfights) and some of which feature sexual violence specifically enacted against women—have actively contributed to all four male characters's ideas about women, sex, and power. If one constantly watches programs that depict violence, it stands to reason that one would eventually be less affected by that violence because it becomes so routine. Even the little boy, Jimmy, is not immune to this, and he likely has imbibed his ideas about sex and violence from the television. His mother is more concerned about what he eats than what he watches, apparently, as she offers no instruction to the babysitter concerning what her kids watch on television.

Monitoring Children's Exposure to Television

People must be careful about what they allow their children to watch on television, and they must not allow it to become another babysitter of sorts. In fact, we might wonder whether the title refers to the actual girl or the television itself—or both. We see how the television plays a role in the sexual fantasies of the men and adolescents in the story, as well as how it has already begun to affect young Jimmy. We think of lots of little things as being potentially dangerous—the baby can choke on a diaper pin or drown in bathwater—but the characters do not think of the television in this way. Perhaps they—and we—should.

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