In order to distract myself from a rather awful string of luck at work, I decided to dive head first into Amazon Prime’s four-part docu-series, Lorena, about the sensational case of Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt. I was first made aware of this by the guys of Last Podcast on the Left in one of their more recent episodes. I remember being a young kid in the mid-1990s and seeing this story all over the tabloids, much like the case of JonBenét Ramsey. At the time, I was short so the magazines at the grocery store cash registers were displayed at eye level so it was hard to escape, even at that age, a feeling of salaciousness that heavily imbued American culture at the time.
With those reminiscent feelings. I was very eager to watch the documentary, which features interviews from both Lorena and John Wayne. If you don’t know what this story was about, I’ve linked to the Wikipedia page here, but will summarize it bluntly. Lorena was the victim of horrific domestic and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband, and in retaliation, one evening in 1993, she cut his penis off and threw it into a grassy area by a florescent lit neighborhood 7/11 in Manassas, Virginia.
The goings on surrounding the event and subsequent trials of both spouses were exceptional media fodder and revealed the trashy side of America. Late night television hosts and comics made their jokes. John Wayne went on to make a grotesque career for himself, after get his penis reattached, starring in pornographic movies and guesting on Howard Stern’s programs. Basically, he was interviewed by anybody and everyone who expressed interest. He later had a botched penile enhancement surgery and was convicted on further domestic abuse charges. He still writes love letters to Lorena to this day.
What the documentary more importantly reveals is how buried Lorena’s side really was. Lorena was born in Ecuador and came to America at the young age of 19; she knew no English. One Vanity Fair journalist that interviewed her recalls how inarticulate she was about her story. Perhaps that’s why media glossed over the importance of having the conversation about domestic abuse, in spite of activism surrounding the case. The “he said, she said” structure of the arguments for both of their trials (Lorena for maiming him, John for raping and abusing her) had come off the heels of the Anita Hill vs. Clarence Thomas sexual harassment case. But still, it seems, American media wanted to focus on the singular act itself as opposed to the reasoning behind her action, perhaps because the editors were men?
Lorena now is happily married to a respectful partner with whom she has a young daughter. She devotes her time to helping women and children and other abuse survivors. I have no doubts that she was brutally abused by John Wayne Bobbitt, who with his disgusting exploitative career, his inability to string together an intelligible sentence, his pile of lies, further assaults on women, and his ridiculous Donald Trump vanity license plates, is probably the lowliest piece of trash on this earth. And he still bothers her with letters claiming he now understands his wrongdoing towards her followed by suggestions to get back together and have a baby so they can make a ton of money on an interview.
He’s still harassing her to this day. While Lorena is now more articulate, stronger, and confident, we need to remember that many women that are victims of domestic violence may be broken down, frightened or unable to advocate for themselves until it gets to a breaking point like Lorena or even death. It’s not as simple as, “just leave”. John Wayne has proven he’ll never fully let her go even though she’s trying to move on. She even says after reading some of the letters aloud for the camera, “Just leave me alone. I cut off your penis!” Further proof of what a loser and bully he truly is.
I’d like to think that things have changed since the mid-1990s, but we’re still dealing with cases like Bret Kavanaugh where again, it’s a “he said, she said” scenario and the outcome was in favor of the man. As a consumer, though, we can make choices as to what we consume. And as women, we can band together, something that men are not always as skilled at doing, and advocate for ourselves. There seems to be no other option, fair or not.
I highly recommend this series. The case being interesting aside, it’s an important look and dialogue into gender wars and media, in a similar vein as the O.J.: Made in America series.
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