Arming Desire: The Sexual Force of
Guns in the United States
C. Richard King
Near the start of the motion picture Jackie Brown (1997) Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) and Lewis Gara (Robert De Niro) talk about the gun trade, black identity, and the media, while watching Chicks Who Love Guns with Robbie's girlfriend, Melanie (Bridget Fonda), who lacks a last name and remains off camera for a major portion of the scene. The video, inspired by a real-life production, Sexy Girls, Sexy Guns, consists of quick cuts of bikini-clad women shooting various high-powered weapons, interspersed with personal narratives and commentaries about the firearms. The first begins with a white woman with blonde hair, dressed in an American flag bikini: “Hi, I'm Sidney, a personal trainer and Miss Orange County finalist. And this is my Tec-9.” A profile appears, listing her stats: 5'6”, 100 pounds, 26 years old, 36-25-36. Sidney continues, “I love my Tec-9,” and proceeds to shoot it. Robbie, ordering Melanie to refill the drinks, fast-forwards through scenes, offering commentary on various guns, their power and price. For instance, he describes the AK 47 enthusiastically, “The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively have to kill every motherfucker in the room. Accept no substitutes.” Repeatedly the telephone rings; Robbie refuses to answer it himself, barking instead when Melanie baulks, “Girl, don't make me put my foot in your ass.” While Robbie is handling his business, Melanie flirts with Gara and criticizes her boyfriend for being fake, stupid, and incompetent.
While seemingly innocuous, especially for Tarantino, this scene highlights the key themes of this chapter: the (male) pleasures of watching, objectifying, and sexualizing; the threat in word and weapon to enforce order and silence dissent; the power to take life and control others; and the subversive play of flirtation and inversion. On the one hand, it proposes a rather simple formulation: men dominate gun cultures and gun cultures extend male domination. On the other hand, it suggests something more complex: guns amplify sexualized power, projecting masculinity and violence, which encourages dehumanization and degradation, while also allowing the possibility for subversion and negotiation.
It almost goes without saying that guns and gun cultures are phallocentric. They center on men: pursuit, predation, precision, dominance, aggression,