It May Be A Cautionary Tale About Marrying Sex Workers
Historically, there is quite a bit of symbolism that goes along with chokers. They represented various things and were popular with upper-class women in the 18th century. After the French Revolution, red chokers took on a more macabre symbolism, worn as a symbol of remembrance of and solidarity with those who lost their heads to the guillotine. In the mid to late 19th century, a black choker made of ribbon, however, had ties to sex work.
In some versions of “The Velvet Ribbon,” the ribbon is red or black, and it always represents a secret the woman is keeping from her husband. The story ends with a mortified man uncovering a shocking secret about his wife that has loomed over their marriage the entire time. As a result, two related and not-so-far-fetched interpretations of this fairly overt symbolism are that: 1) a woman with secrets and a woman paid for sex are related entities; and 2) marrying a secretive woman or a sex woker won't end well.
It Displays Just How Haunting A Woman's Past Can Be To The Male Ego
The ribbon clearly symbolizes a mysterious part of the woman's past and her husband’s inability to cope with not knowing about it. He lets this representation of her past (and his fantasies and fears of all it could symbolize) overshadow the present. In all the older versions (pre-Alfred and Jenny), the husband is extremely angry about this. He can’t even look at her in some cases, and it’s all because he doesn't know the story behind something of hers.
It shouldn't really matter why she wears it. He knew about the ribbon before he married her; he fell in love with her anyway. When there is no patience or acceptance left in him, the ribbon is his own "tell-tale heart," hounding him, driving him to go against her wishes and untie the ribbon anyway.
Jenny Basically Traumatizes Her Husband And Ends Her Life In Front Of Him
In the case of Alfred and Jenny’s version of the tale, “The Green Ribbon,” Jenny waits until she gets sick to not just tell Alfred what’s going on but also to actually show him. Because she knows what’s going to happen, she waits until she is old and sick to take off the ribbon for a reason. Not only does Jenny basically take her life in front of her husband who loves her - even though she’s a weirdo who showers with a choker on - but she also makes him take it off her, effectively ending her life at the moment of the big reveal.
Would it maybe not have been a slightly gentler blow to tell Alfred what he was getting into before you enlist him? Except can Jenny really perish given that her head isn't attached to her body in the first place?
There Is Some Pretty Intense Male Aggression In Most Of The Early Versions
In several of the other versions, the husband doesn't wait for his wife to be ready to remove the ribbon. Instead, he cuts it off while she’s sleeping - fully without consent. Her head rolls off and onto the floor - in a pretty sweet and vindictive move - bellowing “I told you, you’d be sorry.”
In those versions, the husband violates her trust in a super creepy way. That’s pretty disturbing, and it makes you question whether you should even be sharing a bed with someone, ever. It also makes you seriously think about the latent sexual assault symbolism we allow children to be exposed to.