I have yet to see a movie directed by Clint Eastwood I really like. I think one might need to be more right wing to really enjoy his work--one has to fundamentally subscribe to a philosophy of "My pleasure is the only valid pleasure, and anyone who doesn't agree with me is deviant in some way." Eastwood, star and director, embodies this centre of the universe, his rightness rewarding him with supernatural abilities of invulnerability and aim--no-one so much as gets the unnamed stranger off balance. And I kind of enjoyed seeing just what he was going to do next--I liked how he had the citizens of the town paint all the buildings red and lay out picnic tables for the men they've hired Eastwood to kill. There's ghoulish fun in his omnipotent revenge. In theory, I like the idea of taking a script and replacing all its weaknesses with wish fulfilment, as he apparently did, according to the Wikipedia entry. I guess it's just not my wish fulfilment.
I suppose there's an inherent hypocrisy in enjoying fantasy violence but not fantasy rape. To be honest, it's not so much the fantasy rape that bothers me as the inherent fascist attitude about it. Take a movie like Thriller: A Cruel Picture--the rape is so obviously unreal, I don't feel bad about ogling Christina Lindberg. And that's the point. That's why movie rape scenes often simply don't work--rape we all know on some level is simulated can't really compete with bare flesh we all know on some level is real (silicone not withstanding). So, to me, exploitation can actually be a mark of someone who understands it's kind of puerile to want and expect people to feel horrible about seeing beautiful naked women. High Plains Drifter, which doesn't contain any nudity, merely twice presents a scenario putting forward the idea of justifiable rape. The fantasy here isn't about enjoying a beautiful woman with fetishised danger involved, the fantasy is that it's okay to rape women. An analogy would be, say, the Bride in Kill Bill cutting up the Crazy 88--that is fun violence. Having heroic music play and people patting Jimmy Stewart on the back while he, smiling, describes strangling a child--that would not be fun movie violence (except ironically).
The other Eastwood movie I've seen from roughly the same period, The Outlaw Josey Wales, I also remember as being strikingly sexist, though it's been so long since I saw it I can't remember why. But I've often been struck by how more frequently sexist movies and television were in the 1970s than in previous decades. Partly I think its artists reacting against the feminist movements occurring at the time, partly I think the relaxed censorship and the general feeling of unprecedented freedom of film in the 70s brought in some bad with the good. But it always amazes me when people talk about how extraordinarily sexist movies of the 50s were.