Posted by: elisemonahan | February 8, 2018

Abusive Relationships

I was discussing topics from this class with my dad who shared an interesting example with me that I would like to share with you all:

Say a boyfriend comes home and finds a piece of paper with some other guys number and a note on it, but before he could read it his girlfriend snatches it out of his hand and puts it in her mouth, the boyfriend immediately jumps on her and is yelling and aggressively pulling at her mouth trying to pry it open and grab the note out of her mouth. The resisting girlfriend gives him a hard push that knocks him on the ground. The cops are called, who are they going to arrest?   

Everyone I’ve asked this question to has answered the same thing: the boy, right?

Now say the same exact situation happens, but this time it is the girlfriend that comes home to the note, and the boyfriend that puts it in his mouth and pushes down his girlfriend who attempt to get the note out – who would get arrested now? Still the man, right?

Everyone I asked this question still answered the man, even though it’s the exact same scenario.

I thought discussing how men suffer from gender discrimination as well would be a fair point to consider in this class. In fact, I would say women being abusive in a relationship is one of the most underreported/convicted crimes. I think a contributing factor to the effect could be that men who experience domestic violence may feel like they are compromising a part of their masculinity if they report it. This goes back to people feeling the need to stay in their socially assigned “boxes” in order to fit in.

Consider your typical rom-com movie… I would say that at least half of them have an angry girl slapping some jerk guy across the face at some point. I’m sure none of us ever viewed these slaps as domestic violence or inappropriate. In fact, I would say most the time they are cheered on and encouraged. So why do we view slapping MEN as an empowering and acceptable power move? If a male had slapped a women, you might hear gasps from the theater or other forms of negative reactions such as a silence or a sudden serious tone. Why is it acceptable for women to do this, but not men? Shouldn’t it be wrong both ways? What kind of double standards are we allowing to continue and even unconsciously feeding into? If we are asking for equality, we must also give equality.


I think the article linked below did a great job at explaining how the perception of domestic abuse is skewed because of gender bias, I encourage you all to take a look!


  1. This is a really interesting scenario. This reminds me of an experience I had this week. I volunteer with a local synchro swim team, where I help coach young girls ages 6-15 twice a week. This young 11 year old girl made a comment during streches that “girls don’t rescue, they get rescued.” I asked her where she heard this and she replied with princess movies and television. This reminds me of your scenario in that everytime the girl is viewed as being ‘rescued’ from the abusive boyfriend. Even though they are both guilty, even when the roles are reveresed. Our society puts women into a role where they always need to be rescued. If we raise young girls with this mentality, then they will still believe that slapping a man is empowering, where slapping a women is abusive. The bottom line is that abuse is abuse, regardless of gender. As we talk in class, we need to practice taking gender out of the equation and focus on the people and situation. We must start with the younger generations in order to bring about change.

  2. I have thought about this before. This gender bias is often seen in movies. For some reason, the women is believed over the male. To paint the picture using the same scenario described above, but with the male hiding the number in his mouth:

    They begin to fight and as the woman is trying to get it out of his mouth, she is overwhelmed by his strength and ends up on the floor hurt due to him defending himself from her. Next, the police would be on their way and when they get there statements have to be taken. Sometimes what can happen–or is seen in tv–is the story is twisted in favor of the woman (the woman changes what happened) and so when the male gives his statement it doesn’t add up. However, because of the different stories and the woman having the bruises from her boyfriend/husband it is easier to believe her and what she says weighs more than the males. Therefore, its often found the male is convicted for defending himself, although it was the woman who began the violence and forcing herself violently on him. It’s kinda aggravating when I see that manipulation in the media, because these women are abusing this gender bias. I also think about how this portrayal of woman happens in life too but its either covered up or the situation is twisted in favor of her.

    The statistics of men succumbed to domestic violence/abuse is often not talked about as much as it is with the stats on females. The same could go with rape. You don’t often hear about males getting raped by women or sexually abused even though it does happen and probably more than the small amount we think it does.

    It reminds me of the comment someone said in class about the sexual abuse/rape victims night that happened at CNU. The student mentioned how no men were allowed to go/men weren’t invited. That is discrimination of an entire other gender that experience the same type of abuse females do. I could understand the tenderness of the subject but a complete group of people who both experience sexual abuse and wish to feel the same support and warmth is discrimination. Hearing this comment really angered me.

    I feel that this gender bias stems from the ideals that women and men held in history. Men being more assertive, the bread-winner, and strong; while women were meek, soft, and submissive. However, women are becoming stronger and just as assertive as men while men can be seen as soft and do the same tasks that used to be known as a “woman task.” Between men and women there are more individual aspects of people than adjectives that are used to generalize an entire gender.

  3. I just asked my boyfriend the scenario because I was curious and surprisingly he answered “the girl” without question after interrupting me to ask if this story was about a dog. We’ve often discussed the difficult stereotypes that surround both men and women in society and the specific scenarios in which men are given the benefit of the doubt or when women are in certain situations. I don’t think it’s fair that women are thought to be weak so when they hit men it is thought to be deserved or funny. The whole double standard just hurts both men and women and benefits neither. Even the whole standard that men won’t hit women seems sexist. In order to seek equality of the sexes we must start treating each gender completely equal for better or for worse. Women should get equal pay but also enlist in the military and get charged with domestic violence when it is applicable. I understand the need for women only events for sexual assault survivors. I have multiple friends who have been assaulted and still don’t feel comfortable being alone or near men or even being touched by friends or family. I think for some, a safe place needs to be a women-only zone because of the lack of trust they have with people they don’t know and sometimes even with people they do depending on their own assault.

  4. I find myself thinking about these kind of scenarios quite a bit. I often wonder how these situations hold us back from moving toward a more inclusive and equal society. There are so many instances in which the double bind is so clearly apparent. When women act in ways that support and encourage double standards – like slapping men during a breakup – , they are essentially holding themselves back. How can we ask for equality and inclusion if we do not act in ways that promote what we want? I think that these kinds of situations lead to the eye-rolling of some men when they hear women asking for equality.

    Going off of Lauren’s comment, In my opinion, there isn’t necessarily a need to have a policy that opens every organization, event, or scenario to both men and women. However, if there is something for one gender, there should be something comparable for the other (for instance, the case of the female-only sexual assault support group). The same concept stands when dealing with situations that require consequences. If a women does something that a man would be punished for, she too should be punished. If an equal and inclusive society is really something that we want, men and women should be held to the same standards and expectations. Women (or men for that matter) can’t ask for societal change if they aren’t willing to accept and deal with the negative aspects that come along with it.

  5. This is an interesting scenario to me because I can’t quite decide who I think she be the one to get arrested. For the first scenario, I actually initially thought it would be the girl, which I know goes against what everyone else thought. She is the one that aggressively pushed him to the ground. However, technically the guy started being physical first by aggressively trying to open her mouth, so then I thought that maybe the guy should be the one to get arrested. It is definitely a confusing situation though, and it is hard to determine who was more wrong than the other.

    A couple years ago I saw a video on Facebook. It was an experiment done by a male and a female that supports the thought that you brought up about women being encouraged to slap men. In the video, a female was fighting with her boyfriend. He mostly remained silent while she yelled at him. She eventually became physical and started hitting and punching him. Many of the people walking by did not seem to care. Some kept walking, while others stopped to laugh, or even cheered her on like you said. The second part of the video reversed the roles of the male and female actors. This time the girl was the quiet one, and the boyfriend was the one yelling and hitting her. A crowd formed when he started yelling at her, and within seconds of him becoming physical, bystanders intervened to “save” the girlfriend from the abusive boyfriend. This is when I first became aware of double standards between men and women in terms of physical abuse. It is not right that women are able to get away bringing physical harm to men. It is just as wrong for a female to abuse a male that it is a male to abuse a female, so why do people allow women to hurt the men in their lives? I agree that men are probably more reluctant to report physical abuse from their significant others because they are afraid of being judged. They do not want to lose their masculinity and admit that they were injured by a girl. But something needs to be done. Women cannot continue to expect one thing from men while they do the opposite.

  6. I think that this is a situation that unfortunately is very true. Women are almost always seen as the victim and the men are almost always seen as the abusers. I think one cause of this is that women are seen as weaker and more fragile so that they get hurt easier and could actually do no real damage, even though this is false. Furthermore, since men usually are expected to have the power in a relationship and “wear the pants” they are expected to be the more firm ones. People often clap when women hit the men because it can be seen as them liberating themselves. I think a lot more men are affected by not having control, but it is not shown in media to fit the schema of the audience.

    In addition, domestic violence is usually attributed to men because they are perceived to have the ability to do more damage. This is because, physically, men usually can do more and usually cherish actions over words. On the other hand, women are good with words, and they do a lot of verbal abuse over physical. Especially to their significant others. This is not well known or documented because the lack of physical wounds and evidence makes it not existent. So, since women tend to use words to attack over violence, they are almost never seen as the problem.

    Lastly, since society holds men as the power of the house and the strong ones, they are embarrassed to come forward. They don’t want people knowing that they get abused, so they just deal with it because they think they are supposed to. To fix this, the stigma needs to be removed so that men do not feel judged to come forward. Furthermore, men’s troubles need to not be discounted just because they are men, and it should be treated in the same light as allegations that women say.

  7. This is a very interesting scenario that you’ve pointed out and I think it has something to do with the idea that women are the weaker sex. Therefore, how could a woman attack a man when she is the weaker of the two. Not fair, I know…but that’s how the world and feminists have raised us to think. Women almost have a sense of entitlement in the world and I think that contributes some to the scenarios that you are discussing.

  8. This is a very interesting topic! I guess I never really considered this but just as you mentioned, my first reaction was to definitely assume the guy would get in trouble. I am now thinking back to movies I have watched and interactions I have seen and this seems to be a common thought of mine. I think our society constantly portrays men as “bad guys” because society portrays them as above us and stronger. So, I guess in response to that I automatically assume that yes the man should be blamed. I think you are right that we as a society need to focused on the discrimination against all genders because women are not always the victim.

  9. I myself fell into the gender trap of answering the guy in this scenario. Biology and culture frames this ideal of associating women with weakness and innocence, and a man with strength and dominance. I agree that females get away with more abuse towards men because according to society men should be macho enough to take being roughed up a little by a feeble female; however females are frail and should never be handled in an aggressive manner. Although the saying to never lay a hand on a women unless you’re rendering aid or its in a passionate sense should be followed, it should be equal across the male sex as well. I agree it should not be acceptable and the double standard needs to be addressed.

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