Violence Is Up For Discussion
October is Domestic Abuse Awareness month, and while October is over, domestic violence should always be up for discussion. I’ve shared my story here and here, but this isn’t about me. This is about domestic violence in all forms of media, and how each story can lead to conversation about our societal norms.
I recently read a M/M romance where the main character is army-trained, powerful, and knows how to defend himself. His love interest is a courtesan, not trained in the art of war or self-defense. In a fit of rage, the courtesan takes a swing at the army man, catching him off guard. Army man is hurt that the courtesan decided to hit him instead of talking it out, as he should be. However, this is forgiven with little further discussion.
Look, I get it. We all grew up on the premise that boys solve their problems in the parking lot after school, punching each other into submission. Afterward, they’re supposed to develop some sort of magical kinship or camaraderie and see things from the other person’s point of view.
That’s bullshit, and we all know it’s bullshit. The only thing you get from a fist fight is hurt. You either hurt your hand, or the other person hurts your face, or your gut, or your ego as you run the fuck away.
The courtesan is the weaker of the two, so it’s supposed to be okay for him to hit the army man because he’s a big dude: he can take it. It’s not okay to condone lashing out in a fit of anger. I don’t care if you’re the size of Tinkerbell, or the size of Shrek. You don’t hit people, especially not people you love.
Too often, we make concessions for the aggressor, especially after the incident, when he or she is pliant and apologetic. “She won’t hit me again,” or “I made him angry, but now I know to avoid ordering anchovies.”
In this case, the excuse was, “He was grieving the deaths of his family. He didn’t know about my past abuse. Besides, he punches like a kitten.”
How I wish that scene had gone:
Army man stopped the courtesan’s balled fist with his palm. “If you hit me, it’s over. This is a deal breaker for me. My dad was an abusive bastard, and I refuse to be treated like my mother. You will respect me, or I will leave.”
As a society, we need to take a stand against domestic violence. Honestly, I’d like to see us take a stand against all violence, but let’s start here. If we can’t stop abusing the people we’re supposed to love, what’s to stop us from punching that guy on the street who bumped into us?
I’m not saying to change media content, but never stop the discussion. Yes, Jaime Lannister raped his sister next to their dead son. Should we as a society be outraged that HBO aired it?
No. It’s great television. Humans are vicarious creatures, and we have the power of free will. The more differing opinions and options and menu selections to determine who we really are vs. who we are not, the better. Otherwise, it’s all trial and error for one, rather than learning from the mistakes and triumphs of many. Could someone have watched that scene and said, “Ima go fuck my sister now”? Well, sure, I suppose. But chances are, MANY more decided, “Ah hell no, Jamie. You don’t want to do that.” Finally, we have reason for logical discussion about what constitutes as rape in a domestic situation, and whether enjoyment ever means consent.
I’m part of this violent society, too. I play violent video games and I have been known to cock my fist in a fit of rage. While I haven’t been the perpetrator of violence, I have said many times that, if I ever see my ex again, I will punch him in the throat.
Talk is cheap, and all forms of media are simply entertainment. How we decide to live our lives is up to us. I choose not to punch people in the throat for kicks because I wouldn’t want anyone to do that to me. When I write about violence, I keep the lines very clearly drawn, so that physical skirmishes are only between enemies, and while friends and lovers may argue, and occasionally spar, they don’t hit each other. It’s a form of respect.
Do I think that the author of the book with the army man and the courtesan meant to show disrespect? More likely, she wanted to create a wider chasm between the two characters, to make it sweeter when they hooked up. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it taught me how my characters will be different. Discussion is important, but positive role models are easier to emulate.