The following article is written by Paul Elam of AVoiceforMen and is republished here with his permission. It offers an alternate perspective on “male violence,” and by alternate, I mean a more nuanced and complex understanding of male perpetrated domestic violence beyond, “Man = Abuser; Woman = Innocent Victim.” To see the original post and comments, please follow this link. – Dr T
In the MRM (Men’s Rights Movement), we talk a lot more about violent women than violent men. And that is a good thing since it needs to be talked about and we are the only ones willing to do it. But in our efforts to bring female violence out of the shadows and into the light of day, we have had a tendency to overlook something else that is pretty important. That would be a more thorough examination of men’s violence in the home, sans the feminist spin.
Before I proceed, first I must issue the obligatory disclaimer. See, disclaimers are necessary for MRA’s (men’s rights activists), especially when telling the truth about domestic violence. We should all keep one or two stashed away with the porn supply for handy use. So here’s my disclaimer for your viewing pleasure.
Disclaimer: This article deals with the truth. And feminists, you know what the truth is. On your websites and blogs, you issue a trigger warning before getting close to it. So, you have been warned. If the truth is a trigger for you, please do not read below this disclaimer. Thank you and vote libertarian.
Okay, I have to acknowledge up front that violence in the home by men happens for a lot of reasons. I can’t possibly deal with all of them here, so for the sake of brevity, I am just going to address two of them.
One, you have the guy who is just fucked up.
He comes home drunk and beats his wife because there was some dust on the venetian blinds in the second bedroom that she didn’t get to when she was cleaning. This character is your feminist stereotype; the “go to” guy for fundraising, passing laws and “educating” the public on the problem of domestic violence. He’s an artifact of evil patriarchy and the extension of socially constructed and oppressive male dominance in the home; the only source of violence in the home that feminists recognize.
And that is as far as I will go into the feminist theory of alleged patriarchal underpinnings in domestic violence. It only loosely applies to a statistically insignificant number of men. Oh, and also, it’s all bullshit (see the above disclaimer).
It is much better that I address the circumstances that lead to much of the male initiated violence against women that actually does happen in the home. To understand it, we are going to take a look at the progression of the interrelationship between a couple, I’ll call them Harry and Mary, who end up with one version of this experience. Oh, and if you want stats on this, feel free to pull them out of thin air. Contact your nearest feminist for assistance.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, Harry beating up on Mary, which all started in the typical way.
Harry and Mary meet, fall in love and come to live with each other. Both are on their best behavior; mutual respect and consideration abound. They spend their time in a personal little otherworld, getting to know each other, drinking, making love, watching classic movies and laughing at stuff that isn’t even funny, just because they like to laugh together. They don’t know that the real “getting to know each other” part hasn’t started yet, but it doesn’t matter. All is right in the world.
As time passes, Mary starts to notice stuff about Harry that she finds a little . . . annoying. Nothing too big, mind you, but annoying just the same. He has this weird habit of eating popcorn by tossing it in the air and catching it in his mouth. It was cute at first, but come on, sometimes he misses and the popcorn falls onto the sofa cushion. He puts a lot of butter on it, too. It’ll stain the sofa; not to mention the fact that it isn’t healthy.
He also likes to put gobs of sugar in his coffee. No one needs that much sugar. There is something wrong with that for sure. But that is about it. Other than those couple of relatively minor things, she is just mad about him. Well, there is that old Chicago Bears jersey he wears like every other day. It must be ten years old. She understands he’s a football fan, but come on, does he have to wear that thing everywhere?
Harry doesn’t notice any of this and just keeps on tossing popcorn up in the air and catching it in his mouth, trying not to get any on his jersey. He’s having the time of his life.
Finally one day, Mary decides it is time to help her man out. She goes out to the department store and comes back with a couple of new shirts. One of them is a nice cadmium green. It even has a little football embroidered above the shirt pocket. He will love it – and look so much better.
She gives him the shirt and he makes a great fuss over it and puts it on immediately, so lucky to have such a thoughtful girl. She hangs the other one in his closet and things are right with the world again. Well, there’s still the popcorn, but that will come with time.
They enjoy a fantastic evening together, nearly break the bed with their third round of lovemaking and fall off to a peaceful sleep in each other’s arms.
The next morning Mary comes out of the bedroom and Harry is there in the kitchen, loading sugar into his coffee mug like a steam shovel. But Mary doesn’t even notice it this time. He’s wearing the Bears jersey.
He’s. Wearing. That. Fucking. Jersey.
“Hey,” he says, “Good morning!”
She just stares at him with a trace of bewilderment on her face and says nothing.
“What’s wrong?” he asks.
“Are you really going to wear that?”
And they are off and running to their first fight. It lasts for a few minutes before he caves and changes the shirt.
He doesn’t like it, but he loves Mary and fighting with her really sucks. What the hell, he thinks, other than that she is a really great girl and he knows relationships mean compromise. Done deal, the Bears will have to take a less active role in his wardrobe. He buries the fact that he has just been coerced into letting her dress him into his unconscious, and things seem to be back on track.
What he doesn’t know is that the Bears jersey is just the first thing on The List™.
After that, it was his coffee, and then popcorn and then a growing number of other things which he learns he must change in order for her to be happy. And when he resists, she seems to have a bottomless capacity for conflict at which she almost always prevails.
He does not want to lose her, and there is a part of him that is learning that the only way he is going to prevent that is by giving her what she wants.
It goes on like this for three years.
And during that time, almost everything of his former life goes the way of his favorite jersey. His friends drift off, or did he do the drifting? He doesn’t remember.
All he knows for sure is that his life has become an unending stream of demands; all of them accompanied by the unspoken message that his compliance is the only form of caring that she recognizes. And when he fails or refuses, she questions his love for her, and often his manhood.
Harry finds himself in one bastard of a catch-22. He loves Mary, even though it is starting to feel more like an anchor around his neck than love. He fantasizes about leaving her, but the reality of the idea seems unthinkable. He’s like a lot of men in that way, which may partly explain why men kill themselves at 10 times the rate of women during breakups and divorce.
Harry is a man in that emotional trap. He seems to know it and questions himself.
Why does he want to be with someone who so clearly views him like he is broken and needs to be fixed? He gets no answer, though; just the certainty that he wants to stay at almost any cost.
So he does, trying to figure out, like a junkie chasing the dragon, how to get back some of the old magic they shared before she became so petulant and demanding. He foolishly convinces himself on some level that if he can give her enough of what she wants that she will ease off and start enjoying him, loving him, like she used to.
The fights only worsen. He gets more rebellious. She gets more nagging and berating. Things escalate. It culminates one day into a loss of control.
At some point between Mary quietly and coldly telling Harry that he is a selfish little boy that never thinks about her wants and needs in life – and implying that she could do a lot better than him, and maybe she will – he hits her. He plants an open hand across her face.
Mary runs off to the bedroom and shuts herself in (after screeching the obligatory, “You bastard!”), and Harry finds himself standing alone, accompanied only by the stunning hush in the room. His shock at his actions gives way to a sense of remorse and shame that makes him reel.
He looks at his hand and then wipes a tear from his eye. He starts to go to the bedroom, but realizes there is nothing he can say. Harry takes a seat on the sofa and waits silently.
Hours later, Mary emerges from the bedroom, eyes red and puffy, and takes a seat on the sofa a good distance from him.
“So,” she asks, “Why didn’t you tell me you had an anger problem?”
Harry’s mouth tries to form something of an answer, but he ends up just looking like a fish out of water, pointlessly gasping for something liquid to pass through its gills.
They finally talk some, but it is a somber conversation. Resignation is lingering in the air.
Mary finally, if reluctantly, agrees to forgive him. He feels a rush of relief and, still consumed by self-loathing, swears he will never do such a thing again. He professes that he will change, become a new man.
But as it turns out, it is actually something else that changes, and changes drastically. Whatever vestige that once remained of his personal autonomy within the relationship is now obliterated.
Now there is no demand that Mary can place on him that he can argue with; no treatment from her to which he can object. In offending the deepest of his held values, to not strike the woman he loves, he has become a prisoner of his own shame; a criminal seeking rehabilitation; a debtor trying to make restitution on an impossible scale.
Mary is now large and in charge. And by golly, she knows it.
The Bears jersey has just lost an owner. Coffee? Two Splendas, please. No, make that one. Sure, butter substitute is fine on popcorn. Let me get an extra napkin so I don’t soil the sofa.
And so the cycle begins.
Harry will play step and fetch to his wounded mistress, and will continue to do so, with her reveling in it, till the pressure builds toward another explosion. Every once in a while he will hit her. Sometimes he will just let loose with his tongue. But the result will be the same every time.
He will get the catharsis he needs, at the cost of his shame. And she will get the control she so clearly expects and desires, at the cost of the occasional red mark or a bruise, and any connection she ever had to human decency.
The feminists were right about one thing. Violence in the home is frequently about power and control. Of course, it never took a rocket scientist to figure that one out (which is very good for feminists, indeed). But once you sidestep the dogma and delusion of squeezing everything in life through the simplistic filter of ideology, you find that things like power are not so easy to see, much less define in any credible way.
Clearly, both parties have committed wrongs in this story. And if we want to take the blue pill path and just measure who we imagine to be more wrong than the other, then there was never a need to address this to begin with. Case closed, man bad, nothing else to discuss; increase VAWA funding now. Harry will likely agree with you if we ever let him out of jail.
But if, perchance, you want run a little deeper, you can help yourself quite a bit by asking the right questions. Take a closer look at Mary and Harry and ask yourself one thing. Who has the power? If you think it is Harry, then you should have stopped reading at the disclaimer box.
by Paul Elam, Chief Knuckle Dragger and Publisher of AvoiceforMen.
Additional Comments by Dr Tara
I’ve worked with versions of Harry, although only a handful of the men I’ve worked with have actually hit or pushed their partners. However, many of the men I work with have been pushed to the brink and said cruel things, which has been leveraged and used against them. For the few who have hit or pushed their female partners, the slap or push was their much needed wake-up call.
These men aren’t batterers like the neanderthal Paul describes in his first example above. They’re men who have systematically been broken down into bits by their beloved partners until the only thing they have left is anger and shame and a sense of learned helplessness and powerlessness.
They know hitting their partner or being provoked into a verbal blow-up is wrong. Getting to that point is a game changer for many of them. They don’t want to be “that guy.” They are not “that guy.”
For the small percentage of men I’ve worked with who actually hit or pushed their partners, sinking to that point was like having an cold bucket of water thrown on them while in the midst of a trance. For another percentage of my cases, just the overwhelming urge to commit violence in response to their partners’ many abuses served as that blast of icy water.
Let me repeat, these are not violent men. They’re actually very gentle men who have been pushed to the edge of desperation by the very covert and overt, controlling, abusive and shaming behaviors that Paul describes above. Also, the majority of the men I work with have never, nor would they ever, hit a woman.
When a man reaches the point of hitting or the point of wanting to hit his partner, he basically has 2 choices:
- Go back into the trance and either end up in jail or pray for an early death.
- Wake the heck up and stay up.
If he chooses # 2, he then gets 3 more options:
- Exit the relationship, get some help and choose a partner who wants an equal and not a chihuahua/Ken doll she can dress up and boss around next time. (It may take some personal work to be able to sort the grain from the chaff).
- Stay in the relationship and stop being a doormat, which may very well cause his partner to exit the relationship.
- Acknowledge the reality of your partner and make your peace with being a doormat.
What Harry may not understand is that if Mary leaves him because he doesn’t want to be her obedient Ken doll, HE IS BETTER OFF WITHOUT HER. This kind of woman doesn’t want an equal partner and isn’t capable of equal partnership.
This goes for all the other Harry’s out there.
[*As an aside, if you’re a woman reading this and you think that Mary’s behavior is healthy relationship behavior, well, you’re just wrong and I pity your partner.] – Dr T
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