I just have a question:
Did I fall into some kind of wormhole in which the ultimate relationship is one with an emotionally-abusive man-child? I’m seriously beginning to wonder.
I realize that this trilogy (and, dear baby jesus, there are 3 of these) began as “Twilight” fanfic, but is that really the element of “Twilight” that everyone finds so appealing?
(Note: I have read all the “Twilight” books and seen all the movies so far. It is not because I find them super romantic, or the type of relationship I aspire to have, or any of that other nonsense. In fact, I find them extremely problematic as a feminist. However, as a person with a perverse sense of humor, I really enjoy getting drunk and going to see the films in order to mock the 40-something women who accompany their tween daughters and ogle at the little boys in the movie. Which is gross, and were the genders inverted, I’d probably be tempted to call the cops. But welcome to the patriarchy. Also, I probably won’t see the final film since I’m out of the country, and the fourth one was so horrifyingly anti-choice that I almost got up and left. But I didn’t, because I had more rum to drink.)
But seriously. Did we need another insanely popular series of books to romanticize stalking? I really want to know, because perhaps this is the reason I’m still single. Is this what adult women actually want in relationships? (I know I’m being hyperbolic, and that there are a lot of women in fabulous, equitable relationships with partners of various genders who respect them and love them and all of that. But these books are damn popular, for some reason. And it isn’t the prose: 50shadesofsuck.tumblr.com.)
This man forces this woman to carry a Blackberry and have a computer, both of which she objects to numerous times, and then is reluctant to use, leading to ever-more inappropriate outbursts from him. He doesn’t want her to take a business trip because he is jealous, and when she tries to shut him down, he uses his immense wealth and privilege to buy her company and then cancel the business trip. He buys her not one car but two which are equipped with GPS tracking devices, so that he can find her at all times. He also doesn’t “allow” her to drive these cars very often, because he doesn’t think she’s a safe enough driver. He dictates what she will wear. He ambushes her with a haircut that she didn’t ask for.
And then there’s the body and food policing, which was so triggering it just about sent me over the edge. If any person, man or woman, tried to control my food intake, they’d be alone so fast it would make their head spin. Nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, gives anyone the right to police another person’s food intake. Even if you think it’s unhealthy. Even if it’s out of “concern.” Concern-trolling is not love, it’s creepy controlling behavior that is indicative of much deeper problems.
A man with impulse-control issues is not sexy. He’s disturbing. Impulse-control problems indicate that he is not in conscious control of his actions. If he shows up at your job when you’ve specifically told him not to, then he has boundary issues. He’s trying to control you life, and if it was a person to whom you were not sexually attracted, you’d be calling the police.
Also, he’s constantly “mad” at her, and she is constantly worried that he’s going to lose control and beat her. Um, that’s not sexy, that’s scary and abusive. Also, that is in absolutely no way what dom-sub relationships are about. (If you’d like to know more about actual, real-life dom-sub play, here’s a lovely resource: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/thinking-kink-myths-BDSM-feminist-magazine-sex-bondage)
If you live in constant fear of your intimate partner being mad at you, have no idea when xie may go off, and are concerned that your physical safety may be in danger, two things:
1. you are in an abusive relationship, and you should end the relationship and probably get some therapy and, if necessary, seek out appropriate law enforcement.
2. you should not get into a dom-sub or any other type of BDSM relationship with that person, because those relationships are based on trust, and you cannot trust someone who is so volatile.
Finally, all of the fucked-up-ness of the books is premised on the fact that dude had a really terrible childhood and has some pretty intense emotional problems. Which he’s in therapy for. Um, OK. But last I checked, it still isn’t OK to brutalize your partner because you had a fucked up childhood. Also, if you’re such a mess that you can’t keep from doing things like stalking and hitting your partner, then maybe you shouldn’t have a partner right now, and focus your attentions on getting yourself into a more stable place.
Just FYI, I know we live in a culture that basically tells us all that if we’re not in a relationship every moment of every day that we’re pretty much worthless and should just die, but that’s not actually true. Your own mental health is worth taking some time by yourself to get yourself into a healthy and content place, and if you actually care about potential intimate partners, you won’t put them in a situation in which they also become unwilling victims of your fucked up past. It sucks if your parents or other trusted adults did terrible things to you in the past, but you’re an adult now, and there’s no reason to use that as an excuse to victimize other people. I feel like this is the type of thing they should teach people in high school, instead of Calculus. It’s actually much more important.
Ultimately, these books and the “Twilight” series are predicated on the idea that in order for a relationship to be romantic, it has to be frantic and unstable and constantly in danger of blowing up, and that the guy has to be in total control, and that the woman should be so consumed by the relationship that nothing outside of it exists. That’s not love. That’s obsession and codependency. (And heteronormativity, which is kind of a separate post and not really what I’m writing about now, and I’m sorry because that is clearly me and my hetero privilege talking.)
Love, as Paul told the Corinthians, is patient, and kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude or self-seeking. Love is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
I’m not a super Bible-y person, but I think Paul hit the nail on the head with that one (also, it’s not often one gets to include the Bible and BDSM in the same post, and both in a positive light). I would also add that love enhances you as an individual, and does not suffocate the will the live out of you. Love, in short, is something that is healthy, and promotes your own mental and physical health. If it doesn’t, or makes you feel jittery and terrible all the time, then maybe you’re not so much in love, but addicted to the idea of being in a relationship, or just terrified of being alone. And if that’s the case, it’s not a boyfriend you need, but a really good therapist.
PS: There’s also a fuckload of problematic virgin-rhetoric and slut-shaming, which I also didn’t have time to get into, nor can I speak about very eloquently. But if you’re interested in reading what’s wrong with our society’s obsessed with virginity and “purity,” check these out:
Amanda Marcotte, http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/02/06/the-creepy-crawly-virginity-obsession
Jessica Valenti, http://www.salon.com/2009/05/16/purity_myth/ (You should also check out her book, The Purity Myth, which will totally creep you out.)