Monday, February 23, 2015

When Abuse is Not Abuse

More often than not, I find myself on the wrong side of a debate. That is to say “the wrong side” meaning the more logical and rational side of the debate, the side that includes ugly truths that those with opposing viewpoints don’t want to hear because changing their beliefs would be too difficult.

The 50 Shades of Grey trilogy and its associated movie is the most recent case in point. What with the film’s release a week ago, feminists are up in arms once again to remind us that the story is about an abusive relationship that, gosh darn it, is bad. (Well, at least when the one being abused is female; more on that in a bit.) My point in commenting on certain feminist articles, the salient point that rational feminists (ha ha, get it?) keep ignoring at their convenience is that in the trilogy – after one puts aside the juvenile penmanship, the unrelatable much less believable characters, the misrepresentation of BDSM, etc. – when the protagonist Anastasia (Ana) consents to the particulars of her relationship with Christian, it is not abusive. The overall implication then is that when anyone willingly enters into a relationship, particularly knowing full well what they’re getting into, that person can no longer cry foul when abusive behavior takes place. That is, when one consents to being abused, ‘abuse’ is no longer the operative word for what transpires between people.

This is not to say that abuse cannot take place. In 50 Shades of Grey, Ana signs a legal document that agrees to being Christian’s sexual slave as well as giving Christian control over several aspects of her life, such as her diet and exercise routine. So, when her binds, spank, whips her or tells her what to eat and when to exercise; this is not abuse. Certainly, Christian does abuse Ana when her rapes her in her apartment, buys out the company she works for and sells her car without permission, yet she continues her relationship with her abuser. Although she can opt-out of the relationship – Christian’s threating her not to do that being idle as she has a number of options to help deal with her situation – Ana does not. She continues the relationship with her ‘abuser.’ Feminists claim Ana is still being abused, only they must mean that it Ana who is abusing herself, because that’s the only viewpoint left now. In this way, Ana bears the brunt for what anyone else may call a toxic relationship. So while feminists claim the Western patriarchal society has been running roughshod over women for centuries, the kicker is that women bear at least some of the blame. Women have been letting men control them.

Women say they have long had no recourse of action as historically the Western patriarchal societies have made it difficult for them to leave whatever domineering situation they may have been in. To a certain extent, possibly even a large extent, I agree with this analysis. Problem is, this really isn’t true of the current age, not in Western societies. Women (or anyone for that matter), when felling abused in a relationship, can leave the offending party. Now, if it is the case that leaving is not an easily viable option such as when the offending party threatens violence or control’s the victim’s finances, etc. there are still options the victim of abuse can pursue in order to leave a relationship. So while a victim in such a situation may be being abused, the point is not to continue an abusive relationship beyond the time one has to. To do otherwise is consenting to abuse. Furthermore, if one refuses to see that they are being abused (from the perspective of an outsider) for whatever reason – “I love him or her / You don’t know them like I do / They have a lot of money” – they are not being abused; they’re not even a victim. For any of us to argue otherwise is to become another person trying to control the ‘victim’ in question. Last time I checked, two wrongs still didn’t make a right.

I can easily argue from experience. More than once I’ve dated women who would withhold sex or promise an intimate relationship if only I would adhere to certain rules and/or jump through hoops. Although in these relationships I was manipulated to the point of great psychological stress – such are the perils of love/lust – I would never go so far as to say I was abused by these women. After all, I consented to every action I thought was necessary to win their affections. Moreover, I spent more than enough time with these women that I should have realized sooner rather than later that the writing was on the wall. (Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.) If I could at all said to be victimized or abused by these women I dated, it is my own fault. If any of us have a responsibility to anyone, it is ourselves. Thus, I have to take responsibility for my situations. But we often do not see people take this attitude, much less in the feminist narrative.

What we do also see lately in relation to ‘abuse’ is lots of people deciding they are victims after the fact in order to excuse their own shortcomings and feel better about themselves by shifting blame, or, in order to make themselves feel special or part of a group. One young lady I recently came across said the reason why she has so many health issues is due to the psychic scarring she received from across time when matriarchal religions were wiped out in Europe in favor of Christianity. While this is an extreme case of fulfilling the victimhood narrative for oneself, it highlights the fact that people make excuses and shift blame in order to, say, not eat healthy or exercise or do anything that would actually be beneficial to one’s health, as I discovered in this case. When one says they were abused long after a relationship’s demise, not having recognized they were abused when the abuse was going on, was not abuse. In every instance one determines they were abused after the fact, the victim in question had to come by the knowledge of what constitutes abuse without realizing it is someone else who is doing the defining of ‘abuse.’ One woman I courted decided that she was raped long after the alleged rape happened, deciding that merely not wanting to have sex in a certain instance but having sex anyway to appease her boyfriend at the time made the ex-boyfriend abusive. Sorry, but appeasing someone despite your true desires does not make the one being appeased a victimizer. If there’s any victimization going on in such instances, it’s self-victimization. Yet this self-portrayal of herself as a victim found solace when surrounded by others who truly were victimized by someone else. This is a mentality I cannot abide by, not then, not now.

[*And, needless to say, the potential relationship went nowhere fast.]

While there is some abusive elements to the 50 Shades of Grey story for Ana, what is never mentioned is the abusive manner in which Ana treats Christian. What I mean is that Ana doesn’t accept Christian for who he is and from the perspective of a male reader, consciously sets out to change him. If one of the talking points of the current liberal narrative is anything, it’s that everyone should accept everyone else for who they are (though of course in reality that means accepting everyone for who they are so long as they qualify as liberals). So what if Christian is into BDSM? Ana doesn’t have to become his sub but she does so because she’s curious and because Christian is a handsome billionaire. Ana figures at some point she can get Christian to dispense with the kinky sex and have the rest of her cake and eat it, too. So, it’s not exactly as though Christian does the only manipulating in the story. In fact, if manipulation is a part of abuse, Ana certainly does abuse Christian. Naturally, feminists will completely ignore this analysis because, hey, I am a male after all and only women can make relevant points.

Just because someone makes a claim of abuse doesn’t mean abuse is actually taking place. Of course, change the definition of a word enough or broad enough and suddenly everything qualifies. Eventually history will get to be written by the losers.

For someone who is often called a sophist, I am in dubious company. 

No comments: