How to Pick a Lover

Archive for the ‘Violence in Relationships’ Category

Ways to Screen Out Violent Lovers

This is an earlier post that I felt was worth re-posting in light the current press about Ray Rice and domestic violence.

 Deeds of violence in our society are performed largely by those trying to establish their self-esteem, to defend their self-image, and to demonstrate they too are significant.
—Rollo May, Power and Innocence

 One hazard of intimate relationships is that, because of the intensity of feeling which they engender, they may provide the stimulus for violence. Occasionally, that may involve women being violent with men; but when violence occurs, it’s most often men being abusive with women. Male strength is vastly superior to that of women. Even relatively small
and frail men have a disproportionate advantage, and when that edge is fueled by fury, then it’s a clear and present danger.

Conflict is inevitable in almost all intimate relationships, and some of that conflict is potentially violent. This fact of life, less pleasant than other facts of life, is something that should be taught to all young girls. It’s a reality that a woman of experience must learn to accept and to take into account. She cannot avoid it entirely, but she can learn to minimize the odds.

In our culture, as in many other cultures, there is, for many people, an implicit association between sex and violence. It’s apparent in some pornography, which equates eroticism with dominance and brutality. This sex-violence link is apparent in much of the old folk wisdom, which endorses wife beating as legitimate and even as necessary under some circumstances. Such attitudes are not restricted to the uneducated or to the unsophisticated. The philosopher Nietzsche offers the questionable advice: “When thou goest to a woman, take thy whip.” Noel Coward quips, “Certain women should be struck regularly like gongs.” If a man is not free to beat any woman, he’s often perceived to be free to beat his own, especially if he’s provoked.

Office on Violence Against Women logo

Office on Violence Against Women logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ordinarily, it’s not feasible to ask a man directly whether or not he will hit you. Even if you were to ask, his answer would not necessarily be very informative. You can, however, find many occasions where you can ask him how he feels about corporal punishment for kids. The man who feels that it’s all right to spank, beat, or whip a child “if he deserves it” may very well feel it is also all right to spank, beat, or whip a woman “if she deserves it.” Guess who gets to decide if the deserving child will be improved by abuse? Guess who gets to decide if the deserving woman needs to be corrected?

Some potentially violent men are easy to spot. They tell you outright that they believe that might is right and that their own judgment of the appropriateness of the use of force and pain is justification enough. Don’t be surprised if an argument with such a man eventually leads to him emphasizing his point with the back of his hand.

While you’re talking about life in the abstract, you can always ask a man about his own parents. If he reports that his old man used to knock Mom around, that’s not necessarily a danger signal. Listen to how he describes it. If there’s an undertone of pride in his old man, who really knew how to handle women, then don’t be surprised if eventually he attempts to handle you the same way. If, however, he’s full of sympathy for his mom’s plight and if the story ends as such stories often do, with the boy finally challenging his father successfully thereby being able to protect the mother, then he may be more sensitive to violence against women than are other men. He may, in fact, be the kind of man with whom you will be most safe.

Some philosophers would contend that there’s a potential for violence in all of us and that it only requires sufficient provocation for it to erupt. This may well be true, but it’s difficult to prove or to disprove. If all men are potentially violent, it doesn’t follow that all men are potentially violent in terms of women.

The code of chivalry asserts that although violence is often necessary, it’s not appropriate in those circumstances involving assaults on people who are relatively powerless and defenseless as, for example, women and children. With men living by a chivalrous code, the possibility of violence is virtually negligible. When you fight with them, they will fight back; when you offend them, they make you pay one way or another, but they will not take out their rage physically.

Other men, however, are prone to violence in varying degrees. Many women, at least one in ten, perhaps more, have experienced the violent laying on of hands by a boyfriend, husband, or lover. The violent lover is trouble and is to be avoided no matter what his other attractions may be.

 Related articles

 Ray Rice Is a Reminder Why Congress Passed the Violence Against Women Act

 

 

The Captive Wife

Age has left me lonely, as lonely as a wife.
—Jadah Vaughn

As often happens in marriages, the presence of a spouse may take away the joys of solitude without replacing them with the joys of companionship. When this happens, both the husband and wife may be distressed and lonely. The husband, however, usually has more resources to cope with the situation. Men in general tend to have more freedom of movement and more control of their time. If a married man is lonely, he can easily go out by himself or out with the boys, and he is not judged harshly for having done so or for having enjoyed himself. Whereas, if a married women is lonely, she cannot as readily take herself out to find companionship even if she has a car and an independent spirit, even if she can find a babysitter, and even if she can afford one.

A single woman who is on her own and who feels at loose ends can call a friend. She can go to a movie or go shopping or take a trip or any of a variety of other plans. A married woman who is on her own, and who feels at loose ends, anticipates that her husband, as part of his commitment to the marital relationship, will provide her with the companionship she desires. However, she often finds that she waits and waits. She waits for him to come home, she waits for him to get ready to go to bed, and in the morning she waits for him to get up and out of the shower. Her time is often organized around the possibility of his making time for her, and she soon gets very tired of waiting. And when she does, she will seek companionship elsewhere: perhaps from her friends or her family or, perhaps, from a lover.

English: Logo for the US television show Despe...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

When you listen to the complaints of wives, they often say, “He never takes me anywhere.” An obvious query in response to this is, “Well, why don’t you ever take yourself anywhere?” Often, however, she does not really have that option.

As the  journalist Lawrence Jaqua asks, “Why is it that in public, a woman without a man looks forlorn, but a man without a woman looks romantic?” Most people view women out on their own differently from men out on their own, especially in small or conservative communities. Women are certainly viewed differently anywhere if they are out on their own late at night. Often, when a woman does go out alone, she receives so much of the wrong kind of attention that the spotlight interferes with her enjoyment. A wife can go by herself to the supermarket on a Saturday afternoon, but if she goes to a sports bar by herself on Saturday afternoon or to a cocktail lounge by herself on Saturday night, she is conspicuous and seems to be making a come-on statement by her very presence. If a woman goes out, she is supposed to be escorted. If a wife goes out, her escort is supposed to be her husband. If he is seldom available, she will indeed be lonely—lonely and housebound.

Such a woman needs a lover.

Handling the Manhandler

“Hold off! Unhand me, graybeard loon!”
Eftsoons his hand dropped he.

—Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

One important and direct clue that a man is potentially violent is that he likes to throw his weight around literally as well as figuratively. Such a man may have never done anything explicit, such as hit you or threaten to hit you, but he tends to play rough.

Not too long ago, Sheila, a friend of mine, told me about an incident that occurred between her and her boyfriend Mike when they were having dinner in a restaurant. Mike reached over, smiling, and tweaked her cheek between his thumb and forefinger, saying something not very cute about her being very cute. All acceptable, almost, except that the tweak actually hurt. When Mike took his hand away—and he apparently was none too quick about doing so—her cheek tingled from the pain. There was no obvious sign of injury other than that her one cheek was a bit redder than the other one,
but not that much redder as her whole face had become somewhat flushed from the anger she was feeling. She could hardly charge him with assault. She could not even make a fuss, but nevertheless, it did hurt. She told me that she knew, and she knew that Mike knew, that it was meant to hurt.

Beware of the arm twister who grabs your wrist in a vise or playfully puts your arm behind your back while making a joke. He is showing power, not love or even affection, and he is showing power based on the undeniable fact that he is bigger than you are and his hands are stronger. A bad sign of a bad attitude.

A man who will be a good lover may occasionally hold you firmly as, for example, when he is insisting that you stop a minute and listen to what he is saying. Sometimes, he may actually hurt you a little, if he does not know his own strength or if he does not realize your sensitivity. Jocks are especially prone to this sort of thing because they are stronger than most; perhaps their own pain threshold is higher than most. However, the good lover who sees your distress lightens up immediately. He stops and apologizes and offers the equivalent gesture of a kiss to make it all better.

Beware the man who scoffs at your protest that he is hurting you or who takes a long time to cease and desist when you ask him to do so. Beware especially of the man who says or implies, “You think that hurts? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

There is a difference between being held and being held down—all the difference in the world.

Women in Contemporary Relationships

I think we can all agree that romantic relationships have changed dramatically over the past 50 years.

A mere two generations ago relationships and marriage were rather vanilla. Couples were heterosexual, of the same race/ethnicity, religion, social/economic and political background – so much for diversity. Also, marital roles were fairly circumscribed – men were the breadwinners and women the homemakers. There were shared expectations about sex roles for men and women, which were primarily based on what constituted masculine and feminine behavior. Premarital sex was taboo – at least for women. There were “good” girls and “bad” girls, and I don’t think I need to tell you what made a good girl good or bad girl bad. In any given couple, the man was usually older, taller, better educated, and financially better off than the woman.  All things that defer more power to the man than the women. Few women worked outside the home. And when they did, it was to supplement her husband’s substantially larger income.

Well, so much for the good ole days. Today’s relationships run the gamut of the rainbow – heterosexual/gay, interracial/ethnic, interfaith, binational, older women and younger men, couples from widely different social, economic, political backgrounds. Women have full fledged careers and they are financially independent. For women, being a virgin – or almost a virgin – is no longer a prerequisite to marriage.  All in all, women today have a range of options and opportunities that far outstrip those of our grandmothers or even our mothers.

It all sounds wonderful.  However, as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, many of our social values that govern love, sex and marriage remain markedly different for men and women in many ways. While both men and women may openly and freely engage in the pursuit of love and sex, how they reach their quest is not always the same.

"The world turned upside down" (gend...

“The world turned upside down” (gender-role reversal) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our cultural traditions are strong and differences in the socialization and physiology of men and women remain a reality. And unfortunately, or fortunately – depending on your personal views–many traditional sex roles remain deeply embedded in modern-day relationships – straight and gay. When these traditional roles collide with the realities of modern day – which they often do – couples find themselves in conflict.

While contemporary relationships may be much more rewarding than the those of our parents and grandparents, they are also much more complex and difficult.

Through this blog, I want to explore the relatively new emotional and sexual freedoms that women have gained through their struggle  for equality and freedom of sexual expression in contemporary relationships – including a woman’s option of having a lover(s) if she so chooses.

Each week I will post some specific thoughts about women in contemporary relationships for comment and discussion. Hope you will join in on what I believe will be a fun, enlightening and rewarding blog.

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