One in three women globally will suffer domestic violence in their lifetimes, and 70% of those cases will go unreported (according to WHO and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). Statistics suggest that this anonymous woman is probably lying to everyone about her “consensually violent” relationship with her boyfriend, but she doesn’t agree.
In the same sense that anything a crazy person says validates their disease, standing up for my equal right to get beat on consensually doesn’t exactly satisfy anyone’s concerns about my current relationship. I’m not some pussy who would let herself get beat up, though. People think I’m lying because I’m a girl. And everyone thinks my boyfriend is an asshole for hitting me. Like most men, sometimes he can be.
Sure, he’d given me a black eye or two, but I wasn’t exactly saying no when I agreed to do things like free-box in the parking lot outside his apartment in. Needless to say, I lost. I blame that on my overzealous attitude, lots of rum, and absolutely no technical boxing experience whatsoever. We were drunk. We blew some coke. We found boxing gloves and started encouraging partygoers to fight. Some people used them to flirt with each other until my boyfriend and I stole them away to the parking lot. We ditched the gloves in a matter of minutes, and one of my friends took a video on her iPhone.
“That’s hot,” she yelled as my boyfriend pinned me over the side of someone’s beat up gold Honda. According to one of my boyfriend’s roommates, none of the drunk onlookers dared to talk about our public display of domestic violence after we retired the parking lot to other competitors and tucked through the back door.
Thankfully our friends are cautiously but hilariously supportive, or else I’d feel like a total freak. It goes without saying that most people, despite the way they act, are genuinely concerned about me; even if some are people I don’t know. They probably think I’ve been brainwashed, or that I am so wrapped up in my desire to be needed that I’ve sacrificed my safety for the kind of affection that ends with a trip to the battered women’s shelter.
Something that people outside of our group of friends don’t know is that my boyfriend and I have established boundaries in our relationship that allow us to be violent towards one another. Things like jealousy and misunderstanding are addressed through conversation, completely outside of our mutually ‘abusive’ relationship.
So during sex, sometimes we get injured. And we like it. A lot of people – most people, really – would consider that really fucked up. Statistically and historically speaking, their opinion is fair. We fought once until my left cheek was red and swollen. I only noticed after he had led my hand to it – like a fist-sized rock under my skin.
“If I had a girl who would let me do that, I’d probably be doing what you guys are doing,” confessed one of his roommates, as he looked closely at my eye. My boyfriend’s brother, meanwhile, shook his head and stared at the linoleum, laughing a little through his teeth. Both their reactions were welcome, though; their closeness to our “situation” granted them full access to critique our emerging sexually-violent behaviour.
Over the next few days, I came to realize that that job also belongs to everyone who feels they deserve what they get, when it comes to possible domestic “disturbances.” The darkening consensus got darker with the colour of my eye. Suddenly, my “injury” wasn’t the result of our consensual behaviour; it was a result of my boyfriend – ”who you should deeeefffinitely dump if he did that to you” – and his woman-hating attitude.
That last comment came courtesy of the McDonald’s late night drivethru cashier. Her tiny diamond ring glinted under the fluorescent light as she forgot to give me the ketchup, which I desperately needed more than her advice. She might have been a married woman with advice to give to drunk girls in the window, but all I cared about was that the coffee tasted like dish soap.
From my co-workers to my teachers, it seemed everyone had something to say about my black eye – but usually from a passive standpoint. One of my professors didn’t actually take the time to ask me, but he did have the university’s overly polite and uncomfortably-distant counselling centre call me. I should’ve asked for some Xanax to calm the stress – after four days I needed it, not to deal with getting hit, but from being harassed and blamed by nearly 20 people claiming that I was a victim. My response methods varied from laughing to lying to trying to explain my standpoint to people who didn’t deserve to hear it.
I am not arguing that abuse towards women doesn’t exist or that men aren’t inherently stronger than women. But the stereotypes associated with violence against women render most of us incapable of imagining a scenario where women are still in control of a situation even if they appear not to be. I feel that stance is startlingly similar to men’s objectification of women, “You’re only as beautiful as you look…”
Haven’t we spent long enough assuming that every man who hurts a woman is an abuser and his woman is a victim? My situation has been misinterpreted and stereotyped to the point I do not feel comfortable explaining to the general public that I am in love with being “abused” and in love with my “abuser”. As a woman, where does my situation fit in our society where sexual violence is still taboo?
There isn’t a clear answer to that question. One instance of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute. Take a minute to think about how many go unreported. If we ever want those women to feel comfortable speaking up, we need to start re-evaluating the way we respond to victims of domestic abuse. Girls with black eyes might seem like victims, but after facing my own sexually violent tendencies, I realize that they aren’t always.