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December 07, 2009

More on Male/Female Domestic Violence

Attila has a very thoughtful post on the issue of defining and dealing with male vs. female domestic violence:

Turns Out Domestic Violence Is Fine.

As long as you confine it to the other person’s property. Because 1) no one is particularly attached to his or her property, and 2) destroying property never leads to any sort of assault on someone’s person.

So we’ve got all that squared away.

Just to be safe, though, if you’re going to try this? I’d recommend making sure that you are a female in a heterosexual relationship. Because men are never the victims in a domestic violence situation. Well: hardly ever.

In other words, no: as someone who, at the age of 15, watched her mother smash her [the mother's] boyfriend’s antiques, and burn his clothes in the backyard, and threaten his face and the windows of his VW bug with a hammer, I’m not impressed with the reasoning.

...Though on the surface I know it sounds like Cass and I disagree, I don’t really think we do so much: we’re both saying that there should be one standard of behavior within a marriage, for both men and women. And we’re both saying that people should control themselves and behave, as much as possible, like adults.

Despite my well known predilection for honor killings and delicious bouts of she-on-he, WWE style mayhem, I can't find too much to disagree with there. I know what I meant when I used the example of someone punching an inanimate object during a heated argument. What I envisioned was someone turning away from the other person and slamming a wall or flat surface, not someone pulling a Glenn Close.

Reading Joy's post, I am a little concerned that I inadvertently gave the impression that I think slapping each other in the face during arguments is hunky dory. I mentioned the archetypal 1940s style movie scene where the man and woman are about to kiss and in the mating tussle, one ups and slaps the other.

It's my recollection that such slaps were never all that forceful, nor were they intended to cause bodily harm. Obviously that isn't something I'd do (or want done to me). But Darleen made a great point in the comments section of Attila's post that did a far better job than I did of conveying what I was trying to get across with regard to both the property damage and slapping examples:

... on a societal level, incidental property damage (throwing a book, breaking a plate, slamming a door so hard it comes off the hinges) is not really DV if not directed at the other or done as part of a threat directed at the other (”this is what will happen to YOU if you dont …”)

The LAW on the other hand, varies from state to state and unfortunately sometimes cops are - pun here - handcuffed in their ability to decide to obey the spirit of the law rather than enforce the letter of the law.

Does it make any sense for cops to be instructed in a “zero tolerance” manner when it comes to DV that they will arrive on-scene and even with no physical evidence of assault, arrest both parties and take the minor kids to CPS?

There was enough reasonable doubt on the events of that night without Tiger or Elin willing to talk to the cops (their constitutional right) that there was no case.

Certainly, with no history, no injuries and no cooperation, no DDA would file on it either.

IF she had actually hit him and caused physical injury, all bets would be off and I’m sure the FL cops would have taken her in right there. FL DV law is pretty clear and Tiger’s not wanting to file charges would have had no effect. Similar to CA DV law.

This was exactly what I had in mind: that we don't want to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards reports of DV because when it comes to sex and relationships, things aren't always as clean cut or black and white (pun fully intended) as we might wish. Certain things clearly cross the line.

I've stood on too many doorsteps over the years because a female friend had been beaten up by her boyfriend or husband. Like Joy's husband, my personal experience with DV has been overwhelmingly of the male-on-female kind. But that doesn't mean women never batter the men in their lives.

It's hard to describe how helpless you feel when a friend is involved with someone violent. But the worst thing of all is the realization that you can't force someone else to get help. You can urge, cajole, nag, offer help. But in the end if they want to be safe, it often comes down to something extremely unpleasant: calling the police and filing charges. And deciding to walk out that door.

Even then, there are no guarantees. Restraining orders are nearly useless. I've had friends whose apartments were broken into and who were attacked with a restraining order in place.

Part of the reason I tend to bristle when the men's rights crowd start in on how feminism has ruined the world is that I remember what the world used to be like. I remember the years when a battered wife or girlfriend was something to which both the police and the courts often turned a blind eye. I think that has largely changed, and what's more I think that's a good thing.

And I think that men should enjoy the same protections by the legal system that women do. I don't believe in unequal justice. It's unfortunate, I think, that in some instances the law and societal mores have gone a bit too far towards protecting women, to the point where we're sometimes treated as not fully adult and therefore encouraged not to responsibility for our own decisions. The problem here is that the law can't - and shouldn't - attempt to solve all our problems or absolve us of adult responsibilities. I've complained many times about overzealous and intrusive campaigns that make it so easy to accuse a partner of domestic violence (and where the burden of proof is so low) that false reports become a convenient weapon when a relationship goes sour even when there's zero evidence of abuse.

I don't think laws can eradicate domestic violence. It requires a certain hubris to believe that if we just make the process accessible enough or the punishments for misbehavior steep enough, people will all behave reasonably. This kind of legal overreach tends to create perverse incentives. A more realistic goal is create conditions where real DV victims - male or female - are treated justly and with compassion when they do decide to seek help.

Nothing the law can do is ever going to render this kind of situation easy or cut and dried. I'm not sure we can ever - whether we're talking about a man or a woman - get around the fact that we all have to be willing to defend ourselves. What the law can do is to make getting help possible and strive to treat DV victims of both sexes equitably.

Posted by Cassandra at December 7, 2009 08:00 AM

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Comments

I'll keep it short: You can feel and express sympathy for a spouse who has been cheated on, without condoning that they resort to violence.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at December 7, 2009 03:49 PM

I agree, Dave.

This (to me at least) is a bit of a grey area. I think what I wanted to get across is that I don't like zero tolerance policies and wouldn't want the police to have no choice but to wade in at even the slightest whiff of "DV".

Moral condonement (is that even a word??? :) is a separate issue. I realize I didn't really express my thoughts very well the other day. The post was written hurriedly and I didn't take the time I should have with it.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 7, 2009 03:53 PM

Erm... My above was a general statement; I had not gone back and read the weekend posts, and I didn't realize this was supposed to be in the Tiger Woods context. I concur that there is no evidence that his wife assaulted him. Although the golf-club-swinging bit does sound spooky to me... Don't forget that the very purpose of a golf club is to apply a whole lot of force to a small area. Breaking a ceramic plate or knocking a hole in the drywall are things you can do accidentally. Shattering a heavy safety-glass window, not so much.

I concur with you on the DV zero-tolerance thing. Like all zero-tolerance policies, it's a cop-out designed to take the place of reasoned judgment and/or act as a handy excuse for jerking people around.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at December 7, 2009 04:16 PM

I was a member of the club of female on male DV once. Let me put it this way: The law is an ass.

Men pretty much are unable to defend themselves in this situation. Any defensive act can and probably will be construed as violence.

Posted by: Allen at December 7, 2009 05:08 PM

Yes, that's a real problem. I think that's one reason guys don't tend to report it/defend themselves.

I remember once when my neighbor took me in to the emergency room after a 3 day migraine. They all but accused my husband of abusing me -- when I had a migraine!!!

Unbelievable. And the poor guy took off work as soon as he found out I was at the doctor too. Some thanks.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 7, 2009 05:23 PM

I think that's one reason guys don't tend to report it/defend themselves.

And as much as I think this next comment may be rather unpopular keep in mind that having an explaination of a phenomenon is not the same as endorsement:

I think this is why a certain Doctor's blog previously alluded to is filled with so many bitter women-hating men. It's one of the few places that (at least the site owner) doesn't belittle the men over poor treatment by a woman.

A woman goes on a blog and complains about her husband and most respond with "It's a shame he's such a jerk. He should be more considerate". If a guy does the same, he's called an over emotional *&ssy and that he should just get over it, suck it up and "be a man" or that he shouldn't have pissed her off to start with. And often times, this comes from other *men*.

And being one of the few popular websites that does so, she's pretty much attracted the entire fever-swamp into one place and so the downward spiral accelerates even faster.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 7, 2009 06:12 PM

I get the same impression, Yu-Ain. And I understand in a way, and I'm sure that I ought to be more compassionate.

I don't think anyone ought to be belittled over being hurt. At the same time, I wonder how healthy it is to hate all women b/c one wronged you or marinate in resentment? I guess part of me wishes there were some attempt to balance the palpable sense of grievance.

I can't speak for others, but when I'm feeling sorry for myself, what helps me put it in perspective is two things:

1. Realizing the same things has happened to others. IOW, I'm not alone, and it may not even have that much to do with me.

2. Realizing that this is just one interaction with one person. IOW, it doesn't represent the whole of "reality" - another time, things might go better.

I guess I deal with things by trying to understand the other person (even if I still don't agree with them) and trying to put the hurt into perspective.

But I see men over there who are so bitter and angry that they've enlarged their experience to encompass every interaction with women. It ain't that they had a bad experience with ONE woman, but that women are all bitches.

That's not a very hopeful position, and it also isn't really accurate. There are many good, kind women out there. And some really bad ones.

And I've found in my own life that though I'm not necessarily to blame if someone treats me poorly, often I have (unwittingly) contributed to the situation, even if only by not walking away or setting appropriate boundaries up front.

Once something bad happens, you can't change the past. You can only change how you react to it and what you learn from it. I guess I don't understand how hating helps anyone to heal?

Posted by: Cassandra at December 7, 2009 06:26 PM

At the same time, I wonder how healthy it is to hate all women b/c one wronged you or marinate in resentment?

Probably about as healthy as it is to hate all men b/c one wronged you.

Unfortunatly, as a society, we are more forgiving of that.

The doctor has at least applied that standard evenly, though I wish that the standard she was applying evenly was a different one.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 7, 2009 06:33 PM

But I guess that even as a non-liberal psychologist she's still adhering to the "just let it all out and you'll feel better" trope that is all-too-common for the profession.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 7, 2009 06:37 PM

Unfortunatly, as a society, we are more forgiving of that.

I believe you think that. I'm not sure that's the case, however. We forgive men more easily for some things and women more easily for others.

Overall it strikes me as roughly equal. In many regards what is expected of men/boys is far less than what we expect from women/girls.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 7, 2009 09:09 PM

You make an interesting point. My wife left me and took my daughter states away. I have joint custody so I see her all the time. She is still very young so I have not started to teach her how to deal with DV. When she is old enough, I will. Anybody who beats on her will die in the attempt or shortly after the fact. She is one tough little girl...and cute too.

Merry Christmas Cassandra and God bless. That bit about God, meant for your Marine and you and your family.

Posted by: C at December 8, 2009 03:17 AM

Cassandra: "Part of the reason I tend to bristle when the men's rights crowd start in on how feminism has ruined the world is that I remember what the world used to be like. I remember the years when a battered wife or girlfriend was something to which both the police and the courts often turned a blind eye."

Really? You must be significantly older than I am -- I'm 52 and I don't remember such a world ... except in the movies.

Posted by: Ilíon at December 8, 2009 07:06 AM

No, actually I'm 50 and I can name at least three cases of women I know where the police (and even the courts) DID turn a blind eye.

When I was pregnant with my second child (1982) my next door neighbor was a recent divorcee. She left her husband b/c he had beaten her up several times. Once he put her into the hospital.

He was from a wealthy family and she had no money of her own. Contrary to the reigning mantra around there that the woman ALWAYS cleans the man out, she left with the clothes on her back and there was no alimony or anything else. He used to come to pick up their small son for visits and she would leave her front door open b/c he would berate her and push her around (and I heard this happen on more than one occasion). Once I called the police when I heard him screaming and berating her through the wall of our duplex.

Your experience is different than mine. I've also had a friend whose daughter was repeatedly threatened, stalked and harassed even after the divorce by her ex husband. She had a restraining order but it was worthless.

My co-worker's husband (she had a restraining order too and was 8 months pregnant) was pushed and harassed by her ex. He broke into her apartment and trashed everything in it. The police did nothing. She came to work with a big old bruise on her face (mind you, this is a pregnant woman) shortly before I left courtesy of a man she had divorced, had a restraining order against, and was doing her best to avoid. But it's hard to avoid someone who is obsessed with you.

My son is a cop, so I'm not bad mouthing cops. DV calls are very difficult for them. I'm glad none of your friends had similar experiences but don't try to tell me that proves it didn't happen because I can cite chapter and verse where it absolutely did.

And yet you don't see me ranting away about how evil and violent men are. I realize these men were clearly nut cases and not typical of most men.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 8, 2009 08:41 AM

Capt. Whalen:

I'm a big believer in girls learning to defend themselves.

When I was in college I took Karate. I was surprised how difficult it was for me to be aggressive and attack. I was always afraid of hurting the other person. It was a little easier for me if I was sparring with a guy who was more advanced b/c I trusted that he could block a punch or kick. So I enjoyed sparring with the brown belts - I could relax and concentrate on what I was doing. Of course, one of them broke my foot, but that goes with the territory :p

But what really made a huge impression on me was just how strong my girlie, "don't hit" conditioning was.

I moved almost every year growing up and ran into the usual childhood bullies but was always able to talk my way out of confrontations. There was nothing in my childhood - even playing tackle football, which I did all the time, that taught me to be comfortable with hitting. I used to watch my male friends get into fights all the time and never understood that this is just the way boys deal with things.

I'm not saying all women are like me, but a lot are. My boys played soccer with girls and though the girls were often much more coordinated at the same age, they played far less aggressively. Again, there are exceptions but this was what I saw most of the time.

So I think it's good for girls to learn self defense. If nothing else, it tends to make them feel more confident and confidence is very important in discouraging attacks. I think that's one reason people rarely messed with me when I was a kid. I wasn't at all aggressive but I was very self confident. Bullies look for someone who is isolated or who they think they can easily cow and it's best not to be that person if you can help it.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 8, 2009 08:54 AM

We forgive men more easily for some things and women more easily for others.

Absolutely agree.

Overall it strikes me as roughly equal.

I agree here too.

I just think that general bitching about the SO falls on the female side of the equation. Afterall, men (generally) don't bitch about a problem, they want to adapt, overcome, and solve the problem. It's this tendency that get's us in trouble for "why does he keep try to fix things, why won't he *listen* to me" with the SO (which exasperates the guy because he's thinking, "Of course I listened, how else could I think of a good solution!" Not realizing that that's quite beside the point :-) ) This also explains why so much of the belittling comes from other men: Stop bitching and do something.

I absolutely believe the guys balance it out, just in a different area. We've talked at length about how society is vastly more forgiving of promiscuity in men than in women. And that's a much bigger problem.

Really? You must be significantly older than I am -- I'm 52 and I don't remember such a world ... except in the movies.

I'm significantly younger than both of you at 32, and *I* remember such a world in the recent past. Perhaps it's from growing up in a very rural area.

I remember a night when I was 19. It's one of the few nights I really felt like a coward. I was at a yard party (Halloween) at the house of a friend of the LG's best friend from High School. As we were leaving and walking to our cars all three of us could hear a man yelling obscenities at a woman who was crying. At this point I knew she was in an abusive relationship. As ICBS said, words can and do do incredible damage. But at this point yelling is not a crime nor is it violence. But something told me, that that was just a matter of time. Both the LG and her best friend could see exactly what I was thinking.

Each one took an arm and nearly as the same time wispered "Don't, you'll only make things worse." I'm thinking to myself "Worse? Worse is a foregone conclusion. I'm 6'1", 205lbs college athlete, some drunk-a$$ middle age man wouldn't have a chance" what I said was "She's going to get beaten!"

Best Friend: "And probably not for the first time, and she's still with him, even if you pummle him, he's just going to take it out on her worse later".

Me: "Fine, but when we get home we need to call the cops". (This was before teenagers routinely had cell-phones)

BF: "You can, but I'm not giving you the address".

Me: "WTF?"

BF: "Even if the cops arrest him, which she probably won't let them do, he'll only beat her worse when he get's out".

And she was probably right. If she were in an emotional state to leave him, she would have done so already. And in that situation the threat that things will get worse for calling the cops is incredibly powerful.

So while walking away may have been smart it still offends my sensibilities as a man. All it takes for evil to win is for good men to do nothing. And that's what I did.

On a non-personal level, I can show you hundreds of cases happening right now where cops and the courts are not "turning a blind eye" they are simply impotent. Restraining orders are useless. They only work against people who were no threat to begin with. A restraining order protects you from a bullet about as well as, well, a piece of paper. The cops, however, have no duty to protect *you*. They will not assign you a security detail to protect you against a stalker. What they will do, is arrest the bastard after standing over your bloody corpse. It's not that they don't want to do anything, but simply that they can't.

And this is where Capt. Whalen's advice on self-defense is important. One must learn the physical aspects of self-defense, how to throw a punch or kick, how to stab with a knife, how to shoot a gun, but most importantly you must learn the mental aspects. It does no good to have the ability if you don't have the will to use it. The weapon is the grey squishy stuff between your ears. Everything else is just a tool.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 8, 2009 11:00 AM

I'm not generally an aggressive sort. I slap a guy once, when he was being inappropriate. When I was in my 20s before I moved to AR, I got into it a little with my teenaged sister. My older brother would pick on me when we were kids, but that's what siblings do, I think (though he was very good at tormenting me in mean ways). I've thought it would be a good idea to take a Krav Maga class (they have that around here), but that costs money I don't have right now...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at December 8, 2009 11:03 AM

I think it has a lot to do with where you live/who you associate with.

Not saying rich people are never abusive, but they definitely hide their issues better.

I saw way more of this sort of thing when I was younger and that's b/c I lived in far crappier neighborhoods and associated daily with what I'd call a 'demographic' that I rarely rub up against now.

I remember, when we were first married, moving to new duty stations. My husband and I would drive around looking at the rentals and a lot of the neighborhoods he would dismiss out of hand: "That's trashy - I don't want you living there", he would say.

I can recall thinking, "Why is he so judgmental?"

I thought he was unreasonable, though I kept my feelings to myself. But looking back now, I realize why he said what he said.

The neighborhood we lived in when my youngest boy was born was the one where my next door neighbor's ex was harassing/threatening her.

My neighbor and friend across the street was married to a manipulative and emotionally abusive man who told her she was ugly and worthless and that he would kill her if she ever left him. This beautiful (I saw pictures of her just 3 years earlier) woman was so beaten down that she looked like trailer trash. And it was all external - one day I got her to fix her hair and dress in a pretty outfit, naively thinking that I was "helping". Her husband came home and they got into a huge fight. He pulled a gun but didn't use it.

Another neighbor on this same street had a 6 year old boy. One of my friends caught this 6 year old attempting to have sex with her 4 year old girl.

I kid you not. A 6 year old. After that I still allowed him to play with my boys but he had to come into my house and I stayed within earshot at all times.

I have never felt so sorry for a kid. One too many "uncles". I can't even think what his mother exposed him to. She had a drug problem.

And to think: this was the "nicer" neighborhood.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 8, 2009 11:27 AM

Yu-Ain writes: "And being one of the few popular websites that does so, she's pretty much attracted the entire fever-swamp into one place and so the downward spiral accelerates even faster."

Well, of course her rationale is that it's one of the few places on the Web where men can go to vent. One of the problems, though, is when you just see somebody's comment on a Web site, you don't know if the person really believes what they are saying, or if they are just venting. I admit that there are regular "contributors" there who get very tiresome because they seem to love wallowing in their bitterness and self-pity. I will point out that there are also a few contributors there who are pretty consistently gender feminists, and the good doctor doesn't usually censor them either.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at December 8, 2009 11:51 AM

I *my* experience, cops try to instigate domestic violence ... so that they can arrest (and, if they're lucky, rough him up) the guy. Fortunately, my father was too smart to far for the goading.

People in authority are frequently not remotely interested in getting to the truth of things and doing justice. All they tend to care about is the surface appearance.

Posted by: Ilíon at December 8, 2009 12:08 PM

Obviously I'm going to be biased here. It's hard for me to step outside my own values.

I was interested to hear Yu-Ain say that he thinks more women complain about their husbands. That may be on sites I don't frequent, but I certainly haven't seen that.

And I don't think that's what happens here at VC. I have seen far more men complaining about women than the reverse. And I don't censor them when they do it.

I know it isn't always perceived this way (and in truth I often get the impression that nothing I can say is acceptable) but I don't think I've blamed men who complained about their bad experiences with women.

I have said many, many times that there is no acceptable excuse for a lot of the behavior men have complained about.

I guess where I differ from Dr. Helen is that I firmly believe men and women have a hard time understanding each other.

Furthermore, I believe that when male/female communication gets loused up (as it often does) there's a real tendency for both sexes to say, "He/she's doing it on purpose." or "He/she is totally, utterly unreasonable."

But I don't think that's often the case. Certainly I believe there are men and women who behave badly. But I believe that's more the exception than the rule.

And I don't think it's unreasonable at all to say (for instance) to a woman whose male love interests always abuse or treat them badly, "Hey - have you ever considered the possibility that maybe you are getting involved with the wrong kind of man?"

We're not talking about a one-time problem where a relationship just didn't work out. We're talking about someone where EVERY relationship doesn't work out.

Likewise, if a guy has been married several times and it never ends well, I have to ask myself, "Gosh. Is it just possible that his behavior/choices are contributing to this problem?"

I don't think that's "blaming" either the man or the woman. I don't think either men or women want to believe there's no hope of being in a healthy relationship characterized by affection and mutual respect. But if you believe "all men/all women suck", that's not too likely to happen.

We can't control the behavior or choices of others.

We *can* control our own behavior/choices, and given that there absolutely are bad relationship bets out there. I guess I think it's better to figure out what you can do to maximize your chances of meeting a good woman or good man and forming a strong, healthy relationship with them.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 8, 2009 12:11 PM

ahem, ".. fall for ..."

Posted by: Ilíon at December 8, 2009 12:14 PM

I[n] *my* experience, cops try to instigate domestic violence ... so that they can arrest (and, if they're lucky, rough him up) the guy."

Well considering that my son is a cop, I can't say I agree.

DV calls are among the most dangerous calls cops have to deal with. But I understand why they are often reluctant to make an arrest. This is a good article on the subject:

http://www.examiner.com/x-19303-Dayton-Crime-Examiner~y2009m11d22-Domestic-Violence-Are-Ohio-cops-enforcing-the-law-or-ignoring-it

Posted by: Cassandra at December 8, 2009 12:15 PM

As a general rule, women aren't happy unless they're bitching about something ... and it's only natural that what they're going to bitch most about is the man in their lives.

At the same time, women tend *also* to talk/gossip to one another about their sexual relationship with their "significant other" in ways that men never would. That infamous male locker-room talk? For one thing, it pales in comparison to what women say, and more importantly, men don't talk that way about a woman they care about and respect.

====
When a couple is in the downward spiral of "domestic violence," it's almost always a case of chicken-and-egg.

Posted by: Ilíon at December 8, 2009 12:29 PM

women tend *also* to talk/gossip to one another about their sexual relationship with their "significant other" in ways that men never would. That infamous male locker-room talk? For one thing, it pales in comparison to what women say, and more importantly, men don't talk that way about a woman they care about and respect.

That's very true, Ilion. I've observed the same thing. I also think there are reasons for this.

I've never heard a woman talk about her sexual relationship with the man in her life in the "locker room" way. Not to say it never happens - just that I've never encountered that personally. And yet I have had many friends talk about sex with me, especially when I was younger and first married.

Women talk about their relationships with kids, husbands, friends, parents. It's our way of sharing information that is useful (i.e., "This is an issue in my life/is confusing me/is causing problems. Am I normal? Has this ever happened to you? Do your kids ever do X, Y, or Z? If so, how do you handle it?"

The intent, at least in the conversations I've had, is not to brag or to violate confidence, though I agree that men understandably don't appreciate their wives/girlfriends discussing things that are private or reveal too much about them. I think this desire for privacy is right and normal and should be respected.

But I will say this: a LOT of the time, a woman talks about these things b/c her mate won't talk about them. If something is on her mind and every time she brings the subject up, she's told "It's nothing", or "Why do you always get so emotional?" or "Why do we have to talk about it?" or she gets shut down in some other way, the concern doesn't just magically go away.

Most women I've known would *much* rather talk to their men than to another woman about relationship or sexual issues. But they can't. So they turn to their friends.

I'm not saying it's right. I'm saying it happens.

Men don't feel the same need to talk, so it's hardly surprising they rarely confide in their friends. And women are more comfortable with certain subjects (heck, we've been known to discuss baby poop!) so we don't always understand the male insistence on not discussing certain things.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend nearly 30 years ago. She was upset b/c her husband wanted her to do something she found painful and degrading.

I will admit to being surprised that she brought it up, but at the same time I understood her dilemma. She tried to talk to him, but his attitude was that he wanted to do it to her. Therefore she was being silly and unreasonable.

She didn't know what to do.

I told her that if he didn't think it "should" hurt her, then she should ask him if he was willing to let her do it to him. Repeatedly :p I never asked whether that worked but then I didn't really want to know, either.

I will say that it made me uncomfortable, knowing that about him and definitely affected my opinion of him. And that's the problem with that sort of conversation. It's hard to talk about sex without disclosing things about your partner that are better left unsaid.

I think you can discuss it in general terms (i.e., I've done this/I like this). But I think you have to be extremely careful not to involve your partner in your conversation without his knowledge or consent.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 8, 2009 01:15 PM

I was interested to hear Yu-Ain say that he thinks more women complain about their husbands. That may be on sites I don't frequent, but I certainly haven't seen that.

Mainly this is in meat-space. And almost always in (near) female only environments. (I typically would get dragged along because they needed a strong back and a weak mind to help set-up/move/pack/rearrange, etc.)

Women tend to talk about their relationships with kids, husbands, friends, parents. It's our way of sharing information that is useful (i.e., "This is an issue in my life/is confusing me/is causing problems. Am I normal? Has this ever happened to you? If so, how do you deal with it?"

And this is essentially what I'm referring to in the "bitching about the spouse" territory. It's not the "He's such a scum-sucking, no count, lazy jack-ass", but the "Good Lord, what wrong with men's arms that they can't pick up their freakin' socks?" or "I can't tell you the last time I got him to do X", or "I gave him one thing to cook last night and he burned it" and my personal favorite "Well, if I left it up to *him* to do it, it wouldn't get done".

I can't tell you the number of times I've wanted to walk into the conversation and ask "So tell me again, why are you married to these people?" but my survival instinct is too strong. I don't like pain, it hurts me. :-)

And I don't censor them when they do it.

But you don't make a point of saying that that is OK. Which is what I think the Doctor's mistake is. The "just let it out you'll feel better" mantra common to psychiatry is often bad advice. Anger is a secondary emotion. It's what you feel because of something else: Frustration, disapointment, etc. Giving rise to anger only masks the real cause and makes it harder to deal with. You would think those in the psych world would know better.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 8, 2009 01:46 PM

Likewise, if a guy has been married several times and it never ends well, I have to ask myself, "Gosh. Is it just possible that his behavior/choices are contributing to this problem?"

My FIL has finally learned that lesson. Took him 3 failed marriages to do so, but he did eventually learn that he's just not suited to marriage (or serious relationships for that matter).

My MIL, on the other hand, I had to tell in a much more gentle way, the marital equivalent of "I don't take financial advice from poor people".

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 8, 2009 01:53 PM

"I[n] *my* experience, cops try to instigate domestic violence ... so that they can arrest (and, if they're lucky, rough him up) the guy."

Well considering that my son is a cop, I can't say I agree."

I was trying to keep my nose outta this one, but considering that many close friends of mine are LEO's, I'll have to agree with M'lady Cassandra.

As far as the rest of the DV discussion goes, I'm personally familiar with two cases.

One was a young couple who lived above me and my dearest Walkin' Boss when we lived in Maryland. We rented a small, ground floor flat. We were flush with our first child, a brand new, baby girl. I spent most of my waking hours during the week working. Long hours in those days. Walkin' Boss stayed home with our baby.

Twas a grand time, except for... The young couple living above us. They would have a knock-down-drag-out about once to twice a week. The battles usually sounded as if someone was attempting to dribble bowling balls on our ceiling while yelling and screaming. Usually the rounds started in the wee hours. After midnight, as the song goes.

As a rule, the couple went fist ta cuff after a goodly amount of alcohol consumption. Both of em would face the dawn looking as if they'd gone three rounds in a UFC match. After a few rematches, I crawled out of bed one night during the second round, grabbed a Louisville Slugger and hit the ceiling a time or two, while broadcasting a STFU across the 1MC. The resulting echo from upstairs was full of profanity, but the battle of the evening ended.

The next day I made a point of being in the parking lot when they came home after work and suggesting that they both behave or take their fights elsewhere. Tense moments followed, but they behaved, for a while.

Their next skirmish erupted a few days, or was it a few weeks later. Beats me, it's been a right long time since those good old days. But it happened again, as I knew it would, so I called the LEO's and they came out and talked to the young pugilist couple. No arrests were made, but I recall that a very pointed warning was issued.

About a week later, IIRC, the couple packed up in the middle of the night and moved out. I'll bet that they fought for as long as they remained together. And I must add that based upon observed cuts and contusions, the female, who was physically larger than her sparring partner, apparently gave as good as she got. Sometimes she probably won the round. Truth be told, I was more concerned with confronting her than the fellow... Especially since I was taught (as we used to be conditioned by our parents in those days) to never, ever, hit a woman.

The other case was a woman beating on a man regularly. I was a little kid, but I recall the woman flailing away on the husband and wailing like a banshee. The man would turn his back on the woman, hunch his shoulders, tuck his head down and head for his car. A tactical retreat. As a rule, he would return a few hours later. This family lived close -as in relative proximity- to my parents. I never saw or heard anyone do or say anything about their fights. When I mentioned it to my parents, they told me to stay clear of em. I think I may have been 5± years old at that time. Yeah, this during the mesolithic period of the stone age.

All I can gather from reading stuff today is that I've been blessed with a fairly sheltered from the criminally insane kind of life.

I agree with the Captain too. Peace through strength and awareness. My girls, Walkin' Boss included, were taught to always be aware of their surroundings, to know how to defend themselves -I paid others to teach them, which was much easier on all concerned. And lastly, given their diminutive size and relative physical strength, go armed. The youngest is not keen on that last point. But it's her life, her conscience, and so, her decision.

Regarding YAG's point:

The "just let it out you'll feel better" mantra common to psychiatry is often bad advice. Anger is a secondary emotion. It's what you feel because of something else: Frustration, disapointment, etc. Giving rise to anger only masks the real cause and makes it harder to deal with. You would think those in the psych world would know better.
I recall reading something along the lines of giving in to the urge to let it out tends to exacerbate the rage, rather than bleed it off. I think so too. But hey, I'm just an unfrozen caveman, this world often frightens and confuses me. At least until beer-thirty.

Whoops, please pardon my excessive windiness. Must be related to global warming or COˆ2 or eating meat or...

Posted by: bthun at December 8, 2009 02:12 PM

Heh :)

I have a good friend who was divorced twice before she found her current husband. She has a very strong relationship with him.

She's a very good example of what I'm talking about. It is absolutely, hands down not her fault that her first marriage ended.

I don't like divorce one bit, and yet if my husband started acting like hers was and wouldn't work with me/go to counseling (yuck!) then I would have left him. This isn't even a close question.

And yet he went on to marry someone else and that marriage lasted. So the odds are he isn't a bad person. And she took a long look at herself after the end of her second marriage and concluded:

1. Yes, a big part of the problem was the men she chose freely and their behavior.

2. But also, she was doing some things that weren't helpful. Not the same as being at fault, but more like recognizing marital dynamics are complicated and then there's that whole "spiral of misbehavior" thing that ICBS alluded to. I call it the feedback loop. He does this and she does that. And he retaliates. And then she retaliates. After a while no one even remembers the original problem.

Not helpful.

The third time - for her - was the charm. Great guy, great marriage. Happy ending :)

I remember in the 70s when that whole "express your anger" meme became popular, thinking that it was a load of horse hockey. A little venting is not harmful but wallowing in it is a whole 'nother thing. Just makes you angrier.

In fairness to Dr. Helen, I'm not sure she buys into that. I don't read her often enough to know but she strikes me as a pretty smart woman.

I think she's upset about anti-male attitudes, and I agree with her. That's why when I first started writing, that was one of my main topics: the excesses of feminism and how they wrong/hurt men.

But over time I became aware that the deplorable anti-male types are matched by an equally deplorable anti-female backlash on the right. I understand it.

I'm just not about to concede that two wrongs make a right, nor will I condone the often ridiculous intellectual contortions I've seen some righty bloggers twist themselves into to justify this position. I'm not talking about Dr. Helen here.

As I said, I don't read her often enough to comment knowlegably on her day to day focus and anyway, she's not the subject here.

As Dave said, on the occasions I've read her, I've been pretty dismayed by the sometimes overwhelming hostility to women in her comments section. The thing is, feelings aren't bad or good. And they aren't reasonable or rational.

They just "are".

I just can't help feeling that it might be more helpful to try and get people to acknowledge that few issues are black and white. But then that's what makes me an evil, America hating RINO appeaser :p

*rolling eyes*

Posted by: Cassandra at December 8, 2009 02:14 PM

As Dave said, on the occasions I've read her, I've been pretty dismayed by the sometimes overwhelming hostility to women in her comments section.

I don't disagree. And while there is some hostility to men in her comments it does seem rather lopsided. I wonder if this has to do with the male tendency to lash out in anger. "If I left him to do it, it wouldn't get done" is disappointment with an undercurrent of anger. "You scum sucking pig" is pure unadulterated (see, I'm on topic :-) ) anger. There's something else going on: disappointment, frustration, betrayal, something, but there's no way to know what it is. There's just the hostility.

And we guys do have a tendency to just skip the primary emotion and go straight to anger moreso than women do.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 8, 2009 03:04 PM

Helen likes to take a therapist attitude towards her commenters. She tends to see her blog and its comments section as a big group therapy session. That's definitely a different approach. It may not always be appropriate for a Web site.

"I think she's upset about anti-male attitudes, and I agree with her."

Yep, I'd say that's a bigger thing for her than it is for most men! She has another concern: what she sees as a rising level of violence among teenage girls and young women. She sees that women who commit violent crimes often get kid-glove treatment from the legal system, and I think she's concerned about the implications of that from a behaviorist perspective.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at December 8, 2009 03:33 PM

It may not always be appropriate for a Web site.

Or possibly I just take it more seriously than I should :p

I find that I rarely get upset over just one thing or one post. More often, I notice the same thing going on in several places and (rightly or wrongly) see a pattern.

I am very concerned about the decline in what we expect from girls, so I think she's right to worry about female violence. This is going to sound sexist, but the fact is that women still do the lion's share of child care. I have always believed that's why women are trained up to be uncomfortable with violence and aggression.

If your primary "job" is to care for helpless and weak children, you have to be extremely careful never to abuse them (and trust me - kids can push your buttons like nobody's business). Men, OTOH, have more traditionally defended home and hearth against the predations of other adults so they need to be comfortable with violence and aggression, yet to channel it appropriately when it's not called for.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 8, 2009 04:11 PM

Interesting. To some extent, that seems perfectly reasonable. But on the otter heiney, it's the mama bear you don't want to piss off.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 8, 2009 04:23 PM

"on the otter heiney, it's the mama bear you don't want to piss off."
As every papa bear knows all too well...

Posted by: bthun at December 8, 2009 04:49 PM

It's funny.

After my boys grew up, we had a discussion once about parenting styles and how they reacted to them.

They both said the same thing:

1. Though I was the one who usually meted out punishment (including spankings), both my sons said that they never felt afraid of me. They did feel afraid of their Dad sometimes, even though I'm not sure he ever, in the whole time they were growing up, laid a finger on them.

I attribute this to him being more of an unknown quantity, and also to the fact that I'm more physically affectionate/demonstrative. Also, I'm smaller and less threatening physically and I think boys, in the back of their little minds, are always thinking, "Hmmmm.... can I take him/her??? And I *know* I can take Grandma!" :p

2. They also said that if they really wanted something, they asked Dad b/c he was "more lenient".

I found this fascinating b/c (aside from the being scared thing) it's exactly opposite of what I would have expected.

There is really no doubt that left to myself, I would have been far more permissive than my husband. I think being married made me a far better and stricter parent.

The list of things I just don't get torqued about is so long (compared to his) that it's not even funny. But as the primary caregiver, I took the position that adhering to his standards would result in a more harmonious household. If I only enforced the things I cared about, the boys would get on his nerves and he would just have to discipline them when he got home from a long day at work.

Also, when he deployed the boys would adjust to my rules and then resent him when he got home and started cracking the whip again.

So it made total sense to me to adopt the stricter of the two sets of parenting rules. That's not to say we never negotiated in private. But there was (in my view) an inherent bias towards using his rules rather than mine.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 8, 2009 05:03 PM

Unrelated musing: one of the greatest joys (and greatest heartaches) associated with parenting was watching my boys learn to relate to their Dad as men.

They became so much closer to him during the teen years. I loved this, because I'd always wanted them to be closer, but hated it b/c that meant my own influence over them diminished and to some extent, we became less close than we had been when they were small.

I fully realized (or believed) that it's really important for boys to detach from their Moms and learn about the world from Dad. But when you've been pretty much their whole world, man does it hurt.

At the same time, it helped me prepare for them to grow up and leave home. It forced me to take a big step back -- not to get in the way.

Children are such a joy. I've never regretted the decision to stay home and raise the boys, though I'll freely admit I was very restless at times.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 8, 2009 05:09 PM

Cass, I have a theory that the mother-child exists from birth, but the father-child relationship has to evolve, and the child has to grow into it. I can't tell you how many adults have told me that their relationship with their mother has remained essentially the same, but their relationship with their father is significantly different from when they were pre-teens.

I'll throw in this bit about cops: the policing profession is one that is attractive to narcissists who get their jollies from having control over other people. It's up largely to the police academies to weed out these types. Some academies do this well. Some not so much.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at December 8, 2009 10:24 PM

Well, I can testify that my son went through months (literally) of lie detector tests and psych tests for the "privilege" of being paid... umm.. not much to put his life at risk.

I'd make a crude joke here about what space aliens are said to do to their captives but you get the drift.

I remember thinking at the time, "No job is worth this BS." I still think that, but at the same time I'm glad people like my son are willing to put up with it, and I'm glad his wife is unselfish enough to spend pretty much every single holiday alone. We have several police officers in the family, including one who was shot to death by some wacko just a few years ago. She left a grieving husband (also an officer) and two small children.

So I guess I think we're pretty lucky to have cops even if some of them aren't perfect.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 8, 2009 11:20 PM

Reading the morning news I stumble over this.

*The hun lifts his knuckles from the floor, scratches pronounced eyebrow ridge and honestly wonders what sort of human, male creature would consider an Electrolux-femPod for a wife?*

Posted by: bthun at December 9, 2009 09:13 AM

"I've never heard a woman talk about her sexual relationship with the man in her life in the "locker room" way."

I have, more than once, and I'm a man. Mind you, I wasn't *supposed* to overhear it, but I chanced to walk into the middle of the conversation.

Posted by: Ilíon at December 10, 2009 11:21 AM

"Yep, I'd say that's a bigger thing for her than it is for most men! She has another concern: what she sees as a rising level of violence among teenage girls and young women. She sees that women who commit violent crimes often get kid-glove treatment from the legal system, and I think she's concerned about the implications of that from a behaviorist perspective."

One of my nieces put my sister, her mother, through legal hell (and then later tried to do similar to me) ... because she knew that she could get away with it, and because "the system" (including the cops) act as enablers.

Fortunately (from a moral perspective), my sister was made of sterner stuff that the fools who thought to use her to advance their carriers suspected. My sister refused to lie about herself, refused to accept blame for something which didn’t happen, to call of the legal dogs.

Posted by: Ilíon at December 10, 2009 11:29 AM

"I recall reading something along the lines of giving in to the urge to let it out tends to exacerbate the rage, rather than bleed it off."

That has been my experience in living my own personal life.

Posted by: Ilíon at December 10, 2009 11:34 AM

"But over time I became aware that the deplorable anti-male types are matched by an equally deplorable anti-female backlash on the right."

What is "of the right" about an anti-female backlash? Being against feminism (as most of us rabid roght-wingers are) is not even close to the same as being against women.

Most, if not all, of that deplorable anti-female backlash will be from persons who psychologically are predominantly "of the left." They may support this or that specific conservative point or policy, but their preferred policies/interests will tend to cluster as "liberal."

Posted by: Ilíon at December 10, 2009 11:41 AM

"One of my nieces put my sister, her mother, through legal hell (and then later tried to do similar to me) ... because she knew that she could get away with it, and because "the system" (including the cops) act as enablers."
One of my LEO buds was, for years, the lead detective in a large metro crimes against children unit. After being around this friend and several other friends in law enforcement for a couple of decades, I am willing to accept that there are some inept and some bad actors who wear a badge. Just as there are, predominately, IMHO, outstanding, selfless people who want to serve their communities.

Now in defense of my friend and his former CAC unit, they are well trained investigators who will throw the BS flag on accusers in situations like the one you describe Ilion. These investigators know how important it is to get the investigation right, for all of the people involved.

And after endless conversations, I can also tell you of the weight these investigators carry. How dealing with the scum who prey on children and the consequences of the scum's actions eats at a person. When you have to see the damage done day in and day out, it takes a terrible toll on good people.

As I've readily admitted, I could not do their work.

Posted by: bthun at December 10, 2009 11:57 AM

As far as enablers go... In my limited capacity as nothing more than a casual observer, I'd have to say that the enablers of situations like you describe are, for the most part, school administrators, teachers, and PyschHobbists in the school systems.

Posted by: bthun at December 10, 2009 12:08 PM

Most, if not all, of that deplorable anti-female backlash will be from persons who psychologically are predominantly "of the left."

Leaving aside whether that's true or not, is beside the point. Cass never said that the majority of those anti-female types were "on the right". Only that there was a segment "on the right" that was anti-female. This segment, regardless of its size, is still wrong.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 10, 2009 12:22 PM

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