Years ago, when I was about, oh, a year into my relationship with my now ex, he and I got in a fight (over what, who knows), I lost my temper, and I started hitting him. Not in the face, but on his arms, my fists balled up. I think I shoved him a few times too. He didn’t do anything back, aside from wrapping his way stronger arms around me, so I couldn’t hit him anymore, and to calm me down, because I was crying. Once I settled, he told me I could never, ever, ever hit him or shove him or do anything physical like that again — that it was unfair. Even though I “was a woman” and significantly less strong than him (seriously, we would play-wrestle and I would be defeated in, like, two seconds), taking my anger or frustration out on him physically was not OK ever, especially because he never would or could do the same to me and have there be any excuses.I didn’t ever hit him again and eventually I went to therapy to deal with a whole host of issues, some of which were connected to how my temper flared up when I felt out of control emotionally. But the situation with Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin, who maybe scratched his face up and attacked him with a golf club, has reminded me of that incident. Then this weekend I was at a birthday party, and the birthday boy was attacked — I’m talking kicking, hitting, scratching, etc. — by his girlfriend, after she discovered he had been texting his ex all day. There’s some back story there that would definitely justify her being pissed, but he said afterward that her physical attack on him was unforgivable and he would be breaking up with her pronto. I found myself urging him to give her another chance, if she apologized of course. But I would hardly be doing the same if the situation was reversed and he had attacked her. Does society — do I — take female-on-male violence seriously?
A girlfriend of mine has, at one time or another, hit, slapped or scratched multiple boyfriends. Most of the guys weren’t especially fazed, a couple even claiming that they deserved it, based on the actions that had pissed her off to begin with. Her high school boyfriend — whom she scratched to the point of drawing blood — “got really mad and told me I was crazy,” she says. “He wouldn’t sleep with me for a few days after that. But that was it.” Most recently she slapped a boyfriend in public, for “tomcatting” on her and lying about it — they’re no longer together, though more because he was sleazing around and less because she lashed out at him for it.
“Just discussing this made me realize that I have a little bit of a recurring issue,” she told me. “I mean, I know I have problem with, uh, rage, but I never really stopped to think about it before. I mean, it’s not the sort of thing that recurs within one relationship. Like I’m not constantly beating up my boyfriend. I suppose it’s partly because I’m sort of drawn to these relationships where everything is really fraught and heightened and dramatic. I’m not trying to be abusive or anything, but I’ve found myself in those situations many times, where a fight escalates and I get so pissed that all I can do is, like, lash out with my body.”
Some guys wouldn’t act as casually about being hit as my ex did or my friend’s exes did. I emailed with a guy friend of mine, Kellan*, who had been assaulted twice by his now ex-girlfriend, Julie*. The first time was when they were on a break, but still hanging out as friends, and he told her that he had slept with someone since their breakup. They fought and as he was leaving she punched him in the head.
“I didn’t really do anything except curse her out that time,” Kellan said.
The second time was a bit more of a story. Kellan and Julie were kind of back together and had a fight. He wanted to be alone, but Julie refused to give him space, going so far as to jump into his car when he asked her not to and following him out of the car and around the parking lot. When she tried to get back into his truck, this time through the truck bed window, he tried to push her out. She then bit down hard on his wrist.
“My response to this was to hit her to try to get her off of me,” Kellan said. “After that I went to the campus police and filed a report.”
“I never raised my hand to a girl before her, I haven’t since then, and I sincerely hope that I never have to again,” he continued. “That being said, I think it is acceptable at times. Most guys are not complicated when it comes to these issues; if we tell you we need space, we mean it and if we warn you that if you keep doing X, then we are going to do Y, we mean it too. If anyone, male or female, keeps pushing your buttons after you tell them how you feel about them doing it and how you’re going to react if they keep doing it, they can’t complain about the consequences.”
So what about you? Have you ever hit a boyfriend? How did he respond?
* Names have been changed.
Amelia recently wondered (and wrote), “Am I Really That Special?”