Editor’s note: content warning for domestic violence/intimate partner violence/sexual and physical violence
Most of what I’ve learned on intimate partner violence came from classes I took at WSR done by HEAL and API Chaya. They got the foundation of their framework from the NorthWest Network. Most of what I’ve seen has been more queer studies critique than feminist critique and I’ve only recently learned that there is a big difference between these two perspectives. I generally ignore 90% of the stuff from second wave feminism, sticking to frameworks that center the experience of Black women, immigrant women, and indigenous women. Reading the Combahee Collective Statement kinda sorta blew up my whole world view in the best way possible. In it they critique the way second wave feminism erased race and class struggles of women who are not white and middle-class and how the anti-racist civil rights movement erased the sex and gender of Black people who were not hetero-males.
Thankfully intersectional critiques have become normalized to the point that I rarely come across books or papers that treat a given identity as monolithic.
Thus I was recently surprised and a little scandalized to hear that there are feminists who believe that men do not have the ability to receive intimate partner violence.
Yes, male identified people statistically cause much more harm than female identified people and the (lack of) enforcement of DV laws has historically favored men while criminalizing women. But saying men can’t receive harm is a dangerous simplification and, I believe, an untenable argument in the face of reality. One in six boys receive some form of sexual assault before their 18th birthday. With that many male-identified people receiving harm that young, and considering receiving sexual abuse dramatically increases the odds that one will receive further sexual abuse in the future, and that a majority of the time the person who received harm knew the person who caused that harm… I don’t understand how anyone can argue this. And this is just one form of intimate partner violence. Google the “power and control wheel of intimate partner violence” real quick. That’s 8 different ways one can cause or receive harm in a relationship. Leveraging systemic advantage/disadvantage is just low of them.
Keep in mind, we’re talking about patterns of abuse here, the whole movie, not just a single scene.
I also think this simplification erases how enculturation and gender socialization work. Toxic masculinity is supported and perpetuated by toxic femininity which means if we are to bring an end to say, the normalization of male violence, then we have to do more than just educate men about the impact of their violence, we also have to convince women to not value violent behaviors in men like when they “white knight” for us.
I just read a book titled “Love With Accountability”. It’s a collection of essays on childhood sexual abuse by survivors who are woman of color. One essay in it particularly underlines my point. “sometimes the wolves wear lipstick and we call them auntie” by Kenyette Tisha Barns. Towards the beginning of her essay she says:
“I accepted that, generally speaking, white people and white women in particular marginalized our race, and Black men marginalized our gender. Yet what made me the most heartsick was the degree to which Black women, who were themselves often the victims of sexual abuse, were also the enablers.”
This echos my experience in prison. Often older LGBTQ people in prison who have been the victims of sexual assault in the past are the very same people who push youngsters and trans women into unsafe positions where we are victimized.
I see this as a toxic feminine script playing out in our LGBTQ prison community, and it supports the toxic masculine script of male sexual conquest. Which brings me back to my main point, if men cannot be the victims of intimate partner violence, then can someone please explain to me what all the toxic relationships I’ve seen in prison between cis-male gay men are.