Abusive Relationships in Young Adult (YA)…

makes me ANGRY!  Actually, in any genre of books, in this matter.

Warning:  Novella incoming ahead.

Being caged and imprisoned is no longer a bad thing but a good thing.  Women have worked hard to be recognized as equals and what do many YA books do?  They freaking go backwards, begging for women’s right to be revoked.  Because obviously their (women) opinions don’t matter.  Why should it when a man dictates what she can or cannot do?  I mean that’s just awesome and cool and sexy.  Why does suffrage matter when she can’t even decide for herself who she can talk to?  She obviously is much less capable to decide what kind of leader she wants to govern her country.

This post is brought to you by the insane people who comments on other people’s book reviews (I mean over on Goodreads), in which the review calls out a said book for glorifying abusive relationships, and these insane people stands up for the book and then tries to argue for the book.  And by Sophia, for allowing me to use her review as an example/case study.  You can thank them for this rant/RAGE.  Blame the responders for the annoyance and Sophia for the rational and intelligent remarks.

If you think stalking, possessiveness, and verbal assault is okay in a relationship, you may not want to read this.  Though I’m not going to stop you, if you choose to, because of the sheer chance that you may allow yourself to think outside of the box.  I also will say now that this isn’t a research thesis (I was going to look up studies and quote them and explain them but many people are arguing for these (standing up for) bad relationships on their ill conceived ideas and thus I will do the same, though my ideals aren’t as illogically insane) so the post will go everywhere at once and there will be many tangents.  Two, if you get easily offended, you know what to do.  I will moderate comments.  Calling me names won’t help your psychotic cause.  Bring me good arguments, not straw man argument.  What’s a straw man argument?  An argument that you think have weight but when prodded is only just fluff and straws – nothing… i.e. “It’s just a book.”  If you do make an argument, come loaded.  I’m open to talking… I really am, but do it in an intelligent fashion.  If you’re to counter with a off-the-top-of-your-head counter (which will most likely already be addressed in this post) you are looking to get creamed and I’ll happily serve your pride and shame on a silver platter for you.

I’m not a feminist.  I’m a guy.   I tend to think my choice of books and their ratings could be a reflection of this, but hey, with the internet you can never really know.  Plus, people come in all shapes, sizes, mind frames, and backgrounds.  But really, I’m a dude and I’m not a feminist.  At least, I didn’t think so, until I started venturing into young adult novels.  I was addressing the feminist part because I assure you, I know the difference between a man and a woman (a boy and a girl).

There has been a paradigm shift in Young Adult books.  Rather than having a young girl be capable and self thinking, the heroes in YA novels become these spineless idiot girls who depend on a boy to make a “right choice” which isn’t always actually right.  They typically analyze a choice in respects to the boy and not themselves or other people around them.  Many YA novels make it so that the boy either comes save them or the girls hope to do something insane for the attention of the boy of their interest.

This post has been spurred by a review I found on goodreads.  A review I found that stated and argued very valid and good reasons as to why she hated a certain book.  With Sophia’s permission, I will use this review to catapult this post’s purpose.  You can read her review here.  The comments are valid only 5 % of the time.  Most of it is mud slinging and people chasing away those mud slingers.  I will not tarnish my blog by mentioning the book here. (okay that was snide and snarky but oh wells).  What I feel about many YA romance Sophia adequately explained in detail there.  I agree wholeheartedly.

Sophia’s arguments are very compelling and effective.  Logical even.  Then when you start to browse through the comments (of which I made two, I think) you come to realize there are some people who have been dropped on their heads one too many times – okay, it’s more like they aren’t using their heads.  Sophia even addresses dissenter’s opinions with very valid remarks and yet, none of them are able to counter one with a substantial argument.

Sure you can like a book with characters with abusive arch types.  There is nothing wrong with that… so long as you can decipher fact from fiction.  Like these folks who commented on Sophia’s review:

Comment 1

Comment 2

They admitted it.  They liked the book.  You can even see the ratings they gave the book (4 and 5 stars).  I have no qualms with people like these because they know fact from fiction.  They liked the book because it offered to fulfill a fantasy of sorts for them, but they acknowledged that they would never want something like Travis (the boy in this particular book) in real life.  The key here is the acknowledgement.  Another key is that they do not back track on that acknowledgement.  It shows good judgment for their part and their understanding.  They don’t contradict themselves.  They acknowledged Sophia’s arguments in her review, that this (the portrayal of violent and abusive tendency in YA) is not okay.

Then you get the straw man arguments.  Like these:

Comment 3

It’s just a book.  “Don’t fault those who love the book and live in fantasy…”  You see though “Carole”… you just addressed Sophia’s issue here.  There are those who read of these abusive relationship in YA and they want to be in these relationships because they think these relationships are okay.  They are living in a fantasy like this comment said.  Sophia was acknowledging these attitudes and she was addressing that this isn’t okay.  Which I firmly believe in.  We need to pull those people back from fantasy and into reality.  It’s no longer “a book is just a book” when people want their lives to be like the book.  Books can influence people.  If “books are just books” or “it’s just a book” were acceptable arguments… then it would apply to everything else as well.  Why rate movies?  Why rate games?  Why is even pornography  even need be censored?  People know from right or wrong.  Movies are just moving pictures that you see with eyes.  Books are just written letters read by the eyes.  A book can be as graphic as a movie.  And yet, there is a push for regulation and censorship in books, movies, and games.  Did you know books get banned from libraries?  If they are just books?  Why should books ever get banned?  Arguments of books are just books, shows the ignorance of the comment maker.  They lack education in the area and is just spouting their uneducated opinion on the written word.  Or their willingness to be blind to the real world around them.  The latter is much worst than the first.  With the first, you can learn to correct the thought.  Fact:  words have an effect on people.  Hence advertiser goes through several processes of choosing the perfect motto or brand statement.  Religious and philosophical beliefs are written down.  Books are words.  And words have power.  If books are just books, book banning would not happen.  Most everyone knows that a book can help mold the thoughts and thinking of a person.  Used right it could create a following.  It’s called propaganda.  Books cannot be merely desensitized and stripped to being just books.  Sure, in some people’s hands they are as such, but there are those where that isn’t the case at all.  It’s these latter folks Sophia was crying out to… the reason why I hate many romances in YA (and here I am only speaking for myself).  So the argument of a book being a book is a straw man argument.  It’s not valid in the slightest bit.  Give us reason to believe that books are just books.  Give examples and support to show that books have not effect people and history.  You can’t because the written word has and will always effect people and history.  Thus, you are presenting a disillusioned counter-argument that isn’t really an argument at all.   There were no valid arguments to discredit Sophia’s comments.  Sophia’s review focused solely on the factor that characteristic like these (wannabe bad) boys in YA are detrimental to society in the real life, if given real form and the books could warp the foundations of a reader’s romantic views.

Not once was there any comment to counter argue against this.  All the comments are focused on being able to like the book.  The emphasis of Sophia’s review was the depiction of the boys and the acceptance of such unacceptable behavior… She never demonized folks who like the book.  She questioned the influence of the book and the negative message the book gave – and not once did any dissenter touched upon this.  Nay sayers shifted the focus to liking the book.  Sophia is not questioning the likable quality of the book; it’s the message and negative relationships that is portrayed she is questioning.  There is a HUGE difference.

And there’s this:  “The teen years are a time of exploration when young people are testing the limits of acceptable behaviour” (40 Chutter).  These are young adult book (there’s a whole issue about the book in the review, in regards of it being YA, due to some contradiction on a certain writer’s part).  Young adult: an unfortunate marketing scheme used by the publishing industry because people can be fooled by the classification.  A book is a book for anyone interested to read it, regardless of age, sex, gender, socio-economic background, or racial ethnicity… a book appeals to all so long as a person want to read it.  But alas, people buy into the marketing stuff (YA is a very new idea/tool, in modern context, used by the publishing industry) so our teens are given young adult books.  Thus, when these teens read this and see that abuse is found acceptable we have a large problem.  Take a look at the link below.  Those girls think its okay to get beat black and blue by their boyfriend because the boyfriend is hot and the action is “hot.”  So how is Sophia and myself wrong in thinking and calling out YA novels for glorifying that abusive relationship shit.  It’s just fantasy?  Not for everyone.  You can’t use this argument either: It’s meant [insert your claim of “certain type of peoples here”].  So books know how to judge and discriminate now too?  Awesome.  There’s enough bigots in the world already we don’t need to personify books.  “As a consequence many adolescents can end up in dating relationships where violence and abuse occurs. There fore, the ideal time to create healthy and positive patterns in relationships is during the adolescent years” (40 Chutter).  Do teens not read?  They do.  And many read YA books.  Why aren’t healthy relationships depicted?  Sure, these unhealthy relationships can be depicted but rarely are they ever corrected.  They are just glorified and made as “sexy” or “romantic.”   And another thing:  “Studies also suggest that the 16 to 24 year-old age group has the highest rate of victimization within dating relationships and it is within dating relationships where more than half of the sexual assaults against teenage girls happen” (40 Chutter).  Funny how that age is also the target audience for YA books.  (Actually it’s not very funny at all but sickening.)

So comments like these are also made irrelevant and aside the point and pretty much ignorant:

Comment 5

It’s just fiction.  Well, no shit.  So are video games.  So are movies.  But why do they have ratings?  Why do people get carded for movies and buying video games?  They too are just fiction.  Your argument of it’s just fiction does not work.  Read paragraph above.

The bad boys and their bad actions are issues that I take to heart in YA books.  When I slam a book because of horrible relationship portrayal I am not slamming the author, nor am I slamming the people who like the book.  Neither I am questioning whether the book is likable.  I am questioning the message the book can/may send.  That is the core argument and the reason why I hate the book.  That is the reason why I am upset with YA in romance and the reason Sophia made a huge fuss about the review she made.  Bringing up the fact that people are allowed to like whatever book they like does NOT address the issues we are making.  It does not address violence and abuse in relationships.

These comments:

Comment 4

are just seeking violence.  It doesn’t address any of the concerns that were brought up regarding the book.  None whatsoever.

There are people out there who thinks violence in a relationship is okay.  We’re not making this shit up.  Sophia isn’t making this shit up.  It’s there.  A comment posted this link on Sophia review which I will post here:  This is why Sophia’s arguments are VALID.  And why I hate YA romances.  Because real shit like this happens and people think it’s okay.  Thank you Experiment BL626 for sharing that link.  Girls would allow themselves to get beat by a “bad boy” because it’s sexy, it’s hot, he’s hot and it’s okay.  That’s what all these abusive relationships in YA are saying and that’s what those girls in that link are proving.  Sure I can’t be certain that those girls feel that way from reading YA books.  I cannot make that call because I don’t know if they read YA or even read.  But the point is that people like that exist and YA portraying relationships with abusive qualities desensitize people to thinking abusive traits in relationships are okay.  Traits such as not allowing you to see your friends or people you want to meet with just not romantic; they are batacularily crazy.  Not allowing you to venture out unless the guy is around.  Not allowing you to like someone or something unless the guy likes it.  Tampering with your car so that you can’t go anywhere so the guy can keep an eye on you.  Beating people up who touches you to “protect” you.  Violence is not hot.  It never was.  And neither is dictatorship.

So comments like these:

Comment 6

are the most worthless.  Not only do all my previous arguments apply and knock this one down.  “These kinds of books are meant for entertainment.”  Dead horse: movies and video games.  Why are books banned?  Then she goes and contradicts herself by saying that what happens in the book is not okay, but to then say it isn’t abuse… Lady abuse is to “wrongly use or mistreat something”… Travis mistreats Abby.  Period.  Abuse.  Period.  It’s there.  Abuse isn’t just physical blacks eyes.  To use the words unhealthy and then say it isn’t abuse… lady, like my imaginary homies are saying, “Lady, you are trippin’.”  How can something that is unhealthy not be abuse.  So unhealthy food isn’t good for you but it’s not necessarily bad for you.  That’s a comparative statement to what you are saying.  It does not make any sense.  “It’s meant to be read by women who know it’s not real and won’t start looking for a overprotective, jealous street-fighter boyfriend.”  The fact is the book is open access to all, meaning the book can be read by all.  Target audience is a marketing scheme.  What and who a book is meant for is a fantasy tool used by marketers to make more money because people buy into it. I’m a woman I’ll like chick lit books!  I’m an young adult I’ll like young adult books!  Guess what, it doesn’t work that way.   Books are for anyone who has an interest in reading it.  Anyone and everyone is the target.  It just comes down to the question of someone wanting to read the book or not.  Or if they are allowed to read it or not.  I’ve been reading hard core science fiction with adult material since I was eight.  The target audience argument is a bullshit argument.  Are people prevented from buying the book?  Are the questions of: are you a woman who know this book isn’t real and you won’t start looking for an overprotective, jealous street-fighter boyfriend after reading this? ever asked when someone buys the book?  NO!  So saying something like that is like saying books that butcher the cultural backgrounds of a group of minority isn’t meant to be read by that minority group but for the people outside of it.  Do you see how stupid that sounds?  No, the book is meant for whoever seems interested in it.  Period.

Bad boys in YA tend to have this stalker tendency.  Honestly, having someone watch me while I sleep is not hot.  It’s creepy.  Sure I get the backhanded way of the boy wanting to protect and ensure the girl is safe so he follows her.  Sure, I’d buy it if he does it once.  But if he does it multiple times… there better be a damn good reason why.   Like his sister was killed one night when he refused to walk home with her from a party.  Or raped.  Or whatever.  But no such examples are ever given.  The only reason is the mere fact that it’s suppose to be romantic and lovable.  And so he does it multiple times.  “Stalking has been defined as ‘a course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated visual or physical proximity, non consensual communication, or verbal, written, or implied threats, or a combination thereof, that would cause a reasonable person fear’” (285-286 Wuest).  Oh yeah, I’m tossing quotes at you now.  Because having a Journal that studies violence in family and relationship should be valid enough to support my claims.  We have experts who says stalking is bad.  Not cool.  In the dullest sense: not romantic.  So why is it that YA books are trying to make it as such.  There’s only one reason and the Journal of Family Violence implies these people who think stalking is hot are unreasonable.  I couldn’t agree more.  So Edward, Patch, Travis of YA, you are screwed up pieces of /censored/.  Don’t think it’s stalking?  Reread that quotation.

With that all said, that is to say, I am not advocating books to not have any abuse it in.  I’m not naive.  What I’m saying is that if you’re going to put in relationship abuse you better build a compelling and believable story.  People eat the crap out of these YA romance because it fulfills a fantasy of them being beat and given black eyes, and restricted to being in a cage and being zapped by a tazer when they are not listening to their significant other… okay maybe not quite this… but what I’m really saying is this:  give me reasons to believe why a guy acts that way.  Why would he stalk her?  Aside from the he wants to protect her.  Because that’s a weak statement.  Has someone he loved before died because he failed to escort her home?  Jealously is not a valid excuse.  There are more healthy ways to show jealously.  Why would he feel the need to completely follow her home?  Why not just ask to walk her home?  To chat?  To get to know each other?  Why hide in the dark and watch from the shadows?  That shit is crazy and creepy.  My other issue with portrayal of bad boys in YA is the lack of reasons why the boys are bad are never given.  Or they are weakly shown and poorly explained.  Make me believe they are people with human reactions and then I’ll be tolerant.  Edward/Travis is not a compelling person to me.  He’s just a fantasy.  His words and actions are just surface reasons.  Rarely do we see past the surface.

But that’s not the most important part for me.  Books can have these stupid boys.  I wouldn’t mind.  What bothers me the most is the girl.  Why can’t the girl be strong, intelligent, and heroic?  Why can’t she make decisions on her own?  Why can’t she tread her own path?  Why can’t she assess how she feels to a situation without in regards to the boy?  Why can she not be a person?  Are girls not allowed to be people?  Are they not allowed to make their own decisions?  Are they not allowed to learn from mistakes like a real human being?  And please do not argue that dating a bad boy will make her learn to be a better person because if that was the case, the boy and girl will change in the end to a completely new person, in which case you will no longer like him/her if you liked him in the first place OR she will have dumped his ass at the end, all of which rarely happens in YA books.  It’s just a fantasy.  Really?  Women fantasize about being subservient?  If that’s the case why allow women to vote?  Why allow women equal pay?  Why allow women to own land?  Why allow women any rights?  If women just want to serve a man, be protected by a man, be told to what to do by a man… why fantasize?  I’m sure many men will have no issues of relinquishing women’s rights.

Seriousness aside, sure I get it.  It’s a fantasy to have a man be protective of you because he loves you.  That’s the core of it all.  This can be shown in a much better degree.  This can be shown without the put downs, without the insecurities, without the extreme jealousy, without the possessiveness.  You know what these traits reveal of the guy?  That he doesn’t trust you.  That he doesn’t trust you’ll make the right choice.  That he doesn’t think you are a capable person.  I’m sorry… remind me again how this is attractive?  A good romantic relationship I would assume requires a level of good trust.  Why would you ever date a person who thinks so low of you?  The possessiveness, extreme jealousy, stalking, verbal and physical put downs or restraints are all forms of control of the enslavement degree.  And the girls in these YA books just goes along with it.  Is it romantic to give up your freedom?  Those relinquishment I mentioned in the paragraph before may seem extreme, but they are your freedoms… and why would you ever give up your freedom?   Any form of it?  Giving up your normal freedoms to be happier?  That’s doesn’t make sense.  So basically what you are doing is putting your trust in a guy that doesn’t trust you.  Because?  Suddenly, he’s the only one who can protect you.  “One of the most significant impacts of abuse is the individual’s shattered world paradigm that the world is a safe and benevolent place” (184 Orzeck).  Basically, you no longer feel safe in the world, so you rely on this guy to protect you.  Why now?  Why believe that now?  Why suddenly rely on a guy to protect you now?  You have not felt that way before until you met the guy.  I’ll tell you why.  You’ve been manipulated into thinking the only safe place is by his side… well actually a step or two behind him because you aren’t exactly equals.

Most of these YA books even claim the the relationship is bad.  They (characters) saw it coming and yet they partake in it.  It was mentioned in Twilight and it was mentioned in the book in the review above.  But the characters went through with it and called it love.  I’m sorry but when you “love” a person so much you contemplate suicide… it’s not love anymore.  You’ve been emotionally and psychologically manipulated to think you can’t live without him.  That right there is abuse.  “Women in the present study were found to have higher rates of suicide attempts, self-harm, and suicidal ideation and suicide or self-harm behaviors  have commonly been found in previous studies with individuals experiencing interpersonal abuse” (183 Orzeck).  Bella was abused.  Plain and simple.  She had been psychologically and emotionally abused that she couldn’t even regard her own self worth.  So go ahead, go tell all those kids’ parents whose child has committed suicide due to bullying, that their child was just being loved by his/her peers.  Awful right and yet people tend to make excuses for abuse in intimate relationships.  Sure people fantasize about putting others in place… there are moments where people fantasize violence upon another person because they make him/her angry, make those people bow down to them, so just once they feel empowered… but no one goes about writing books about it and when they do, guess what, that person inflicting the bow-down-to-me-attitude is usually the bad guy.  So why aren’t these bad boys the bad guy?  They should be.  “Abusive behaviour is greatly influenced by gender attitudes and beliefs that condone violence and is therefore a significant risk factor” (41 Chutter).  That’s what YA books with abusive relationships do: they condone and make abusive relationships okay.  They can make young girls believe they can dream and think that as a girl having a man “protect” them by acting violent, possessive, and restrictive is okay.  It’s not. “Youth must learn to identify behaviour that is violent, controlling, and abusive as well as what constitutes a healthy relationship… It is important for youth to recognize psychological aggression (e.g. limiting who their partner can interact with) as well as the range of physical aggression (e.g. from pushing to forcing their partner to have sex)” (42 Chutter).  You can say that AGAIN:  psychological aggression is limiting who their partner can interact with (EDWARD) is considered controlling and abusive.  And yet YA books condone it and make it romantic.

But these books are just trying to show that broken people need love and understanding too.  Yes, they do.  But where in these books does it show how these folks are broken.  Where are the reason to prove and show why these people act the way they do?  Show it to me.  Don’t tell me.  Make the person real.  Complete.  A constant need to want to protect the girl because he loves her is not showing a full person.  Most of the time the reasons are given in a off handed or trite or summarized throw away scene or a combination there of.  That’s not compelling.  When readers are made to draw a conclusion on their own with reasons of their own, it’s not good storytelling and it isn’t compelling.  Sure, some readers won’t mind, but it’s still lazy writing if you’ve done it awhile and for multiple books or its a newbie mistake.  Then there needs to be a fix.  A correction.  The two people need to come together and change for the better.  In most YA books where there is an abusive relationship the girl ended up being in servitude to the boy with dog treats of “freedom” (aka illusion of freedom).

I have gone through all the comments on this review and several others and on other books, I find dissenters – those who disagree – argue that they should be able to like whatever books they want.  We all agree.  You are welcome to like any book you want.  But ultimately you fail to address our concern, you made a detour of what we were trying to say and is putting words in our mouths.  Address the topic at hand: “Why are there so many abusive relationships or relationship with abusive characteristics in YA and why are these books making it okay?  It’s not okay.  Why are these books not showing the true consequences of an abusive relationship?  It’s not sexy.  Someone will read these book somewhat literally and will think these types of relationships are okay.  What then?”  The response: “We can like whatever kinds of books we like!”  That doesn’t address anything we said.  Nothing.

Sure having a fantasy is okay.  I’m not judging you for that.  But the truth is there are people who will take what they read and interpret it into their everyday world.  We are addressing that issue.  So what is your real response to that?  When it comes down to it, there really isn’t a valid or good excuse, is there…

_______________________________________

Chutter, Kerry. “Healthy Relationships for Youth: A Youth Dating Violence Intervention.” Relational Child & Youth Care Practice 22, no. 4 (Winter2009 2009): 39-46. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed December 28, 2012)

Orzeck, Tricia L., Ami Rokach, and Jacqueline Chin. 2010. “The Effects of Traumatic and Abusive Relationships.” Journal Of Loss & Trauma 15, no. 3: 167-192. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed December 28, 2012).

Wuest, Judith, and Marilyn Merritt-Gray. 2008. “A Theoretical Understanding of Abusive Intimate Partner Relationships that Become Non-violent: Shifting the Pattern of Abusive Control.” Journal Of Family Violence 23, no. 4: 281-293. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed December 27, 2012).

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