Monday, August 16, 2010

Hit Me Baby - Sexing Up Domestic Violence

Famed photographer Steven Klein's series Domestic Bliss features high-profile celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in a violent and aggressive love affair

Marquis de Sade declared that “sex without pain is like food without taste,” and if we’re restricting such philosophies solely to matters of the flesh, then all that can be said for this is to each his own. Pain in love is also a concept that seems generally acceptable; love is often devastating, disappointing, confusing and terrifying. But what can be said for the concept of violence in love? The new music video featuring pop music giants Rihanna and Eminem alongside gorgeous Hollywood actors Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan has come under fire recently, accused of glamorising domestic abuse and giving it a somewhat sexy, romantic edge:

The intense, passionate and dysfunctional relationship portrayed by two stunningly gorgeous actors expresses a quiet though very present beauty in a mutually abusive love affair, and with a pop star who’d recently made headlines sporting a bruised eye and swollen lip from her former ‘intense and passionate’ lover singing the words “I like the way it hurts,” the storm of criticism is unsurprising. But rather than accusing attention-hungry celebrities of endorsing violence and domestic abuse, it might also be worth considering the possibility of young artists offering a brutally honest picture of an often multi-faceted situation.

How to sell a suit, according to Duncan Quinn
The idea of ‘loving hard’ isn’t new or as scarce as we’d like to believe, despite countless campaigns condemning violence against women or the public scrutiny of ‘wife-beating’ public figures like Chris Brown and Mel Gibson. Our media seems to condemn violence as much as it seeks to glorify it, with filmmakers and photographers exploring the more seductive side of intense, dysfunctional relationships, and high fashion advertisements weaving erotic and romantic undertones into the display of physical abuse and violence. I remember a conversation I had with a girl who was experiencing difficulties coping with her boyfriend’s infidelity, and when I suggested that she'd confront him, she smiled faintly and said that he would hit her if she did. That wild delusion in her eyes mirrors a bizarre belief that passion and intense love is demonstrated by furious battles and the infliction of physical abuse by a loved one. Violence in love is arousing and unpredictable, and seems to be acknowledged by many as evidence of real, unrestrained love: our love is grander and more than most. We just love harder. The idea is not unlike the myth of the ‘tortured artist’, something with more romanticised fantasy than actual truth. Rather than the notion of art imitating the tragedy of life and love, is it more likely that instead it is breeding a monster?


  1. "I like the way it hurts" seemed to be the justifying/denial of the abused party, and it's easier than trying to leave someone who's threatened to kill you if you do.

  2. Thanks for this post. I've started listening to song lyrics more attentively, and the condoning of (and pleasure in)violence against women is disgustingly pervasive. We need an all out change if domestic violence and dating violence (both of which are on the rise) are ever going to stop.

  3. Given your past history Val, does this not seem a tad hypocritical? =P

    Just kidding. Good post, and very sexy! (If I am allowed to say that)

  4. Lions often mate in a violent and painful way. They are also savage brutes. I wouldn't condone anything more extreme than slapping the buttocks, which is excellent foreplay.

  5. Interesting that the reaction to the song is mostly focused on the violence against women, but in the video they are both abusive towards each other. And I do also see the comparison to the "tortured artist" idea.

    Also, I think it is a real fear that impressionable kids will see this as some kind of relationship to aspire to. Just as some people might emulate their favorite writers by believing that only through great suffering and heavy drinking can one draw inspiration to write great stories.

  6. Thought- provoking post! I would say Love doesn't go well with violence at all. Sex only - perhaps some like it that way.
    Anyhow, violence is not something one should aspire to in a relationship.

  7. Controversial post Valerie. Disturbs me is all I will say. As Jay said, when young kids watch this it could distort what should be a beautiful experience..:)

    Glad you're back and thanks for dropping by and reading my chilly story.

  8. I could never condone violence in a relationship..but thats just me! We are all very different and what two consenting adults do in their own space is entirely up to them.
    As for what the media portray..we should be holding them to some civil standards for the sake of our culture.

  9. Very thought provoking post, as always. As a mother, I am very concerned about what our children are being exposed to in the media, which just seems to get worse and worse all the time.

  10. Holy Crap we live in a parallel universe. I saw the Eminem video and thought the same thing automatically: They are glorifying domestic abuse. What was most appaling is that Rihanna experienced it so it sends a message that perhaps the victim secretly is turned on by the volatility and violence. Just look at most featured films by sexy scarlets like Jolie. They either play the sexy (but violent) bombshell or the seductress that gets manhandled by the leading man.

  11. Pop culture observer and consultant Cindy Gallop speaks on this video about how young people are receiving the wrong information about sex from watching porn. Children as young as 8 are watching this. She is NOT against porn! But she is for better sex education BECAUSE young people are getting their information about sex from porn, which she says is not the best media for covering all the complex aspects of our human sexual lives. you can watch the lecture at:
    Cindy Gallop: Make Love Not Porn

  12. Wow. Definitely food for thought. Great write up!

  13. Great post.

    Violence and abuse have no place in a relationship.

  14. Fab post.

    The novel I'm writing has elements of 'I love him but he hurts me', so your words were particularly welcome for warmimg me up for a day of writing ;0)

  15. Excellent and very disturbing post. It sickens me to the stomach to see any idea of sanitising domestic violence in the packaging of love, eroticism and passions.
    We derive the word sadist directly from the Mrquis de sade for good reason.
    In violent sex, there is always one partner dominant and so often what starts as a little playful 'rough and tumble' escalates into something altogether more unpleasant. I do some counselling work with women who have suffered domestic violence and there is no glamour or love about it.
    Young people today are influenced so heavily by these celebrity role models that for Rhianna to make money, becasue lets face it, sensationalism sells, is irresponsible and dangerous.