A man repeatedly tries to get you to go somewhere after you’ve said no. He holds you against your will, and insists he is in a relationship with you and he’s just trying to take care of you. Just when you think you’ve gotten rid of him, he shows up again, to tell you again how much he loves you.
This isn’t the beginning of a scary story. It’s describing many male fictional characters and how they woo their great loves.
In Under the Dome–the most recent example of this conundrum on my TV screen–Junior kidnaps Angie. He locks her in a storm cellar, tries to get her to dress up in a dress he chooses, and chains her so she can’t escape. Angie gets out, but later she runs into Junior and–surprise, surprise–he attempts to control her again. Junior’s constant refrain is that he’s taking care of Angie, doing it for her own good because he cares about her and the dome is making her sick.
And in the last episode the dome really did make her sick, and Angie had a seizure. So I guess Junior was right after all. And people on Twitter are talking about how cute they are and how attractive Junior is. (For the record, I am talking about the TV show. I think author Stephen King actually does a pretty great job portraying creepy, dangerous people as creepy and dangerous–not cute.)
In real life, this can be an incredibly dangerous situation, but our culture and our fiction keep telling men to not listen to women and to not leave them alone, all in the name of love.
Men are taught that if at first your girl says no, ask her out repeatedly until you wear her down. And then, of course, you’ll fall in love because persistence pays off. And women are taught they are rude ice queens if they say no to someone who tries so hard to show they care.
Edward should probably be arrested for his stalking, but instead Bella thinks it’s endearing. On the Secret Life of the American Teenager (yeah, I’ve seen every episode), Ben refuses to leave Amy alone because he just knows they will end up together, and it’s portrayed as sweet puppy love. Spike stalks and attacks Buffy, but they still hook up.
Look at other great fictional loves and you’ll see similar patterns, even with Cory and Topanga, The Great Love Story Of Our Time. Similarly, Carrie tells Big she never wants to see him again, right before he comes to Paris to save her.
And the worst part about it is that this “love” is celebrated. I can’t look at Twitter without seeing people talk about Junior and Angie, or shipping Spike and Buffy. There are probably more people on Team Edward than who voted in the last election.
Celebrating this is scary. Teaching young women and men that this is how relationships work is scary. Having someone refuse to hear your no is scary.
And we are adding to this culture of steamrolling women’s boundaries when we don’t recognize this behavior for what it is: dangerous, disrespectful, and manipulative.
Having someone ignore your needs isn’t a way to begin a love story. And if the guy who just asked you out on a date sneaks into your house to watch you sleep, for the love of God, call the police.
(The Gift of Fear does a really great job talking about this and how women can be safer in these situations. Everyone should read it–men, too.)