What are we going to do about celebrities, the media, and society’s response to domestic violence??

Before reading: Prepare yourselves for lots of links and information about recent cases of domestic violence in popular culture. I encourage everyone who looks up the links to pay attention to the titles of the articles. Think about the phrasing and the order of names. Which person is the actor, or who is given power, and who is the one being acted upon in these titles? Are the authors of these articles attempting to frame domestic violence cases in a particular way? Are they trying to evoke some emotion or thought out of the reader?

Do you guys remember the Rihanna/Chris Brown incident back in 2009? Here’s a link if you don’t remember, even though it would be hard to forget, with everyone talking and gossiping about it: Chris Brown charged with assault on Rihanna. Domestic violence became a pretty huge topic, but over time, the discourse changed and focused more on romance, who the two were dating, or whether or not they’d get back together. Five years later, Rihanna, Chris, and the topic of domestic violence are back in the news and in our thoughts and conversations.

Rihanna and Kanye West were planning to perform at the NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, but CBS pulled the plug on it. Why would the TV network cancel such a high-profile performance? Well, the Baltimore Ravens recently released Ray Rice earlier this week, for reasons I will discuss in a moment, and CBS thought it best that Rihanna, a victim of domestic violence, should not be featured at that particular game. Taking this news in, two things come to mind. 1.) Once again, large television networks and the media are controlling decisions about what to show the public, and ultimately controlling what we should be talking and thinking about. And 2.) Domestic violence has followed Rihanna and marked her, even five years after she was abused by Chris Brown

Rihanna’s case ties to the Ray Rice case going on right now. Here is a link to the timeline of events: A complete timeline of the Ray Rice assault case. This case and how it’s played out is really interesting, for it tells a lot about today’s society’s thoughts on and definitions of domestic violence. The case started in May, when Rice was charged and released from jail on assault charges. There was a video used as evidence in the case, a video of Rice pulling his now-wife’s (Janay Palmer) unconscious body from her shoulders out of an elevator. As the case went on, Rice was able to get out of jail time, and the Ravens only suspended him for two games, assuring that he would return. Then, in late July, the full video of the incident was released, and it showed Rice punching Palmer in the face so hard that she passed out. It took this video and three months after the incident for the Ravens to release Rice and for the NFL to develop a domestic violence policy. And all while this is going on and amid the assault case, Rice marries Palmer!! What?!

Another couple that has been in the news recently is Jonathan “War Machine” Koppenhaver and Christy Mack. Here are three articles that serve as a timeline of events: 1.) MMA fighter arrested for assaulting porn star 2.) Christy Mack claims War Machine beat her and threatened to kill her 3.) Christy Mack posted an updated about her condition after War Machine brutality. This case also tells a lot about we deal with and respond to assault and domestic violence cases in the United States. This was a case of not only physical abuse, but verbal and mental and emotional abuse as well. Everything started on Instagram, when Koppenhaver joked about their aborted child and showed off a tattoo he got in remembrance. When Mack broke it off with him, he attacked on Twitter, defaming her and her mother, and then he threatened to kill her and her mother. Then we later learned that on the night that he physically attacked her, Mack called 911, but the police were not quick enough to prevent the abuse. The interesting twist that I’ve noticed in the articles about this case is the way people write about and describe Koppenhaver and Mack. Koppenhaver is War Machine, a character of violence and aggression, while Mack is his “porn star girlfriend.” Did Koppenhaver’s character’s aggression translate over into his reality? Should we blame Mack for dating him or see her at fault just because she’s a porn star? These are their identities in these articles, and if affects how we read them and interpret the situation. How do things change, though, when we see pictures of Mack being hospitalized for broken teeth, a fractured rib, broken bones to her face, and a ruptured liver?

As scholars of sex and society, we should also be thinking about sex and its relation to domestic violence. What are the different social institutions involved in these cases? …the media, TV networks, the NFL… What do these social institutions have to say about sex and sexuality? Who, in these cases, has the power to define what is domestic violence and what is not?

Lots of topics about sex and society that we’ve discussed this semester are brought to life in these cases of domestic violence. There’s the feminist perspective from Catherine MacKinnon who emphasized male dominance and argued that men use sex as a tool to control women. As it says in “Theoretical Perspectives” by Steven Seidman, “To the extent that men have the power to define what desires, feelings, and behaviors are sexual, they can define women’s sexuality in a way that positions them as subordinate. Does MacKinnon make a fair point and how does this relate to domestic violence?

I hope I’ve given you some things to think about. I’ve provided examples of three very different incidents of domestic violence. In closing, I encourage you continue thinking about a few things. Are these domestic violence issues being talked about or being hushed and shoved under the rug? Why do we need to talk about domestic violence? How do we educate people about the various issues of domestic violence?

what’s sex got to do with… LOVE

“Sex is not love. Jealousy is not love. Pressure is not love. Possessiveness is not love. Control is not love…

Love is gentle. Love is kind. Love is brave. Love cannot be beat or be beaten. Love is unbeatable.”

This past September a new exhibit opened at the art gallery right here at Vanderbilt University. I AM UNBEATABLE is a new mission to raise awareness, educate and prevent domestic violence against women and children through real stories of real people. One story that this exhibit primarily focuses on is the story of a thirteen year old girl who got pregnant and was forced to drop out of school and raise the baby by her abusive partner. For years following the birth of her first child and even the birth of a second child, she was abused physically, mentally and emotionally by the father of her children. Now 29 years old, the mother of two boys and finally free of her abusive ex, Sarah Augusta’s story is photographed through a series of pictures displayed in this exhibit. Sarah is portrayed as no longer a victim, but a fighter.

As I was reading and examining the various photographs and captions throughout the display, the words which appear at the top of this page (which were presented as an explanation to one of the pictures in the exhibit “I Am Unbeatable”) really resonated with me and got me thinking. What does sex truly have to do with love? Many times in abusive relationships this idea that sex is love, and doing what your abuser desires, is “love”. However, love often times has nothing to do with any of this. There is no distinct description that constitutes what love really is, but if one this is for certain it is that pressure, possessiveness, control and jealousy do not have to do with it. The photograph that accompanies these words portrayed a young girl, Emma, who was the neighbor of Sarah and her two sons. At only 13, the age of Sarah when she got pregnant, Emma strongly believes that parents should start talking to their children from a young age about how to recognize abuse. This is something I completely agree with. It’s never too early to talk and inform people everywhere of the realities of abuse in this world.

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In fact, one in five girls are found to be victims of abuse. Alongside of this, it is said that one in twenty boys are victims to abuse as well. Self report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a sexual abuse incident during childhood. These terrible statistics show the realities of abuse, but sometimes numbers do not always do the trick. Seeing the exhibit, “I Am Unbeatable”, today allowed me to visualize a real family that underwent the atrocity of abuse. How one person be so strong and overcome such adversity? Sarah Augusta and her family are inspiration for us all…and they show us that real love is truly gentle, kind, brave and most importantly UNBEATABLE.