Feminism | Posted by Valentina V. on 06/22/2010

Is This A Problem of Education?

Controlling Boyfriends: A Worldwide Problem

Controlling Boyfriends: A Worldwide Problem

I know this is a common topic of feminist conversations, but the problem comes back very often in my daily life: jealous (I should say almost mad) boyfriends who alienate their naive girlfriends.

Granted that I’m not referring to my personal case (I have a boyfriend who’s not even faintly allowed to tell me the things I can or can’t do), I’d like to hear what you think about it.

One of my best friends got involved 3 months ago with a boy who’s been chasing after her for almost 6 months. The situation is widespread: the nerd guy who runs after a pretty girl telling her he’s fallen in love with everything she does and at first courts her like medieval knights did to their ladies. But then, hell on earth came, and the worst thing is that she is now used to it.

Granted, she’s never liked a singular detail of the physical/personality/soul/character of this boy (she almost hated him at first, because he acted like a shadow – too pressing), after a long chase she surrendered and got engaged to him. The story is sad since the start: he gives her total love, she’s spoiled by all his attentions and never returns his love in any way. She just stays with him because her life seems now more comfortable: she has someone who calls her, someone who gives her gifts, someone who drives her home at night, someone who tells her “you’re beautiful”. And she seems to enjoy it. Maybe she has persuaded herself to be satisfied. But he is at the same time heaven and hell: he gives her his love, but wants her freedom. So he doesn’t let her do anything a common girl would do: no more parties without him, no more nights in the clubs with her friends, no more trips without him, she can’t even chat or laugh with the boy of the desk next to her at school.

For me, this is pure madness. And when she tells me all this shit, I always answer:” But that’s unbelievable. This is total madness.” And she usually replies:” Why? I think it’s normal, surely I completely understand my boyfriend. It’s normal that he doesn’t let me go out with my friends without him, expecially if the friends are boys.”

I think the problem isn’t if he LETS her do or not do something, but the conviction that he’s allowed to tell her what to do. I can’t persuade myself that this situation can suit a woman, but telling those things, my friend signs automatically her death’s sentence. Where’s the respect between a man and a woman?

That’s the way society (I’m talking about mine, the Italian one) turns out submissive wives who say:” I like staying at home, cooking, looking after my sons, doing the dishwashing and cleaning the house without my husband’s help, because that’s what I was born for.” Because that’s the reality. Many women here convince themselves that this is the right situation, and once again many of us are subdued to men. That’s what making our society grow sick. I still think this is a problem concerned with our upbringing: if we grow up with a wrong education, we’ll believe that everything’s due to men.

Fortunately I’m not, but many of us are.

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  • Madelaine @ at 12:11 pm, June 22nd, 2010

    A friend of my mom’s once told her about an abusive relationship one of their women friends was in, that ended up costing the life of the woman’s child. After the man murdered her child, the woman still stood by him.

    When my mom heard this story, she said, “That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

    Her friend said, “Of course you don’t understand it, because you would never put a man before your child, or yourself. And neither would your daughter.”

    Maybe your friend’s situation does not make sense to you, because you are so far from ever being in a relationship like that. Maybe you can make a difference to her through your example, through showing what an equal relationship can be like.

  • Valentine @ at 3:33 pm, June 22nd, 2010

    You see, I’m trying in any possible way to show her that her relationship isn’t very equal, for example by telling her how I behave with my boyfriend and how he acts with me, but she still believe that her situation is the best on earth. She seems to be not conscious that a normal girl should be more free than her. I think that getting into a love affair does not mean PRIVATION. Maybe with the time she’ll be able to understand what I mean, and by looking around her, she’ll find out other better ways to live a relationship, with the full respect of her dignity.

  • scary joann @ at 6:18 pm, June 22nd, 2010

    As a female nerd, I’ve encountered this situation personally multiple times. The thing is, she may not see it as controlling. She may just see it as trying to stay close to each other by putting up a wall against most other people. She might see it as a normal part of any relationship and maybe thinks yours is the weird one. She might just be in a part of life where a really solid feeling relationship is everything and will do anything to keep that. Maybe (and I hate to say this) she’s someone who enjoys being controlled. Some girls grow up at home then just go from relying on and obeying parents to relying on and obeying men. My mom did. Didn’t work out in the long run.

    I second the idea that the best thing you can do is continue to support her as an individual but not necessarily support her relationship with him. She might feel attached to the point where imagining life without him is hard. Continue to remind her she she’s her, not an extension of him, and do your best to remain loving and patient throughout. Many of my friends ended up hating each other as a result of bad boyfriends.

  • Sarah @ at 11:14 am, June 23rd, 2010

    This is wrong, no doubt about it. A man shouldn’t be able to dictate the actions of his girlfriend. And maybe this kind of relationship before marriage does lead to a submissive, restless, unhappy wife.

    But at the same time, I feel that I’ve seen this kind of behavior with more women than men. It’s still not right, but I think it’s a problem that is less about gender and more about relationships in general, the power one person has over another and the use of that power. I think where gender comes in is the way these relationships are viewed. When the woman’s the one doing hte controlling, she might be seen as a nag; when the man’s doing it, it might be seen as normal or, like here, emotionally abusive.

    I definitely don’t have a solution to any of these problems. But I do think that both women and men need an education in equality in relationships.

  • Nyxelestia @ at 5:41 pm, June 24th, 2010

    Something else you might want to address is the guy, and his friends.

    A long time ago, I had a very chill boyfriend, who never minded the way I related to other boys, or the fact I was bisexual and how I related to other girls. I’d walk arm in arm with guy-friends, kiss lots of people on cheek, hug people, chat with EVERYONE (I talk. A lot. :D), even sat in some friends’ laps during crowded lunch times – and he never had a problem with it. Ever. But a lot of his guyfriends did – they kept telling him that as I was “his girl”, he shouldn’t “share me” so easily. One actually told him to keep me on a shorter leash! Not to mention a few conservative girls even said I should tone it down a little, at least when he was around.

    Luckily, my boyfriend was pretty much immune to peer pressure. He even got a little dialogue among those guys started with his usual response: “Just because you distrust your girlfriend doesn’t mean I distrust mine.” He never developed a problem with it, either.

    tl;dr: the guy may also be trying to prove his own masculinity – especially if he’s a nerd, as they get picked on the most for reasons relating to (lack of) masculinity. In this relationship and in society in general, this is also something that needs to be addressed.

  • jackie @ at 7:20 pm, June 24th, 2010

    I think there is more going on here than just a jealous boyfriend. Did I read that right? She didn’t like him but he pursued her for 6 months, and she gave him a chance and got engaged – But she doesn’t really like him?

  • Valentine @ at 1:46 pm, June 30th, 2010

    Yes, that’s exactly, she says she never liked him, and neither now she would never tell him “I fancy you, I like the way you are, or I love you”. And that’s why I can’t understand why she has resigned herself to get with him. I couldn’t stand a relationship I’m not interested in taking it on, expecially if the boyfriend is jealous and if he tries to put me in a cage. So i’ve started to think that she stays with him because beside all the jealousy, he’s always ready to spoil her with all his attention. But he’s still convinced that she has to give him back her freedom.

  • Matt @ at 5:30 pm, June 30th, 2010

    This is absolute horse shit. She just gave up and got engaged to a guy she didn’t like? GAVE UP???

    You act like she is the victim of human trafficking. Shes a moron, and if she has that little self respect, than she deserves no better than what she is getting.

    This happens to nerdy guys A LOT by the way, this is in no way a purely feminist issue.

  • Matt SS @ at 12:42 pm, December 22nd, 2011

    We were talking about Twilight on a forum I visit, cause one dude really likes it and we make fun of him, and we were talking about the abusive relationships it models and one guy from the netherlands was like, thats not weird, lots of girls love that, they want to do everything for their boyfriend and make him happy. And he claimed that the abusive relationship I was describing from Twilight was just romantic love. It kinda skeeved me out that he thought that, except that its true. The way people relate to others is based on culture and a little bit of randomness. People aren’t born with goals and then manipulated away from them. Their goals are intrinsically external. So although I think its a little weird, a lot of girls, and guys, really are happy with that kind of relationship. They like it that way. Trading consistent and excessive attention for freedom makes them feel stable and safe and adored. The fact is that your view of relationships is no more true to yourself than theirs.

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