‘Real World’ brings up myth that women like to be mistreated

A myth that floats around is that women date assholes because they enjoy being mistreated. Some argue that’s the message that songs like “Love the Way You Lie” send, with Rihanna singing lyrics like, “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn / but that’s all right because I like the way it hurts.” This myth reared its ugly head last night on Real World, when self-proclaimed lover of bad boys Nany continued pursuing volatile douchebag Adam, and many of their roommates watched in confusion.

First, some background for you non-Real-World watchers: Nany came to Real World: Las Vegas with a boyfriend of six years. She met Adam and was instantly attracted to him, telling the other girls in the house that she was addicted to reforming bad boys and that Adam fit the bill. Adam had been hiding that he had a girlfriend back home, telling the girlfriend not to call him because it would be “annoying.” Eventually he started talking to her via webcam in front of his roommates, making public that he had a girlfriend back home. He also had been hooking up with girls while in Las Vegas.

Nany and Adam both admitted early on that they were attracted to each other, and as viewers we unfortunately saw Adam laying the same lines on Nany that he did to girls at the bars and clubs that he was trying to take home with him. Eventually, Nany and Adam made out, and Nany admitted to her boyfriend that she had cheated on him. They broke up, and Nany tried to keep things with Adam casual. At one point, Adam got belligerently drunk, and he punched a wall — and was only inches from hitting Nany in the face. They were pulled apart, and Nany admitted that she had been hit by a guy before, so she wasn’t afraid of being around a drunken, violent Adam. Adam eventually was kicked off the show, and Nany and Adam went on one last date together before vowing it wouldn’t be the end of their “relationship.”

Obviously, this is a problematic story, and their roommates have different takes on it. Naomi seems supportive, Heather is disapproving, but Dustin — while discussing it with Leroy — introduces the myth that the only explanation of why Nany would want to be with Adam is that “she likes to be treated bad.”

Nany’s infatuation with Adam doesn’t stem from her enjoying the mistreatment — I think it stems from thinking that she doesn’t deserve to be treated any better. She admitted to being physically abused by a guy before, and she admitted that she has only been in one relationship — her six-year relationship with Jordy. She’s 21, so she has been dating this guy since she was 15. If she bases “normal” on her relationship with him and if Jordy is a douche and possibly abusive (this is speculation, as she never admits it was Jordy who hit her), then Adam’s behavior will seem normal in the context of a relationship.

It’s frustrating to watch. I cringed when she said, “I don’t know if Adam’s relationship material, I have no idea. I guess we’ll find out,” wanting to scream at the TV, “He’s in a relationship right now, and he’s cheating on her with a cornucopia of other women! Including you!” As an outsider, it’s easy to see that it’s a bad idea — but when you’re an insider, you convince yourself that it’ll get better, that naysayers just don’t understand because they don’t see every aspect of the person or the relationship, and you re-imagine things as much rosier than they actually are.

Though I wanted to throw something at the TV, I also could empathize with her creating such a distorted reality — I’m sure a lot of people can. I hope her roommates don’t write her off as liking to be mistreated because it’s not that simple. None of them can convince her out of trying to be with Adam, and they shouldn’t see their failure to break them up as a reason to give up on her. She probably isn’t going to listen to them, with both Adam in her ear and Nany convincing herself they just don’t understand.

I hope she meets other guys in Las Vegas who treat her well so that she can see guys are capable of being nice and respectful, and I hope she takes time for herself and learns to be OK on her own, without needing a man to feel safe or complete. But if that doesn’t happen, and it takes some terrible event to make Nany realize that Adam is a dangerous, unstable, mean, non-relationship-ready person, then her roommates need to be there to support her — not to tell her they told her so, or to bludgeon her over the head with reminders that all the tell-tale signs were there. They shouldn’t shun her because she didn’t take their advice, but should be supportive and encouraging that she took the steps to end an unhealthy relationship.

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5 Responses to “‘Real World’ brings up myth that women like to be mistreated”

  1. dude Says:

    I mostly agree with you on this one. I agree that it is better to say that she doesn’t see herself as worth being treated better than to say that she likes to be mistreated. It kind of seems like saying she anybody likes to be mistreated is an oxymoron. I mean it’s basically the driving principal behind every joke in The Adams Family. Bad things are good and good things are bad. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s basically calling her an emotional sadomasochist. Nobody likes to feel hurt or sad however people do feel like they deserve too. And they consistently deny themselves pleasure for comfort. Kind of like being addicted to heroin or alcohol. Nobody likes to be an addict but over time they systematically un-learn to be anything but an addict. Same principal with relationships. After being in bad relationships for a consistent amount of time you come to expect bad relationships and grow comfortable being in them.

    What I don’t really agree on is the overwhelming amount of sympathy you have for her. She is not a victim of some outside force that made her attracted to bad relationships. It is her own fault and she is the only one who can help her. I have never seen that show and know nothing about her except what you wrote here but I’d be willing to bet that she probably deserves to be treated exactly the way she is treated. If your the kind of person that cheats on an abusive longterm boyfriend with another abusive guy than you probably have no potential as a useful human being. She is 21 years old and she cant even solve basic social problems like whether or not to date an abusive jerk at the disapproval of all her friends. She is the kind of person who is so obsessed with self gratification and indulgence that her brain won’t even let her recognize the endless amount of wisdom that surrounds her to guide her through the most basic of problems. I say an endless amount because her “problem” is broadcast on national television and I’m sure she could just google herself to find the answer as to whether or not she should date him. Instead of her brain saying “there is a clear answer to this problem. here it is. take this path.” instead it leaves her with “…I have no idea. I guess we’ll find out.” To me an equivalent situation would be a mouse in a maze with a hell of a lot of other mice. There are two paths to the same piece of cheese. One path is short and clear but is electrified and very painful the other one is longer but painless. The cheese represents a relationship, something that most people desire. The short path represents a route to a relationship that requires no real thought, predictability, and a high comfort level with pain. The longer path represents a route to a relationship that requires decision making skills, patience, and a desire for self preservation over self gratification. All the mice except for one take the long path because they don’t want to be electrocuted. She is the last mouse standing there staring at the crossroads in the maze and all she can say to herself is “…I have no idea. I guess we’ll find out.” Not only does she fail to extrapolate wisdom from the actions all of her peers but she also fails to recognize danger to her well being. As a matter of fact she doesn’t even bother to weigh her options and come up an answer. She openly recognizes the problem and then openly decides not to solve it. “I don’t know if Adam is good relationship material. I have no idea. I guess we’ll find out.” = “I don’t know if I should electrocute myself for this cheese or not. I have no idea. I guess we’ll find out.” To me this kind of behavior is not typical of the kind of person I would have sympathy for. Unless you forgot to state that this particular version of The Real World is the Down’s Syndrome season then I can not bring myself to feel bad for anybody who makes decisions this poorly. She deserves to be in shitty relationship with an abusive guy. And he probably deserves to be in a relationship with some stupid skank. They put themselves in that position and refuse to pull themselves out.

  2. cathyjwilson Says:

    So, you start by saying she doesn’t like to be mistreated, and then continue to talk about why she basically does like to be mistreated? And yes, people can be affected by outside forces that make them attracted to certain types of people or make them more susceptible to poor treatment by significant others, e.g. childhood experiences like abuse or neglect.

    Also, please refrain from mocking people with disabilities on my blog. That’s a warning — next time I’ll just delete your comment.

  3. dude Says:

    I wasn’t mocking anybody. Down’s syndrome affects a persons ability to make cognitive decisions. Which is why I would feel the same way you feel about Nany if and only if she had Down’s syndrome or some other comparable disability. If someone with Down’s Syndrome was about to enter in an abusive relationship unsure about whether or not she should then I would hope that her peers would come to her aid, support her positive decisions, and help guide her to make the right choices. I would feel sympathy for her and my hopes and prayers would be with her. I’m saying that is not the case. Nany is not mentally disabled she just acts like she is which is why I wouldn’t waste my sympathy on her or people like her. There are actually people out there who deserve to be thought about and helped and hoped for. Nany is not one of them.

    People may be affected by outside forces that make them more attracted to an abusive relationship just like people may be born partial to alcoholism. I’m saying that when it comes to the decision to be an alcoholic or be in an abusive relationship then that decision is theirs alone to make. Just because someone may be partial to making bad decisions because of their childhood circumstance or whatever the case may be it doesn’t make them exempt from the responsibility of their actions. Nany chooses not to use common sense to pull herself out of an abusive relationship therefore Nany deserves to be in an abusive relationship. You reap what you sow.

  4. cathyjwilson Says:

    Yes, it’s her decision. But what I have issue with is the idea that she is making that decision because she likes to be mistreated. I think she is making the decision because she is young, because she is naive, because she’s never been in a healthy relationship, because she isn’t OK with being alone, etc. Do you equate everyone who makes a mistake or a judgment error as “mentally disabled,” and have no understanding for them otherwise?

    And to say that because someone doesn’t have the life experience or the confidence or the ability (think financial independence to flee an abusive marriage or financially dependent relationship) to leave an abusive relationship means that they deserve to be abused because they aren’t leaving is absurd. Things are a lot more complex then, “just leave.”

  5. dude Says:

    Well there are definitely relationships where leaving an abusive spouse would be complex. I could see a poor couple who’ve been married for 25 years and have five kids. The husband went off to war and came back with ptsd, started drinking, and being abusive to his wife. He used to be a great dad and husband but now things are different but the mother has no job skills because she has been a stay at home army wife for a very long time. The only income they have is the fathers army pension and she cant leave her kids with an alcoholic, afford a divorce because its his income, or leave her husband because she loves him and understands his ptsd even though its ruined their lives ptsd. That’s complex. I would not compare something like that to Nany’s case. Nany’s situation is not complicated. It is pretty simple. Nany and Adam probably don’t even live in the same city. That’s only a guess because it’s The Real World.

    Young and Naive? She is not 10. She is 21. She should be approaching her Bachelors Degree. She is old enough to drive. She is old enough to drink. She is old enough to pick the President of the United States but you don’t think she is old enough to know not to date a guy that is going to punch you in the face when he gets drunk and angry. I don’t really buy the whole young and naive thing. If she seems naive it is by choice. She has been alive for over two decades. She should have learned by now that if it is hot you don’t touch it and if it is going to punch you in the face you don’t become it’s girlfriend. She admits she is in to “bad boys” which is some strong evidence that she knows exactly what she is getting in to. So to say that it is because she just doesn’t understand the difference between a healthy and an abusive relationship isn’t right. She clearly picks the abusive ones on purpose. She is not making a mistake or a judgement error. She is making her dumb decision on purpose. She wants to be with an abusive guy because satisfying her impulses to be with a “bad boy” is more important to her then her own well being. Afraid to be alone? She had a boyfriend for five years and then cheated on him. That is not the actions of someone who is afraid to be alone. I don’t understand the pathetic picture you try to paint of this girl. like she is somehow a victim and deserves help.

    I guess I’m caught up in the phrase “likes to be mistreated” I don’t like the phrase because like I said it has connotations that are typical of an oxymoron. It sounds stupid and wrong but I suppose it is just a bad way of saying the truth which is often times hard to put in to words. How would you describe someone who consciously puts themselves in relationships where they are abused, who does it without regret, and who plans on doing it again in the near future?

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