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Hey, Faggot:

My boyfriend hit me and I don't know what to do about it. We've been together about three and a half years, and he never hit me before. This incident is so out of character, so unlike him, that I don't know what to do. We were arguing, and it sort of spun out of control. I was standing behind him--yelling--and he spun on his heel and slapped me. Until that moment I never believed he was capable of hitting me. After the slap, I just sort of stood there, absolutely speechless, while my mouth filled up with blood: he hit me hard--the inside of my cheek ripped on my teeth.

We hadn't been drinking. The argument was fierce for us, but no more so than arguments we've had in the past. He apologized for hours and seems genuinely contrite and as upset about the whole situation as I am. Should I break up with him? I drive around town with a "You Can't Beat a Woman" bumper sticker on my car, I take self-defense classes, and--how's this for ironic?--both of my sisters work in battered women's shelters. I don't want to break up with him, but I feel like I ought to--every time I look at my car's bumper I feel like a world-class hypocrite, which is making me feel guilty. I know about patterns and cycles of abuse and "abuser" profiles, and nothing about him or our relationship falls into those categories. As far as he knows, we're "on hold" while I sort this out. What do I do? --LH

Hey, LH:

My first impulse is to tell you to leave his sorry ass. There is no excuse for violence, none. If women dumped men who hit the first time it happened, think of the women's lives that would be saved. So the answer seems obvious: leave him. But, you know, I've never been hit and therefore have never had to make the decision you're facing. Situations and choices we see in stark black-and-white are often a whole hell of a lot grayer when we're actually experiencing them.

You don't give me much information about him, the way he fights or what he's like when he's angry. You say he doesn't fit "the profile of an abuser," whatever that means (he didn't win the Heisman Trophy?), and that his conduct was "out of character." But if he's the type who can't be reasoned with when angry, engages in emotional abuse, or becomes "a different person" when he's upset, he will hit you again. If he's these things, I strongly advise you to leave him.

While you think about your situation, put "shoulds" and "oughts" aside: the only thing you "should" do is what's right for you, not what's right for the bumper of your car. It sounds like you're feeling inclined to forgive him, to take him back, and that feeling is in conflict with your convictions about domestic violence. Which is, as I see it, not a bad thing: if you do decide to take him back, your convictions will doubtless spark a good, long, hard think--about your relationship, about him, and about what you should do/ought to do if it happens again.

You need to talk to somebody about this; letters and sex-advice columns are not strong enough medicine. If you can't bring yourself to tell your sisters about it, tell a friend--hell, tell them all. Don't hush up the incident. Abusers, should your boyfriend turn out to be one, depend on their victim's isolation and dependence, so be neither isolated nor dependent. If he's embarrassed that you didn't keep his secret, good: he "ought" to be ashamed of himself.

If after discussing this with your friends, you decide to take him back, exact a price: counseling, therapy. He may not fit the profile of an "abuser," but he did abuse you--Jesus, he beat you bloody! Make him understand that there will be no more chances--this is it. If he ever strikes you again, you will turn on your heel, walk out the door, and never see him or speak to him again. And you will go straight to the police and file assault charges. Good luck.

Hey, Faggot:

How does one measure one's penis? I hear that the average erection is five and a half inches, but I'm not sure how they arrive at that figure. Depending on what starting point or method I use, I get different results. --Six?

Hey, Six:

An honest measurement is taken from the top of the shaft--where cock meets tummy--to the tip. Some guys measure from the underside of the shaft-where cock meets scrotum-and more than a handful of men are apparently including the root behind the balls in their measurements, for all the "that can't be nine inches" stories I hear. These men are deluding themselves and misleading others: measure only what you can realistically work into someone else's body. "Insertable" inches are the only inches that count, guys.

Hey, Faggot:

Your reply to "No Name, No Game, No Flame" was cruel, irresponsible, and totally out of line. [No Name was a 21-year-old chickenshit closet case, and I told him so--Dan.] This nasty tirade gave no information and offered no help to someone who is in a severe state of sociosexual confusion and instability. I realize your style is ruthless and hard-hitting, but you could have included some constructive advice instead of raving on like some crystallized club queen who's been on a bender all weekend.

Now, to No Name (if you ever read this column again): disregard everything Dan said in his reply to you. You need good professional counseling, and you should try to find out if there is a young gay and lesbian group at your school or in your city. As for your straight friends, if they don't accept you for who and what you are, they aren't your friends.

Now, back to you, Dan--you really pissed me off! Don't gay/queer men have enough people attacking and slandering them without you (supposedly a queer man) jumping on the bash wagon? Perhaps you should change the name of your column to "Savage Bitch." --DNF

Hey, DNF:

Pardon me for omitting the perfectly obvious: join a coming-out group. Get some professional help. If your straight friends don't accept you, they aren't your friends. A penny saved is a penny earned. Bob Dole is too old to be president. Zzzzz.

Maybe you have it in your heart to endlessly indulge 21-year-old urban closet cases, but not me. Hordes of crybabies in the closet stay put out of sheer cowardice, and it is not my job to pat their pointy heads and coo "Everything will be fine once you join a coming-out support group" each time one scrapes up the courage to send me a letter. It is No Name's perfect right to pout in the closet for the rest of his life, or do the perfectly obvious things (join those coming-out groups, lose those homophobic friends) that lead to a happy, healthy homohood. It is not his perfect right to hear the same old list of coming-out baby steps from every homo he meets or seeks advice from.

Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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