It’s a story as old as time; Girl meets boy, boy has great hair and finds excuses to show off his great abs, girl blushes and giggles, boy notices her and turns stalker/domineering douche/violently possessive…girl falls madly in love with him?
|The sponge gets it|
It’s not nearly as common as last week’s YA Epidemic (thank god), but everyone who claims to be a fan of the genre has read at least one of these romanticized abusive boyfriends.
Let’s get serious with this one; is this really the kind of relationship we want to be glorifying for the YA demographic? Do we really want our twelve year old daughters and sisters and nieces to think it’s romantic for a guy to watch her sleep? To tell her who she’s allowed to see? To decide not to go with the original plan of killing her because he’s suddenly into her? I don’t even have any daughters or sisters or nieces, and I can answer that with a loud, resounding no. Just because he doesn’t put bruises on her body does not mean it isn’t abuse.
The root of these abusive boyfriends comes from the tried-and-true good-girl/bad-boy romance. Who doesn’t love a guy who’s a little rough around the edges? When the loner biker boy looks at you with adoration in his eyes, it’s probably going to mean more to you than when the emo boy with a journal full of poetry professes his undying love, because you know the biker boy doesn’t look at every girl that way. It’s the girl’s equivalent of the chase, and damned if it isn’t titillating to fantasize about. But the minute that biker boy tries to tell you what you can and can’t do, the minute you wake up to see him staring at you at night, it’s time to get outta there. Because that’s when the bad-boy becomes abusive, and that’s when it stops being romantic.
Now, it’s easy to define the parameters of a healthy relationship when it comes to contemporary characters, but what happens when you give the loner biker boy superhuman attributes? What if he’s a vampire or a vengeful angel or an immortal being fighting his natural instincts every day he spends on earth among humans? Wandering high school hallways? How can he not have some of these so-called abusive characteristics when they’re part of what makes him who he is? Suddenly our bad-boy becomes a little dangerous. A little danger spices up the romance. A little danger ratchets up the passion. But that’s where the lines seem to get crossed, because what happens when we push a little danger…a little too far?
What if you were best friends with Bella, and she told you about how she caught Edward – the vampire who wants to eat her – spying on her at her most vulnerable? Would you be cool with that, giggling behind your hand and gushing about how romantic that is? Or would you be telling her to barricade those windows, set alarms, keep pepper spray under her pillow and have 911 on speed-dial? (Yes, another Twilight reference, but you try writing a YA Epidemic feature without the creator of clichés as a repeated example.) The fact of the matter is, if these things were to happen in real life, we’d be appalled and disgusted, but because it’s inside the safety of a book, it’s spicy entertainment. Until the impressionable girl looks for her Edward and ends up with marks on her body. Or the sweet boy thinks he’s got to fight anyone who looks at his girlfriend to be thought of as “sexy”. Twilight may have been the harbinger of the popularized stalker boyfriend in YA, but there have been far too many examples coming out in recent years. Hell, I know of a certain fallen angel who makes Edward look like a saint.
I’m not saying it’s not okay to get secret crushes on YA’s most dangerously sexy boys, but I am saying that it’s not okay to glorify abuse, to mainstream some of these behaviors. I’m saying that if enough of us book bloggers and avid readers say enough is enough, maybe writers and publishers will realize that this particular YA epidemic isn’t just annoying; it’s also dangerous. We should be painting healthy relationships for girls who probably haven’t even had their first kiss yet, not these trending pseudo-stalker whirlwind romances.
Have you encountered many of these abusive book boyfriends? Is it harmless entertainment, or another way to desensitize us to the dangers around us? I’d love to hear your opinions on this one in the comments!