So, I admit it. I have been watching Tough Love on VH1. When I work on my computer, I tend to have reality television on (or a bad horror movie). Mainly the embarrassing fare of E! or VH1. Much like Diablo Cody admitted at Entertainment Weekly, there is some entertainment in these train wrecks. And when I saw the ads for VH1’s Tough Love, I thought it was going to be another absurd bit of programing. The host, Steve Ward, seemed rather pretentious, and it looked like it would be another cruel dating show.
But the first episode played, and I kind of enjoyed it. Sure, Steve kind of stereotyped masculinity-that men will think a certain way every time. And I cringed over that. But, here was a show where the goal was not to kick off the cast to get down to one success-rather to try and find success for everyone on it. And instead of encouraging self destructive behavior? Learning new approaches to relationships. Matchmakers are kind of interesting people to me. And the show’s irritations were less than it’s positives. It was the opposite of that show that had nerds compete to learn how to get laid. Now, mind you, VH1 puts the show on for entertainment purposes. VH1 does not care is Ward successfully matches the women on the show. And the women were certainly chosen as much for the potential drama they could bring. That is their bottom line. But I have to admit…it warmed my heart watching the friendships develop-especially from the women who seemed to start out hating each other, only to be pals. And I kept thinking, Ward and VH1 need to do one with guys.
As I said, there were moments I cringed, but nothing overwhelming killer for me. That is until two weeks ago. The background? Arian Mayer has been…um…overtly sexual. Excessively so. She has stated she hasn’t dated a guy longer than two weeks. I agree with the assessment on that her choices are sabotaging her chances at a solid relationship. In one episode, she was being what some people call “hypersexual” and rubbing her trivia partner under the table. Um…Taylor looked shocked. So, it might have been a bit over the top.
So, Steve put her in the “hot seat.” Everything was going fine until he uttered five little words…
“You’re gonna end up raped.”
Understandably, Arian did not take the phrase well. She pretty much stormed off. Did Steve see where it went wrong? Not really, at least, unless they cut it. The women on the show all agreed with Steve. Fans on the internet agreed. Except for a small cadre of online fans who found themselves horrified by the statement. While I participted in the discussion, I left it off the blog while I formuated my thoughts.
Why did I find the statement so problematic? It’s victim blaming. I know people think it’s precautionary. And yeah, we do give out “do not do this advice” to people all the time. But the advice doesn’t lay it at the feet of the victim. We don’t say don’t talk to strangers-you’ll get abducted. We educate people on ways to eliminate opportunity. I don’t recommend people do a lot of things. But I do not presume to know the outcome of those activities. Steve did presume to knw. Arian will end up raped. The thing is? Rapists are predators. They are not men with over active labidos. A rapist is not a guy who is just so horny that if a woman touches him he loses it. Rapists are predators seeking opportunities, certainly. And there are things people can do to make “opportunity” less possible. It does not eliminate it. But the fact is, the girl showing lots of cleavage who got raped is not more complicit in her rape any more than the 80 year old grandmother. Afterall, growing older tends to result in getting weaker, which is the opportunity a predator wants. That’s why a guy grabs a little old lady’s purse rather than Vin Deisel’s man bag. I don’t know if Vin Deisel carries a man bag…but I am trying to create an analogy here. The victim is not to blame just because they did not have a burgular alarm system in their house. Or a gun. A child is not to blame because they spoke to a stranger and that stranger abducted them. Rape is no different. And using the threat of rape to get someone to change behavior is problematic at best. At worst it is cruel nand evil. Had he phrased it in a way that suggested he fear her choices were opening up opportunities for predators to take advantage of? I might be approaching this differently. But he told Arian that her actions would lead to her rape.
I had written Steve through he and his mother’s business Master Matchmakers. Steve responded, and being that I did not have permission to reproduce it, I kept quiet. The response was what I was expecting. It was respectful in tone, so I didn’t care to use it as something of a weapon. I even wrote back pointing out that I do not disagree with educating people on ways to take opportunity away from predators of all sorts. I wanted to be positive and respectful, since I had a feeling that some of the letters might be overly harsh. Turns out though, Master Matchmakers is using me as a form letter. So, go figure.
One thing I do want to point out…painting Steve as some sort of major monster who hates women and thinks women deserve to be raped is not helpful. Yes, I have seen some say Steve said Arian deserves to be raped. And that is not true. He believes her decision have her on a path towards it…that is not the same thing as saying she deserves it at all. And we ought to remember…what Steve is saying is kind of a “Cultural Wisdom” thing here. That’s why I did not expect Steve to say, “Man…you are so right! I was wrong!” I don’t expect him or other people to just get it…and painting him as a monster for it? Doesn’t help. You know what happens when a conservative leaps into the argument against gay marriage about people marrying pets or mops? I shut done. Conversation over. They lost the minute they compared adult men and women to pets and objects. Casting Steve as a monster gives people a reason to stop listening. His feelings on the issue are not unique or rare. It’s not like he believes something modern people find archaic. It would be nice if it were that simple.
And in the interest of full disclosure? I have been watching. I am curious to see where the women go by the end of the series. I find myself liking them and wanting to know what happens with them. Unless they all want to write where they are all at and tell me how it all ends, I’ll finish.
Alessia has compiled a nice list of folks to contact regarding these concerns.