Saturday, 12 April 2014

Discussion: Why Do Books And Readers Glorify Abusive Relationships?



Why do books and readers glorify abusive relationships?


***Warning:  If you are easily offended then I would probably advise just skipping this post. It contains quite a lot of ranting and a fair bit of swearing. But as the amazing Stephen Fry says:



This question came into my head when I was thinking of my answers to one of Book Badger's upcoming Five Friday Favourites topics. That topic is your not-so-favourite leading lads, as in the leading guys you don't like. I got to number two on my lists and realised a pattern, they were both guys who would be classed as abusive towards their partners. But, they are guys that girls swoon over and rate highly as their book boyfriends and this disturbs me. I don't think we should be showing abusive behaviour as romantic, desirable and completely normal.


I am going to be including a lot of quotes and sayings from The Perks of Being a Wallflower for many reasons. The most important being that I think that book puts across the right message to teenage girls and guys everywhere. Don't just sit there and accept being treated like garbage, find someone who makes you happy and who wants to make you happy.

The fictional character that got me absolutely ranting in my notebook and made me realise I needed to write this post was none other than Travis Maddox. If you don't know who that is, he is a character from the book Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire. Now this book holds a 4.23 average rating on Goodreads, which is really impressive, and it has been rated over 200,000 times. Look through all the 5 star reviews and you will see words like amazing, sexy, hot and sweet describing him. You'll also read people proclaiming that they 'love' him. Why? He is not amazing, sexy, hot or sweet. He is manipulative, volatile, controlling and, most importantly, abusive. And people find that desirable, really?

Here is a description of domestic abuse: 

Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse,occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. (from here.)

And also says this about it:

Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, yet the problem is often overlooked, excused, or denied. This is especially true when the abuse is psychological, rather than physical. Noticing and acknowledging the signs of an abusive relationship is the first step to ending it. 

Well, I have read Beautiful Disaster and can happily say that Abby was a victim of domestic abuse and just sat there and took it. And everyone around her just excused it and acted like it was completely normal. And now readers are reading it and viewing it as a beautiful and desirable relationship and one to strive for. NO!!! 


Travis Maddox is in no way swoon worthy. He is a guy that really just needs professional help, not a girlfriend. He is ridiculously manipulative and I can't for the life of me figure out why so many women seem to find him attractive. Please read a list of the following things he does and tell me if these are romantic or the acts of a deranged man who needs serious help, not a girlfriend:


  1. Buys Abby a puppy that must be kept at his apartment, because then she will have to come and see him.
  2. Smashes up his own phone in order to stop himself from phoning her, he has no self control and apparantly wouldn't be able to stop himself.
  3. Demands Abby change her outfit as he doesn't deem it appropriate and will be more worried about 'who's looking at your tits' than the fight he's supposed to be having. 
  4. Violently beats up anyone, including his friends, who look at Abby any way he doesn't approve of or says anything about her that he doesn't like. 
  5. Calls Abby Pidgeon or Pidge, - come on, that's practically abuse right? It's abuse of the ears at least. Yuck.
  6. Has a threesome as some act of revenge against Abby and her indifference towards him, knowing that she can hear him the whole time. 
  7. Literally pulls her out of a car to stop her kissing a nice, normal guy. 
  8. When he wakes up and she has left, he proceeds to smash up his own room and break anything he can get his hands on.
  9. Refuses to leave the bathroom while she is showering because he wanted to bring her stuff to her (they barely know each other at this point). Then proceeds to brush his teeth even though she asks him to leave. Actually shouts at him to leave and he refuses because clearly he doesn't need to listen to her, her opinion doesn't matter. He brought her a toothbrush and is clearly a perfect fucking gentleman. 


I have to agree with Percy on that one: no, no, no, no, no! None of that is even remotely romantic. None of that describes a man that you would want to be in a relationship with. None of that describes a person that you would want to spend the rest of your life with. That describes a very scary guy, a guy who should really look into getting help and counselling for all of his issues. And those are only the examples I can think of. I'd reread it so I could list them all, plus quotes but I am not putting myself through that again.

And Abby is just as bad in this book, but I am concentrating on the guy right now and his apparent appeal to so many women. This book provides us with the perfect example of everything that should be avoided in a relationship, everything you should not put up with or be looking for. These things should not be shown in a romantic or desirable way. Abby and Travis can barely function without each other and that is not normal, that is not love.



Travis is a stalker: 2. To follow or observe (a person) persistently, especially out of obsession or derangement.  And, personally, I don't find that attractive in a person. If you really feel like you want and need a guy like Travis in your life then I feel sorry for you. You would have to be as deluded as Abby to want to go and marry someone who is essentially abusive towards you.

I feel that these kinds of male romantic interests are becoming more and more popular, especially in New Adult. I think Edward Cullen is to blame, seeing as girls seemed to find it romantic that a guy would sneak into your room at night to watch you sleeping. That he would take out parts of your car to stop you going to see someone he didn't approve of. I don't like that.


I hate to think of the message this sends to guys when women proclaim that guys like this are desirable, that they are hot. I'd hate to think that they would view that as an acceptable way to act towards and to treat a woman. Relationships should be about a mutual love and RESPECT for one another, not someone 'belonging' to someone else. Travis literally tells Abby he belongs TO her, not with her but to her. Like he is her property, like she owns him.

I feel his behaviour is completely overlooked because of how he is described pysichally. You shouldn't be able to treat people the way her does just because you are good looking. He isn't even realistically good looking. He is described as being muscled and with a perfect six pack, even though he doesn't exercise, go to the gym or eat healthy. Well the only people I know with bodies like that had to really work hard for it, and work at maintaining it every day. Not the perfect Travis Maddox, who also happens to be ridiculously intelligent, with perfect grades even though he doesn't pay attention in class, take notes or study. Okay then, if you say so.

Please, do! 
I have to admit that I wonder about the people who swoon over Travis. If they had a friend or a daughter who was in a relationship like that, would they really find it romantic? If they came to you and told you the list of things I listed, would you really be suggesting it was romantic? Would you encourage them to go and marry that guy? I hope the answer is no, otherwise I am signing you up for therapy sessions right along with Travis. 

So for all the men out there. No, I don't want you to forbid me to see certain people or tell me who I can and can't be friends with. No, I don't want you to blackmail me with puppies so that I will come see you, even if I don't want to. No, I don't want you to drag me from a car because I am happy and dating someone who isn't you. No, I don't need nor want you to beat the shit out of someone just for looking at me. No, I don't want you to be obsessive, controlling, manipulative, unstable and a complete lunatic. NO. 

To Abby, the girl who desires and wants to marry this man. 

Somebody explain the appeal?!?

I seriously need someone to explain to me why they find this guy appealing. Why would you desire a character like that? He is absolutely hideous. I literally need some long explanation because not even one small part of me can remotely understand or comprehend it.


So what do you guys think of Travis Maddox? Do you think he is book boyfriend material? Do you think books like this are glorifying abusive relationships? I feel like they are and I hate the message they are sending to people about what should be acceptable in a relationship. 


36 comments:

  1. I've never read the book you're talking about, but I do know what kind of male character you're talking about - and yes, they do seem to be disturbingly popular. "Controlling, alpha males" is how I've heard them classified - and always with little smiles of delight. I don't get it - I really don't. I wish I could offer some amazing explanation to your question, but I have the same question, too. What's attractive about controlling, abusive, obsessive men? And why is it that the nice, caring, and steady, safe men are always condemned as boring? You're not alone in these thoughts. This reader and blogger, too, doesn't get it, either.

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    1. "Controlling, alpha males" - yes, that sounds like the sort of description they would use. I don't get it at all either, I wish someone could come and explain it to us. So far nobody has given me any reasons, they all seem to find him as repulsive as I am. I am really happy to find others who are just as annoyed by these types of characters as I am.

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  2. I don't get it at all either. I'll admit that I was a Twilight fan when I was fifteen, and now, looking back on it, I don't understand why. Relationships like that don't appeal to me at all, and I don't see how they do to others. I think girls are possibly misreading the sort of controlling behavior as being passionate or they just see it as a way that guys show they care. Either way, I hope something happens in the future that were books portraying those sorts of relationships become less popular.

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    1. I own all the Twilight books, I've read them all and seen the films and they are enjoyable enough. But I don't get an urge to ever reread them, and I still don't find Edward Cullen that attractive as a character. He isn't anywhere near as extreme as Travis Maddox, but he is still a very controlling character. I really hope they become less popular too, I want more books that show healthy, normal relationships.

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  3. 1,000,000 internet points to you! This post is just absolutely perfect. I don't know why women find these characters so sexy and irresistible. I say run away as fast as you can. I just shake my head at these characters and the authors who portray this as normal or idyllic.

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    1. Thanks so much. I'm glad so many people feel the way I do, I was a tiny bit nervous to post it but I am glad that I did. I really think we need more books that show healthy relationships, a guy can be a 'bad' guy or have tattoos but he can also be a loving, caring and respectful person.

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  4. I have to say Charnell, I read Beautiful Disaster over a year and half ago and I know at the time I liked it, but having read so many more books since, I've been able to look at it with completely new eyes and saw about a year ago that it really was exactly how you've said. I did get Walking Disaster at Christmas, but I asked for it more on a I want to see how much different I feel about it now I'm a better reader. You've hit the nail on the head, and covered anything, so don't worry about offending people, because you're 100% right! :)

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    1. I don't think it is wrong to enjoy these kinds of books, especially if they are well written and the kind of books you enjoy. I am a definite believer in that we all have different tastes. I just find it wrong when characters like Travis are being portrayed as romantic, desirable and something a young girl should be striving to find. I read the book and thought it wasn't a hideously written piece of garbage, I have even bought Red Hill by the same author. I just didn't agree with the portrayals of the characters. I just hope most people reading it will know that it is not a normal relationship. If that guy existed, you would get a restraining order lol ;) I am really happy so many people agreed, I was very nervous to post this.

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  5. I read Beautiful Disaster and it was really a disaster..not in a beautiful way. Ugh. IKR? Let's admit it, a bad boy who is brooding handsome can be a total swoon-worthy AT FIRST assumption, but ends up being a total creep, possessive, mad lover. And I hate guys like that. I just don't get it. Your points are really provoking and I have to agree with all the things you wrote here!

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    1. But, it's also a case of the fact that you can have brooding, handsome bad boys who are actually sane, normal human beings. They can also be in functional relationships. That would be romantic. Someone controlling you to the extent Travis does to Amy, it's not romantic, it's creepy. I would get a restraining order out against a guy like that.

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  6. I agree, Travis is psychotic and not swoony at all. And I do think it's all about his looks and that he's "passionate" and that he feels so deeply. I do think this is more of a problem in NA than in YA, but you still see everyone falling for the jerky broody guy that usually treats the girl like crap. There's just something about that hate turning to love that's appealing (but only in fiction, does that really happen in real life?) Great post! ~Pam

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    1. I definitely think you see much more of it in NA, in YA you get more sweet guys, even if they are bad boys. A lot of the time the hate turning to love does work well, and you see them both being mean to each other and then grow into a normal, loving relationship. But these ones, where the guy is just completely psychotic, I don't really understand the appeal. It's so strange to me.

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  7. I have never read this book or a book with such a horrible couple! I think I would probably get to angry at them both for being so crazy and not seeking professional help that I wouldn't make it very far in the book. I don't see the appeal in insane relationships, where there is CLEARLY something wrong with these characters! I just don't get it either. BUT I think the best explanation is in the mere fact that fiction is, if even partly, based on reality. It's scary to think that people like Abby and Travis exist and carry on these unhealthy relationships in the real world. Sad but true... Great Post!

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    1. I did, this book made me seriously frustrated at both of them. They don't belong together, I am not sure either of them really belongs with anyone. They need some intense therapy and then, and only then, should they look to find someone to marry.

      Very true, these relationships exist. I just wish our fiction showed them for what they really are, unhealthy and NOT something to strive for.

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  8. I've written blog posts on this subject before where I rant about rapists and bullies becoming romantic heroes. I hate it. How many women fall in love with a guy who keeps trying to rape them??? I'd be taking a knife to their personables instead! I don't get how female readers can call these psychos their ideal man. Nice post!

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    1. I will have to have a look through and find them, I am really pleased to find so many others who agree with me. I know, it is really disturbing to me that they get portrayed as desirable and that readers fall for it.

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  9. I perfectly agree with you. I haven't read the book but it does not sound like one I would like to read. The people who like these kind of characters, mostly younger ones I presume, can only be put down to lack of experince. A great review.

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    1. I really hope it is a lack of experience, but I really hope they are still old enough to realise that this isn't normal. I hope they don't strive to find a guy like Travis Maddox.

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  10. It seriously boggles my mind how many people love this book/gush about it in reviews. Beautiful Disaster promotes an unhealthy, abusive relationship and it's a horrible book. Here's my review on it-
    http://finleyjaynesbookshelves.blogspot.com/2014/04/a-z-april-challenge-books-i-hate.html

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    1. I am so happy I decided to post this, it's nice to find so many others who feel the same way. I will definitely be checking out your review :)

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  11. This is a seriously fantastic post and I completely agree! My friend who is 14 just read Beautiful Disaster/Waking Disaster or whatever the names are and she really liked them. I haven't read them, I don't read New Adult and I'm not interested in it. Another book that comes to mind is Hush Hush, you can read my review on my blog if you want. Patch is such a stalking, controlling freak but my friends who have read it said it's so "sweet and cute". Um, no.

    This is a great post and I think a lot of people should really look at the characters and if the relationship is healthy before accepting it and such. :)

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    1. Thanks so much, I am happy to find so many others who feel the same way as I do. I haven't read Hush Hush, but now I am interested in what you mean. Will definitely try to hunt that down on your blog.

      I think books should start showing unhealthy relationships for what they are, unhealthy and not romantic.

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  12. This post made me so sad I couldn't post for a while.

    I wondered for a while if those books do glorify those types of relationships or actually provoke the reader to think about the topic you just raised.
    I find (sorry to trash the genre) that YA books portray inaccurate and unrealistic relationships a majority of the time, whether good or bad, but that fact that it still attracts such a wide fanbase makes me think that people do, readily, accept it and take it in. It's disturbing and worrying.

    On a different tone, LOVE the new background!!

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    1. Aww, thanks! I am glad people like the new background, I think the colours a lot nicer than the last one.

      I do worry about the message it sends to younger readers about what is 'romantic' and what is 'normal' in a relationship. I would be disgusted if a guy acted the way Travis does. I feel like this book wasn't aiming to get the reader to think, I believe it was portraying the relationship as 'beautiful', and less of a disaster to be avoided.

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  13. I've never read this one. For one, I tend to shy away from the NA genre as a whole, but also because I've read a few reviews that echo your sentiment that he is just basically awful. I don't find the obsessive, controlling boyfriend to be sexy in the slightest and it makes me sad when younger girls, especially, idolize this type of character.

    Great, thoughtful post!

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    1. I know, I worry about the message it is sending to younger readers. I worry that they will consider that kind of behaviour to be normal and acceptable. If your boyfriend has anger issues, trust issues and is controlling then it is okay, because he loves you and that's all that matters. I really wish more books showed healthy relationships.

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  14. I am SO with you!!! I have the hardest time trying to figure out why people swoon over book guys like Travis Maddox, Christian Grey, Edward Cullen, and Andrew Parrish (The Edge of Never). Those type of guys COMPLETELY disgust me. I don't know why women like the idea of a guy that would beat up a guy who just looks at you the wrong way, or god forbid hits on you. If that happened IRL that guy would be psychotic, but in a book we think it's swoon-worthy? And it is NEVER okay to tell a girl what to wear!! Ughh I hate that shit!! I can't stand the whole New Adult genre right now because it's just full of this type of "ownership" relationships and it angers me to no end. Love isn't about obsessive "I can't live without you" type stuff. That is unhealthy and it's also a fairy tale. GREAT post!!!

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    1. Thank you! It is sooooo nice to find so many other people who agree, I was starting to feel like the only one. I have the Edge of Never, people had been recommending it but now I don't want to read it, knowing that he is one of those characters.

      I definitely agree, there are so many amazing NA books that don't have those types of leads but you never find them because you avoid the genre. I don't like these types of controlling, psychotic men. In real life you would steer well clear of a guy like that, he would be clingy, obsessive and suffocating.

      I just wish others could see that, instead of lusting after such grotesque fictional characters.

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  15. I haven't read the Beautiful Disaster books, mainly because I don't think I could stomach a guy like Travis. I tend to enjoy reading about 'bad boys' in stories, though, but they can't be abusive or show no respect to the person they claim to love! I rather enjoy romance where the two people in a couple have a balanced relationship, and where they work with each other, and somehow make each other - and themselves - better. I hate seeing relationships where one is putting the other down, and it makes me sad that this is somehow seen as sexy and desirable.
    I think this is a very important discussion to have - even if we need to keep in mind that a lot of us might love to read about certain characters, and 'love' them in the stories we read, but that we would never even say hello to a person like that in real life. Fictional stories can work both ways, I guess, either they can help point out stuff that is not good, or it can gloss bad things over and make them seem OK.

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

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    1. They don't exactly put each other down, but they just don't work together. I don't think either of them should be in a relationship. The whole thing just read like a 'What not to do in relationships' guide and I hate that. I want a romance that is actually romantic, believable and something you would want to be in yourself. There is no way I would want to be in a relationship with someone that uncontrollable and violent. And no way would I let a man tell me what I can or can't wear.
      I think this fell into the category of glossing over, it should have been used to highlight an actual real problem. This was not a romance that people should be rooting for, or loving. It made me a little sick to see an essentially abusive style relationship being seen as okay and even desirable.
      Hopefully, most of the people who say they love Travis actually realise that he would not be an ideal partner if he really existed.

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  16. I've never read this book but I can't see myself seeing Travis any differently than you did. Guys in YA often disturb me. I prefer the quieter types, like Logan's character in Perks! He's messed up sure but he's not controlling or abusive.

    Saying that, I still root for Damon in Vampire Diaries. It's hard not to when it's Ian Somerhalder...

    Under The Mountain

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    1. Exactly, I much prefer a quiet, sweet guy over these controlling arseholes any day. :)

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  17. God I have the same issues with these books! I blame Smeyer and her moronic vamps. That Cullen boy ruined everything, and suddenly all the crazy creeps became hot as fuck. Fight domestic abuse then with books like these obsessing everyone!
    I haven't read BD yet but I like the sound of it less and less. I knew it wasn't as good as people claimed early on, but you just put me off it even more. :X
    Great post!

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    1. DEFINITELY SMEYER'S FAULT! I don't understand why these types of guys became so hot after that, Edward wasn't even a great romantic lead. HE WAS SOOOO CREEPY! I am happy to have put you off, the less people who read this the better.

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  18. Okay, I hope this is okay to er, comment on...five months later.

    I was reading the discussion title and the book that immediatley popped into my head was Beautiful Disaster. I was at a library booksale and I came across this book, initially I picked it up since I'd heard it was good, a few minutes later (after a girl was reaching for it when I set my books down), I'd picked it up and read the back.

    All it took was this last sentence to fully and completely wholeheartedly without a doubt put this book back, " If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time."

    No, no no no no! That is not an okay bet to make in the first place. I could only imagine his kind of character although your discussion post was fantastic at describing all the reasons I put this book back without ever reading it. Thank God.

    It's kind of ironic, it's a case of Stockholm syndrome Abby suffers from (it sounds like) and Beauty and The Beast is my favorite disney movie...

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    1. It's totally fine to comment five months later! I love comments :)

      Haha! I am the exact same, I adore Beauty and the Beast. But Disney makes Stockholm Syndrome seem so cute ;) Travis is so controlling and fucked up... I just could not get behind him or support Abby's decision to be with him. They were both crazy though, they deserved each other.

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