Robin Thicke and the Dynamics of Abuse

23 Jun

TW for domestic violence, abuse and rape

Robin Thicke is gross.

I mean, we knew that already, of course.

But today he has somehow managed to surpass his former grossitude and shot up through the I Can’t Even atmosphere and into the Outer Space Repository of Hella Gross Dudes.

But what could possibly have caused this intense leveling-up, you may well ask. How could he have done something worse than penning the summer’s unofficial rape album?

Well, for starters, he announced the release and official track list of his new album, Paula. Paula, by the way, refers to his estranged wife, Paula Patton. She recently left him. This album is his attempt to win her back.

Let’s take a look at the song titles, shall we?
1. “You’re My Fantasy”

2. “Get Her Back”

3. “Still Madly Crazy”

4. “Lock the Door”

5. “Whatever I Want”

6. “Living in New York City”

7. “Love Can Grow Back”

8. “Black Tar Cloud”

9. “Too Little Too Late”

10. “Tippy Toes”

11. “Something Bad”

12. “The Opposite of Me”

13. “Time of Your Life”

14. “Forever Love”

It’s honestly like reading an abuser’s check-list. She’s his fantasy. He needs to get her back. He’ll isolate her, maybe refuse to let her leave. He’ll lock the door. He’ll do whatever he wants. Because love can grow back. Because it’s a forever love.

These apologies, entreaties, promises and veiled threats are all a typical part of the cycle of abuse.  This is what psychologist Leonore E. Walker calls the “Reconciliation/Honeymoon Phase” – the abuser feels guilty, is contrite. He or she makes grand gestures of their affection, constructs elaborate apologies. They promise never to hurt their loved one again. They might promise to get help (though most likely they won’t). If that doesn’t work, they might threaten suicide or self-injury in order to gain sympathy or otherwise manipulate the situation. They will do literally anything they can to convince their victim not to leave them.

The cycle continues when the abused person, whether out of fear or out of genuine belief that things will get better, decides to reconcile.

All right, you might be saying, some of those track names are pretty questionable, but surely that doesn’t mean that Robin Thicke is an abusive partner, does it?

Well, take that track list in conjunction with the video for his new single “Get Her Back” that Thicke released today, and you might find yourself feeling a little more convinced.

The video is filled with texts that were, we are supposed to believe, exchanged by Thicke and Patton.

Here are the texts supposedly sent by Patton:

“I kept trying to warn you you were pushing me too far…”

“We had everything.”

“Why Why Why Why Why???”

“You drink too much.”

“You embarrassed me.”

“I can’t make love to you anymore.”

“I don’t even know who you are.”

“You ruined everything.”

“I have to go.”

“How could you do that to me?”

“you’re reckless”

And here are Thicke’s texts:

“I’m sorry.”

“Can I talk to you?”

“I hate myself.”

“Can I come see you?” (to which Patton apparently replies “It’s too soon.”)

“I wrote a whole album about you.” (which elicits the response “I don’t care.”)

“I miss u”

“This is just the beginning.”

That last text, by the way, is posted over a blurry image of Thicke walking away, his posture tense, ready for a fight. The words read very much like a threat.

This video is not romantic. It is an attempt by Thicke to use his huge public platform to manipulate and shame his wife into getting back together with him. Now, if she says no, she becomes the bad guy, and he becomes the victim. In fact, he’s already making himself out to be the victim – between his sad I’m-so-awful-and-pathetic texts, and the fact that his face is cut and bloody in the video, he’s doing his best to come off as the poor, heartbroken, sensitive man who’s been left by his mean, unrelenting wife. Sure he may have done some things that contributed to the breakup, but look how sorry he is. Look how willing to make amends. How could she be so cold and hard? And what about their children, don’t they deserve to have their father around?

What Robin Thicke is doing is trying to coerce his wife into coming back to him, by publicly shaming and humiliating her. I have no idea whether the texts in the video were actually from her (though I really, really hope that they’re not), but it doesn’t really matter, because he’s presenting them as hers. He is, as @middle_ladle said on twitter, punishing her for leaving him quietly. He’s exposing her to the world, looking for sympathy. He’s making it harder and hard for her to say no.

In fact, she keeps telling him no, over and over in those texts, and he ignores her requests to leave her alone and just keeps pushing. Because her needs don’t matter to him. All that matters is getting what he wants.

Leaving an abusive partner is the part of the cycle of abuse during which the victim is most vulnerable. Because after they’ve left, the abuser often feels like they have nothing left to lose. This is the point in the cycle when the abused is most likely to be hurt or killed. People wonder why so many victims of domestic violence go back to their abusers, but the sad truth is that often that choice is safer. Leaving is incredibly risky.

What Thicke is doing is threatening and frightening and we need to stop treating it as the ultimate in romance. This is not romantic, not in the slightest. This is abusive, coercive and manipulative. This is what domestic violence looks like, and we’re so accustomed to this type of behaviour that by now it seems totally normal and healthy to us.

It’s not. And we need to acknowledge that.







75 Responses to “Robin Thicke and the Dynamics of Abuse”

  1. Ariadny July 10, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    THANK YOU! (I couldn’t watch the video)


  1. OUR SUNDAY LINKS : GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine - June 29, 2014

    […] on misogyny,  has released yet another troubling video for his latest summer hit. The Belle Jar explains how Thicke  embodies the dynamics of domestic abuse in “Get Her Back”– a […]

  2. Mädchenmannschaft » Blog Archive » Ohlauer, Nazi-Aufkleber und #AskThicke auf Twitter – kurz verlinkt - July 2, 2014

    […] The Belle Jar schrieb schrieb über Robin Thicke und sexuelle Gewalt (Triggerwarnung), und das Bitch Magazine feiert eine Twitter-Aktion, die eigentlich der Promotion für Thickes neues Album dienen sollte, letztlich aber dazu führte, dass Thicke(s Promo-Team) sich mit einer Menge unangenehmer Fragen konfrontiert sah. […]

  3. ‘Get Her Back’, ‘Cutoff culture’ and men who won’t let go | Rosemary Not Roses - July 3, 2014

    […] video displays many of the common behaviours abusers use to manipulate their victims into getting back into a relationship with them when they try to escape, including threats of […]

  4. Is Robin Thicke the Male Equivalent of a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? | GlobalCommentGlobalComment - July 17, 2014

    […] was unusual, by that point: Even before those lyrics hit, feminist bloggers were confidently posting detailed, damning analyses of Paula’s stalkeresque content — “She’s his fantasy. He needs to get her back. He’ll […]

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