On Sex, Rape, Addiction and Adam From ‘Girls’

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About Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college's first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people's attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his website

Comments

  1. “He externalizes his own self-destructiveness…”

    “It’s both a dangerous oversell and a devaluation of a man’s responsibility to suggest that a woman’s empathy is enough to restore an addict to sanity….”

    Thank you for your insightful words….the behavior of an addict/alcoholic is so bewildering and so easy to blame onto their partners….so easy for the partner to blame herself/himself for the “sexualized cruelty”….

  2. Adam had the same kind of sex with Hannah when he was sober. The connection between his relapse and the incident with his new girlfriend is not that clear. It’s not like Adam is depicted as a nice guy when he’s sober and only a jerk when he’s drunk. We, the audience, get to know him in the first season as a selfish jerk with weird kinks when he’s together with Hannah. And at this time he’s sober for something like ten years. So I don’t think you can blame his behavior on the drinking or his addiction.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I don’t think Adam dehumanized Hannah the same way, though. She always went along with it, and seemed to enjoy it.

      I think the difference is in how he reacted to her. He was TERRIFIED that she would stop liking him, he knew he’d violated her. He never showed that with Hannah. One could argue that this is because he valued Hannah less, or that she was less of a “high value” girlfriend or something (interesting commentary if that’s true) and therefore less of a loss, but it was different with Hannah for sure.

    • I think he was terrified because he realized that he went too far. As you said with Hannah it never really came to this point, but out of sheer luck. Hannah was more willing to go along with his kinks or even liked them. But the sex with Hannah wasn’t well negotiated either.

      That’s an interesting point about the “high value” girlfriend. Maybe it’s not Adam who values Hannah less as a girlfriend, but it’s us, the audience. Natalia is a very attractive woman. She’s neat, well dressed, seems to have her life together and seems to be a nice person. Hannah is not that attractive, always awkwardly dressed, neurotic and often oblivious to other people’s feelings. In short, Natalia is a much more sympathetic figure than Hannah.

      I wonder if the reactions to that sex scene had been so strong if Hannah had been involved instead of Natalia. Do we as an audience feel worse for Natalia because she’s depicted as a more likeable, more attractive person than Hannah?

  3. Tom Matlack says:

    Hugo this is the best piece you have written IMO. I thank you for the honesty and the first person focus. In this struggle you and I are equal and the same.

  4. Shocking, but on Monday morning Millions of addicts in recovery just got up and went to work, having watched TV and the episode that some have been finding triggering. Those millions are evidently highly dysfunctional, finding no need to find any place to inject a fictional narrative from a TV program into their own lived experience. One is so glad that the singular minority are so well placed as to be able to make up for the deficits of so many others.

    It’s dangerous to over-identify with a fictional character.

    Over-identify? In the world of professional mental health, identifying with fictional characters is seen as an issue – period. Especially when it’s an established pattern and damaging to all parties – including the reputation of the “Fictional”one.

  5. Thank you for writing this piece … I wasn’t sure what to make of that episode (and I’m still not) beyond being wildly uncomfortable, but it’s refreshing to hear thoughtful dialogue on these issues.

  6. I don’t watch this show so I only really read this article because I saw Hugo wrote it and I really respect Hugo’s work.

    “Men don’t drink and disconnect and (yes) rape because they’re with the wrong partner. It’s both a dangerous oversell of female power and a devaluation of men’s responsibility to suggest that a woman’s empathy—or sexual adventurousness—is enough to restore an addict to sanity.”

    This is simply boldly insightful. Hugo, your pieces always give me hope for a better future between men and women.

  7. If Girls wasn’t a show with a cast of all white women who were portraying bratty 20 somethings, but instead had an all Latina or all black cast, Feminist sites and writers wouldn’t be falling all over themselves to write about it.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Are there any shows like that? I’d love to see a show about the lives of 20 something women who weren’t white, in the spirit of “Girls” which is a very honest examination of life in that age and class strata.

      I get stuck on the word “bratty” because it sort of ruins your point. I mean, are you saying the women in the show aren’t likable, or are you saying the show is too homogenous?

      Are you asking if a show about bratty 20 something Latinas or other WOC be as successful? Or would the WOC who were in their 20s not be bratty? Because women in their early 20s are often really bratty, regardless of race. I think a show full of heroic, always-good, never-bratty 20 somethings would be terrible, regardless of race.

      • I’m saying bratty in that they are unlikable and they would be regardless of their ethnicity. I don’t even want a show full of likable heroic people. My point is that the only reason this show gets so much press by Feminists and other cultural commenters is because the show is all white. If you were to replace the actresses with an all black or all Latina cast (or a mix of the two) it would be ignored by mainstream feminists. Instead this show is treated as some type of very important and cultural revelation that has many fem bloggers writing about it. I just think the gender warriors on the Internet really place a lot more importance on this show than it deserves because of its whiteness no in spite of it.

  8. I’ve tried to watch this show (Girls) just to see what all the noise is about. With 10 HBO channels in my cable package, it’s almost always on . I’ve never been able to make it through an episode. I just find it boring , kind of like Seinfeld, with a lot of sex added in.

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