What’s Wrong With this Picture?

The correct answer is too many things.

This video of a girl slapping her boyfriend repeatedly on the streets of Hong Kong has become viral after two days, currently topping 930,000 views as I am typing. Without a doubt, it’s disgusting to watch as the girl beats her boyfriend in public. From what I gather, there was a dispute over whether the boyfriend invited another girl to his apartment (supposedly the other girl at the scene). I believe at one point he cries out that the second girl is the girl’s family member, and also he declares that he never did such a thing. Eventually a crowd gathers around and the girlfriend was arrested by police for assault.

But I’m horrified…and not just because of this girl.

The first and most obvious reason for my horror is this girlfriend and her actions. She is apathetic to her boyfriend’s pleas, and she even glances at her watch as if this and his sobs aren’t worth her time. Even the second girl awkwardly tries to tell her not to beat him. This girl is clearly a physically abusive woman, and she obviously has abused her boyfriend to a point where he is compliant in not only kneeling in the street, but also allowing her to beat him relentlessly for a deed he might not have done. Although the camera is focuses on capturing the girlfriend, the few times we see the male’s face (red and purple with bruises) reveals how badly beaten he is.

But there’s the second element that made my stomach turn. How did all the viewers react, both in the video and off? It takes four minutes of slaps and verbal abuse before a woman takes a stand against this girl. There are moment in the beginning where I catch by-standers smiling or even laughing — just moving closer to get a look of what is going on. It’s such a clear display of abuse, but because of the sex of the victim, people are initially more amused than concerned. A security guard can be caught chuckling at the sight initially. They go on to tell the boyfriend to man up and dump the girl.

And then the YouTube comments that have flooded in. There are many that slander the girl with insulting words for women usually. But then there are what seem to be a majority of the English comments that call the male a “pussy” and go on to scoff at the masculinity of all Asian males. One commenter laughed, “I would bitch slapped that hoe!” Not only has this become an issue of sex, but also an issue of race. These commenters are building off the stereotype that Asian men are more “feminine.” Not only are they being sexist, they are being racist.

Contrary to popular belief, you are not being “unmanly” when you find yourself in an abusive relationship, whether it’s a verbal or physical. It is estimated that 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually. Read up on more statistics here. I believe that victims in abusive relationships are often blind to the abuse. It’s not like the partner slaps you in the face on the first date. They slowly try to control you…and you’re usually already under their control by the time the more worst abuse occurs. 

Take for instance this case that delves into male victims of abuse: “At first, she discouraged me from seeing old friends, especially female friends. She threatened to use violence against them. For example ‘If so and so visits here, I’ll be putting a knife in her guts.’ … She would flirt with my friends, but then tell me that they were trying to seduce her behind my back. This left me feeling distrustful of my friends. Later on, I found out that she had been telling them that they shouldn’t come round because I was insanely jealous. All this had the effect of damaging my social network.”

Men are often less likely to defend themselves when they are being physically abused, and part of that is fear of appearing to be the abuser. Males are taught to “take it like a man,” making it difficult for them to speak out about their abuse. Society is less likely to believe that men are victims of abuse, so they remain silent our of fear of not being believed or supported by friends, family, and society.

What the young man in the video was going through is not simply an individual being “unmanly.” Nor was he “shaming” Asian American males. Abuse has nothing to do with whether you are a man (literally or metaphorically), and it certainly has nothing to do with race.

I recommend everyone learning about abuse to recognize the signs, whether you’re male or female. Because it’s always easier to believe you would never be as “unmanly” when you have never experienced abuse.

The Mayo Clinic lists these warning signs of domestic violence, for both sexes:

Your partner or family member:

  • Insults you and belittles you.
  • Prevents you from going places, such as to work, classes, school.
  • Doesn’t allow you to see family members or friends.
  • Tries to control how you spend money, where you go or even what you wear.
  • Is jealous, possessive or accuses you of being unfaithful.
  • Lashes out at you when drinking alcohol or using drugs.
  • Threatens you physically or with a weapon.
  • Does any sort of beating: Hitting, kicking, shoving, slapping.
  • Assaults you while you are your weakest—like after you’ve had a few drinks, or while you’re sleeping.
  • Forces you to have sex against your will.
  • Blames you for his or her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it.
  • Portrays the violence as mutual and consensual.

7 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With this Picture?

  1. You are right about one thing. It’s easier to point the finger at the man as the abuser. If he defends himself or gives back what he takes, he’s usually seen as the violent one. The woman–not to sound sexist–can usually put on an act to appear the victim.

    However, are you sure this generously viewed street scene was a case of an abusive girlfriend or just a gal who was very vengeful (possibly a Scorpio) for being crossed or substituted with another woman/girl? Without all of the facts from both sides, it’s quite possible he WAS doing something wrong to their relationship. Few women I know would do what she did. More would likely do it privately and more violently…even lethally. She did not kill him in the street. She just threw an extreme temper tantrum. It could have been worse.

    If I was a cop, I would have separated them. But, pointing a finger at either would require more investigation. It makes no sense to send either to jail or punish them. It’s a personal matter. But, making a public scene is probably best to stop to at least keep “peepers” from loitering.

    We can be just as blind to those who are truly unfaithful as we are to those who are truly abusive. The important thing is to get the facts in each case and know the difference. Otherwise, the unfaithful will get away with murder while everyone is focused on the more violent ones.


    • Alice L says:

      Thanks so much for pointing these things out — I got swept away by emotions and banged out this blogpost. It’s probably because I feel so strongly about abusive relationships… And while I might be wrong about whether this is abuse, the humiliation (having his kneel on the street) and her striking him — regardless of whether he was wrong or not — indicates abuse to me. She did not kill him…but that doesn’t make striking ok. I definitely agree that arresting the girl was a bit questionable. If I were a police officer, I might have given her a warning for disturbing the peace or something. I don’t really know how great the Hong Kong police system is, that’s for sure.

      Some friends of mine pointed something interesting out to me — they questioned whether this was a kinky sub/dom relationship. Apparently these kind of public displays of kink are popular in Japan, and most people just ignore it there. I have never heard about such displays in China, however. Also, the crowd’s reaction (and the police’s) seemed to indicate otherwise. After all, if it were a display of kink, wouldn’t the boyfriend have clarified things before the cops took his girlfriend away?

      I really don’t condone cheating either, and it could very well be that the boyfriend was being unfaithful. I do feel that cheating is emotional abuse, which is or can be just as bad as physical abuse. Of course, we don’t have laws against mental/emotional abuse the way we do physical… But I don’t know — I don’t think that if the man had cheated meant it’s now okay for her to furiously beat him. Ultimately you are right about how we don’t know the circumstances. I think the arrest was unnecessary, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she was in the right either.

      At any rate, thanks for the thoughtful comment!


      • Had the couple been seen doing this more than once, I might slap a pattern label on the situation. But, since this was a singular incident, I can only say she set him straight in an extreme way for whatever reason. These days, I wouldn’t put murder past someone. But, she made a scene…which suggests a strong enough emotional component to not fear the public eye yet the decency to not leave him crippled or dead and run from the cops. She clearly had had enough. Abusive relationships more often do such things in private or are more subtle/verbal. I’ve known couples who verbally fight in a restaurant or may grab/pinch at each other. But, I’ve never seen any couple dish it out that way.

        I know it’s probably not police procedure, but I would have separated them, sat down with each and worked out their stories before making a decision. If she really turned out to be a chronic abuser, then penalize or deal with her. If this was a rare incident, calm them both down and send them away from the scene to deal with this at home.

        Now, there’s an angle I didn’t consider…the sub/dom sickness. Not if the guy was a really weak sub. If his “dominator” didn’t want him to tattle, he might have been conditioned to remain mum; right? Telling the cops might have spoiled the “mood”. Personally, I’d think a “sub” would have to react a certain expressive way, either cry out in pain in a way that stirs attention or say they like being beaten for whatever sick reason.

        In my gut, without seeing all the sides/video, I get the feeling she was just one woman standing up for herself/her feelings instead of putting up with crap. She shouldn’t exactly be heralded for doing what she did. But, for all I know, she could have been at wits end.

        Sure, she could have handled it another way. But, when you’re at your limit, crap happens. And, I’d rather she beat him senseless with her fists than shoot him dead.



  2. Thanks for this post. I agree with you, this video is very disturbing, it isn’t funny and isn’t his fault that his girlfriend physically abuses him on the street. If things were flipped around, and it was a man slapping and calling a women derogatory terms while he accused her of sleeping with someone else, it would be clearly labelled as abuse and the man would not be given excuses. You’re totally right about being told to “take it like a man,” as it is normal for boys to be told, growing up that if they can’t physically defend themselves against their attackers, then it is their fault and they should be ashamed for such “wussy” behavior, and “learn how to fight!” so they can eventually beat people up too.

    There is no justification for violence. I always cringe when I hear people act like the words someone says gives you a right to hit them. I respond with words to other people’s words, and I walk away, I stop dating them if I don’t trust them. Outside of situations of self-defense, it is never your fault that someone hits you, nor is it something about your behavior that caused it. Even if your boyfriend was cheating on you, your violence is still about you; something in your past, your mind that tells you it’s ok to hit people when you’re upset with them, that you have a right to violate someone else’s physical boundaries to poorly deal with your own emotions.


    • Alice L says:

      Thank you so much for your comment! I completely agree. THere is no justification for violence. It doesn’t matter if there was cheating. Labeling it a “temper tantrum” doesn’t take away from what is going on. Yes, emotional abuse can be equally as bad as physical abuse…but I believe that physical abuse can only really exist with emotional abuse — it’s just when there is violence, we zero in on it. I really do believe that this boyfriend (if this is indeed physical abuse, which I think it is) must be suffering from emotional abuse to kneel before this girl and allow her to hurt him.

      It’s so terrible that we fail to recognize widely spread signs. For instance, jealousy is not a “good” emotion. It does not prove — not in the least — that someone loves you. Yet media and entertainment twist the public’s conception of jealousy. When I was young and read a ton of comics where the main character’s love interest would ONLY realize his or her feelings when they felt jealous, I did believe for a brief, naive time that having those feelings reinforced our belief in someone’s love. But jealous is a crazy, wicked snake. It leads to control and domination of someone until they do not know how to live without you — because you have isolated them from the world, the ones they love, and help. If this girlfriend jealous and was furious because of this emotion…that does not at all indicate to me that she was in the right in any way. Honestly, the way society seems to fail to recognize abuse is similar (in my mind) to how society still fails to recognize rape (people still think the rape victim, usually female, is lying…and people still think a male cannot be physically abused).

      I really wish people could learn to truly recognize healthy love and unhealthy abuse. It really shouldn’t be so difficult. In my mind, unhealthy love is bad. Why do we cling to the idea of a burning love that never dies — even if we are burning along with it?

      Thank you again for reading and commenting. Your comments give me hope for us all.


  3. Hmm. Actually there’s discussion amongst a bunch of Chinese nationals where a blogger posted the video and wrote her opinion..similar as yours.

    Some of the commenters attributed, including mine: to very poor child-rearing of the young woman. Just wrong. Also one-child policy trend…makes some of these solo kids become uncontrolled adults because they are spoiled. Plenty of the commenters give personal ancecdotes of what they have seen in China elsewhere.


    • Alice L says:

      Wow, I wish I could read Chinese better. That’s a really interesting take on what is going on — that it’s because of the one-child policy that has raised a generation of spoiled children (at least I believe that’s what you are talking about). I’m surprised that this is so common in China…


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