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Bella and Her Violent Encounters With the Men of Twilight: Or, why white male violence is ok but violence committed by men of color is not (a guest post by Shante Weston)

October 22, 2010

One of the most prevalent idea’s in Jackson Katz’s video Tough Guise was that males perpetuate 90% of all violence in our society; and the violence that our media covers tends to almost always be carried out by subordinate groups within our society: men of color. Pop culture trends are no different; often the white guy being portrayed as the all too perfect “hero”, and the black, Native American, Mexican, or male of Asian decent portrayed as the violent guy that the hero must stop in order to save the damsel-in-distress.

Violence against women is frequently the most rampant type of violence in our society, with rape culture helping people to look away pretending that it’s not an epidemic, or placing the woman (the victim) at fault. “‘Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, where you walk, when you walk there, if you’re alone [and] it’s dark to always be alert, always pay attention, always watch your back, always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted, and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.’ (McEwan)” (Torkelson pg 3).

Stephanie Meyer doesn’t steer her Twilight Saga away from this concept with Bella portraying the female who is at fault for being assaulted by Jacob (the male of color), and whom ultimately always needs to be saved by Edward (the white good guy). Despite both Edward and Jacob committing violent acts against Bella, the Saga falls into the common notion that only men of color commit acts of violence against women that should be condemned, while any violence committed by the white guy was accidental, couldn’t be controlled and is portrayed as sexy. Two different scenes in the saga illustrate this clearly.

Jacob Black is the character in Twilight who is vying for the affection of Bella, and when not voluntarily receiving it, he turns violent, forcing her to kiss him on more than one occasion. Although his exterior is not as rock hard as his vampire counterpart, Jacob has pretty tough skin as a result of his life as a werewolf. So it is almost obvious that Bella would not be able to fight Jacob off, or if she tried (as she did the first time) she would fail miserably.

Meyer uses very descriptive words such as angrily, roughly, forcing, and gripping to describe the kiss, and shows Jacob as very smug during and after the kiss. “Jacob ignores her when she fights back and when she shuts down in self-defense. When Bella asks if he is finished, he responds with a smile. Bella accepts a ride home from Jacob, who banters and whistles, his conscience completely at ease with his assault on Bella moments before” (Torkelson Pg. 4). While the kiss is not condemned in the Saga by any characters other than Edward, the scene is depicted in a way that can make some readers feel as if Jacob’s assault on Bella was completely wrong and uncalled for. Edward confronts Jacob immediately and warns him never to touch Bella again without her permission.

In the fourth and final book of the Saga, Bella encounters more violent acts from a male character. This time, our hero is the one committing the violence against her. Right away Meyer’s depiction is different then that of when she was describing the violent kiss between Bella and Jacob. In Breaking Dawn the details of the sexual assault are almost non-existent, just as they would be if it were a real-life incident and our media were covering the violence. On Bella and Edward’s wedding night, they end up swimming in the ocean, the scene then cutting off and picking right back up the next morning after their sexual encounter with all details of it left out.

Contrary to Jacob’s attitude after his assault on Bella, Edward is illustrated as our perfect hero who is horrified by what he had just done. “‘I’m… so sorry, Bella, I knew better than this. I should not have-’” (Breaking Dawn Pg. 89). At first, Bella doesn’t even notice her injuries until after Edward draws attention to them, and even then she “justifies and downplays her pain in multiple instances, such as by saying she has had worse…and explaining that her skin ‘marked up easily’ (Breaking Dawn Pg. 89)” (Torkelson Pg 6). And contrary to Edward defending Bella’s honor against Jacob after the kiss, there is no one that comes to Bella’s rescue after being physically battered by Edward.

While she tries to fight off Jacob during their violent encounter, “Bella only thinks of Edward [during theirs], hiding her bruises to spare his feelings and worrying that he might not have enjoyed himself,” (Torkelson Pg 7). These two different depictions by Meyer suggests, just as our society does, that the violence committed against women by men of color is something worth talking about, and the violence committed by white men should be ignored. “‘Yes [Edward is] abusive and does a lot of bad things, but he does it because he loves her! If the act of abuse has love as its motivator then it’s absolutely okay and forgivable’” (Torkelson Pg 16).

11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2010 2:35 am

    I disagree that Edward is an abuser. Edward told Bella over and over the consequences but she insisted that she was prepared for what ever happened.

    I also disagree that in the Twilight books, men of violence are men of colour. I have read several posts that compare Jacob’s forced kiss (which I am not convinced myself that it is violent), to Bella being attacked in Port Angleles (which were white men) but every one seems to forget Bella being attacked by James in Twilight. James was white. So if you consider these 3 events, then the majority of Bella’s attackers were white. Now if you include Bella’s run in with Laurent in the meadow then, out of 4 attackers three were committed by white aggressors. However, if you base the attacks on the movies where Laurent was black, then it is evenly split.

  2. Leah permalink
    October 24, 2010 3:26 am

    I am sorry but I don’t agree with this at all. I do agree that rape is a serious issue in our society and then the victim tends to be blamed, but the fact is we live in a dangerous world, and all people should be taking precautions. A woman is not at fault for being raped, but I do agree that they should be encouraged to take safe steps to avoid a situation where they could be harmed. There have been an innumerable number of rapes and assaults on my street this semester, to the point where I will not walk on my street after dark, taking rides home or asking for others to walk me home through a program on campus. According to this anti-rape culture argument, I should not take these steps because if something happens it wasn’t my fault. It may not be fault, but I’d rather not be raped just to prove a point. People should take precautions. We have locks on our doors for a reason. Sure if you leave it unlocked and someone comes in and kills you, it isn’t your fault, but the fact is you are still dead. Sadly we live in a world where it is not safe for women to walk home alone in the dark. That is just a fact of our society.

    As for the series, Jacob’s kiss was without a doubt sexual assault. Bella did not permit him to touch her and if Mike Newton had done the same thing, I would be saying the same thing. As for Edward, I think the bruises all over was a little ridiculous, but it’s not sexual assault. She consented to the sex, didn’t stop him during the sex (because we know he would have stopped), and seemed to have enjoyed it the next morning. For first time sex with a vampire, it’s not a really a surprise that she might be bruised. If we are running on this logic, then when Bella became a vampire and was stronger than Edward, she hurt him several times, including while they were intimate. Why is it that wasn’t sexual assault? He consented to the sex but he got hurt, so did she assault him? My answer is no. I do agree that there are times in the series that Edward was too rough with Bella, one scene in particular is during the vote in New Moon when he roughly grabbed her face because he was angry. That is abusive to me. No one ever talks about that for some reason and instead focusses on a scene that I honestly don’t believe is assault.

    Also, the men that come to assault Bella in Port Angeles were white. That is made clear. So the men who are violent in the series are not all of racial minorities. In fact white men commit a lot of rapes in real life and the men we saw in Twilight in the Port Angeles scene, were white.

    • Eva permalink
      October 26, 2010 3:19 pm

      Well said Leah… 🙂

    • Miasma permalink
      May 10, 2011 3:55 pm

      The men who wanted to attack Bella in Port Angeles were Mexican.

      I’m pretty sure the whole rape culture argument is based on the fact that women HAVE to take such protective measures in the first place. The culture is too busy terrifying women by saying they will be killed/raped at any moment instead of, you know, STOPPING IT FROM HAPPENING IN THE FIRST PLACE.

      • Ana Bastow permalink
        May 19, 2011 4:03 pm

        The men who wanted to attack Bella in Port Angeles were Mexican.

        Wait what? Per Midnight Sun the name of the leader of the rapists is Lonnie non a Latin name at all, what makes you think he was Mexican?

  3. October 25, 2010 2:14 am

    I echo the sentiments of the other posters. The men on Port Angeles were white, the volturi’s are on their majority black, so was James that was almost on the egde to kill her and was depicted as a sadistic animal, most of the vampires on the books that are not friends with the Cullens are depicted as nomadic and minimalistic and white as well. So disagree completely.

    Also you didn’t mentioned the part where Bella was trying to recall if she felt any pain during their first time and she doesn’t. Thus she is not justifying she is genuinely telling the truth, there was no pain. I mean Bella was the one that wanted to have sex as a human, she even anticipated the risks and decided to act on that wish and use whatever means she wanted to achieve her goal. There is a big difference between someone doing something to your body against your will and someone doing something to your body because you willed it. I mean by that definition tattoo artists are inflicting violence on their female clients when they pay them money to make a tattoo that does ends with pain and injuries? Or doctors should stop performing any kind of surgery to women, after all they also inflict violent on the woman’s body.

    Also so Edward is abusive when he doesn’t agree to Bella’s wishes to have sex and is abusive when he does?So in your opinion everything that Edward’s does regarding to sex is bad and has a second sinister meaning?

    And it sounds a lot like just because is Edward is white everything he does is wrong. Racism is also defined as prejudice or discrimination based upon race, regarding the race.

    • Eva permalink
      October 26, 2010 3:24 pm

      you are so right about this, for some reason everything Edward does gets heavily criticized.

    • deenohh permalink
      November 12, 2013 7:37 pm

      You are missing the point. what the author of this article is saying is: AS DESCRIBED IN THE BOOK. Meyers describes what Jacob (the man of color) did in forcing the kiss on Bella in terms of an assault. Bella got angry,at Jacob, Edward came in and defended Bella. Meyers made Jacob out to be a almost rapist that had no remorse for what he had done.. However when describing what edward had done Meyers description is that Bella enjoyed it, Edward is sorry etc etc. but no real harm was done Meyers thinks what edward did is not to be condemned while what Jacob did is.Even thought many woman would think if they were marked up like that.described in the honeymoon scene that it was time to find the door. BTW This is CLASSIC abused/abuser behavior.

  4. October 25, 2010 2:15 am

    Sorry I meant white when referring to the Volturi;s.

  5. Eva permalink
    October 26, 2010 3:17 pm

    I don’t agree with this at all, sorry. Why does everything have to be about violence. Considering Edward is not human and is very strong, the marking of Bella’s skin would be somewhat expected. And it doesn’t look like she minds it, after all she wanted Edward for long time. Every one had rough sex once in there life time (hopefully conceptual)
    I have to agree with Leah on this one.

  6. cat permalink
    September 10, 2011 5:47 pm

    The writer should have brought up the other cases of abuse that involved Edward, like messing with her car like he did. This… just doesn’t fly well.

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