So, I seem to come across a reoccurring theme in the literary world: the possessive teenage boyfriend. This frustrates me, because it’s confusing for young girls (and women. I mean, who are we kidding?). Already, girls go through elementary school learning that if a boy likes them, then they’re mean to them. This sets us up for romantic failure early in life, and in my opinion, is why girls go for the “bad boy,” end up with jerks and douchebags. It’s all part of the conditioning we receive from childhood and it takes a good amount of maturity – and a fair amount of bad experiences – to figure out that our way of thinking is wrong.
But back to the literary world: the possessive boyfriend is not an archetype we need to embrace. We all know that men are naturally protective; they’re the hunters, the warriors. No, I’m not stereotyping, it’s just the way God made men. Women are naturally more emotional; they’re sensitive, the caregivers. Again, not a stereotype, or a jab at neo-feminism or anything like that. It’s just the way God made us women. All of that being said, the natural protective nature that many men possess should not be confused with unhealthy possessive behavior. Yet, in all of the YA books I’ve read lately, the hot, sexy, romantic, passionate main male character is also a possessive freak.
Sure, a lot of times, he learns his lesson, but not after seriously doubting the lead female in her abilities to take care of herself, to think for herself, and to be her own woman. I won’t even go into what all of this doubting and double-guessing the female lead’s decisions does subliminally to readers – that’s for another post. This post is all about the fact that protective does not equal possessive. Can I get an “Amen”?
“His forehead bumped softly against mine, his brilliant silver gaze searing into me. ‘I plan to keep you, from everyone, for as long as I’m alive. That includes Puck, the false king, and anyone else who would take you away.’ One corner of his mouth quirked, as I struggled to catch my breath under his powerful scrutiny. ‘I guess I should’ve warned you that I have a slight possessive streak.’” (The Iron Queen, by Julie Kagawa)
They start making out afterwards. What’s wrong with this scene? EVERYTHING! It teaches girls that if a guy loves you – and in this case is willing to die for you – then he’s going to be possessive, and “keep you, from everyone.” NO!! This is not love: this is possession and obsession. It’s unhealthy. Because in the real world, teens aren’t up against a false Iron king. They’re not battling the Voluturi. Lives are NOT on the line, yet when girls read fantasy novels, they start to think that real romance is like this – a life and death, soul-possessing passion. It’s not.
“As I drove home, I wasn’t paying much attention to the road that shimmered wetly in the sun. I was thinking about the flood of information Jacob had shared with me, trying to sort it out, to force it all to make sense. Despite the overload, I felt lighter. Seeing Jacob smile, having all the secrets thrashed out…it didn’t make things perfect, but it made them better. I was right to have gone. Jacob needed me. And obviously, I thought as I squinted into the glare, there was no danger.
“It came out of nowhere. One minute there was nothing but bright highway in my rearview mirror. The next minute, the sun was glinting off a silver Volvo right on my tail.
“‘Aw, crap,’ I whimpered.
“I considered pulling over. But I was too much of a coward to face him right away. I’d been counting on some prep time…and having Charlie nearby as a buffer. At least that would force him to keep his voice down.
“The Volvo followed inches behind me. I kept my eyes on the road ahead.
“Chicken through and through, I drove straight to Angela’s without once meeting the gaze I could feel burning a hole in my mirror.”
After Bella’s little car chase scene, she runs up the steps to Angela’s door was soon as Edward Cullen is out of sight. She hears another car around the corner: “the sound didn’t scare me…[it was] nothing like the purr of the Volvo.” (Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer).
I hate this part of the series (and don’t get me wrong, the books by Kagawa and Meyers are great, and I’m a fan. What I’m not a fan of are the possessive guys in both sagas.)
Why do I bring up these two examples? Because I know that many young readers hit this site, based on the keywords they search, so The Iron Fey and Twilight seem like effective examples. Girls…no, I’ll amend that to LADIES, because even if you are young, you’re still a lady. Ladies, your boyfriend should never scare you. You should never be kept from friends, family, or pursuits by a guy you’re dating. You should never be scared that he’s going to find out you were hanging out with a friend of yours that he may not like. You should always be able to have a relationship with a guy that doesn’t include fear and a possessive attitude.
Some guys will want to protect you. If someone’s saying something about you at school, a good boyfriend will have your back. Likewise, if you’re a little older and you’re in a restaurant or bar and some guy is harassing you, a good boyfriend will make sure you’re okay, be willing to take care of the situation, but be even more willing to let you take care of it.
Despite what the literary world is telling you ladies, possessive behavior is not the same as protective, healthy behavior. Can I get an “amen?” No one owns you. Don’t let some guy you’re dating act like he does. And another word of advice, ladies: don’t act like you own him. You don’t.
If any of you have come across a great YA book/series that features a sexy, yummilicious male lead who is NOT possessive, please, please tell me in a comment below. I’m sure there are some great male leads out there who don’t border on abusive behavior, and I’d love to read some of these guys.