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All Abusers Are Male
"All white male patriarchs must be guilty of
something in modern women's fiction, preferably the sexual abuse of their children."
In many a Very Special Episode
of a favorite TV show or novel about a character overcoming abuse, All Abusers Are Male. This trope occurs when The Unfair Sex
is applied to Domestic Abuse
, rape, or any form of abuse, creating the implication that women cannot or do not commit abusive acts
. Simply because a story has a male rapist/abuser in it does not make it an example of this trope. A series/book/TV show/etc becomes an example if the work implies or pushes the assumption that ALL abusers are men or that female abusers do not matter at all. This trope is different from Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male
, Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male
, and Double Standard: Rape, Female on Female
. While those tropes acknowledge that women commit acts of domestic violence and acts of rape but easily forgive or dismiss them based on their gender, examples of this trope address the seriousness of abuse while implying that only men can commit these acts of violence.
Examples of this trope sometimes even attempt to educate the audience about serious issues like rape and abuse. They do this while upholding the idea that men are the only perpetrators of abuse. A story where a man abuses or rapes a woman is not an example. A story that addresses these issues while only acknowledging one sex as potentially abusive is. This can happen when a character becomes a lesbian to avoid evil men, or when characters are seriously anti-rape and anti-violence yet overlook the possibility that women can commit these acts. While more male abusers are reported to the police each year than female abusers, many times this is assumed to mean that only men can be abusive. The pervasiveness of tropes like this can also affect the statistics, where people are ashamed to admit they have been abused by women, or the police refuse to file reports on what they consider unimportant, or in all too many cases, consider the wife's abuse of the husband "preemptive self-defense" and arrest him
. In addition, most shelters ban men, and people trying to bring attention to male victims or start male shelters have been ignored and in some cases received death threats.
A somewhat more disturbing trend with this trope is when a female character who, for all intents and purposes, is a textbook example of an abuser is given a free pass or even some justification or excuse for her actions
; e.g., "she was in a bad situation", "she just needed to vent", "she was just complaining", "she has mental issues", etc.
The most common aversion of this trope is the Wicked Stepmother
. And even then
she's usually taken more seriously when her victim is a girl. Also note that most (if not all) of the subversions and aversions listed on this page are intended to be a Shocking Swerve
in the story... meaning that even when the trope's not enforced, the writers still obviously expect the audience to believe in it.
Please avoid Take That
edits due to the nature of this trope.
Obviously NOT Truth in Television
open/close all folders
- Two anti-domestic violence bus ad by the Family Place of Dallas takes this to the extreme by showing a picture of a cute little boy saying that “when I grow up I will beat my wife” and one with a cute little girl said “one day my husband will kill me”, The message given in the rest of the add is if you raise a boy in a house with abuse he will become an abuser but if you raise a girl in the same environment she will become a victim. Statistically, both are much more likely than in a regular home, regardless of gender.
- This teen-violence series of PSAs from Great Britain.
- An Australian ad campaign features a series of women describing abuse and/or men justifying said abuse, with the tagline "to violence against women, Australia says NO". Given that it is intended to be a general campaign against rape and domestic abuse, the sex-specific nature is puzzling.
- Similarly, an American ad campaign featured a small boy witnessing what was obviously his father abusing his mother off-screen, with the tagline "End the cycle. Teach him that violence against women is not okay." There was, unsurprisingly, no concurrent campaign about teaching him not to abuse men, or teaching your daughter that abuse is not okay.
- This advertising campaign to end rape.
- This advertising campaign to end rape. Ends with the tagline 'rape is a hate crime against women.' Implying both that only women can be victims and only men can be aggressors.
-  Verizon's new domestic violence ad.
- Thankfully averted in this PSA.
- The series of PSAs in the No More campaign, such as this one have this trope going for them hard, right down to the assumption that only women are victims of domestic abuse and rape.
- Subverted in this ad, in which the end reveals that the abuser is a woman, and the victim is a man.
- The "Men Can Stop Rape"◊ ad campaign. It's in the title, but in three out of the four depicted relationships the partner who may have been raped is female, and the one relationship that features a potential male victim is gay.
Anime and Manga
- Kannazuki no Miko zig zags this. Chikane rapes Himeko as a part of her gambit, and she also is sexually harassed by Miyako. But the female abusers are not treated as such or given irredeemable status. The male Orochi who also tries to rape Himeko however is actually also treated sympathetically and given a happy ending like everyone else.
- Subverted in Fruits Basket. Akito, the head of the Sohma family, abuses the Juunishi in every way imaginable, but he's actually a she. In fact, most abuse is parental and Ren, the Yandere Big Bad- who's responsible for turning Akito into a villain- is female. Rin's mother and father abused her equally, and maternal rejection/disownment plays a large part in both Momiji and Yuki's issues. The series doesn't have many female characters, but it shows them as a roughly even mix of bad (the above) and good. This applies mostly to the manga, since the anime didn't get far enough into the story to show most of the above cases.
- As good as Confidential Confessions was about showcasing tough issues, it was unfortunately guilty of this trope. All abuse, be it physical, emotional, or sexual, was committed by a man. The worst a female could be was a "mere" bully.
- Averted in Kill la Kill, where it's heavily implied that Ragyo Kiryuin is sexually abusive to her daughter Satsuki and it's not portrayed as remotely okay, and while her deceased father is seen in flashbacks, it is in a purely positive light.
- Subverted in Impulse, where one of Bart's classmates is terrified of disappointing his father, and is showing signs of being abused. Bart naturally suspects the father, but it turns out to be the boy's mother, who is mentally imbalanced, and is keeping her actions a secret from her husband. As soon as the father discovers this, he intervenes to protect his son; Bart is not needed.
- The DC Reboot very jarringly changed Jonathan Crane's Freudian Excuse from being abused by his fanatically religious great-grandmother to being experimented on by his Mad Scientist father (the father had been previously shown as an ex-military type who abandoned him, with no indication he was a scientist).
- Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams contained a very deliberate subversion of this trope. In the original comics, The Incredible Hulk and his mother Rebecca were violently abused by Bruce Banner's father Brian. In this Alternate Universe Fic, however, little Bruce is instead molested by his mother Rebecca, who violently attacks Brian with a knife whenever he tries to protect his son. This inversion from the comics was deliberately done to highlight how men can be victims of domestic violence too.
- In In This World and the Next, Ron the Death Eater is a rapist for no good reason. In the alternate timeline he gets turned into a girl, which will apparently stop this from happening. The fic stops just short of directly citing this trope.
- The Harry Potter fandom plays this trope frustratingly straight. Any deconstruction of the happy Weasley family idea will have either Arthur abusing Molly, or Ron abusing Hermione. No one ever worries about the reverse happening, never mind that Molly is clearly the one in charge in the Arthur/Molly relationship, and that while Ron has insulted Hermione a couple times and gotten jealous of her boyfriends, Hermione has done the same, as well as conjuring birds to peck him on one occasion and punching him on another.
- Though She Stole My Voice, a documentary about lesbian rape, averts this trope overall, the interviews uphold it. Many people state that women cannot rape or that they would much rather see their girlfriends raped by women than by men since men are more of a real threat.
- Zig Zagged: The lack of acknowledgement of female-male rapes implies only women can be victims of rape. Although the rapist can be a women as well as a male.
- It seems every Lifetime movie is about a woman being abused in some way by a man.
- Although not every man in the Bollywood film Lajja is abusive, all the abuse in the film is committed by men. The women in the film are all presented as pure and innocent, and many have been abused by the men or policies created by them.
Live Action TV
- Under the helm of Marti Noxon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer tended to drift in this direction.
- In Degrassi, many "tough topics" are covered. Many rape victims have received their own Very Special Episode by now, yet every instance of rape or abuse has been perpetrated by a man. The only character who is ever abused (emotionally) by a woman is Ellie and her mother is portrayed as more of a victim.
- In an interview about Fiona's abusive relationship, the actor who played Bobby said that he hoped young women out there would watch the episode and realize that they did not deserve to be abused, and young men would get the message that it was not okay to abuse their girlfriends.
- Averted when Jenna abuses her then-boyfriend/baby daddy KC by hitting him with her guitar in rage. Though this is treated seriously and the official sign that she is unprepared for the world of motherhood, it is still highly questionable if Degrassi would have shown it in the same light if KC had done the same to her.
- Better averted earlier, when a female sexual predator attempts to rape Connor. She is still viewed as a cruel rapist and her gender isn't even referenced.
- In South of Nowhere, Spencer's father discovers that Carmen pushed her while they were dating and seems horrified. Spencer assures him that it is not a big deal and in the end of the series Carmen and Spencer are on relatively good terms, despite their relationship ending over abuse.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit managed to play this one straight and subvert it at the same in the episode "Ridicule," which presumably was intended as an aesop about how men can be rape victims, too. The episode involves a male stripper who claims he was raped by three vindictive women (one of whom was played by Diane Neal, who went on to play ADA Casey Novak in the same series). Most of the police are sympathetic but also somewhat dubious. Stabler, on the other hand, refuses to believe that it's even possible for a man to be raped by a woman. The woman who orchestrated the rape goes to jail for it at the end of the episode, and it appears that the audience is supposed to believe that it really was a rape. However, the episode unintentionally sends the message that the only way a woman can rape a man is if she decides to jump on him when he happens to have an erection. No one brings up the possibility that there's any way for a woman to violate a man other than initiating vaginal sex without his consent. And it really doesn't help that virtually everyone involved — especially alleged "good guy" Stabler — is at the very least slow to accept this seemingly unheard-of notion that a woman can commit sexual assault (or the notion that men can be victims).
- Generally the only male abuse victims on the show are children, barely ever adults. Whenever a male victim does show up, they're not exactly treated sympathetically. Female abusers aren't uncommon on the show, but usually they're not as harshly judged by the SVU detectives (save the occasional monster).
- Isn't that the episode where the man was a stripper, and there were three women, and two of them held him down while the third had her way? If one can watch it and think an erection has relevance, you're kind of missing the point.
- In the SVU episode "Asunder", there was a police sergeant with a physically and emotionally abusive wife. The wife claimed she raped him, and when they asked around his precinct, they found out how horrible she was to him and how often she injured him. They, however, just treated this as motive, and after his wife recanted and admitted she made it up, they still treated him like he was a monster and she was in danger, despite it being the other way around. He is eventually hospitalized by her, and they think this is bad because he might have leverage in the case by not pressing charges against her. They continued on with the case and actually got it past the grand jury before a judge dismissed it as the BS that it was.
- If this is the episode I'm thinking of, it was pretty well showcased that it was a mutually abusive relationship, with both husband and wife taking shots at each other, downplaying this trope.
- One episode involved a mother who constantly traveled and was slightly unhinged who tried to see her son despite a restraining order from the boy's father. When the boy is kidnapped and eventually dies when the van he's in accidentally drives into a river, it is revealed that the mother had tried to get a mercenary-for-hire to kidnap her son so she could take him with her to another country. However, it is revealed that the boy's father, trying to frame the mother (despiet knowing she had violated the restraining order) arrested, hired the kidnapper and was thus indirectly responsible for the boy's death. And the mother was given more sympathy even after she had almost fatally shot M.D. Warner.
- It should be noted that the instances of this trope played straight are often sadly Truth in Television in the real-world criminal justice system.
- The major problem with SVU is that male abuse victims generally don't get happy endings. Female abusers usually end up as Karma Houdinis or are acquitted, and when that doesn't happen the man either has his entire life ruined, is killed, goes to jail because of the female abuser's manipulation, or takes a back set to another (female) victim.
- Subverted on an episode of Charmed, where the Source uses this trope to nearly have Paige kill an innocent man whose son was being abused. The last time we see the man, he's warning his wife that he won't tolerate her hurting their son anymore.
- Explored in the 1993 TV movie Men Don't Tell, which features Judith Light abusing Peter Strauss. Naturally enough, no one believes that Strauss's character is being abused until his daughter tells police that she "doesn't want Mommy to hurt Daddy anymore."
- In 2008, 15 years after Men Don't Tell was broadcast, one New York Times reviewer did a special article about Men Don't Tell. In this article the reviewer pointed out that while many Lifetime Movie of the Week featuring battered women had, since their initial broadcst, been repeated over and over and over and over and over, Men Don't Tell had only ever been broadcast once. She (the reviewer) specifically cited this trope almost by name as the reason why.
- In response to the review, Lifetime rebroadcast the film. But only once.
- Subverted in an episode of NCIS. The marine husband of one of the victims of the week is accused of beating his wife, but it turns out that she was beating him. And she was a North Korean spy.
- It happened in Private Practice. A kid was fat because he wanted one of his parents to stop abusing him. When the doctor finds out, he immediately goes berserk, looks up the father and punches him in the face. It turn out the molester was the mother, not the father.
- In a Torchwood episode, Tosh gains the ability to read minds. Many of the men (at some point it seems like all) she encounters reveal horribly abusive, nasty thoughts while the women reveal having been victimized by men. She ends up stopping a man from killing his wife and kids.
- In an episode of Without a Trace a school councilor assumes a student is being beaten by his father and is tight lipped about it. To be fair, she was basing her assumption around her own experiences with parental abuse where her father killed her mother when she called him out on it and eventually the boy opens up to correct her and state that its his mother whose the abuser. Thankfully the episode is a subversion because both the councilor and the agents respond rather negatively to the mother for this.
- In an episode of Starsky and Hutch, when the cops discover a case of child abuse, they assume it's the kid's hulking father who's responsible; turns out it's the mother who's to blame.
- Averted at the end of a lengthy Picket Fences storyline about the murder of a teenaged girl. After prosecuting a man who turned out to be innocent, the police and district attorney accuse the girl's father of killing her, and persuade the girl's mother to testify against him. On the witness stand, however, after being granted immunity in exchange for her testimony, the mother confesses that she killed her daughter. Later, though, the judge voids her immunity on fraud grounds, and the district attorney is able to prosecute her for the murder, and prosecute the father as well, for his role in covering up his wife's crime. It was only in hindsight that everybody realized that, although they had clear reason to suspect the girl was killed by one of her parents, there was never any real reason to believe it was the father rather than the mother.
- Averted in a Law & Order / Homicide crossover. A girl is murdered, and the police and district attorney's office are able to determine that she was killed by one of her parents. They automatically assume the father is the murderer, but it turns out that the mother committed the crime.
- Adam-12 episode He – He Was Trying to Kill Me. After a six-year-old and a baby are removed from a neglectful household, Officers Malloy and Reed hear that the older girl has marks on her back providing evidence she was beaten; the girl says, "Daddy did it." This leaves them with the estranged father of the girls and the mother's current boyfriend as suspects. Averted. The girl was trying to protect her mother. The mother did it.
- Titus featured an episode that dealt with Christopher going to the funeral of an ex-girlfriend, being very secretive about his reasons why, deflecting the truth with the claim she was his true love. He eventually reveals he wanted to get some closure on their relationship because SHE was physically and emotionally abusive to him. The Double Standard is brought up that Christopher was embarrassed of being beaten up by a girl and his father didn't help much (trying to play off his injuries as a drunken accident to the neighbors). The only reason he stayed with her as long as he did was because she would swing from abuse to sex in an instant.
- In the Masters of Horror episode "The Screwfly Solution", this is the plot as a disease causes men's sexual urges to always become violent. Eventually the human race goes extinct after every women is murdered. The only man who doesn't succumb to this is gay and medically castrated.
- Surprisingly averted multiple times in Once Upon a Time. Most notably: Cora is shown to be extremely emotionally (and, it's implied, physically) abusive to her daughter Regina, leading directly to Regina's start of darkness. In her few scenes, Baelfire's mother Milah is verbally and emotionally abusive towards her husband, even hinting that she wished he were dead. In both cases, it's the fathers who are shown to be the loving, supportive parents.
- Despite being a Lifetime series, Strong Medicine actually averted this a handful of times. A patient of Lu expresses concern because is about to be paroled for rape. She insists that he's like this because they were both molested as children. Lu naturally assumes it was their father and is shocked when the woman reveals that it was their mother.
- When House's team discovers a bloody t-shirt belonging to their six-year-old patient, there's a momentary debate if they should call social services right away and present abuse, and they actually discuss the possibility of it being someone other than her father. Cuddy, however, demands that her dad be arrested right away, and shoots down all suspicions with, "It's always the dad!" Turns out the little girl isn't even being abused at all. She's menstruating.
- Most songs about domestic abuse involve a male perpetrator and female victim.
- Averted in the Eminem ft Rihanna song and video Love the Way You Lie. It's a mutually abusive relationship.
- Also averted in Self-Esteem by The Offspring, about the (male) singer being emotionally abused by his girlfriend.
- Also averted in Matchbox 20's song "Push", about a man being manipulated and emotionally abused by his girlfriend.
- In one Whateley story, during what's a private pool party with undertones of an informal recruitment drive, the notional leader of Poe cottage's "lesbian" faction drops the "without men, rape comes to a screeching halt" bombshell at one point.
- This foul misconception is the entire motivation for Global Guardians PBEM Universe Mad Scientist Doctor XX, who wants to rid the Earth of all male influence. She had a hard life at the hands of more than one truly abusive man, it is true, but she's unreasonably equated "I was abused by three men in my life" to "all men are evil abusers and must be stopped". She's rightly seen as the psychotic murderer she is.
- This website is entitled "Domestic Violence Statistics", and yet by reading the statistics mentioned on the home page one could be forgiven for thinking that domestic violence was something that only women suffer from - of the eleven examples given, eight refer solely to women as victims of domestic violence or men as perpetrators.
- Averted in Web Comic/Digger, Ed's wife is revealed to have abused him and their child.
- Considering they're hyenas, wouldn't this be Inverted?
- In one South Park episode, Ike is in a sexual relationship with his kindergarten teacher. Also, Ike is 3 years old. So when Kyle heads down to the police station and tells them about this, they get all gung ho to bring this pedophile down... until Kyle mentions that she is a woman, and attractive. Kyle is disgusted when they start wanting to congratulate Ike.
- The police eventually arrest the teacher and interrogate her, and react equally inappropriately to the descriptions of her and her twin sister being sexually abused by an uncle. Not so much a double standard as the adults being complete idiots (and, thus, par for the course in this series).
- Also, Stan and his abusive older sister Shelley. People are only sympathetic of his injuries when they incorrectly believe they come from his parents.
- Really more of a half-example; it was implied they would have been horrified if it had been his mother doing the abusing. It was still wrong not to have sympathy for him, but there seemed to be a cut-off point for the age it was acceptable for females to abuse males.
- Also averted by Butters, who's equally abused by his mother, his father and his grandmother.
- Parodied in Daria, with Ms. Barch, who believes all men are evil and is a militant "feminazi" yet is emotionally abusive and manipulative towards Mr. O'Neill.
- In an episode of Family Guy, Peter is being sexually harassed by his female boss, and Lois refuses to take it seriously, insisting that it's "impossible" for a woman to sexually harass a man. The Double Standard worsens later in the episode, when the boss says she was only harassing Peter because she hasn't had sex in a long time.
- Subverted on King of the Hill, where Luanne's mother Leanne abused her husband throughout their marriage and eventually went to jail for trying to stab him with a fork. She later begins dating, and eventually abusing, Bill, then comes onto Luanne's boyfriend and attacks him when he rejects her.
- Played semi-straight in a later episode when Hank is hit on by a female cop. He's portrayed as deeply disturbed by the event, having a very disgusted viewpoint toward sexual misconduct, and quietly hums "Star-Spangled Banner" to himself while she uses a frisking as an excuse to feel his ass. On the one hand, it's unusual for a show to take that stance on the event and show this as a bad thing, but the encounter is also Played for Laughs and could be seen as just another gag coming out of Hank's stick-in-the-mud personality.
- DCAU Justice League's Aresia. Men caused her pain in the past, so 'all men must be evil' -even if the male captain of the destroyed ship she was on as a child saved her life. Although, she was not aware of this initially. Once she finds out, she merely switches her stance to "All men are evil except for him".