The most enjoyable thing about works of fiction is... well... they're fictional. The characters presented are not actual persons; the sufferings and triumphs they experience are not real pain and joy. Reading a book is not the same as being witness to the events it portrays. If it were, then the reader might be under some moral obligation to intervene, to alleviate suffering, or at the very least to try to react "rightly" to the situation in front of them. But since the situation is not real, all bets are off.
Which brings us to this trope. Readers who would never
enjoy the sight of horrors committed against real people can often enjoy the suffering of fictional individuals. Many authors, aware of this, will happily give the readers what they want: Romanticized Abuse, or Abuse Fanservice
. This can happen on four levels:
- Civilization: A Planet of Hats or particularly grim Fetish-Fuel Future.
- Organization: A religious cult, criminal network or whatever fills the role.
- Couple: A husband and wife or other couple may be sweet and respectful towards each other, sharing their mutual hobby of torturing someone else or each other if they are more sympathetic.
- Individual: This level is covered by the gendered subtropes Bastard Girlfriend and Bastard Boyfriend. Putting individual characters as example in the supertrope should only be done if the character is of unknown gender or a genderless shapeshifter/alien/whatever.
The husband and wife of a Romanticized Abuse couple should normally only be mentioned here in the supertrope - it's redundant to also mention them in the gendered subtropes, unless
they also have individual adventures where they are effectively single or in another relationship with a different dynamic. For individuals who represent a civilization or an organization, it's a matter of whether they act as individuals, as representatives, or both.
When combined with Evil Is Sexy
, or any other of the Evil Tropes
, Romanticized Abuse is likely to lead to Draco in Leather Pants
. However, Draco in Leather Pants
may be justified if the group or person whose abusive behavior is romanticized is not necessarily portrayed as evil at all
A subtrope of Fanservice
: Sexual abuse not
designed to be sexy & appealing is not
this trope. Compare and
contrast Casual Kink
as well as Safe, Sane and Consensual
, for characters who live out BDSM fantasies and
show the kind of ethical restraint needed in Real Life
. Note that abuse played for Fetish Fuel
is rarely played only
for Fetish Fuel
. It is often a mix of Fetish Fuel
, Nightmare Fuel
, Fetish Retardant
and so on, and the Fetish Fuel
component is sometimes calculated to maximize the horror value depending on what the creators are going for.
A stock trait of Horny Devils
. Compare Friendly Tickle Torture
for the PG version. Contrast Hollywood Masochism
, since the Romanticized Abuse is clearly abusive — however, as the stories progress, Romanticized Abuse has a tendency to shift over into becoming Hollywood Masochism instead
. There can also be some overlap regarding physical safety and such. Contrast Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny
- The point of Iason's use of Riki's Pet Ring in Ai no Kusabi, which takes place in quite a Fetish-Fuel Future and Dystopian Crapsack World
- All of Mayu Shinjo's works utilize this.
- Actually gets invoked (and Played for Laughs) in MM! when one of the love interests, Arishako, gets accused of being a Domestic Abuser. She actually has a phobia of males and reacts violently when touched by one. Her love interest, Taro, ironically happens to be a sadomasichist, so Arishako argues that it's just how their relationship is.
- A great deal of Hentai works on this principle, especially ones involving bondage.
- The one-sided Ichigo/Kish in Tokyo Mew Mew is much more popular than the Official Couple Ichigo/Masaya. Throughout the series, Kish kisses Ichigo against her will, gets in her face more than she wants him to, and threatens to kill her and Masaya if she doesn't give into his advances. For some reason, the fans in America support this and insist that Ichigo become Kish's.
- The second and third issue of Lou Kagan's Perils of Penelope features a religious cult whose religious doctrine seem to be limited to the ideas that pain is spiritual and that brainwashing people by tying them up and spanking them is the best way to get new converts.
- This concept is key to the Hellraiser movies. Consider some of the following lines:
Pinhead: Oh, I will enjoy making you bleed. And I will enjoy making you enjoy it.
Pinhead: Human dreams...such fertile ground for the seeds of torment. You're so ripe, Joey. And it's harvest time. Save your tears. We'll reap your soul slowly. We have centuries to discover the things that make you whimper. You think your nighttime world is closed to me? Your mind is so naked. A book that yearns to be read. A door that begs to be opened.
- Slave World covers all four levels. On the civilization level, the entire slaveworld is this kind of grim Fetish-Fuel Future. On the organization level, the army of England is designed to maintain social order by turning uppity serfs into Sex Slave cyborgs. On the couple level, Prince Samuel and Lady Isobel have this as their mutual hobby. On the individual level, most aristocrats qualify for the appropriately gendered trope.
- Most civilizations on Gor seem to be built with this as one of their basic premises.
- Most novels by the Marquis de Sade (the guy "sadism" is named after) stays strictly in Romanticized Abuse territory, being about unrestrained sadism rather than mutual sadomasochism. It's all played for Fetish Fuel and political satire about how hypocritical, oppressive and unjust the socioeconomic system really was.
- A lot of people claim that Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey do this. Edward and Bella is less aggressive (stalking, obsession and abandonment are a thing but still), but Anastasia and Christian is noticeably more abusive (ranging from outright raping to the incorrect use of the BDSM). In fact, the latter two are the epitome of this.
- The "four marks" in the Anita Blake enable a vampire to turn a person into a "human servant", whether the person wants to be or not. In addition, these marks force the person to fall in love (and in the Anita Blake universe, Sex Equals Love) with the vampire who has, effectively, mind-raped them. There's no way to break the bond without killing the person, either. So vampires can turn human beings into sex slaves. And they do it with no one punishing them for it. On the contrary, such permanent sex slavery is seen as a good thing.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit sometimes go for having their cake and eat it too, denouncing the horrors of sexual abuse by displaying it in almost pornographic details.
- One episode, named "Slaves", revels in the details on how a young Romanian woman has been imprisoned, brainwashed and used as a sex toy by an American couple. Lots of neatly presented details about the horrors she endured makes for a strange mix of Fetish Fuel and Nausea Fuel. Surprisingly, the detectives let the wife off the hook in exchange for selling out her husband, in spite of the fact that she murdered the girl's aunt without even informing her husband about it afterward.
- Another episode, named "Spectacle", runs on the principle that no one can resist watching a good rape. The episode starts with a video broadcast of a woman getting raped by a masked man popping up on the intranet of a university campus. It turns out that the guy who had the woman kidnapped and raped lost his little brother a long time ago. The brother was kidnapped, and the police gave up searching after a little while. After this cold case is solved, the unsurprising reveal is made that they were simply playing make-believe rape as a little Activist Fundamentalist Antics plot to get the police's attention.
- iCarly has Freddie and Sam. Even though the abuse between them is For Laughs, fans started shipping them after the first episode aired.The romanticized abuse becomes more evident when Sam starts beating up Freddie later in the series. The writers even have Sam say that she started developing feelings for him after he was ran over by a biker and was lying on the ground, bleeding from his ear. Yikes.
- In Doctor Who, Peri, a companion added as Parent Service, spent her tenure being molested by virtually every single villain, bullied in a vaguely sexualised way by the Doctor and eventually given a Traumatic Haircut and a Mind Rape by a sadistic slug monster before marrying a nasty warrior king at the last minute. Between the attractiveness and portrayal of the actress and the fact that the audience was meant to think the new, Darker and Edgier Doctor was totally cool, it ended up coming across as titillation. (In a children's show, no less.) Doctor Who had long been known for sexy companions and putting pretty characters in danger for the audience's amusement, but Peri's treatment still stood out as much more extreme than anything that had come before and is one of the more controversial elements of that era.
- Several Blutengel songs go along these lines - often on a gender-neutral and structural level, talking about the lifestyles of vampires in general rather than about the actions of individual vampires.
- "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)" by The Crystals
- Katy Perry spends the song "E.T." portraying the concept of Alien Abduction as this trope.
- "Kiss with a Fist" by Florence + the Machine
- "The Hurt Makes it Beautiful" by Hugo.
- "Ain't Nobody's Business if I Do" by Billie Holiday, where she defiantly declares how happy she is with her abusive husband (yes, it was Truth in Television)
- "Sweet Pain" by KISS.
- Geist The Sin Eaters supplement Book Of The Dead is about realms of the dead. One of them is a very friendly place called Oppia, which offers an abundance of food and Sex Slaves. Of course, it's very easy to break a rule and get enslaved yourself. Some of the slaves chose to remain slaves after they have served the term of their punishment.
- The New World of Darkness book Inferno, covering demons, is based on the seven deadly sins, and the "lust" part is designed for creating characters (of either gender) who fit this trope.
- In the Vampire: The Masquerade supplement Ghouls: Fatal Addiction, the Camarilla was played straight as this kind of organization. The theme of playing the social structure between Vampires and Ghouls as Romanticized Abuse is hinted in the core rulebook as well as many other supplements, but it's much more blatant in "Ghouls". (In this setting, a "ghoul" is a human who drinks vampire blood. The blood makes her superhumanly strong, makes her stop aging, lets her heal faster and increases her sexual urges, but it also enslaves her under the Vampire's will.)
- The Dark Eldar in Warhammer 40,000 take this to its logical extreme: they literally survive on the pain and suffering of others. Other races tend to inflict a great deal of abuse on their captives. The Dark Eldar eroticize it.
- The musical Carousel and the play it's based on, Liliom, feature a character asking her mother if it's possible for "a man to hit you ... hit you real hard ... and have it feel like a kiss." (In both, the mother answers "yes", because that's exactly the relationship she had with the girl's father.)
- Basically everyone in Metal Gear has weird sexual issues about war and violence. Of course, this is played for horror/drama as well as for fanservice, but at the end of the day sexualising violence is mostly about making all the people really attractive, putting them in ridiculously tight suits, having lots of close-ups on the crotches and butts, inserting gratuitous Ho Yay, and playing enemyship as if it was heart-shatteringly romantic melodrama.
- Bernkastel and Lambdadelta in Umineko no Naku Koro ni take this trope Up to Eleven. Being all-powerful witches who will do anything to avoid boredom, a regular "punishment game" for them will involve things like locking each other up at the bottom of a hollow tower, turning all the stars in the sky into diamonds and dropping them, one by one, onto the other one until they are crushed into a pulp.
- Considering the end of Episode 6, Battler and Beatrice seem to be heading in this direction. Back when Beatrice was pretending to be a Card-Carrying Villain, they definitely were.
- Todd in the Shadows frequently complains about songs that sound like this. In addition to the above mentioned "E.T.", there's "Tonight (I'm Fucking You)", "Give Me Everything" ("Grab somebody sexy, tell 'em hey \ Give me everything tonight!") "Blurred Lines", "Gorilla"...
Why does, like, every third song I review on this show sound like a sex offender wrote it? Is Billboard secretly sponsored by roofies