On average, men have greater upper body strength than women. Because most people don't actually understand concepts like "average" very well, in a lot of people's minds this turns into "any given man is always much, much stronger than any given woman." Since a true hero never uses his strength against the weak, and all women are supposedly weak compared to him, it follows that a hero must never use physical violence against any woman, ever.
When applied to ordinary bar fights, schoolyard throwdowns, duels of honor and so on, the trope is well-meaning if sexist (against both men and women, albeit in different ways). However, when characters keep invoking it in situations where their female opponent poses a serious threat that might only be preventable by violence, it quickly becomes absurd. The cynical might point out that, rather than being motivated by pure nobility of spirit, this philosophy functions as a convenient way for the male character to avoid the humiliation of being beaten by a woman; if he refuses to fight against women, there's no way for a woman to ever prove she could defeat him at his full strength.
Since ideas about gender roles are in flux and tend to vary widely, modern media can be highly inconsistent about whether this trope is portrayed as a good or bad thing. If a villain refuses to fight a heroic Action Girl on these grounds, it's a toss-up whether this will be portrayed as a sign that he has at least a warped sense of honor after all, or as profoundly insulting. Of course, the villain might be not sure of his chances and the refusal to fight might be just a trick. If a hero can't bring himself to strike a villainess, it either means that he's a chivalrous guy or an old-fashioned, patronizing attitude toward women is one of his few character flaws. Occasionally you'll even see both at once, particularly in heroic cases; the character's reluctance to hit women may be portrayed as a sympathetic flaw stupid and sexist, but ultimately born out of an admirable desire to behave ethically and avoid being a bully.
Action heroes (or villains) who invoke this trope even though they face female opponents find various ways to get around it. At minimum, they'll make a quip along the lines of I normally hate hitting women, but in this case I'll make an exception or "I don't hit ladies, but you're no lady" before they start to strike back. They might try to find creative ways to defeat her nonviolently, perhaps through trickery; they might try to minimize the necessary violence by using grapples or pressure point attacks rather than actual blows; or they might get off on a technicality by doing something that indirectly results in physical harm to the female opponent without actually striking or firing a weapon against her. In supernatural settings, the problem may be resolved by the male character temporarily turning into a woman, voluntarily or not, thus freeing him from a gentleman's obligations toward the fairer sex. Probably the most common solution, however, is for the male character to simply defer to a female ally who faces no such moral dilemma.
Due to Media Watchdogs, this trope is often quietly applied without being explicitly invoked, especially in cartoons and other media aimed at children. This is often noticeable even when feeling obligated by the trope would seem completely out of character, or when the overall message of the work seems to undermine the whole women are weak and need protection idea that forms the justification for the trope. Sure, the work never says or implies that the female characters' combat skills are in any way different from their male counterparts', but somehow by pure coincidence the token female team member is always the one who ends up fighting the female villains.
Sometimes the reason is pure PR: Even if a guy is justified and doesn't mind hitting a girl, chances are he will be seen as a thug if he does. Truth in Television, many a man defending himself in real life has been attacked by bystanders, mobs and even the police upon being seen hitting a girl, context be damned.
Often a form of Heroic Vow. May be a form of Innocent Bigotry when it's portrayed as sexist, but the male character genuinely had no idea that some people would see it that way. Compare Would Not Shoot a Civilian, which encompasses this in settings where women are not combatants. See also Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil. A Wife-Basher Basher lives out this trope with righteous fury. Contrast Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!, the one situations where he can hit a girl.
Remember, aversions and subversions go under Would Hit a Girl.
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Anime and Manga
Maken-ki!: The main character has this philosophy. He also feels that women shouldn't even fight amongst themselves for any reason.
Used brilliantly in the Hellsing manga and OVA. After assisting Integra in a fight against Nazi vampires, some Iscariot members insist on her coming along as their prisoner. She refuses to do so, and, baffled about what to do, they propose knocking her out or tying her up. Integra points out that attempting this would be unfair because they outnumber her, and implies that there would be something thuggish and perverse about them attempting it because she's a woman. Anderson agrees, and instead the group settles on escorting her wherever she wants to go.
Ranma ½ has the eponymous character, whom Fanon usually considers averse to fighting women no matter what the cause is. In canon, not so much; while there are one or two times he expresses the sentiment that he doesn't particularly like to fight girls, it mostly seems to be fans reading too much into the fact that Akane and his unwanted girlfriends can all give him the "total beatdown" version of the Armor-Piercing Slap despite being inferior martial artists. Compared to him. Perhaps fuelled by hearsay about a comment Ranma makes to Akane the first time in the series that the two of them are sentenced to Standing in the Hall, where he mildly suggests that the reason Akane always beats Kuno is because when a guy is fighting a girl he likes, he might decide to let her win. The reality is that Ranma is quite willing to fight women, will leap into battle with them without thinking, and only fights them on a relatively "low level" because:
He normally only fights at his best and/or most brutal when against the nastiest or most annoying opponents, such as Happosai and Herb.
There is a shown cultural stigma against fighting girls, which he knows about (shown in multiple arcs, such as the arc with Miss Hinako).
Guilty Crown: Dan Eagleman is disgusted when Segai points a gun at Haruka Ouma. Even when hindered by the cancerous crystals caused by the Apocalypse Virus, he throws himself at Segai and punches him in the face, giving Haruka a chance to escape.
Jakotsu, the flamboyantly gay villain with a crush on Inuyasha, was originally supposed to be female. The author changed him to male because she didn't want Inuyasha to kill a girl.
Against Abi, Inuyasha remarks that he doesn't like fighting women, but she's so evil he'll make an exception. However, Naraku "gave" Abi a trident (made from his bones) that creates a defensive barrier. Eventually, it is Naraku who kills both Abi and her mother.
This gets played for laughs in the second Non-Serial Movie. Inuyasha has had one sleeve of his firerat fur kimono torn off as an item to break the seal binding Kaguya. After reuniting with Sango and Miroku, Sango asks why he's dressed so funny as he isn't normally such a slob. Inuyasha promptly belts Miroku over the head, who points out in dismay he hadn't said or done anything offensive and asks why Inuyasha hit him for Sango's insult. Inuyasha refuses to answer with anything more than "I felt like it".
Kuwabara is revealed to have "don't fight girls" as part of his personal moral code. He even refuses to fight the demon Miyuki during the Rescue Yukina arc, despite the fact that she is both deliberately challenging him and quite offended by this attitude. Yusuke, meanwhile, promptly steps up and reveals that he has no problems with fighting girls, declaring that he doesn't understand what the problem is with refusing to fight somebody who wants to fight you just because they're a different sex and proceeding to brutally finish her off. In the unedited dub, after beating her senseless, Kuwabara starts to protest Yusuke's actions in outrage, for which Yusuke reluctantly explains that Miyuki isn't a woman at all. She's a female-dressed transsexual (presumably male to female, though comments made could be taken as making her to be a female to male) with breasts and male sexual organs, leading to the following amusing quote:
Yusuke: The family jewels have not been stolen.
Yusuke explains that he opened the fight by groping Miyuki on both the chest and crotch, the latter because something didn't quite feel right about the breasts. When Kuwabara asks if this means that Yusuke would have taken it easier if Miyuki had really been a girl, Yusuke refuses to answer. When Miyuki herself claims that Yusuke was actually extra rough because of her true nature, Yusuke batters her unconscious and insists he treated her exactly the way he would have treated any of his opponents, male, female or in-between. In essence, the scene manages to play the trope straight, avert it, and then subvert it in rapid succession.
Sanji chivalrously refuses to fight women, or in one case Mr. 2 Bon Clay taking the form of a woman (Nami, although that was partially because he couldn't stop swooning over how cute "she" was) even if it means his death. A fan once asked the author to expand on the scene where Sanji is beaten because he can't hurt a female assassin. The author admitted that he didn't want to write the scene, but specified that Sanji is physically unable to bring himself to hit a woman, which hurts his pride.
He points a gun at Nico Robin on one occasion, but admits that it was a reflex to protect Vivi.
Sanji's moral code is played with in the One Piece: Grand Battle video game. If you play as Sanji vs. any female character, his dialog will change. He'll still fight like normal, but he'll say things like "I'm so sorry!" "Oh no! What have I done!" and "someone else is controlling my legs!"
Zoro may or may not be like this.
Tashigi thought this trope was in action when Zoro didn't kill her after their fight, but doesn't seem to understand that due to her resemblance to his childhood friend, doing so would probably would have caused him to have a Freak Out of epic proportions.
In chapter 687, Tashigi claims that Zoro was holding back on fighting Monet because he held a dismissive attitude towards women. This is left vague as Zoro does say there are some things he doesn't like to cut and if he can avoid it he will, but he doesn't let that stop him from cutting Monet in half when the latter was about to bite off Tashigi's shoulder. On the other hand, Zoro was perfectly capable of bypassing Monet's Nigh-Invulnerability and killing her outright, but deliberately chose not to, instead splitting her in a way that she could pull herself back together from. When Monet tries attacking him again, Tashigi has to deliver the finishing blow, though Zoro claims that he would have done it himself had it come to that.
Ironically for Zoro, arguably the one most fine with hitting girls, due to his refusal to fight Marine Swordswoman Tashigi because she looks pretty much identical to the girl he kept trying to beat when he was young before she died, he gets accused of being sexist about swordswomen whenever he goes out of his way to avoid fighting Tashigi. He's interesting in that while he'll certainly fight a female warrior in battle if challenged or attacked first and won't hold anything back, he really disapproves of just attacking innocent women for the hell of it. He flips his lid when Eneru fries Robin just for speaking out of turn because "she's a woman" and gets even more pissed when Eneru responds that he doesn't care.
Even when fighting women who can fight back, he has a tendency to use the minimum force needed to beat them. Zoro doesn't like fighting women, but he will if has too. Arguably the only female he has and would ever had fought seriously is Kuina-at least until the Time Skip.
Dragon Ball: In the first Martial Arts Tournament featured, Ran-Fan's entire strategy revolves around this and stripping.
In the Dragon Ball Z Super Android 13 movie, when Chi-Chi hits Krillin with a shopping bag and kicks him, Krillin only tried to run away from her and makes no effort to fight back.
The title character refuses to hit a girl, saying that it's not something a gentleman would do. This becomes a problem twice, once with Miu who he trains with (but is told that if he does not try to fight back then it just hurts both of their chances of getting stronger) and with Kisara who HATES it when people don't fight her because she's a girl. Later in the series, when faced with this situation, Kenichi learns to compensate by using Jujutsu. Possessing many grappling-style techniques, it allows Kenichi to disable female opponents without striking them and with minimal violence.
YAMI member Akira "God Fist" Hongo proves to be fairly chivalrous as well. When Shigure (alongside Apachai) attacks him, he brushes both of them off without actually striking back, saying in the process that he's not interested in fighting women (while in Apachai's case, it's because he's hurt from an earlier fight).
Shigure: He treated me...as a woman. (light blush)
Judai Yukai in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. As he tells Tania, he never hits girls. (He's fine with the soul-battle she enacts with her magical Amazoness Arena card, however.)
A weird example happens in the manga version of Yu Gi Oh ZEXAL during Yuma's duel with the Numbers Hunter Princess Cologne. When Cologne summons her ace monster, Number 22: Zombiestein (a huge, hulking, ugly, undead beast) it seems unstoppable, ripping through Yuma's monsters and all his defenses. However, when Yuma uses an effect that summons Gagaga Girl, Zombiestein not only refuses to attack her, he seems to fall in love, offering her a bouquet of flowers. Sadly, Gagaga Girl rejects his affection, but he still refuses to attack, and that gives Yuma the opening he needs to summon Utopia and defeat Zombiestein, along with Cologne.
Naruto Shikamaru is faced with this moral issue several times, as he doesn't like to hit women, but also feels a man can't lose to a woman. When facing Tayuya, he does say that it's "against his code" to strike a lady, but notes that Tayuya doesn't count as one (it helps that she'd gone One-Winged Angel and didn't look very feminine anymore.)
Mahou Sensei Negima!: Kotarou does not like having to hit girls. After Kaede utterly kicks his butt due to his refusal to hit her, everybody (Kaede included) treats his dislike of hitting girlsnote though his refusal to hit girls did not stop him from launching a girl a couple hundred feet into the sky with a blast of air as a stupid idea that he needs to get over in order to be a better fighter. This particularly hurts him since 95% of the cast is female. Including at least half the villains. He gets over it later.
Natsuki Crisis: Subverted/parodied. Natsuki's fellow karate club members claim that this is the reason they won't practice against her... but it's obvious that the real reason is that she can kick their butts, and they're too scared.
Saint Seiya: Apart from having the Bronze Saints consider even pointing a finger against Saori aka Athena (though this is more for her being their Goddess and a non-combatant), Seiya refused to fight the female Silver Saint OphicusShaina often. When she specifically sought him and tried to force him to fight, he specifically told her he wouldn't fight her because she was a girl, prompting Shaina to go into a Motive Rant to explain why she wanted to fight him.
Inverted with Ikki, in the Hades arc. He slaps Pandora in the face, saying that unlike Seiya and the other main character saints, he doesn't care about the fact that she's a woman or not. If it's evil, gender doesn't matter, he'll exterminate without remorse.
Slam Dunk: During the fight in the Shohoku gym one of Mitsui's gangster friends (from before his Heel-Face Turn) slaps Ayako and throws her to the floor when she tells Rukawa not to fight. Ryota Miyagi, who's in love with Ayako, goes absolutely apeshit, kicks the guy to the floor and punches him until he's unconscious, all the while screaming that women should never be hit.
Basilisk: Brutal and bloody subversion. Saemon Kisaragi of the Koga Ten says it's not in him to hit or kill women... right after he kills Hotarubi of the Iga Ten by cutting off both of her hands and stabbing her in the chest, then letting her fall down a cliff.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Greed refuses to fight Izumi, saying "I don't fight women, it's not my style." This doesn't stop him from making the side of his face as hard as diamond when Izumi tries to punch him, causing her to break several of her fingers.
Eyeshield 21: The Deimon Devil Bats go up against the Teikoku Alexanders, whose quarterback is female. Hiruma senses misplaced chivalrous intent in his team and cuts the problem off at the knees by making up a story to them about Karin, the female quarterback— her name's really Karinrou and she's a man, so you'd better go all out on her. It works.
Aramaki feels guilty about knocking Orihime out when she tries to bite him in order to go back and assist Uryu. Mayuri suggests that part of the "honor of the Quincy" involves protecting women- even enemies- after Uryu protests his mistreating his female lieutenant and "daughter," Nemu.
Lampshaded and then averted by Renji. Jackie asks him if he's not attacking her just because she's a woman, but Renji calmly says it's not about gender but about him not being willing to attack first. Considering both his Curb-Stomp Battleand"The Reason You Suck" Speech against her...
Tsukishima orders his minion Shishigawara to assault Orihime. When he learns his target is a girl, Shishigawara is unsure of what to do, not to mention gushing over how cute she is. He decides to break his moral code and attack her because he fears his master's wrath, but Tsukishima suddenly Flash Steps up and cuts Orihime down with his sword, much to Shishigawara's horror.
When Hime-chan from Himechan No Ribon asked Daichi to hit her (because she hit him earlier and she felt guilty) he refused to hit a girl. So she grabbed his fist and punched herself with it.
Kongoh Bancho: Partially averted, where the protagonist Akira Kongoh has no problem fighting a girl, but often either underestimates them or intentionally holds back because of their gender. Although in both cases shown so far it's proven to be a rather bad idea, and he doesn't actually win until he goes all out.
Played with. Most characters in this manga don't have a problem hitting girls, including a biker gang that Hibiki must confront to save her Non-Action GuyLove Interest. After the other Split Personality, Fujiko, takes care of the underlings, Hibiki confronts the leader and puts him in the hospital for a few weeks. Much later, the gang leader's girlfriend asks them to beat up this annoying girl she ran into... who happens to be Hibiki. The entire gang spontaneously decides they don't hit women.
Aizawa plays this trope straight. Although he is a "Yankee" Delinquent who fights very ungentlemanly against guys, he is unwilling to hit a girl, even if a girl (usually unintentionally) offenses him. The only exception is when he deals with the tomboyish Ginga, whose fighting skills are, however, on par with his.
In Bakuman。, when Miyoshi demands that Mashiro and Takagi let her into their office, Takagi reluctantly decides to answer the door, saying that she would beat him up later. He says that he would fight back and win, but can't because she's a girl, and Mashiro doubts this statement (besides, as we know, she can beat them both up like nobody's business).
Surprisingly, Arika invokes this trope in Mai-Otome Zwei. After Yukino offers herself as a hostage in order to convince the terrorists to let the passengers of the hijacked bus go, she asks them to do the same for Arika, only to be told that they're keeping her since she's one of Nagi's greatest enemies. When Yukino warns them that Windbloom will become their enemy if any harm comes to Arika, one of them is prepared to hit her, but Arika intercedes, telling them that her grandmother said that men who hit women are terrible people. The terrorist reluctantly stops himself.
Fist of the North Star: Of all types of lowlife Kenshiro had to face, he never had to or would fight a woman who isn't the helpless wastelander type.
Played straight in the High School Girls are Funky skit Resentment: Facing Yanagi and Ikushima's attacks, Karasawa didn't in fact hit any of them a bit—the closest to this he did was to turn 180 degrees so that Yanagi kicked Ikushima's butt instead. The entire thing was, instead, ended by him showing his scar.
Subverted in High School Boys and Seniority, Motoharu didn't hit his sister's classmates that are bullying him...not because they're girls, but because they're senior to him.
Sekirei mostly avoids this, since almost all combatants are female. However, one odd example occurs during an Involuntary Battle to the Death, when Master Swordsman Mutsu remains on the defensive against opponents that have already terminated several of his comrades. When asked why he doesn't draw and fight them seriously, he explains that he doesn't like to cut down women. It may be somewhat justified in that they're essentially his younger sisters, with it previously established that the Single Numbers tend to have a Big Brother Instinct when it comes to the other Sekirei. Even so, it's somewhat jarring due to the life-or-death situation.
In Astérix and the Secret Weapon The villain attempts to use this trope to defeat the invincible-yet-honourable Gauls - by employing a whole centuria of women to fight them. The Gauls respond by transforming their village into a giant mall. The "trap" succeeds flawlessly.
In the 70's, The Avengers fought against the "Lion king", an African deity who wanted to capture the Black Panther. He defeated all the other Avengers, but refused to fight against the Black Widow: instead, he summoned a pair of common lions to deal with her. The Widow pointed that she was glad that she did not belong to the tribe of such a sexist god.
Captain America: Used and subverted in an issue. Going up against Anaconda, a rare female villain who is muscular, does not possess the Most Common Superpower, and genuinely enjoys a fistfight, Cap pulled a punch "in deference to her womanhood", then decided not to make that mistake again. He then realized that she could shrug off punches that "could shatter bone", and had to resort to his shield.
"The Mad Adventures of Captain Klutz" by Don Martin. Parodied in the short story "Chicken Soup", the eponymous hero admits that his superhero code prohibits him from hitting the elderly female villain turning everyone into zombies - but it doesn't say anything about not SHOOTING her!
The Cavalier from Batman prides himself on being a man of the highest moral fibre; not only does he refuse to harm women, but upon seeing a woman in peril he will help Batman save her, and has several times interrupted one of his own crimes to help an old woman with her luggage. He finally pulled a Heel-Face Turn when Leslie Thompkins saved his life and became the defender of her clinic, which was deep in gang territory.
Ex Machina: In the second issue, we see a flashback to when Hundred first met Angotti while he was still The Great Machine. She attacks him, trying to subdue and arrest him, and when he doesn't understand she explains the damage he causes, citing a recent incident in which a female officer was injured. He's guilty over the accident, but seems moreso after finding out he hurt a woman.
J.A.K.E., the GI Robot, froze up when faced with an enemy robot that looks like a woman. It turns out his programming doesn't recognize women as hostiles, as it was never expected that he would face one. Incapable of firing on her, he eventually brings her down indirectly — by leading her on a chase through a minefield.
'New Avengers'', after Victoria Hand had pissed off the Avengers, thanks to her actions nearly resulted in Mockingird's death, we get this lovely dialogue.
Wolverine: If there's one thing I hate, its hittin' a dame. (Que Mockingbird, who has recently gained super strength decking Hand without warning)
Mockingbird: Fortunately, I have no such issue.
Played straight, but for laughs in the non-canon Planetary / Batman crossover comic. Several versions of Batman are encountered, including the Adam West one, who uses "Bat-Female-Villain-Repellent" on Jakita. The other versions have much less trouble hitting her.
The Punisher: Prior to Garth Ennis, Frank had a habit of going easier on women than men. He once laments that he doesn't know why, given all the evil women he's met. They usually try to kill him despite his mercy, making it a moot point.
Captain Marvel: In a 1970s comic, the Marvel Family storms Hell itself. They fight various mythological monsters there; when they run into Lamia, neither Billy nor Freddy dare hit her, despite her being a half-snake monster. Luckily they brought Mary Marvel along. Pow!
Sin City: Played straight in the comic book and film; Marv has some (albeit a very few) moral lines in the sand, which he crosses only with extreme reluctance - hitting a woman is one of them. In fact, he despises that so much, that other people hitting women is his Berserk Button, particularly in regards to Nancy Callahan, his favorite among the strippers at Kadie's. He crosses this line on only two occasions in the series: to spare his companion Wendy, Goldie's twin sister, from having to watch him torture Goldie's killer Kevin to death, and executing a female slave trader who was planning to sell a girl who Marv was trying to find and bring back to her mother into sexual slavery.
The first time Spider-Man encountered a female villain, he said that he couldn't hit a girl. He gets over some of it at some point.
Subverted early in the John Byrne reboot: Superman faces a gang which includes a violent, glasses-wearing, heavily armed female member spouting revolutionary phrases. She tries the double-powered "You wouldn't hit a lady with glasses, would you?". Superman gently removes her glasses and flicks his finger on her forehead, knocking her cold. He then says, "A lady? No, but then I've never met a lady who carries dynamite under her coat."
And yet after that, Superman backslides into being bound by this trope. Fortunately for Metropolis, most of his opponents are male because, when he fights a woman, he gets slapped around a lot because he can't be shown striking her, even when she's clearly powerful enough to take one of his punches. He'll restrain her or attack her in an indirect fashion (like pouring water on Livewire), or a female superhero will step in (often after he's been dropped) and beat the villainess up for him.
Slightly-subverted in Alan Moore's "Tom Strong" when he's attacked by jet-flying leather-clad female Nazis. Although he doesn't much like hitting women, he smiles at the thought of punching fascists.
Ultimate Spider-Man: In the Black Cat arc, Spider-Man is reluctant to fight with either Black Cat or Elektra.
Wonder Woman: In volume 3 #20, Diana ticks off Beowulf, and he attacks her. After she punches him in the face, Beowulf apologises and says he doesn't fight women. Then they see Grendel's worshippers approaching, and Diana asks him if he ever fights beside women. Cue the pair readying themselves for battle.
Small Soldiers: Chip Hazard references the trope, but he's very selective about how he applies it. His statement is in reference to a bunch of Barbie dolls he and his fellow toys roboticized. He really has no problem killing human women if necessary.
Batman Returns: When Batman and Catwoman are fighting for the first time, she pummels him and he refuses to counterattack - for a moment. When finally he does punch her out, she whimpers, "How could you? I'm a woman!" Immediately contrite, Batman moves to help her up... and she knocks him off the rooftop. "As I was saying, I'm a woman, and can't be taken for granted!" In later encounters, Batman has learnt his lesson and does hit her.
In Romeo Must Die, Han is attacked by a female assailant but can't bring himself to hit her. So he fights back by holding his love interest Trish and manipulating her arms and legs so that she's technically the one beating up the attacker. This scene inspired the famous dance between the pair in Aaliyah's music video for "Try Again".
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World features a scene where Scott must fight Ramona's fourth evil ex, Roxanne Richter. Scott protests, saying he doesn't want to hit girls. "They're soft." Instead, Ramona manipulates his limbs so she's the one actually fighting. Ultimately Scott must fight his own battles, and he manages to defeat Roxanne without hitting her by touching her erogenous zone behind her knee. Scott's chivalry stands in contrast to Todd and Gideon, who very pointedly Would Hit a Girl.
In Bruges: Ray knocks out a woman who took a swing at him with a bottle. He justifies this to the female lead by explaining he would never normally hit a woman but since she came at him with a deadly weapon, he felt ok taking her out in self defence.
Rush Hour 2: Played with. As Carter (Chris Tucker) has to fight Zhang Ziyi's character, he says "I'm gonna pretend you a man. A very beautiful man with a great body that I'd like to take to the movies." Granted, he has to resort to trickery to beat her, since she outclassed him in hand-to-hand combat by a mile, so he doesn't directly hit her anyway.
Fighter: the sensei orders one of the members of the Action Girl lead's new kung fu club to fight her. He protests that he doesn't fight women. The sensei tells him to fight everyone, or leave.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai plays with this trope. Louie, despite being a mobster, won't take any action against a female traffic cop who pulled him over for speeding, even though she's needlessly holding him up from attempting to get his dying friend Vinny to the hospital. Vinny, however, (who is also a mobster) doesn't even hesitate to shoot her. When a horrified Louie calls him on it, Vinny responds by saying that he's just treating her like he would any other cop.
Time Cop: Van Damme's character, Max, confronts a female double agent who attacks him. Initially he doesn't fight back and tells her "I don't want to fight a woman." The woman has no qualms with hitting a man, so she gets some free attacks on him without retaliation. Max then subverts the trope when he says "I changed my mind," and punches her back.
The most tense scene in The Guns of Navarone involves the protagonists arguing over whether they should shoot a female Double Agent. Just as their leader is about to do so and David Niven's character rushes to stop him, the other female member of the team shoots The Mole dead.
Although many of the women of Randland wield more political power than men, and are frequently seen physically abusing men, most cultures are extremely protective of women, causing many men to refuse to harm a woman for any reason. Many women, however, protest this behavior.
Rand al'Thor is the most prominent example. He refuses to harm a woman even if she's an immortal agent of Ultimate Evil and trying to kill him using legendary magical powers. He also goes out of his way to avoid putting women in danger, which upsets his Amazonian bodyguards immensely. In fact, Rand has memorized the name or identifying characteristic of every woman who died because of him or while in his service. He once goes into a Heroic BSOD after a woman who tried to steal his throne and betray him commits suicide. The 12th book suggests that his behavior is the result of his growing insanity, which magnifies his chivalrous upbringing.
Mat Cauthon also develops a case after ordering the death of a woman in Crossroads of Twilight. He will, however, spank women who try to boss him around too much, even Aes Sedai. Luckily for Mat, his betrotheddoes not share his hang-ups.
In the nation of Altara, women wear knives around their necks to slash up their husbands when angered. The husbands are expected to accept this treatment without resistance, to the point of death.
The Dresden Files, book version. In the early books, Harry is absurdly chivalrous. He knows it, and considers it a weakness (he's definitely met his fair share of evil women), but can't seem to do anything about it. He has been able to make himself attack women in very extreme circumstances, but it requires him being pushed right to the wall before he can overcome his chivalrous reflex enough to even defend himself properly from a female attacker.
In More Adventures of the Great Brain, the kids all taunt a 12-year old girl named Dottie, who dresses like a boy and has never been to school before. Ringleader Sammy gets a little too close, so she punches him in the nose. He says he'd fight back if she weren't a girl, but she tells him to go ahead. Sammy ends up eating dirt, and once she learns to fit in, Dottie becomes a celebrity among the other girls for beating up a bigger boy in a "fair and square fight."
In Lois McMaster Bujold's Paladin of Souls, Arhys kills seven enemy sorcerers before being defeated by the eighth. Ista tells the others that the last sorcerer was probably a young and beautiful woman, and Arhys couldn't overcome his chivalry in time to win the fight. His brother remarks sadly that it is an appropriate death for him.
Subverted in A World Gone Mad. JerkassAnti-Hero Griffin, when confronted by teen Action Girl Tanya, raises his hands and tells her "I'd never hit a girl." He then promptly whips out his gun and shoots her in the head while she's occupied preparing to give him a "you sexist idiot" speech.
Played completely straight in another of David Weber's book series, the Hell's Gate series where both empires have big, big issues with harming women.
Lobsang Ludd from the novel Thief of Time met 3 humanly disguised auditors. He beat two of them, but he couldn't beat up the third one. Why? Obviously, for no other reason than that the auditor had dressed itself as a woman. Lucky Susan Sto-Helit took it out.
Banjo, a brutish but childlike thug from Hogfather, had deep objections to hitting girls because of his monstrously domineering mother's rules.
The Librarian usually gets aggressive, when he's called a monkey, but when Ginger does it in Moving Pictures, he just pats her hand. He also just wags a finger at Agnes in Maskerade, to which another character says "He likes you. He doesn't usually go in for warnings."
In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novel The Traitors Hand, the colonel of the Tallarn regiment refuses to participate in an interregimental competition of unarmed combat because the women in the Vallahan regiment would participate, which is "unseemly." Whereupon their regimental champion was "promptly and informally challenged" by a female Vallahan.
The book Friday the 13th: Church of the Divine Psychopath has Captain Hobb, the leader of the strike team sent out to kill Jason, getting into a fight with a female member of the group named Samantha, who hates his guts and wants to take over the operation. While at first reluctant to fight back, Hobb says "screw it" after getting hit really hard one too many times and knocks Sam out with the combination of a Boob Attack and knee to the face.
In several books in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar setting, there is a sword named Need that cannot be used against a woman, even if its bearer will die if they can't defend themselves. Needless to say, this can cause problems. The reasons for this are different than the usual justification - Need's bearers are usually women themselves. The sword was forged specifically for the purpose of stopping violence against women.
This is the rule among the Green Martians. However, Tars Tarkas warns a murderess:
He may not kill you, Sarkoja, it is not our custom, but there is nothing to prevent him tying one end of a strap about your neck and the other end to a wild throat, merely to test your fitness to survive and help perpetuate our race.
The Red Martians are even more so. In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, when Nutus tells his son Astok that they must hide his guilt in the kidnapping of Thuvia, and suggests that killing her would be best, even his weak and wicked son is horrified.
Cruel to their enemies are the men of Mars; but the word "enemies" is commonly interpreted to mean men only. Assassination runs riot in the great Barsoomian cities; yet to murder a woman is a crime so unthinkable that even the most hardened of the paid assassins would shrink from you in horror should you suggest such a thing to him.
The Survivalist series by Jerry Ahern. Sarah Rourke takes a Soviet officer hostage and forces him to release members of La Résistance. She later discovers that he'd been carrying a concealed pistol all the time, but had been unable to bring himself to shoot her.
This trope is mocked in one book. Sir Gawain finds out that his younger brother informed a potential (male) opponent that he would "never raise a sword against the skirts of womanhood." The other guy showed up in a skirt, and the poor, dumb brother let him win. Gawain is very disgusted with him.
Variations on this trope come up a couple of times. The Princess, the Crone, and the Dungcart Knight, an adaptation of Chrétien de Troyes's The Knight of the Cart, features a girl with a sword, who has to cope both with the fact that she's about eleven and that she's female in terms of getting taken seriously. Although people not taking her seriously is the only reason she survives the book, given all she ever gets trained to do is quickdraw.
The Sisters of the Light attempt to invoke this with Richard in the Sword of Truth book, Stone of Tears. He promptly tells them off for how stupid that idea is.
Played straight in Never Let Me Go. Tommy is horrified when he accidentally whacks Kathy across the face. Later, when he apologizes to her, he states that he'd "never hit a girl".
In Monster Blood III , Evan and Andy can't stop laughing after drinking a formula they were given. When Conan thinks they are laughing at him, he beats up Evan. Since he doesn't hit girls, he sticks Andy on a tree branch.
In Jeeves and Wooster: It's Madeline Bassett's good fortune that Bertie Wooster is too much of a proper Englishman to knock some understanding into her in Right Ho, Jeeves.
The exquisite code of politeness of the Woosters prevented me clipping her one on the ear-hole, but I would have given a shilling to be able to do it.
Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Harry Wong in Lethal Justice apparently has this attitude towards Yoko Akia when they spar against each other. She unhesitatingly kicks his ass, but she is still willing to have a relationship with him anyway!
In Poul Anderson's To Build A World, Sevigny's threat to hurt Maura doesn't convince her — he lightly agrees and declares that he will fight any rescuers she manages to summon.
Subverted in Redeeming Love: Michael Hosea is usually the model of chivalry, but when bringing Angel back from the brothel to which she ran away after their wedding, he warns her not to speak on the way home because he’s so angry he might not be able to hold himself back from hurting her.
In Rachel Griffin, Sigfried (note Meaningful Name) has extensively studied properly knightly behavior by way of the Arthurian mythos, and will not hit, harm, or cause his pet dragon to breathe fire on, a girl. This attitude is applauded by Nastasia, but not by the eponymous Rachel, who has to contend with girl bullies.
A Mage's Power: Despite working with (and for) Action Girls Eric has trouble attacking one during the New Scepter Competition's tournament. He overcomes this inhibition when she throws a lightning spell at him.
Live Action TV
Star Trek plays this straight a lot. Which is weird, since the Federation (especially from the TNG era on) is generally portrayed as a liberal utopia free from all gender prejudice.
Later in the same episode, Sisko (who knew the Dax symbiont's previous host, Curzon Dax), gets really frustrated with Jadzia's unwillingness to stand up for herself at her hearing. "Dammit, if you were still a man!"
Another Deep Space 9 episode Paradise Lost Odo breaks Captain Sisko out of jail in Starfleet Headquarters. There are two guards in the room where the cell is located: one male, one female. He first punches the male guard, then does a sort of Vulcan neck pinch on the female guard.
Dax: I hope you're not going easy on me because I'm a woman. If it makes things any easier, think of me as a man. I've been oneseveral times.
The Original Series episode Charlie X, plays this straight, with Captain Kirk telling the titular character "There's no right way to hit a woman." In the episode "Turnabout Intruder" an ex-lover of Kirk's, while in Kirk's body, hit Kirk, who was in her body. This shocked the crew and provoked suspicion, as Kirk would never do such a thing...except in Star Trek VI when he did.
Evil Female Agent: You wouldn't hit a lady, would you?
Agent 13: Well, no.
Evil Female Agent: Good. (At which point she hauls off and decks him.)
Subverted in an episode of Angel ("Sanctuary"), where Buffy punches Angel and he punches her back, and Buffy reacts like a helpless woman... until Angel points out she could kick his ass if she wanted and she did slug him first, so the protestation is just empty air.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Subverted in an episode ("Ted"), where Buffy comes upon Ted having just read her diary. She waits and lets Ted physically hit her, before smiling and remarking that she was so glad he hit her so she would have an excuse to pummel him.
Maurice "Boscoe" Boscorelli of Third Watch never hit a woman. In his case it was a result of growing up watching his mothers abusive relationships.
MacGyver: In the episode, "Phoenix Under Siege," Mac has a fight with a female bomber. Well, not exactly. She does all the hitting, he doesn't even try to hit her and she eventually plummets to her death after missing during an attempted flying kick. By going out through the window.
Both played straight and subverted in a single episode of Highlander. An immortal former lover of Duncan's, (a Psycho Ex-Girlfriend sort) with a penchant for trying to ruin his life (or the lives of people around him) including by murdering potential Love Interests shows up. When they duel, Duncan disarms her but cannot bring himself to kill her. At that point Methos, a friend of Duncan's and a 5,000 year old Anti-Hero immortal with no qualms about saying I Did What I Had to Do steps in, introduces himself to her as a man born long before the age of chivalry, challenges her to a fight and beheads her in about 30 seconds.
Batman the 1960s series. The villains' girlfriends never got involved in the fights, Batgirl never got hit, and in one especially goofy moment, the villain uses a gang of schoolgirls to capture Robin, knowing that he's 'too much of a gentleman' to hit a woman.
Revealing exception: In "The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra," Batgirl actually takes several punches... all from invisible opponents.
Lois and Clark (a.k.a. The New Adventures of Superman) In one episode a female villain yells at Superman "You can't hit a lady can you?". She is then, however, promptly hit on the head by one of her male victims. The lady in question had just acquired Superman's powers and was just as strong and tough as him.
Ashes to Ashes Taken more or less as a given — while the two male leads of Life On Mars could and did knock each other around as a regular means of conflict resolution, for Gene to raise a hand to his new female opposite number would be crossing the line. Not that they actually fight any less often, you understand — he's just forced to resort to verbal baiting and blatant sexual harassment.
S Club 7 in L.A. (aka L.A.7) in the episode "Fall Out," Jo and Bradley had a fight. Jo comes home with a small bruise on her arm, Bradley enters mummified in bandages. Tina is shocked that Bradley had hit a girl, while Jon is more concerned that Jo had nearly killed Bradley.
Walker, Texas Ranger rarely features female villains presumably for this reason. The few times they do appear in the show, another way around it is generally found, such as the female ranger they introduced in a Very Special Episode showing up to stop her.
In the episode "Forgotten People", a nursing home is run by a sinister group experimenting on Alzheimer's patients. The group is headed up by a woman, and at the end of the episode, after Walker and company beat up the Mooks and the villain's sidekick, the villain herself has to be punched out by an old woman introduced in this episode, who had previously masqueraded as a Cloudcuckoolander.
Apparently averted at least once... because Conan used that clip on his show, acting shocked after it was over.
The exact opposite of this trope, however, was regularly used with the villains, who frequently batter women in many episodes, always without fear of the consequences. (Children and elderly people have also been known to be hit and injured by the bad guys in episodes.)
Firefly Given a speech about 'shooting girls' Mal gives in the pilot, you'd think that this is alive and well in the Old West IN SPACE!. Right up to the end of 'Our Mrs Reynolds', when he corners would-be ship thief and title character Saffron. He asks her what her real name is in a moment that seems full of emotional tension. She pauses, starts to speak ... and he slugs her. Then again, this is well after she poisoned him and left him and his crew to die, so he's probably feeling a mite justified. The brawl at the start of 'The Train Job' suggests that this doesn't apply anyway. (And seeing what usually happens to people who so much as threaten Mal's crew, let alone put them in actual danger, Saffron really got off lightly.)
Subverted in The Wild Wild West: The second (In Color!) Animated Credits Opening changed a scene of Jim West incapacitating a female assassin with a kiss to incapacitating her with a right cross. That's right: Woman-punching was specially added for the new-and-improved credits sequence. Though given he shot all other opponents, it's still a step down on violence: James West wouldn't shoot a girl.
Anna: Neither do I (proceeds to hand out a beatdown).
And averted entirely with Casey, who has no qualms about taking down a female assassin barehanded.
They seemed to have fun with this one in the latest episode, Chuck and Sarah are handcuffed together and fighting off mooks, a female mook runs up to Chuck and he backs off, saying this line. Sarah swings back and knocks her out "I can."
In the episode "Broken Rules", Fiona and Michael get into a fight. While Michael hits back, he apologizes when he lands blows and is clearly being entirely defensive in his approach. There's the complicating factor that Michael and Fiona are in love with each other.
There's an interesting scene in "Friends Like These" when Michael, worried about Fiona (who is unknowingly with an assassin), channels his fear for her into a slap, maintaining the cover in a Kick the Dog moment for him. Interestingly enough, she's pissed and he apologizes profusely, despite previous episodes depicting them as having no problem hitting each other, and treating violence as foreplay.
While Michael has issues hitting Fiona, Thomas O'Neill clearly doesn't. When he kidnaps Fiona in "Long Way Back", he punches her multiple times in the face.
In the episode "Friends and Enemies" Sam tries to warn a biker chick to quit hitting him and doesn't fight back at first, but he finally gets sick of getting beaten and clocks her right across the face.
Doctor Who. In "Robot" the female Mad Scientist says The Brigadier won't shoot a woman when he threatens to do just that (seeing as she's about to destroy the world by nuclear holocaust this is frankly hard to believe). Sarah Jane Smith then grabs the Brigadier's pistol and says that she has no problem doing so. The Mad Scientist promptly surrenders.
In Man on the Street, Echo is sent to assassinate FBI agent Paul Ballard. They get into a brutal fight during which Echo feigns to be helpless girl causing him to hesitate. Echo then sucker punches him. Oddly, Ballard has absolutely no problem hitting her at other times. Or anyone else.
In the series penultimate episode "The Hollow Men", in a weird case of Gender Bender, Echo fights an evil copy of Rossum co-founder Clyde Randolph, who is now imprinted in the female body of Whiskey/Dr. Saunders. He states beforehand that this is the first time he can hit a girl without feeling guilty.
Topher knocks out Bennett when he discovers she's trying to kill (rather than retrieve) Echo. It played as amusingly awkward, given that: a) she's a girl; b) she's one-armed; c) she's his Love Interest; and d) he's Topher. (She repays the favor in another episode, notably.)
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys: One episode had Hera send a female TerminatorExpy called the Enforcer to kill Hercules. Hercules shouts in despair that he can't fight a woman, but when he feels how hard she can punch, he goes, "Maybe I should be more open-minded" -and fights for real, ultimately winning. He doesn't appear to have a problem fighting women for the rest of the series.
Smallville. In the early episodes, it's notable how many times he gets weakened by conveniently placed kryptonite and gets his ass handed to him by a female villain who then gets conveniently defeated by happenstance, whilst he's allowed to throw around male villains who are a lot weaker than him.
In Tina Greer episodes she has to morph into a male form before Clark's "allowed" to fight her.
Clark Kent hesitated when fighting Faora, because she was in Lois Lane's body. Ouch.
Averted somewhat when a Kandorian woman brings blue Kryptonite (which takes away Clark's powers but doesn't cause him pain like the green variety) with her and tries to kill him. Clark defends himself quite handily, even though he hasn't had the military combat training his opponent had.
Malcolm in the Middle In one episode Reese is terrorized by a four-year-old girl who loves to bite him, but when he can't bring himself to hit her, he concocts a Zany Scheme to run her and her family out of town.
The A-Team Face would never, ever hit a girl, but he once punched a girl in the jaw on accident because he mistook her for one of the villain's Mooks. He felt bad about it.
House: Not spoken outright, but in "After Hours" Chase goes to considerable lengths to warn Thirteen that he's going to move her out of the way when she refuses to allow him to take her stab victim, parolee friend to the hospital (even though she'll die if he doesn't). When she still refuses, he moves her out of the way without hurting her, prompting her to attack him. After several very weak looking punches and one that looked like it might have hurt, Chase easily overpowers her (with a distinct look of Oh, Crap on her face as he does) and she ends up on the floor. Later in the episode, she's putting ice on her neck and he apologises for having hurt her - even though she nearly killed her friend and assaulted him in the process.
Mary(pleading to be let out of an assignment involving an 8-year-old witness): Stan, I suck with kids.
Marshall: So? You suck with grown ups, too.
Mary punches Marshall; Marshall punches Mary back
Mary: I can't believe you'd hit a girl!
Marshall: You're no girl.
Another amusing subversion occurs in Stargate SG-1 when Vala punches Daniel then exclaims "You hit me!" when he returns the favor. He exasperatedly points out "You hit me!"
In The City HunterYun Sung runs into this trope when he has to fight a target's female bodyguard. He manages to improvise his tie into a noose and take her out without hitting her.
Merlin's Arthur, in stark contrast to his father. When he catches Gwen with Lancelot, he tries his damnedest to kill Lancelot right there but when he gets angry and grabs Gwen later on, he immediately lets her go and apologizes.
In the second episode of Sinbad, Anwar and Rina are pitted in a fight to the death. In the hopes she might be able to live (at least a bit longer), Rina goes all out and actually attempts to kill him. Anwar meanwhile protests to jeers of "fight back!" with an indignant "She's a woman!" It makes a bit more sense due to the fact he's a gangly, rich-boy scholar, whilst she's a hardened, if tiny street thief.
In Zoey 101, when Zoey joins the wrestling team (or rather forced to by the coach), Zoey becomes disappointed when during the tournament, all of the male competitors would rather forfeit than wrestle her since she is a girl.
Wrestling Student: If I win, people will say I beat up a girl and I'll look like a jerk. If I lose, people will say I got beat by a girl and rip on me for the rest of my life. I am not wrestling a girl.
It's later revealed to all be a Xanatos Gambit by the coach, who only let Zoey onto to the team in order to invoke this trope during the tournament, so he would be able to switch his top student in for the final match without tiring him out.
Enforced aversion in Alphas as (with one exception late in the series) all the women with overtly weaponised powers are evil so it has to be guys who fight them.
Subverted in an early strip, where Charlie Brown is fed up with Lucy, and shouts at her. She challenges him to a fighting match, but he declines. Linus says that Charlie Brown should've slugged Lucy. Schroeder explains that Charlie Brown "would never think of hitting a girl, so he deliberately humiliated himself to hold on to his high moral standards". Charlie Brown responds that he was just afraid that she would beat him up.
In a strip from the late 1950s, Linus takes Lucy on in a backyard boxing match but takes two hard lefts before he knows it. Stunned, Linus begins to get serious and then Lucy lowers her gloves and says "You wouldn't hit a girl, would you?" while Linus, saying "Huh?" then lowers his gloves upon which Lucy rips a left hook to Linus' jaw to knock him out.
There is also a Sunday strip where Violet is annoying Linus, and she taunts about not being able to hit a girl. Linus then wants to throw something at her, but Charlie Brown chides Linus about how he is not allowed to hurt girls, to where Linus decides to slug Charlie Brown instead.
In Dick Tracy, when the female villain Quiver has threatened to blow up an airliner, Tracy ends up having to sock her in the jaw before she can hit the button. Afterward, he looks embarrassed, and tells the stewardess he doesn't normally go around hitting women. The stewardess quips, "That's alright, Detective Tracy. Haven't you heard of equal rights?"
Popeye pretty much lives by this trope. So whenever he has to deal with his nemesis, the Sea Hag, he usually lets a spinach fueled Olive handle the fighting.
A longtime trope in Professional Wrestling (at least among faces), averted when Triple H (then Hunter Hearst Helmsley) hired a female bodyguard (Chyna), who was more muscular than most of the men on the roster. She established her position early on by beating up Bret Hart in one of her first appearances, without giving him a chance to hit her back. Then they went up against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who had no such qualms, and thus made it OK for men to get physical with her (and occasionally, other women). She would go on to regularly wrestle men and win the Intercontinental title.
Often times if a heel has a female manager or girlfriend, they'll use her as a human shield when being chased by a face with a steel chair, because they know the face would never hit a woman.
Amusingly enough, however, in Canadian broadcasts of WWE programming they will cut away from a woman being hit by a man (however justified it might be storywise) even today... women can beat women up with no problems. Thus leading to ridiculous situations where a group of female heels can mercilessly pummel a female face, but let a man come to her rescue and it's edit time.
And it's not a dead trope in the States, either. Spike TV (the 'Men's Network') apparently dislikes showing men striking women, even when it's a horrible heel. Or when it's a replay of something that happened during a pay-per-view. Showing a 275 lb monster heel legitimately (though lightly) concussing a smaller female is alright if said monster is female herself. Yes, 275 (although I might be off by a kilo or two).
TNA, whose programming is currently carried on Spike, frequently lampshades this; it's often mentioned that Spike has promised dire consequences for any man who hits a woman on Impact, and the female heels often use this to taunt and bait the male faces.
Part of it may be that Spike also airs the program in Canada.
Hilariously averted on an episode of WWE Raw where Santino Marella, Beth Phoenix, JBL, and Randy Orton are all arguing before Batista comes out and challenges Santino, JBL, and Randy to a fight at the same time. He then apologizes and tells Beth Phoenix he'd gladly kick her ass too. After Santino comes at Batista and gets dropped, Beth slaps him and gets slammed on top of Santino. This is likely because Muscles Are Meaningful and Beth is noticeably more muscular than the rest of the female roster. WWE hasn't had a problem putting her in intergender matches every now and then.
ECW blatantly averting this would have to have been one of the reasons it became so infamous in the 90s. The biggest example would be the Pitbulls putting Francine through a table with a Superbomb. And the crowd went nuts for it!
In many promotions, this can lead to confusing rules in Intergender Tag Team matches, where if one male participant tags in his female partner, his opponent has to do the same, thus raising the question of why tag rules are even in place and preventing the workers from building up proper tag team psychology in the match.
This was completely averted in an outstanding match few American viewers got to see - Daniel Bryan and Gail Kim versus Tyson Kidd and Melina on WWE Superstars where the four of them threw the usual rules of intergender matches out of the window. Bryan and Kim especially used a number of double team moves on both opponents.
During the WWF's kayfabe era, this trope's most frequent use centered on Miss Elizabeth, the valet of Randy Savage. During Savage's heel run in 1985-1987, particularly when he was wrestling Hulk Hogan, Savage would pull Elizabeth in front of him, using her as a shield while he had a chance to regroup; Hogan would simply pick Elizabeth and gently move her out of the way, giving Savage ample opportunity to blindside Hogan. Also during Savage's heel run, he came close several times to striking Elizabeth himself (usually when he perceived her to be paying too much attention to an opponent, not opening the ropes or folding his robe correctly or some other minor misdeed) but always stopped short of actually striking her. Apparently, Savage (and the WWF) agreed that they wanted him to be a heel, but not such an outwardly despicable one.
The rule of "never touch Elizabeth" began to be thrown out when Savage turned face at the end of the summer 1987, and while the heels never struck or punched her, Elizabeth was shoved and grabbed by both the wrist and ankle on many occasions, by such dastardly heels as The Honky Tonk Man, André the Giant, Big Bossman, and Akeem. Savage's other opponents during his face run — Butch Reed, Haku, Bad News Brown, and Dino Bravo — were satisfied with simply trash-talking Elizabeth, while "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase rarely if ever acknowledged her at all; of all of Savage's opponents during his heel run, the fiercest of them all DiBiase put his focus on winning the title. During Savage's second face run starting in 1991, Jake "the Snake" Roberts completely threw out the trope by slapping Elizabeth across the face during a memorable match.
This was averted in the Attitude Era and Ruthless Aggression Era in a few intergender tag matches where men and women on separate teams would get in some offence against their opposite gender. The likes of Lita, Jacqueline, Molly Holly, Ivory and later Trish Stratus would have no objections to taking a few hits from the men.
Bubba Ray Dudley completely averted this in a tag match in late 2002 where he dished out body slams and clotheslines to Victoria with no hesitation along with both her male partners.
Normally John Morrison won't hit girls. He will do all sorts of other heinous things but only stoops to hitting girls when Melina commands it.
Hard as it is to believe, this is one of the lines Jim Cornette and The Midnight Express actually tried not to cross if they could help it, and it was hard not to with all the females fans out for their blood just as much as the male ones.
Al Snow, says he won't fight women, though he does this out of fear rather than chivalry. See, women can have kids, a kind of toughness he can never match.
London And Kendrick found themselves at a severe disadvantage against the Moonwalk Thrillers at the Pure Wrestling Association's Quest Of The Cup 7, as they were very apprehensive about using their usual offense or even some go to wrestling moves on Courtney Rush and Jody D'milo, who had no issue busting out high impact moves on them and were only slightly apprehensive about chopping and kicking the crap out of them.
Bully allows you to hit girls, but your alert bar goes to maximum and prefects spawn out of nowhere to attack you. Enforced, since it's a Western game, after all. This has a side-effect of turning Zoe into a Faux Action Girl, because although she's stated to a formidable fighter and really likes to fight, you can't fight her; the girl-type AI has them run away if struck.
The Final Fantasy series. Every character is willing to hit a girl, but there are a few exceptions;
Final Fantasy VII Cloud can be taken as this, when Elena confronts you about allegedly doing in her boss, you can either dodge her punch or letting her clean your clock, leaving her to wonder why you just let it happen.
Final Fantasy VIII Raijin. During the three boss fights with him, he will refuse to attack if there are only female characters left standing in the player's party, claiming "I don't hit girls, ya know?" His partner Fujin is female and has no such reservations.
Final Fantasy IX Zidane has an ability called 'Protect Girls', in which he will take the damage for the female characters in your party, and in Dissidia: Final Fantasy says when up against Terra 'A girl? This'll be tricky...', though this doesn't affect his gameplay. He also once picks fighting a man over fighting a woman in the storyline. In his own game he has no compunctions about fighting and killing the Alexandrian soldiers when they're invading Cleyra or trying to stop him from rescuing Dagger.
As proven with General Beatrix and Lani, he will fight women without a problem, and in some cases flirt with them too.
During a particular boss battle, the boss will refuse to attack Princess Garnet. However, he has a good reason - he was sent to kidnap her. If Garnet is the last party member alive, the boss will attempt to put her to sleep, and that counts as being defeated. So while she won't be attacked, she doesn't have to die for you to still lose.
In a later boss battle with this character, however, takes place while the character in question is... not well. He will still not hit Garnet/Dagger, but, should all other party members be incapacitated, it will proceed to attack itself. Apparently, when constructing magical death machines, chivalry comes before sanity.
The Guilty Gear series. Ky Kiske has the traditional chivalrous aversion towards fighting women all-out, as evidenced by his post-fight quote against Millia Rage. If she ends up beating him, she also notes that he held back. This attitude probably ends up being more counterproductive than not, especially considering his run-ins with hair-trigger powerhouses like Baiken and Jam Cloudberry.
Puzzle Quest Optional party member Princess Serephine makes use of this trope as her support ability, improving the player's battle skill against good opponents that "wouldn't strike a lady." Which invokes a nice bit of Fridge Logic when you're playing as a female.
No More Heroes During the first half of the game, Travis Touchdown has no problem with beating on his female opponents with his beam katana during the ranking match battles but chokes when it comes time to actually kill them. He gets called out on this by Holly Summers, the sixth ranking assassin, before she eats one of her own grenades to spare Travis the experience of dispatching her. After this, Travis never shows any hesitation in finishing the job in subsequent fights against female assassins. Helps that the female combatants he encounters happen to be completely psychotic to some extent or another.
Super Robot Wars Z Kei Katsuragi of Orguss gets a bonus to damage against men, and a penalty against women.
He's a womanizer extraordinaire. In Setsuko's route, he asks her to a date not 5 seconds after dispatching some grunts during their first meeting. During a truly hilarious crossover scene from King Gainer, he professes his desire to date every single woman in the world.
Played straight and subverted with Leven/Raven (ugh...transliterations). Subverted in that he's feigning his fear of women. In reality, he hates all women besides his boss. This is displayed in-game by having his Leadership skill change from +damage on men and -damage on women change to +damage on women.
Princess Waltz Partway into Visual Novel game, the incredibly dim Arata finally realises Chris is a girl in disguise, and finds himself unable to compete with her to his full potential. Chris finds this incredibly insulting, and later asks Arata to return a punch she gave him earlier to prove hes treating her no different from before. Arata manages to weasel out of it by explaining that he cant hit a friend hes not angry with, leaving the question unanswered.
The Sims added different slap animations depending on who a particular sim was slapping. If a sim slaps a sim of their same gender, it will be a full-force hit in the face, but if they slap a sim of the opposite gender it will be a light formal "British Officer" slap.
Freedom Force: When you first encounter the Ice Queen enemy, Minuteman says "I can't hit a woman!". The Ice Queen replies "Good darling, as I'll happily hit you!" Naturally, you can kick her ass without restraint.
Batman: Arkham Asylum two female villains, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, appear. Even though Poison Ivy is the second-last boss in the game, you don't actually get to fight either hand to hand despite having pummeled, dropped, tossed, hung, and concussed in various amusing ways a horde of (male) mooks. Although, you see Batman tossing Harley into the protection of the pit, driving her to semi-unconsciousness, and then throwing her inside the prison cell like she was just a strap doll.
This is still the trope played straight though as if it were any other boss in the game, the act of fighting Harley and trapping her would be a boss fight instead of a cutscene.
In the sequel, Batman: Arkham City, she charges at Batman again and this time you get to take the controls. Once again, she proves that she is absolutely not a match for him. Averted later when Batman is given female assassins to fight (though his Take Down moves will not have the limb breaking animation as it does with the males). When you fight Poison Ivy, you can throw batarangs that look like they are hitting her between the legs and causing her to scream like she is having the mother of all orgasms.
Averted in Batman: Arkham Origins, where Batman has no problem with clobbering Shiva and her female mooks. Unlike Harley she is a master martial artist and a credible threat. He is also pretty rough with Copperhead although it is unclear how much of that fight is real and how much is the result of toxin-induced hallucinations.
The Adventures of Batman & Robin made by Konami and released on the SNES in 1994. In Poison Ivy's level Batman has to fight his way through female mooks, and the game is designed in such a way as to not allow him to beat them up, only incapacitate them with some sort of gas. On the other hand, in Konami's previous Batman game for the SNES (Batman Returns, 1993), Batman treats the female knife-throwers just like everyone else. Both games were made by the same team.
Sakura Wars The first game has a fairly bizarre example in the form of Miroku. She invades the Flower Division's base and begins wreaking havoc, ultimately confronting them in her spirit armor. The protagonists soundly kick her ass. Afterwards, however, she makes a dramatic teleporting escape... only to die seconds later when some rocks randomly fall on her head for no apparent reason. One can only assume the game was taking an extremely roundabout method of not hitting a girl.
To explain, Poison (and her orange-haired palate swap Roxy) were originally just women. Then, the SNES version of Final Fight 2 took them out and replaced them with two male characters, Sid and Billy. That was when all the nonsense about Poison being transgender started. And then the creator finally told Poison's true identity...
The Godfather: In the second game your crew has no objections to wantonly murdering anyone who so much as looks at you funny but if you attack a female npc they twiddle their thumbs on the sidelines.
In Mafia II attacking male pedestrians will engage you in a bout of fistycuffmanship but female pedestrians can only be shoved and sent fleeing in terror. If you run after them they remain immune to attack, nor can they be kicked whilst they cower, huddled in a ball.
Played with and discussed in Mega Man Zero: Zero Would Hit a Girl, but in his first fight against Leviathan she accuses him of this when she isn't immediately killed by his final strike. She adds that she told him not to show mercy, making it rude of him to invoke this trope. He remains silent throughout, so we never find out whether this trope is actually in effect. note Since the male Guardians are not immediately killed either, it's unlikely.
Ganondorf, King Of Evil in the Zelda series, has an interesting tendency to ignore the princess Zelda when she takes part in the final battle, and take minimal steps to restrain her even though she is occasionally instrumental to Link's victory. In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, although he does give her a heavy backhand, he goes out of his way (even sheathing his swords) to avoid seriously harming Zelda, while she's actively trying to kill him.
In Fallout 2, if your Chosen One is female, Enclave patrols will occasionally express their displeasure about having to kill a woman. Doesn't stop them from tearing her a new one with their hi-tech weapons though.
In BlazBlue, this is one of the nicer traits of RagnatheBloodedge. Granted, he won't hold back if a woman attacks him or tries to apprehend him, but he states several times that he doesn't enjoy fighting them, and when he does defeat them, he is usually quite sympathetic and regretful.
Jin Kisaragi downplays this trope as well in the same manner. While he isn't afraid to bring violence to the ladies, he won't go out of his way to do it unless the girl in question is Noel Vermillion.
In the LEGO adaptation games, you cannot hurt the second player if she's female.
Mondo Oowada from Danganronpa states early on that he can't hit women (even if that woman is burly MMA fighter Sakura.) This seemingly makes him far less likely to have been Fujisaki's murderer...until you find out that Fujisaki doesn't quite count.
Justified in Fans!! with Will Erixon: he feared becoming like his father, who beat his mother to death.
Averted in thisLoserz strip. Fortunately, Jodie isn't one to take things laying down, as seen here.
Played with later on as well, when Jodie wants Ben to hit her as payback for her having slept with Ben's long-time crush Jessica, who had just come out of the closet. Ben plays the trope straight at first... then immediately subvertsit.
Mostly averted in El Goonish Shive. Elliot refuses to go all out when sparring with Nanase but he claims it's only because he's afraid to go full out against anybody. Tedd becomes extremely upset when he learns that Damien used to hit Grace but that's probably because he loves her. However, the fact that the comic uses women hitting men with a hammer as humour and shows no real consequences when, for example, Susan slaps Tedd, does show that the double-standard is in play.
Mr. Verres, however, follows this trope completely as shown here. Even though he knows that the "girl" in question is normally a guy he still won't deliver the much-deserved Dope Slap.
The Villain Protagonist Hunter Ravenwood of Suicide for Hire claims that "I draw the line at the unwarranted violent abuse of the fairer sex." This does not stop him accepting female clients of the eponymous business, however, nor did it stop him from planning the most grotesque death yet for a female client. His plan involved, in Arcturus' words, "having metal hooks shoved up [her] ass to forcibly remove [her] innards". When Arcturus argued that this was too close to rape, Hunter amended the plan and shoved the hooks down her throat instead. Evidence suggests he tries not to think of the clients as people in the first place.
In a flashback arc of General Protection Fault, Fooker makes some sexist remarks to Ki disparaging her studying Computer Science, and gets beaten up as a result, being unable to fight back because of this trope. Averted with Sam, who backhands Ki when she can't go through with having sex with him, and then tries torape her.
Quoth Peejee of Something Positive: "All I'm saying is, if a guy is dick deep in me and I tell him to slap my ass, I expect him to slap my ass, not go on about how he was told real men don't hit women. Real men do what I tell them to do, dammit!"
Sarge of Red vs. Blue, despite his usual willingness to shoot or hit anything Blue (or Grif). In Reconstruction, when the blue soldiers of Blood Gulch consist of only Sister, Sarge insists that he can't attack Sister because she's a woman, and thus they are locked in an 'epic stalemate'.
Sarge: *on fighting Tex* I've never hit a girl in my life!
Simmons: Yeah, I noticed! Try harder!
American Dad! has an odd example where Hayley and Roger are continually trying to outdo each other by creating alternate personae. Roger, pretending to be a hitman with the Armenian Mafia, "kills" one of Hayley's characters. She responds by pretending to be the matriarch of the Armenian Mafia and condemning Roger's character for killing a woman, which is apparently against their code of honor. It just gets weirder from there.
The episode "Two-Face", which featured a female villain in Thorne's henchwoman Candice, showed said henchwoman being taken out by Grace, Two-Face's untrained and unarmed fiancee. Grace shoved Candice's face in a rose bush. Ouch.
A later episode showed Robin actually fighting Candice. He commented that she was good at it.
Ben won't hit or fight a female criminal, except when she has been transformed into an alien cyborg by accident; after she is transformed she tries to use the "I'm just a girl" defense only to be kicked in the head by Gwen.
He also usually doesn't actively combat teenage villainess Charmcaster, leaving it to Gwen to defeat her (Charmcaster does see Gwen as her arch-enemy.)
Averted in Ben 10: Omniverse: Ben has no problem fighting with Attea, or even using his most brutal forms such as Cannonbolt or Gravattack on her. There is even an instance where he flirts with her to catch her offguard and then immediatly shoots her (non-lethally, but still).
Birdman: It turns out the titular hero refuses to harm women in "Empress of Evil," the one episode to feature a female villain. Fortunately, that's what non-injurious (and completely out-of-nowhere) "stun rays" are for.
The Cleveland Show: A female character in one episode was beating down all of the male characters in Cleveland's house causing Donna to ask him why no one is fighting back. When he responds with "She's a woman", Donna steps in and wins the fight, saving the day.
Darkwing Duck: In one episode, DW and Gosalyn (in her identity as Quiverwing Quack) are facing the villainess Splatter Phoenix. Splatter taunts Darkwing, saying that his code of honor would never allow him to hit a woman. Darkwing sighs, and admits she's right.
Darkwing: "Quiverwing — you do it."
DuckTales: One episode has Gizmo Duck trying to get a robot to stop hitting him by disguising himself as a woman. When that doesn't work, he tries the same costume again, but with glasses. He still gets hit.
Ed, Edd n Eddy: Ed mentions that he is forbidden to hit girls. His younger sister Sarah, who knows full well that he can lift houses with ease, endlessly exploits this. Ed is an endlessly cheerful Cloudcuckoolander, so she can get away with it. The one time he isn't, she's genuinely frightened.
Rolf also qualifies. In one scene, Sarah beats the crap out of him, and he refuses to strike back. In another scene, when Nazz punches him in the face, he makes no attempt to fight back.
Eddy also takes quite a lot of beatings from the Kankers and Sarah and he never fights back. Nazz also punches him in the face in episode- knocking out several teeth- and he just takes it.
An episode has Timmy and his grandfather transported to the world of classic cartoons. When Vicky tries to crash the party and complete her evil plan, Timmy can't hit her because in this era of cartoons, a man couldn't hit a woman. In response, Timmy merely wishes for his fairy godparents to turn Vicky into a man. Problem solved!
In another episode, when Mrs. Turner as Mighty Mom faces one of the Nega Chin's henchmen, he refuses to face her because he doesn't fight girls. She retorts with "I'm not a girl! I'm a soccer mom!" and hits him with soccer balls.
Fantastic Four: In one episode of the 90s animated series, the Thing says he can't hit a lady when he meets Malice. It doesn't take her long to convince him that she ain't no lady. Since Malice is Brainwashed and Crazy and has no compunctions about how she uses her forcefield powers she shuts Ben down real quick. (After this episode, you'll never say her powers suck again.)
Shatner: There's no right way to hit a woman. Leela: Then do it the wrong way!
Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats: Invoked in the episode "Terrible Tammy" in which a female cat threatens to take over Heathcliff's territory. She takes full advantage of him, knowing that if he laid a finger in her, he would put his reputation on the line. His girlfriend, Sonja, discovers this and takes her on, teaching her a lesson in humility.
In a full on brawl between the Justice League and Gorilla Grodd's Society in one episode, Giganta, a woman the size of a several story building, causes Superman to pause by doing the "You wouldn't hit a lady, would you?" routine. So Wonder Woman announces that she would and promptly decks her. (Superman does hit female villains, though, so it wouldn't have worked for long.)
Justice League heavily averts this in general though. Hawkgirl in particular tends to get beat up on quite a bit.
KaBlam!: Mr. Foot will NEVER hurt June (he'll hurt Henry enough to make him go to the ER however).
Phineas and Ferb: In the "Freaky Friday" Flip episode, Perry the Teenage Girl defeats his nemesis Dr. Doofenshmirtz even more easily than usual, because Doofenshmirtz can't hit a girl: "It's so, como se dice, awkward!"
For added points, he didn't even realize that he was (sort of) a girl, he thought it was a weird disguise.
Popeye absolutely refuses to hit women. In one cartoon, he has to fight the Sea Hag and her vulture, so he gives Olive Oyl some spinach; he dispatches the vulture and she takes care of the Sea Hag.
In the original Thimble Theater comic strip Popeye felt conflicted about hitting the Sea Hag at first, but then decided it was okay because her mean nature makes her "no lady."
In another cartoon, where the Sea Hag kidnaps Olive Oyl, Popeye comes close to hitting her, ordering her to let Olive go "before I forget yer a woman!"
South Park: Often played straight, but sometimes averted ("Up the Down Steroid" and "Wing").
Tom and Jerry: For some reason Tom will stop chasing Jerry if he disguises himself as a girl, presumably because of this trope.
In Transformers: Beast Wars even before he fell head-over-heels for her, Silverbolt's Ideal Hero personality prevented him from attacking Dark Action Girl / Femme Fatale Blackarachnia throughout the series. This fails to please anyone, as the other Maximals have no qualms over stomping her flat, and Blackarachnia herself is insulted by the idea that she's not a significant enough threat to fight.
To give you an idea of how far this goes, Blackarachnia shot him at point blank range and he still refused to hit her.
In Transformers Animated, this version of Blackarachnia does take advantage of it. In "Along Came A Spider", she asks a gawping Bulkhead and Bumblebee "You wouldn't hurt a helpless femme-bot, would you?". Then she poisons them both. There's no Silverbolt in this series, so it looks like Optimus Prime is going to be the one she uses most.
The Venture Bros.: Brock Samson, the Made of Iron murder-happy bodyguard follows his mentor's rules to the letter — he never kills women (he will fight them, however, with gusto). Said mentor, on the run from the law years later, uses this to his advantage — Brock hunts him down only to discover he's had a sex change, although he always wanted "big beautiful tits". It's purely out of his respect for him, as Brock seems to think the rule is silly, and tries to provide examples where killing a woman would be okay.
The trailer for the Wonder Woman animated movie has WW saying "It's not polite to hit a lady." Some fans found it rather odd that she would say this, considering her native culture is a Proud Warrior Race. There's a good chance that line was deliberately taken out-of-context. (It was.)
Xiaolin Showdown had an episode where Clay refused to fight the villain Kattnappe, but this was resolved when he decided crushing her in a bear hug was okay, because, you know, he didn't hit her. Well, it is just a hold...
In fact, Clay's chivalry and refusal to fight girls is a common problem for him. In another episode, he refuses to fight his very tomboyish sister, despite the fact that they clearly despise each other.
The Boondocks parodies this mercilessly in the episode where Tom and his wife have a fight and she kicks him out.
Jackie Chan Adventures had an episode where a villain who had been defeated by the J-team before created an anti-J-team made of evil counterparts of the heroes: a martial artist to face Jackie; a master thief to face Viper; a wrestler to face El Toro; and the world's strongest woman to face Tohru. When Tohru and his Evil Counterpart first met, Tohru didn't want to fight a woman so he tried (and failed) to make an adversary of one of the others. After it failed, all he did was dodging her attacks until he tricked her into running downstairs, which made her fall into a similar fashion to the one he did twice in one episode before his Heel-Face Turn. (Well, she was indeed his evil counterpart).
Subverted on The Simpsons when Lisa has to deal with a bully and tries to hire Nelson, Jimbo, Kearney, and Dolph as bodyguards. They promptly decline as soon as they found out her bully is a girl, not because they don't believe in hitting girls, but because girls kick, bite, and scratch. And sometimes they fall in love.
Word of God states a gag was suggested where Homer strangles Lisa. The creative team were dead against the idea, despite having nothing against the running gag of Homer violently strangling his ten year old son.
Judge Mills Lane subverts it during his fight with Judge Judy in Celebrity Deathmatch. Although he does make it known that he doesn't hit women, he puts a blindfold on as a handicap and proceeds to fight her.
Commonly Truth in Television; many parents do teach their sons this rule. Men who break this taboo, even in self-defense against a woman who poses a credible threat, are treated with contempt in many cultures.
Spoofed mercilessly in this ad for the Super Nintendo game The Combatribes. Remember, cyborgs ain't ladies!
The arcade version doesn't have that little "cyborg" plot element, but the final boss is still the same woman. One can only imagine the scolding if the author of the article ever catches wind of that.
One Canadian stand-up comic has a bit he does where he announces that under no circumstances should a man hit a woman. But there should be women who a man could hire who could hit a woman...
Titus: "Now, I don't think a man should EVER hit a woman! ...Until the fifth time she's cracked him in the face."
In a real-life example, during the New York newsboys' strike of 1899, the striking newsboys used violence against scabs (i.e. boys selling papers in defiance of the strike) and against the delivery wagons that distributed the newspapers, but they never used violence against the women who owned and ran newsstands that sold the boycotted newspapers. Kid Blink, leader of the strike, said "A feller can't soak a lady."
The reason why intergender boxing/MMA fights aren't promoted. Professional Wrestling occasionally subverts it for entertainment value, such as Chyna's Intercontinental title reign.
Some women in MMA and boxing have a problem with this, arguing that however unlikely they'd be to actually beat most male opponents, competing in the same leagues would give women's MMA a better chance of being taken seriously and making more money.
Although Angel Eyes, the villain from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly had no problem with hitting girls, Lee Van Cleef, the actor portraying him, absolutely refused to, requiring the director to use a stunt man in the scene where it happened.
A metaphorical example: Gruen Nation commented, that in the leadup to the 2010 Australian Election, the Coalition seemed unwilling to run ads attacking Prime Minister Julia Gillard herself, as opposed to the Labor Party (albeit probably more because they were worried about how the public would react than any moral qualms on their own part). It was only near the end of the campaign, as things got increasingly frenetic, that ads attacking Julia Gillard appeared.
In the short play "Hamlette" then Hamlette is called Prince of Denmark. She responds with "Princess!"
Laertes: Princess? I can't fight a girl!
Hamlette: (brandishes sword) Then it's gonna be a short fight.
Sex columnist Dan Savage has received a few letters from girls who like being knocked around in a Safe, Sane and Consensual context, complaining that their menfolk took the not hitting girls message too much to heart and won't do it.
This ABC News segment demonstrates this trope. Whenever a female actress was verbally and physically assaulting a male actor, people either paid no attention or egged her on, but as soon as the roles were reversed pretty much everyone intervened.
Played straight by Chris Rock in Bigger and Blacker but not because of any particular moral exceptions for women but because he doesn't think it's right to hit anybody. However this is with the caveat that nobody should expect to be "above an ass-whooping".
After a spat between NASCAR drivers Mike Skeen and Max Papis, Skeen's girlfriend angrily confronted Papis and slapped him so hard that she sprained his jaw such that he couldn't chew the next day. He remained stone-faced and walked away, saying "I never hit a lady". Skeen claims Papis had earlier come to their trailer and grabbed Skeen's girlfriend; Papis claims that she slapped him then, too, and he simply pushed her to the side to reach Skeen, not even knowing who she was.
A follow-up to the famous Milgram experiment, which tested to see if participants would be willing to give (fake) increasingly-painful electrical shocks to complete strangers, checked to see how people responded to shocking those of the opposite gender. It turned out that men were much, much less willing to shock women than vice-versa.