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Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male

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Nathaniel: I cannot slap you back! Because you are a lady!
Rebecca: That clearly is a double standard!
Both: But it's probably for the best.

Female-on-male violence is viewed as more acceptable in life than male-on-female violence. Often, a woman using physical violence on a man will be Played for Laughs; sometimes it will be Disproportionate Retribution. The key is that in most works where this trope is in effect, it would be completely impossible to imagine the same violent situation play out with the participants' genders reversed without a large dose of drama getting added into the mix. The basic Double Standard at work in this trope is sexist on both sides: no woman is strong enough to harm a man, so any man weak enough to be harmed by a woman isn't a real man, and that's funny; that way, also, you get Amusing Injuries instead of broken bones and cuts.

Note that this trope does not describe situations where violence is genuinely morally justified, such as Wonder Woman attacking Lex Luthor in defense of Metropolis. Nor does it apply in situations where universal humorous abuse is delivered to the Butt-Monkey or The Chew Toy by both men and women for equally flimsy reasons – that is just Comedic Sociopathy. Obviously, it likewise doesn't apply in situations where female-on-male violence is treated as a serious subject. An exception to either case is when one or more of the female characters involved in dealing the violence actively invoke this trope in an attempt to morally justify their own behavior, whether out loud or within the privacy of their mind.


Related to All Abusers Are Male, All Women Are Doms, All Men Are Subs, Domestic Abuse, Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male, Men Are the Expendable Gender, and Stalking Is Funny If It Is Female After Male. Belligerent Sexual Tension often has elements of this trope. Compare/Contrast Would Hit a Girl. A very similar anime/manga trope that does not always include abuse, but typically often will involve a woman violently beating a man and is played for comedy is Tsundere. The female half of this trope is very often a Jerk Sue. Sisterhood Eliminates Creep can have elements of this.

Note: This trope applies to abuse inflicted on males, not regular slapstick that can be inflicted on either gender. Before adding an example, think about how the audience's reaction would be if the abuse was reversed. Also, due to the very nature of this trope, no Take That! edits, social natter or personal opinions please. And, of course, No Real Life Examples, Please!.


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Other examples:

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    Asian Animation 

  • In his early routines George Carlin used to talk about his work for charities that were slight variations on real ones, like the Salvation Navy ("no one wants to sit in a boat and bang that huge bass drum"). One was battered husbands: "It happens when she is very big and he is very small and they both drink a quart of whiskey a day." Always killed.
  • Later, Eddie Murphy got a lot of laughs recalling the way his mother would throw shoes at him, his brother and (once) his father when she was sufficiently annoyed.
  • Kevin Hart speaks from experience, having been in an abusive relationship himself.
    Hart: Ever argue with a female and, in the middle of the argument, you no longer feel safe because of her actions? She may start pacing back and forth real fast, breathing out her nose. You know what my girl do? When she get mad, she start talking in the third person. That's scary as hell because that's her way of telling me that from this point on, she is not responsible for none of her actions.
  • Christopher Titus may be the reigning king of this trope, relating an experience where, after being punched five times in the face, he smacked his then-girlfriend once in retaliation (and it didn't have the intended effect), and he was the one arrested for it.
    Titus: "Well she hit me first!" That didn't work in grade-school, not gonna work with the LAPD.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert. The character Alice has a short, violent temper and often punches men with her "Fist of Death". This is always Played for Laughs.
  • Peanuts:
    • Lucy is always throwing her weight around and slugging the other kids (not just Charlie Brown - probably her most frequent target is her own little brother Linus). The other kids never really call Lucy out on this or try to stand up to her, and she rarely gets in trouble. Charles Schulz also went on record in several interviews as saying that while a boy bullying a girl wouldn't be seen as funny, the gender reversal in a girl bullying a boy would.
    • Lucy is the most obvious case but all of the girls have some level of violent streak. Even Marcie is surprisingly eager to slug people in some strips. Linus' blanket whip is as far as it goes for the boys and that only gets used against people off-screen.
    • One running gag in Snoopy's stories was to have a man say a bad pun or something stupid. The woman would then hit him with any manner of objects.
  • In Bringing Up Father, the title character, Jiggs, would often have various kitchenware thrown at him by his wife. An early MAD parody from The '50s deconstructed this by having an Art Shift on every other page where Jiggs is suddenly drawn realistically, and is covered in blood and scars, and has missing teeth due to his wife's beatings.
  • Likewise, in For Better or for Worse, Elly slings coffee mugs and similar objects at her husband John from time to time, particularly in the strip's declining years as he fades Out of Focus by spending all his free time playing with his trains. With that kind of wife, wouldn't you?
  • Played for laughs in one strip of Luann, where apparently the classic sawing-a-girl-in-half trick is seen as violence against women. When Bernice suggests sawing Gunther in half, the counselor doesn't see a problem with it.
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, while Calvin is obnoxious and belligerent toward Suzie, whenever it comes to violence more serious than the odd snowball, she always gets the upper hand. Though he does usually initiate the physical confrontation in relatively harmless areas like snowball or water balloon fights (and ends up getting plastered so severely it looks a lot less harmless), it's also quite common for him to just say something insulting to her and wind up with black eyes, bloody noses, or lying in a bruised heap on the ground.
  • In Dennis the Menace (US), Gina has slugged Dennis on several occasions for calling her a tomboy.
  • FoxTrot: Paige often gets away with beating up her little brother Jason. There are times where she gets punished for it, but it's still hard to imagine a 14-year-old boy beating up a 10-year-old girl being Played for Laughs in the same way.
  • In a 2006 strip of Garfield, Jon attempts to hit on a woman. The woman, apparently unprompted, responds with a long spiel - half the panel - detailing the (cartoonish) physical abuse she's about to inflict on him. Either Jon is just that repulsive to anyone not named Liz, or it's this trope in action.
  • A Running Gag in U.S. Acres is that Lanolin Sheep responds to Roy's pranks with extreme violence.

    Films — Animation 
  • Downplayed in Chicken Run. Mrs. Tweedy's treatment of her husband, while still comical, is clearly treated as terrible, dismissing and insulting him and literally kicking his butt. However the writers still had to tone down Mr. Tweedy's retaliation out of fear of making him seem "too mean": by the end of the movie he's had enough and shoves the entire barn door over on her but they show it at a very zoomed out angle to downplay it, while originally they intended to have him do it up close to stop her from insulting him. Ginger does bitch-slap Rocky for deserting her and the other chickens at the end. Whether or not he deserved it is up to the viewer to decide.
  • In Meet the Robinsons, Aunt Petunia is introduced smacking around her husband Fritz around in a cartoonish way. Of course, it's worth mentioning that Petunia is a hand puppet that Fritz controls, meaning he's clearly off his rocker.
  • There's a scene in The Rescuers Down Under that has some domestic abuse played for laughs. A very large wife and a very small husband are eating dinner at a restaurant. The engagement ring Bernard was intending to give to Bianca rolls under their table, and Bernard, getting it, brushes up against the wife's leg. Assuming her husband is trying to play footsie (she never sees Bernard), she rather brutally smacks him, whereupon he cringes away from her in fear.
  • Wreck-It Ralph plays with this — Sgt. Calhoun slaps Felix to stop him from freaking out when the two are stuck in NesquikSand, causing the sentient vines of Laffy Taffy to giggle and slowly make their way down towards them. Despite her reluctance to do so, Felix, who can instantly heal himself with his magic hammer, demands Calhoun continue injuring him until the vines are close enough for them to pull themselves out. Out of context, it's easy to imagine a gender-swapped version being rejected en masse, but the context in which all of this happens is so...let's just say "specific" that it'd take a lot of second-thinking to come off as abuse. It helps that Calhoun clearly doesn't want to continue slapping him but she has no choice since this is the only way to get out of a deadly situation.
  • In Tangled, the female Rapunzel knocks the male Flynn unconscious twice in self-defense, since he is an intruder in her home at the time. However, she then ties him up and unnecessarily strikes him a third time while restrained. Later, after they have become friends and traveled together for some time, Flynn tries to argue with her to abandon their mission. She answers, "I will use this" holding up the pan that she had knocked him unconscious with three times, menacingly to his face. The whole thing is Played for Laughs in a way which would be much darker if a male character made a credible threat of bodily harm against a female character to win an argument.

  • Black Jack Justice: Many of the series' most serious episodes feature a woman in some form of abusive relationship. For example, "Justice Delayed" reveals that the murderer the detectives are trying to find is the man's own wife, who killed him in self-defense, while "Stormy Weather" is about Jack and Trixie laying a beatdown on a cheating husband who won't let one of his mistresses, of which there are at least two, leave him with threats of blackmail and death should she try. On the other hand, Trixie's tendency to chase away lovers who get too close with thrown beer bottles, gunplay, and insults tends to get played for laughs, such as how her chat with hotel detective Alf McKinney in "Auld Lang Syne" is played for laughs as Alf agrees to a rendezvous with Trixie while she asks him for information. The double-standard is notably dropped in "The One That Got Away", in which Button-Down Theo, a longtime admirer of Trixie's who was chased away in much the same fashion, took it seriously and found himself another woman he was set to marry. He outlines exactly why he stopped pursuing Trixie and suggests his reasons for why she does what she does. Trixie ends the episode giving Theo a congratulations and good luck.

  • Subverted in La Cage aux folles. A man is shown to sustain serious injuries at the hand of a dominatrix. However, not only were the injuries consensual, but the dominatrix is also male.
  • Legally Blonde: At least in the MTV broadcast, Vivienne slaps Warner a couple times throughout, mostly when he makes some inappropriate statements. He doesn't object to this.
  • The Marriage of Figaro: In two different scenes, Susanna slaps Figaro when she thinks he's unfaithful. Both are played for laughs and treated as proof of how much she loves him.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Letter:
    • Isabella hits her friend Ashton when she becomes too annoyed with him, which is Played for Laughs.
    • The player can invoke this by having Rebecca not apologize to Luke after she assaults him at the café because she mistook him for abducting a child.
  • Shuukaku No Juunigatsu: Masaki Konno's Unwanted Harem girlfriends is a Yandere who repeatedly attacks him with a naginata without consequence. When one of his old girlfriends meets up with him and makes an advance on him, he slaps her hand away and tells her it's over. Because said girl is a popular fashion model, half of the school ends up out for his blood because he "attacked" her.
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has Tenko Chabashira who Does Not Like Men and frequently makes "degenerate male" comments towards... every single male student in the game including the protagonist Shuichi Saihara. To the point she knocks Shuichi out cold during their first Free Time Event and throws him too, for the heinous crime of trying to calm her down. If the player is feeling extra sadistic, they can have Shuichi tell her to shut up, which... leads to the exact same instance of her knocking him out except with her adding a few more "Degenerate Males". Ironically, her master is a man who planted those ridiculous ideas in her head and had the genders been reversed, and Shuichi was a Shrinking Violet Girl while Tenko was a macho man, Tenko would have been a Scrappy Bully on par with Hiyoko. As it is, thanks to her comments, she's a Base-Breaking Character at best due to her being a Love Letter to Rumiko Takahashi, creator of Ranma One half. This is all played for laughs...

    Web Original 
  • In Allecto's rather... interesting interpretations of Firefly, she screams about misogyny when Mal leaves Patience trapped under a horse, which he did in response to her double-crossing and trying to kill him (plus the repeated mentions of Prudence having shot Mal previously, which he apparently thinks was no big deal). When Saffron kicks Wash in the head and knocks him out, Allecto cheers Saffron on, says that she's the only one doing anything remotely "feminist", and considers it wrong of Mal to chase Saffron down and threaten her for trying to kill him and his crew. Saffron kicked Wash in the head while he was trying to explain to her how much he loved Zoe, which Allecto uses as justification, because it's fine to attack a guy, just because he's talking about boring stuff. Thankfully, it's just a troll.
  • Averted in Worm, with Kevin Norton, a homeless man who was driven onto the streets after abuse from an ex-girlfriend. The story takes his abuse seriously, and the trope is conversed when Kevin talks about not getting support because nobody expects a man to be abused by a woman.
  • Specifically averted in this blog post. The blogger was asked for advice about how to write a compelling female character, and one of the points she made was:
    "I hit boys!" is not a strong feminist statement.
    Buffy Summershow I loathe what was done to this character — ended up forcing oral sex on a male character over his repeated verbal objections. To a musical sting. The writers, I am fairly certain, did not actually realise they had written a rape, particularly as this same character later attempted to rape Buffy, which was not treated as at all amusing.
    See also: Men forcing demonic power into the First Slayer = metaphysical rape and utterly despicable. Buffy using Willow to force demonic power into possibly thousands of young women = empowering!
    Women are entirely capable of stupid or evil decisions. But those decisions should be treated as such by the text, not lauded as a turning of the sexism tables.
  • SCP Foundation: Averted big time in SCP-4231. The abuse suffered by Francis at the hand of Lilith (implied to be sexual, emotional and physical) is portrayed as terrifying and nauseating, and Francis is traumatized by it. The skip pulls no punches in portraying Lilith as a vile abusive monster, in addition to being a cultist of the Scarlet King. The only reason Francis got out of it was because he killed her to protect their daughter, and he was still traumatized and incredibly fucked up for the rest of his life. He currently works for the Foundation under the name Alto Clef.
  • In episode 70 of the Potterless podcast, which focuses on Ron's return in chapter 19 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hermione's violent reaction towards Ron is not condemned in the slightest; the guest of the week even cheers Hermione on and says that she should beat on Ron more. The description of the episode includes the phrase "we mostly talk about how Hermione deserves much better sidekicks than Harry and Ron."

    Web Videos 
  • Heavily subverted amongst the reviewers of That Guy with the Glasses, where the men and women beat each other up indiscriminately, are all shown as a bunch of miserable jerks for it, and it's Played for Laughs both ways. However, there is the occasional slip-up, not to mention the Misaimed Fandom who play is straight.
    • There is an example of this, however, in Film Brain's crossover of Sucker Punch with JesuOtaku (presenting as female at the time), who beat him within an inch of his life, yet doesn't suffer as a result.
    • To a lesser degree, she beats up RolloT in their joint review of The Last Airbender with Todd in the Shadows and Y: Ruler of Time, although...
    • The Nostalgia Critic:
    • Despite efforts to avoid this, such as his Ferngully The Last Rainforest review with he and The Nostalgia Chick taking their fair shots at one another, The Critic has fallen victim to this a number of times. His Catwoman (2004) review is based around the plot of all of the actresses who played the character stalking, harassing and even attempting to kill the Critic, who eventually ends up smacking himself when he realizes that several gorgeous women are throwing themselves at him, even if their intentions are not so sympathetic. If the roles were swapped, this would not be okay.
    • His review of the Christmas Story sequel has this combined with Victim Blaming when Hyper Fan Girl finally goes too far while trying to force the Critic to watch the original with her. After giving her far too many chances, the Critic gives her a furious tongue-lashing and she runs off in tears. As it turns out, this was the wrong thing to do because all of the stalking, harassment and unwanted come-ons were her way of trying to share the holiday spirit with him, practically spitting in the face of the "no means no" mentality. Doug said later at Midwest Media Expo that Critic was in the right, which makes the swerve in-video even weirder.
  • Inverted in this video, which is a deliberate Gender Flip of stereotypes of men and women at the bar. A woman gropes a man, who slaps her in return.
  • The Guild: Both Codex (female) and Zaboo (male) are depicted as having problems with confidence and assertiveness and in some ways being doormats, and these tendencies in both of them are sometimes played for laughs. So far, so good. Zaboo enters a relationship with Riley, who has some rather extreme BDSM fetishes that Zaboo obviously does not share, and their relationship is abusive verging on Black Comedy Rape. Hilarious! Now imagine that exact same dynamic, only instead of Zaboo and Riley, it's Codex and Fawkes, and the man is the sadistic, abusive, manipulative dom while the woman is the hapless unwilling sub ineffectually attempting to placate her partner into treating her preferences with respect. Not funny, is it?
  • Averted when Matthew Santoro openly declared that he was abused by his girlfriend Nicole Arbour. Not only did many viewers take his experience seriously, but some (like boogie2988) came forward as being abused as well.
  • Exploited in the short film Twisted Trauma. A child finds his parents after a fight, his mother with a wound on her face and urging him to call the police. It's not until he watches the video camera he'd left in his parents' room that he discovers the mother was the abuser and was pulling off a Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
  • Discussed and Deconstructed on the Philosophy Tube video "Men. Abuse. Trauma.", including several pitfalls of the trope. The host had been abused by a former partner, and reveals that the inability to cope due to the expectation that men can't be abused made things even worse.

Alternative Title(s): Abuse Is Okay When Its Female On Male, Abuse Is Okay When It Is Female On Male, Manhwa, Comic Strips, Theatre, Web Original


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