Dear Young Ladies Who Love Chris Brown So Much They Would Let Him Beat Them


Do you know what you’re saying? Do you really?

You may think you’re joking. I want to believe you’re joking, because haha, a man putting his hands on you is so funny in the reality from where you are communicating. Clearly, we have different definitions of funny, but perhaps you truly do find it amusing to joke about domestic violence. I am not here to judge you.

I am afraid you’re not joking. I’m afraid you are quite serious.

You are saying you are willing to be abused; you are willing to sacrifice your dignity.

For what?

You are impressed by some combination of a young man’s music, charisma, dancing ability, and/or good looks. That is understandable. Everybody’s got their something. However. You are also saying that suffering Chris Brown’s abuse would be a fair exchange for his attention, however fleeting you must know that attention would be. When you look past the image, a celebrity is just a person you know nothing about. Ultimately, you are saying you are willing to be abused for the mirage of fame in the desert of your life.

For people who enjoy S/M, there’s this thing called consent, which should always exist in human interactions, but which is exceedingly important when you entrust your body and mind to someone else in such ways. You can say, “I want you to hurt me,” or “I want you to humiliate me,” or “I want you to dominate me,” and someone else will do so. But, and this is important, when you say, in some form or fashion, stop, the pain or humiliation or domination stops, no questions asked. That is a powerful, perfect moment. There is nothing better than knowing the suffering can stop, than knowing you must endure but if you no longer wish to do so, you don’t have to because it is safe to withdraw your consent. There is nothing better than knowing you have some control in a situation that feels so far beyond your control.

When you tell a man like Chris Brown, at least the man he has shown himself to be, to stop, he won’t. With abuse there is no stopping. There is no consent. There is only suffering that will begin and end as he sees fit. You will never have any control. You will never know how good it feels to endure by your choice because that choice does not belong to you and never will. Do you understand? Do you see that distinction?

I don’t know Chris Brown. I have never met him and probably never will. I know his music. Sometimes, it’s catchy. Mostly, to my ears, it’s contrived and overproduced. I’ve seen him dance—he can work with choreography. He is reasonably attractive. I don’t really get it, to be honest, but I don’t need to get it. You likely wouldn’t understand who I find attractive, either. What I do understand is that Chris Brown means something to you, that he arouses you physically or emotionally. He arouses you to such an extent you are willing to do whatever it takes to be within his incandescent sphere for even a little while.

Did you read the police report from the infamous incident where Chris Brown beat his then-girlfriend Rihanna? The details are disturbing and graphic and leave the distinct impression that what took place on that night three years ago was not an isolated incident. If you were to “get with” Chris Brown, there’s a good chance he would hurt you and not in a way you would like because time and again he has shown he cannot control his rage. He would hardly be concerned with you at all. This is the man he has shown himself to be.

I am sorry our culture has treated women so poorly for so long that suffering abuse to receive celebrity attention seems like a fair and reasonable trade. We have failed you, utterly.

We failed you when Chris Brown received a slap on the wrist for his crime and was subsequently allowed to perform at the 2012 Grammy’s not once but twice. We failed you when he was awarded R & B Album of the Year at that same ceremony. This is not to say he has no right to move on from his crime but he has demonstrated not one ounce of contrition. Instead, he has flagrantly reveled in his bad boy persona and taunted the public at every turn. He’s young and troubled but that’s an explanation for his behavior, not an excuse.

We failed you when Charlie Sheen was allowed and eagerly encouraged to continue to star in movies and have a hit television show that basically printed him money after he shot Kelly Preston “accidentally” and he hit a UCLA student in the head when she wouldn’t have sex with him and he threatened to kill his ex-wife Denise Richards and he held a knife to his ex-wife Brooke Mueller’s throat. We failed you when Roman Polanski received an Oscar even though he committed a crime so terrible he hasn’t been able to return to the United States for more than thirty years. We failed you when Sean Penn fought violently with Madonna and continued a successful, critically acclaimed career and also received an Oscar.

We fail you every single time a (famous) man treats a woman badly, without legal, professional, or personal consequence.

Over and over again we tell you it is acceptable for men—famous, infamous, or not at all famous—to abuse women. We look the other way. We make excuses. We reward these men for their bad behavior. We tell you that as a young woman, you have little value or place in this society. Clearly we have sent these messages with such alarming regularity and consistency we have encouraged you to willingly run toward something violent and terrible with your eyes and arms wide open

I am sorry.

I’m not shocked by your willingness to suffer for nothing in return without the right to consent. That may be the saddest thing of all.

Roxane Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. She is the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, and Hunger forthcoming in 2017. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel. Roxane was the founding Essays Editor and is a current Advisory Board member for The Rumpus. You can find her at More from this author →