Myth three: ‘men hurt women because they love them too much’

This is an age-old fallacy, and here, my literature brain gets into gear. In Shakespeare’s Othello, after the title character kills his wife Desdemona, he tries to explain what he did by characterising himself as excessively loving. He urges the other characters to ‘speak of me as I am’ and describes himself thus:

One that lov’d not wisely but too well

So, for Othello, killing his wife is seen as a ‘crime of passion’. Unfortunately, such attitudes are not confined to literature. A ‘crime of passion’ is a term we see used far too often to describe cold-hearted and cruel murders and attacks, which are bizarrely treated as somehow altered by intimacy when it is a man perpetrating these attacks against a woman he is romantically involved with. 

Even though we don’t use this term so frequently nowadays, we still embody the idea that romantic relationships can prompt murderous inclinations in concepts like the ‘loss of control’ defence, which often mitigates murder charges in cases where one spouse (usually male) kills the other (usually female). We act as though jealousy or presumed adultery can spark of a reaction in a partner which leads them to almost justifiably attack the other – and this is where our feelings around the correlation between love and violence reside.

 

We falsely believe that love can be expressed through violence. Popular culture and narratives have conspired to make us think this. But it is oxymoronic to believe that a person can love another ‘so much’ that they kill them.

In fact, the abusive and violent partner does not necessarily ‘love’ their victim. Instead, they want to possess and control them. Historically, we have conflated possessive behaviour with affection and love – but that’s not what possession is about. Possessive behaviour lies in the objectification of one partner by another.

Men do not kill women because they love them too much – they kill women because they believe they are entitled to control their lives.