The Reinforcement of Masculinity through Violence

nemethBy Jade Frost (‘17)

Last September Fidel Lopez disemboweled his girlfriend, Maria Nemeth, after she screamed out her ex-husband’s name during sex. According to Lopez, he and Nemeth were having “rough sex” in their Florida apartment when he became angered by this Freudian slip and proceeded to shatter glass, punch walls, and take doors off their hinges. When he returned to Nemeth, she was passed out unconscious on the bed. He proceeded to shove various objects into her vagina and anus and then put his forearm inside her, at which point he started to rip out her intestines. Lopez then carried Nemeth to the bathroom to try and revive her with water. When that obviously didn’t work, Lopez washed his hands, smoked a cigarette, and then called the police. Lopez at first told police that she died from the rough sex that they had and it wasn’t until later that he told the authorities what really happened. Fidel Lopez is currently being charged with 1st degree murder.

The disturbing thing about this story is not just the blatant horror of this murder, but that this is not the first time we have seen physical and emotional domestic abuse reinforced through various mediums of media. In Victoria E. Collins and Dianne C. Carmody’s “Deadly Love: Images of Dating Violence in the ‘Twilight Saga’,” they site James W. Messerschmidt and write, “Under hegemonic masculinity, which is both youthful and heterosexual, force may be acceptable in romantic relationships. Such gender stereotypes, reinforced by mediated messages may certainly encourage dating violence and perceptions of romance that reflect traditional gender roles” (357). With this, I think that Lopez felt that his masculinity was threatened when Nemeth didn’t scream his name and thus reverted to violence to assert power and reinforce his masculinity.

We also see this violence in pornography that focuses on objectifying the woman rather than pursuing pleasure. Jane Caputi uses E. Ann Kaplan’s definition of pornography in “The Pornography of Everyday Life,” writing, “Pornography in this view is not about the ‘joy of sex’ but about the domination and ‘denigration of women and a fear and hatred of the female body” (374). The way that Lopez mutilated Nemeth’s body appears to be out of pure hatred and even possible fear that he might be emasculated. Lopez wanted to dominate his girlfriend and wanted to be in complete control. Caputi goes on to write in her article, “The rightness of male sexual domination of women is assumed, even when there seems to be a challenge” (375). The way that Lopez sodomized and violated her body seems very deliberate and premeditated. I think he saw the disembowelment as a challenge in itself, and then once that was conquered the new challenge was how he was going to tell the police. Later, Caputi writes, “When the penis is represented as a weapon, rape becomes its purpose, intercourse becomes a kind of murder, and the will to hurt becomes definitive of being a man” (377). Violence in relationships is nothing new in our society. Lopez is one of the many products of what happens when masculinity becomes so fragile that murder is the only way to strengthen it again.

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