Christy Mack, War Machine and Why the Internet Blames Women for Domestic Violence

There’s a big debate at the moment surrounding an altercation that took place between porn star Christy Mack and MMA fighter Jon “War Machine” Koppenhaver.

After Christy shared photos of her battered, bruised and swollen face on Twitter, accompanied by a message detailing how Koppenhaver had assaulted her, the images were distributed across the Internet along with messages of support for her. However, as is typically the case with these sorts of things, there were many who also sought to point the finger of blame directly at Christy, the victim of this atrocious assault, either due to the circumstances surrounding the assault (Christy was with a male friend of hers when Koppenhaver entered her home, leading many to speculate that she was cheating on him) or simply due to the fact that she’s a woman who works in the sex industry, and the rampant misogyny that is so pervasive on the Internet went into overdrive due to this.

Related: “War Machine” Evades Police After Alleged Beating of Christy Mack

We spoke with acclaimed public sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals, Ph.D. about the victim-blaming of Christy Mack, the thought process behind those who sympathize with “War Machine” and why some men are so damn sexist on the Internet.


CRAVEONLINE: What correlation do you think Christy Mack’s profession has with many victim-blaming her for Koppenhaver’s actions?

DR. CHAUNTELLE: Well, victim-blaming survivors of assault is extremely commonplace. Victim-blaming women survivors of assault is even more commonplace, as is victim-blaming sex workers. Because of this combination of factors, Christy Mack is being victim-blamed by some for the absolutely reprehensible actions of another.

Do you think that Christy Mack working in the sex industry has led to some dehumanizing her in this instance?

Of course. Except in very rare instances, sex work is still not generally regarded as “real” or legitimate labor. The fact that Christy Mack worked in a very public and commercial sex work industry, one that divides public opinion quite regularly, has certainly led some to regard this situation differently than they perhaps would have had she not been a porn performer – and this is absolutely unacceptable.

Do you think that women in general working in the sex industry leads to people dehumanizing them?

Yes, certainly.

The veil of anonymity that people hide behind on the Internet means that they’re less afraid to speak their minds. As we all know, many use this opportunity to spread some vulgar, incredibly misogynistic opinions of women, which leads many women who have become notable personalities on the Internet to become the target of hatred. Why do you think this happens, and why do you think women seem to be targeted so much more than men are?

Even in 2014, misogyny and gender inequality run deep in U.S. culture. And though we like to think we live in world where these issues are not longer relevant, all you have to do is look through anonymous comments offered regarding anything related to gender inequalities – from pay scales to assault – to see that this is not the case.

I think the intensity of some of these exhibitions of hate is also related to the idea that misogynistic sentiments are no longer socially acceptable on a superficial level. Put simply, we as a culture claim to no longer stand for misogyny and inequality; yet, scratch the surface and they’re still extremely pervasive. The vitriol may then be tied in with letting out what’s generally being held back because of public opinion.

What do you think of Christy Mack’s decision to post the photos of her injuries on Twitter?

I think she is incredibly brave. It must be taking tremendous strength to be so open about surviving such horrible abuse, especially because she must’ve known she would have to survive so many additional attacks online, etc. I also find it absolutely disgusting that this story was receiving little to no attention until she essentially broke it herself – this points to many significant issues related to domestic violence and sex worker discrimination.

Scrolling through her Twitter timeline, it seems as though many are coming to the conclusion that Koppenhaver caught her having sex with another MMA fighter, even though she has stated that is not the case. Why do you think people are so quick to believe that she’s lying, or that because she works in the sex industry that must therefore immediately mean that she was being unfaithful, and that the person she was with wasn’t just her friend as she has stated?

This is also tied in with sex worker discrimination, misogyny, and victim-blaming. The only relevant fact in this case is that one individual assaulted another. Whatever history they had as a couple, her occupation, and whatever she may or may not have been doing in her own home are absolutely irrelevant. The fact that some people are attempting to draw on these types of speculations as relevant points to all the issues I’ve discussed here.

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