On viral abuse and the public humiliation of women

Jason Melo, 24, is accused of beating and choking his 22-year-old girlfriend (pictured) in their W. 142nd St. apartment in front of her 3-month-old daughter before forcing the woman to walk naked in the cold.
Jason Melo, 24, is accused of beating and choking his 22-year-old girlfriend (pictured) in their W. 142nd St. apartment in front of her 3-month-old daughter before forcing the woman to walk naked in the cold.

She cheated, y’all. Before you start making any judgment calls, let’s take a moment to remember that she cheated! That seems to be the reaction of many people to the video of a man forcing a woman, who he just assaulted, to parade the streets in broad daylight wearing only a towel. As she does this, he berates her with an interminable list of sexist slurs and eventually, he pulls off her towel. The woman tries to cover herself with her hands and the cover of a motorcycle.

The video has been publicized enough so it won’t be linked here. What is worth addressing, though, is the public reaction to the video. Some seemed to revel in the humiliation that the young woman in the video experiences. The perpetrator, Jason Melo, has received countless supportive statements on social media (and gained about 10,000 new followers on Instagram), many of which were a response to the dozens of videos he posted justifying his actions. According to him, this abuse was a response to “her cheating” and, in true perpetrator lingo, “she is lucky it wasn’t worse.”

Male violence against women is always justified as retaliation – often to womanhood itself. Whether a woman cheats, and with how many men, isn’t the point. “She cheated” is no different than “the dinner was cold” or “you are getting fat” when it comes to excuses for violence against women. It simply makes us even more accepting of the abuser’s narrative.

The man behind the video was arrested and then released, now pending trial. Melo, a United Nations employee from Harlem, was arraigned on the evening of January 20th on charges of choking, endangering the welfare of a child, coercion, and assault. He is due in court on February 10th. The woman in the video describes being threatened and forcibly confined. Eventually Melo turned himself in, but not before leaving an extensive trail of abuse on social media.

How did the public respond? COED.com, a website devoted to “all the great things about college, without the classes,” titles its coverage, “WATCH: Man catches girlfriend ‘cheating,’ forces her to walk NYC streets sans clothing,” “Jason Melo photos: boyfriend of cheating NYC girlfriend gets arrested: must-see pictures” and “Jason Melo, the man who forced his GF to walk around NYC naked, has been arrested.” One COED.com writer states: “It goes without saying that cheating is 100% f*cked up, regardless of the reasoning. All of the lying, deceiving, hurt feelings, endless bouts of crying (just us?) makes for the worst kind of breakup in the world.” This site makes it pretty clear who should be receiving public sympathy here.

Stephanie Petit of College Candy writes: “This is so wrong” and “so shitty.” Unfortunately she also writes “Cheating Wife” on all three articles featured on the site. Get it? She cheated. Before this woman was introduced as a human, she was introduced both as a cheater and her partner’s property.

Here are a few titles that would make more sense: “Woman forced to walk naked as man hurls misogynist insults at her,” or “Woman tries to cover herself while partner defames and humiliates her in the streets,” or how about “Woman forced to fucking freeze in -1ºC weather.”

As Jessica Valenti cleverly puts it: “What’s the difference between venerating women for being fuckable and putting them on a purity pedestal? In both cases, women’s worth is contingent upon their ability to please men and to shape their sexual identities around what men want.”

It’s a tricky pedestal, you see. We see man after man degrading women for doing the very same things they idealize — hypersexualization, objectification, and overall dehumanization. As Melo put it during that infamous video, “So pretty… yet such a whore.” None of these stories are narratives of cheating; they are about how men respond when their precious Madonna/whore complex is shattered — when they realize that “their” woman was a human being all along.

Raquel Rosario Sanchez
Raquel Rosario Sanchez

Raquel Rosario Sanchez is a writer from the Dominican Republic. Her utmost priority in her work and as a feminist is to end violence against girls and women. Her work has appeared in several print and digital publications both in English and Spanish, including: Feminist Current, El Grillo, La Replica, Tribuna Feminista, El Caribe and La Marea. You can follow her @8rosariosanchez where she rambles about feminism, politics, and poetry.

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  • SPLIN

    U can report this misogynistic full of ego-shit bitchdick: instagram.com/papijmelo
    His accounts should be BANNED. All of them.
    He gain followers on instagram after agressive abuse and the public humiliation of woman.
    Another full of shit man who thinks ‘misogyny brings money’.

  • lk

    This is disturbing. What kind of person abuses their partner, humiliates them in public and then posts that humiliation on the internet for millions of people to see?

    From CNN:
    Melo posted a series of videos to Instagram on Wednesday, issuing an apology to “all women.”
    “I did not want this. I did not think this would get to this point,” Melo said in Spanish. “Maybe I did make a mistake, to do what I did, from the beginning to take her out naked.”
    “I take the fault. I have asked forgiveness from her, too, but I want everyone to know that I am not as bad as everyone thinks,” he said.

    His response really irks me because he doesn’t really seem interested in acknowledging that what he did was wrong and abusive and inexcusable. He seems more interested in letting us know that he isn’t really a bad guy.

    • Sally Hansen

      Exactly. Typical “woe is me” abuser rhetoric.

  • Tired feminist

    Let’s play gender-switching, since everybody seems to love this game when it comes to violence against women?

    “Woman forces her cheating bf to walk naked down the streets in NYC and, eventually, pulls out his towel.”

    Predictable public reactions:

    – LOL weird crazy woman LOL
    – he must have had a reason to cheat on her. We should hear both sides before making any judgement
    – sure, he cheated and all, but she overreacted
    – their relationship issues are a private matter, she shouldn’t have made them public and exposed him like that
    – evil bitch, unable to forgive, go rot in hell

    etc

  • Neighbor

    You think his abusive behavior just happened out of the blue? Isn’t it more likely that he was an abusive person and she was leaving him for someone better? And no, that bizarre behavior is so over the top sadistic there is no defending it- doesn’t matter what preceded.

  • Dana

    I mostly agree with you, but given that he is abusive, I’m betting that on some level she was going around behind his back looking for a safer escape hatch. She might not have consciously thought of it that way, but that’s one of the ways women escape a bad situation.

    So yeah, cheating by someone who is on secure footing and could leave the relationship any time they wanted, THAT’s not good–it goes back to lying and breaking promises and, hey, putting your partner in danger of STDs when they thought they were safe. But if I’m right about this woman, I’m a little more understanding.

    Now, mind you, the idea that an abused woman would be safer just finding a new boyfriend is not quite accurate. Most of the men killed in domestic violence were killed by other men, and in a significant percentage of those incidents the male victim is the new boyfriend or the new husband. Leaving an abusive situation is dangerous, period, and women need a good shelter system and a legal system that will protect us, not to have to resort to doing things like this that wind up endangering other people too.

    • SheriLucas

      Great points. I think it would have been best to get such nuances into the initial article. Let’s look at what he claims she did. Let’s look at what her position may be rather than just assume that he’s telling the truth and not masking vitally important information. Let’s consider that NONE of the possibilities justify him responding as he did — even if he had been a wonderful and devoted partner and father right up until the incident (as unlikely as that seems), even if he responded as he did, in part, due to profound sleep deprivation (not uncommon when there is an infant in the house), and even if she did betray him in a traumatic and terrible way.

      I think minimizing the wrongness of cheating (as I see the above article doing) is a mistake; it is likely to create a negative response in many of those who see betrayal of one’s partner as one of the worst things a person can do. If the article is read as treating cheating on one’s partner as just a human thing to do, and if it is read as treating those who think otherwise as stuck on a dated Madonna/whore binary, it may be taken as indicative of feminist views on cheating and thus fuel anti-feminist sentiment.

      • andeväsen

        You think the original article implied that “cheating” is a feminist activity?

        Do you also think that feminist opposition to the practice of stoning adulterous women implies adultery is a feminist activity?

        Takes a lot of mental gymnastics to arrive at those conclusions.

      • tinfoil hattie

        See, the article is about an abusive man who publicly humiliated his wife after he beat her. And he left their infant alone in their apartment.

        Nothing else matters.

  • Tired feminist

    Sure! Or something in the lines of “she was getting fat/ugly/boring” or “not satisfying his sexual needs” (i.e. not agreeing to do porny sex). Funny how men’s reasons to cheat can be the most ridiculous and they can still get away with it/blame women.

  • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

    I’ve been cheated on yet never paraded the cheater naked in the street. Nor had the desire to. I just told them to GTFO of my sight.

    Funny that.

  • andeväsen

    Also has anyone noticed that pornography makers/users and this man use the word “whore” in a particular way, different to pro-prostitution women’s use of it?

    “Whore-phobia” is applied to the Nordic model because its proponents are accused of being afraid of “whores”. Women who are commercially sexually exploited are called “whores”, by a subset of people who also say that “sex work is work”.

    In parallel, pornographers and this man regularly use the word “whore” to mean a woman who is subhuman, worth near as much as garbage, deserving humiliation and loathing, yet also functioning as an object to derive sexual gratification from.

    It is odd that these two usages occur in groups of people whose interests align with each other.

    Also odd that the word “whore-phobia” is not applied to pornographers.

  • Lucia Lola

    I had hoped (still sick though) that this was some prank. I have yet to really comprehend the extent of this horrible act. I am sure I will get angry later, but right now? Just fucking stunned.

    • Sally Hansen

      I can’t even bring myself to go watch it, it just seems so terrible… All I can think about is the time my ex threatened me when I got a new bf after dumping him, and how he made my life a living hell because he viewed me as his property. It’s so triggering and messed up.

  • lk

    “Why, though, does the article treat cheating as just a human thing to do?”
    I don’t think the article was suggesting that cheating was just a human thing. This article was not meant to be a commentary on the ethics of cheating on your partner; it was about male abuse of a woman..whatever triggered that abuse is totally irrelevant.
    “I think it is reasonable to be rather livid when one is betrayed in such a way.” Let’s assume that he has never abused her before this incident (doubtful) and she did actually cheat (although as some commenters here pointed out, its quite possible that he is possessive and she did not cheat). Sure, you have every right to be upset if your romantic partner violated your trust by cheating-but you do not have the right to be verbally or physically abuse them; nor do you have the right to put that abuse on the internet.

  • SheriLucas

    If you re-read my comment, you’ll note that I’m not just granting the truth of his version of the story. I deliberately noted that she MAY have cheated on him.

    • Happiness Seeker

      You should have rather deliberately noted that she may NOT have cheated on him -at all. Being cheated is one of the most used excuses of a wife-beater: ‘You looked this man TWICE! You’re cheating on me, you deserve to be beaten up”.

  • SheriLucas

    I’m not defending him AT ALL, in the slightest. Perhaps the article is aimed at singing to the choir. We all already agree that what he did was absolutely vile. It seems to me that those who have some sympathy for the man (I don’t, but clearly, many do) are less rather than more likely to be moved into a better position when the woman’s (alleged) cheating is minimized and treated as “just a human” thing to do. Why not stress, then, that even if he had sound reason to be LIVID with her, he STILL had no right whatsoever to respond as he did?

  • tinfoil hattie

    Your excellent comment raises a related point: not wanting to have sex does not equal “withholding” sex from ANYONE.

  • Anthocerotopsida

    If I was trapped in an abusive “relationship” with a violent, misogynist lunatic like the shithead, you better believe I’d cheat on him. Has it occurred to these people that, maybe (almost definitely), this isn’t the first time he’s beaten or humiliated this women?

  • DeColonise

    I never heard of this until I read this article. This is absolutely horrible. And to read that this man is getting support for his behaviour saddens me. Society is really on a slippery slope when men like this is getting praise and support for this kind of abusive behaviour.

    Also what lame excuse is cheating to behave and treat another human being in this way

    and as someone else pointed out this is most likely not the first time this man has behaved abusive.

  • Sally Hansen

    Exactly, how do we even know that she REALLY cheated? I’ve have had boyfriends false accuse me before. One even falsely accused me of being pregnant and then getting an abortion, neither of which happened. I have never cheated on any boyfriend and was accused of this regardless, then the guy hacked my email and threatened revenge in many different ways after I left him. This is about control on his part, not anything she actually did on her part.

  • Happiness Seeker

    1) He is the one to say she cheated on him. And if so, her body is her property, not his. When people in love decide to be faithful, it is a promise each of them made to themselves and the other, NOT a RIGHT given to the other person.
    2) NONE has the right to abuse his/her partner. I’ve met abused women, abused men, and I am tired of hearing excuses from their spouse. That narcissistic loser should be sent to jail for many years and forbids to play any part in the life of his daughter BECAUSE he is a sexist moron unable to control himself.

  • Danielle Matheson

    Well that made me sick. But definitely not surprised. He’s clearly an abusive asshole. No amount of anything deserves that level of abuse and humiliation. But of course he’s backed up, supported, and patted on the back. I hate that she went through that humiliation and I hate that it doesn’t surprise me even more that some douchebag thought he had the right to do so.