This is a weekly reminder that Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi romanticizes abuse. This post is an in-depth commentary on chapter ten. If you’re interested in reading more comprehensive commentaries about the deeply problematic aspects of Shatter Me, chapters one through nine are linked below.
Chapters Five & Six
Chapters Seven & Eight
Adam is not perfect:
A few posts ago, I mentioned that I would talk about Adam in a less than good light. Most of the time when I mention Adam, I talk about the good things he does. In direct contrast, we have Warner who is basically a walking pile of dog shit.
But Adam is not perfect.
For all he does that is good, there are some small instances in which I can say that Adam’s actions are not okay. The most stark, so far, comes in chapter ten. At this point, Warner has basically ordered Adam to take Juliette to the rooms he’s prepared for her. This will be a fancy prison, but a prison nonetheless.
Autonomy & Consent
Adam begins this encounter well, honestly. At first, he doesn’t touch Juliette. He’s witnessed her entire interaction with Warner and he already knows how she feels about being touched based on their interactions in prison together. So, instead of forcing anything on her, he starts the interaction of following Warner’s orders with an offer instead of with force. Considering the nature of “soldiers,” especially those under Warner, this is actually pretty surprising. All of Warner’s soldiers thus far have been cruel, taking any chance to hurt Juliette that they can. The fact that Adam doesn’t in comparison is pretty big.
The great thing about Adam here is that he offers her his hand and doesn’t force her when she refuses. The unfortunate thing is that he pushes her despite knowing how she feels about being touched. Instead of having her walk with him, he leads her along by placing his hand on her lower back. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say that Adam is trying to test her limits to see how far he can get until she says no again, but rather that there’s an insensitivity here to his lack of understanding how to lead her where he needs her to go without infringing on her space.
Granted, perhaps Warner would get pissed at him and send a different soldier if he just let her walk on her own?
And then it gets worse…
So, as they continue their journey he touches her to lead her again and then when she jumps, he grabs her waist to…settle her? And I mean, sure, you can tell he’s concerned about her but was that really necessary? He knows how she feels about all of the touching and yet he continues to do it anyway. And this is a problem. Plain and simple. I can say that Adam has some benefit of the doubt here, if only because she has not specifically told him not to do so. But at the same time, she shouldn’t have to. She very clearly voiced her stance on the matter when she responded to his offer of having her take his hand.
And honestly, I wouldn’t have really had much of a problem with how Adam responds in this chapter were it not for what happens next. It concerns me deeply how Mafi has no problem allowing her love interests to ignore consent in a massively disturbing number of instances. But, at first, when Juliet finally makes her statement of not wanting to be touched–it doesn’t matter that she’s lying, she said to him and he needs to take it at face value–Adam basically parrots what Warner has told her. I’m not sure if he means this as a warning based on the expectations that Warner has of him as a soldier and of Juliette as his “pet,” but it deeply problematic that his response is to tell her she doesn’t have a choice.
Again, though, I have to speak to Adam responding, initially, well. He doesn’t argue with her when she fights back and he kind of accepts her agency in this moment. He doesn’t touch her . Instead, he tells her to follow him. And this is great, honestly. It makes Adam a decent person. It just bothers me that he had to ruin completely not even two paragraphs later. And sure, he’s helping her get into the tank, but this is so not okay after what she has said to him. At the very least he should have asked if he could help her up and waited for her to decide.
What was Mafi thinking?
So, Adam’s not perfect. Not great in some areas. But I would take this behavior a million times over the abusive, consent-ignoring shit that Warner pulls. Does Mafi really think that coercion and pushing clearly established boundaries is okay? Romantic? What the fuck, Mafi? Honestly. This is not okay. And both love interests do it. There’s a stark difference, sure, in how they do it. Adam’s is far less problematic. But my point is that love interests shouldn’t be problematic.
And, of course, Adam’s pushing doesn’t quite end there because he also has to touch her for some reason to help her get out of the tank. I’d give him more leeway if that was all he did. If the only thing he was pushing her with was helping her out and then immediately letting go, fine. It’s not the worst. But, she’s told him she doesn’t want him touching her and then he helps her in and out and then just kind of lingers… In its own way, you can tell this is him asking.
But Adam, honey, you have mouth. You have the ability to ask without touching. So, why the hell was this necessary? And fine, the second she pulls out of your reach you don’t push again. But she shouldn’t have to do that. She shouldn’t have to keep reminding you that you are ignoring her lack of consent.
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