THE BLOG

MAJOR Relationship Buzzkills...

05/02/2016 10:13 GMT | Updated 04/02/2017 10:12 GMT

I recently came across an article on Buzzfeed called '21 Valid Arguments that Prove Jealous Girlfriends are the Best.'

What followed was a celebration of being the type of person who spies on, emotionally blackmails, follows, and damages the property of their partner or "bae" - as is now the correct teenage relationship term - more on that in a bit.

Whilst not wishing to be one of those Buzzfeed buzzkills - because I think the site is generally entertaining, funny and sometimes does good work - this particular article struck a real bum note with me.

The day before I'd been speaking to a large group of teenagers on precisely that thing - relationships and specifically abusive relationships - and man alive, did I leave worried more worried than ever.

We are all rightly made aware of the very real problem of domestic violence and abuse in adult relationships and marriages. There are a number of brilliant charities, organisations and spokespeople that work tirelessly to raise money and awareness for the cause.

But the issue and very real problem of domestic violence and abuse in teenage relationships is misunderstood and often ignored. In fact, the Director of Public Prosecutions has identified the group most at risk from domestic violence are 16-19 year old young women, closely followed by 20-24 year old women.

And the risk of domestic violence is by no means confined to girls. An NSPCC survey revealed 18% of teenage boys reported physical violence in their relationships with 4% describing it as "severe", 50% reported emotional abuse and 16% reported sexual abuse.

The same figures for teenage girls were even higher with 25% reporting physical abuse (12% considered "severe"), 74% reporting emotional abuse and 33% reporting sexual abuse.

It should also be noted that these figures were all based the assumption of teenage heterosexual relationships. Research into abusive teenage non-heterosexual relationships is even more woefully scarce.

The trouble is that when you say the words "relationship abuse" or "domestic violence" to teenagers, they all seem to have visions of a battered, middle-aged wife in a robe, with a screwed up tissue in her hand.

They don't believe it can happen to them - a generation that has grown up with equal rights, feminism, child rights and "talking through" your problems. The poor, frightened wife trapped in a violent marriage seems to them like an image from another era and certainly in no way symbolic of their lives.

In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Both in the work I do in schools and when I was interviewing hundreds of teens for my book Generation Z: Their Voices, Their Lives, revealed countless tales told, often, in an almost casual fashion of textbook abuse:

A light slap here, a punch there, coercion into sex or a sexual act(s) that are unwanted, being called abusive names, having your partner confiscate your phone, being accused of sleeping around or flirting with other people, being forced to moderate how you dress because your partner disapproves, rape, being coerced into sending sexy snaps or films, having to drop friends your partner doesn't like, getting shamed on social media, having your partner tell other people intimate details about you.

The list of horrifying stories from teenagers about treatment at the hands of their "bae" went on and depressingly on. So you can begin to see my problem with Buzzfeed not just normalising a form of abuse, but actually turning them into a joke for their huge teenage audience - "hey guys, isn't your girlfriend spying on and limiting your every move just MEGA LOLS?' Well, no, actually - it's kind of the #1 warning sign in domestic abuse pamphlets.

Of course, one jokey article on Buzzfeed is the thin end of the wedge. The internet is awash with websites, videos, Twitter feeds, Vines and memes that both celebrate and encourage abusive and controlling behavior in teenage relationships (I'm not going to link to any of them, because they are all horrible and depressing.)

The last thing I discussed with the teenagers was this ubiquitous term "bae" which kind of refers to one's significant other, but actually stands for Before Anyone Else.

Teenage language is a brilliant thing and they are both entitled to and should be encouraged to create their own lexicon. However a lot of the teenagers I interviewed felt, the word "bae" often doesn't denote an equal partner or cherished one - but kind of - "you're number one in line for now."

This "bae" ideology of teenage relationships seems to me one of the central tenets that fosters their anxiety and uncertainty over their relationships - emotions that can certainly enable abusive or controlling relationships.

The extension of this (and certainly the message in the Buzzfeed article) is that a relationship is only worthwhile if it is riddled with jealousy, anxiety, uncertainty and possessiveness. And what a sad, bad and stupid message.

Many other part of life (money, jobs, school, society etc.) are rigged to make you feel anxious and possessive about what you have.

If your relationship with bae/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/whatever, isn't sheltering you from and helping you with those pressures - then it isn't the best, it's the worst.

Chloe Combi is the author of Generation Z, published in paperback by Windmill, £8.99