‘Being beaten for Nothing’…

Complementing material control is the micro-regulation of women’s behavior in everyday life.

While micro-management often extends to the most trivial activities (such as what women watch on TV or

which internet sites they visit), its main targets are women’s default responsibilities for housework, child

care and providing sexual pleasure. Abusive men regulate how women emote, dress, wear their hair,

clean, cook and discipline their children. Rules given to women have extended to how the carpet was to

be vacuumed (“till you can see the lines”) and the height of the bedspread off the floor to the heat of the

water in the bath drawn each night for a husband. Here, too, there is the relationship between the

pettiness of the rules perpetrators impose and the shame associated with compliance. Since the only

purpose of the rules is to exact obedience, they are continually being revised. As Mrsevic and Hughes

(l997, P. 123) put it, “As men’s control over women increases, the infractions against men’s wishes get

smaller, until women feel as if they are being beaten for ’nothing.’”

Re-presenting Battered Women: Coercive Control and the Defense of Liberty *

By Evan Stark , Ph.D, MSW

Professor, Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration

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