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The Harm Men Do Women in the Bronx

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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This post is part of a collaborative narrative series composed of my writing and Chris Arnade’s photos exploring issues of addiction, poverty, prostitution and urban anthropology in Hunts Point, Bronx. For more on the series, look here.


Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted while residing next to a crack house in El Barrio, New York, for almost five years, this article analyses how the social and economic marginalization of second- and third-generation Puerto Rican immigrants in the inner city has polarized violence and sexuality against women and children, both within the family and on the street. Traditional working-class patriarchy has been thrown into crisis by the restructuring of the global economy and the expansion of women’s rights. Unable to replicate the rural-based models of masculinity and family structure of their grandfathers’ generation, a growing cohort of marginalized men in the de-industrialized urban economy takes refuge in the drug economy and celebrates a misogynist, predatory street culture that normalizes gang rape, sexual conquest, and paternal abandonment. Marginalized men lash out against the women and children they can no longer support economically nor control patriarchally.¹

John and Diane, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

John’s girl, Diane, jumps into cars. She sits on a bucket seat ripped from a SUV. There, in its place left on the side of the road, she waits for men to drive by, stare, comment, gesture. Men like the punk rocker look, so she rips her tights, more than the day typically does, for show.

She’s had a good run of not being raped, so she figures she’ll be fine.

John sits on cardboard next to the bucket seat anticipating her return. Sometimes he get impatient and leaves to get food. As if staying would do anything. Her money buys them the crack and heroin, the rented room.

These things, this discontent, come outs when she smokes crack. It becomes unreal that you do everything. But it is expected. It is the way things go.

Sarah and Ramone, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

Ramone stays in the non-operable car, their home, while Sarah sucks strangers’ dicks. To him, that’s all she does while spending time in truckers’ cabs, nothing more. Not real sex or being fucked in the ass. He reasons blow jobs to be OK.

He listens to the Yankees and tries to jumpstart the car when it gets freezing in winter, though he often gives up and sleeps under blankets that she finds. She buys the dope, the McDonalds meals.

He’s working on finding a job. It’s been this way for three years.

Brenda, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

Brenda’s husband watches TV on a flatscreen in a friend’s apartment, wearing only Tony the Tiger pajama pants, never a shirt. He sleeps on the couch, a position he occupies with certainty. When Brenda’s friends visit, he speaks about beating the shit out of the women because they annoy him. He names women in the room who he’d like to fuck up. The mouths on them.

The women cook dinner together, serve him a plate.

Egypt, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

Egypt’s husband Chino beats her with enough regularity for her face to look black on one side. She gets him his drugs, but he’s particular. She doesn’t do things right, sometimes.

Natalie, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

Young girls, nameless, multiple, beautiful dolls, work the streets on a certain corner for a few pimps. You know the girls because they are the 14, 15, 16-year-olds who show up at bodegas with broken arms and lithe bodies, in charge of children who aren’t theirs.

Shelly, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

Shelly takes care of Roland when he’s out of jail. He’s only a baby, 23. He can barely clean up after himself, let alone earn enough, or find a dealer, for his own drugs. Poor thing.

More Hunts Point Addiction Writing
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Cassie Rodenberg About the Author: I write on culture, poverty, addiction, and mental illness: I explore things we like to ignore. I also teach public school in New York City's South Bronx. Follow on Twitter @cassierodenberg.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. I1D2S3 9:44 am 09/5/2014

    Undoubtedly these cases represent samples of what we call them in psychology “primary personality disorders”. But nevertheless they may also reflect the consequences of daily life stress and frustration that some people are suffering from, due to e. g. poverty and lack of suitable employment, as well as the loss of faith that eventually make society full of these models. The eventual consequences of these attitudes will lead to a significant damage to the community. Indeed telling the stories of these gays perhaps leads some young people to mimic and follow their example and may encourage them to commit some criminal actions toward the community . I personally against the publication of such cases.

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  2. 2. Wayne Williamson 1:59 pm 09/6/2014

    I1D2S3, from your post you sound like you are in the psychology field. This actually bothers me more than the article…

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  3. 3. SJCrum 7:37 pm 09/7/2014

    You know, one very simple thing that isn’t understood much at all in this world, or even in this country, is that a TRULY GREAT and SUCCESSFUL country would understand that it is far MORE PROFITABLE to have under-privileged people TRAINED to do economic-producing work. The gross national percent is ALL about how totally PRODUCTIVE a country is, and the more people who produce things from work ADD to that measurement of true economic success. A country that is ignoring potential workers, has far less production, and the unemployed are actually a non-productive item.

    And, giving people work also accomplishes far greater lives for them and more self esteem, etc.

    In the end, such a real progress solution would be FAR more economically successful, and an easy 100 percent better as far as productive growth for this country.

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