by Nwando Ofokansi, Education Programs Coordinator at the Katie Brown Educational Program
In the words of Fraulein Maria, “Let’s start from the very beginning—a very good place to start.”
Rob Kardashian’s first public celebrity relationship was with singer Adrienne Bailon back in 2007. They dated for two years, with their relationship documented on reality TV series Keeping up with the Kardashians. Their 2009 break up was said to have been attributed to Rob’s busy school schedule and Adrienne’s commitment to her career. But in a 2010 episode of his family’s TV show, Rob confessed that he had cheated on Adrienne.
In 2012, he started dating singer Rita Ora, though Rita says she never really considered them to be in an actual dating relationship. After they parted ways, Rob took to twitter to say: “She cheated on me with nearly 20 dudes while we were together, I wonder how many she will sleep with now that we apart?” He later rescinded those comments, admitting that he only said it because he was hurt and “just had to do that to make her hate me.” This is obviously not ok. Break ups are tough, especially in a relationship where one partner was clearly more invested in it than the other. But the mature way to have dealt with that kind of hurt would have been to honestly communicate those feelings to Rita, then find healthy ways to get over the relationship. Talk to your sisters. Watch The Office on Netflix. Go sell socks. But do NOT try to publicly humiliate your ex online with false cheating accusations and slut-shaming.
Since his break up with Rita Ora and other family and personal events, he’d hardly been seen and had become known for being reclusive.
Now let’s talk about Chyna. Not the country. Not the wrestler. The model. Blac Chyna was a well-known exotic dancer and model who developed a relationship with rapper Tyga in 2011. In 2012, the couple had a child together. They both have the letter ‘y’ in their names so you’d think they were meant to be together. But after dating for 3 years, Tyga—sticking with the ‘y’ theme— left Chyna for Kylie Kardashian.
Now the relationship between Tyga and Kylie was concerning because they were often spotted together while Kylie was still underage. The age of consent in California is 18, but Kylie was only 16 years old when speculations of a relationship with the then 24 year old Tyga emerged. At the time, however, they had not announced any formal romantic relationship and claimed to only be friends. It wasn’t until Kylie was 18 years old that they became Instagram-official dating partners. But if in fact Tyga had a sexual relationship with a 16 year old Kylie, we are looking at sexual assault of a child who was too young to consent. We can only give them the benefit of the doubt—platonic relationships are a thing, and the nature of relationships can change over time.
Surprisingly, once the dust settled from Tyga dropping Chyna for Kylie, Chyna emerged with the once-reclusive Rob. Tyga had left Chyna for a Kardashian, so it seems she decided to snatch herself a Kardashian too. There was speculation that Chyna entered the relationship with Rob simply to spite Tyga, but as a former friend of Rob’s sister Kim, it is quite possible that she knew Rob well and had a genuine interest in him. And Rob and Chyna sure did seem happy together. He was coming out of his shell more, and seemed to be getting his health on track. In the spring of 2016, Rob and Chyna got engaged and soon after announced that they were having a baby together. But it wasn’t all wedding bells and puka shells. The tumultuous relationship was marred by multiple forms of violence. Chyna claimed that Rob was in poor mental health but refused to get himself the help she felt he needed, choosing to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol instead. According to Chyna, Rob constantly accused her of infidelity. She denied the allegations, but if any of them are true, her cheating would constitute a form of both emotional and sexual violence. If the allegations aren’t true, then Rob’s false accusations would constitute emotional violence. She also said he would verbally attack her, which greatly stressed her out during her pregnancy, and would use money and expensive gifts to make things blow over—which is a form of financial violence. Things came to a screeching stop when, in December, Chyna decided she could no longer deal with Rob’s instability and verbal, emotional, and financial violence. Just days before Christmas, a dejected Rob posted videos of an empty house on snapchat, showing that Chyna had taken their baby and left. By March of 2017, the couple officially called it quits.
Rob and Chyna had been split for at least four months when Chyna posted a since-deleted Instagram picture that said she was single and happy in early July. Then all hell broke loose.
In typical Rob fashion, he took to social media to air out all the dirty laundry, including nude pictures that Chyna had sent him. In a string of posts on his now-deleted Instagram account, Rob accused Chyna of cheating on him during their relationship and posted images of Chyna and other men that she has been with since breaking up with Rob. It is worth noting that Rob has a history of making false public accusations of cheating against his former lovers. And, being that Chyna is a single adult, she is entitled to forge consensual relationships with whomever she pleases. Rob was simply attempting to sully her character by broadcasting her sexual relationships with other people. He body-shamed her by posting about surgeries she had that he had financed, and criticized her post-surgery body. In what seems to be an effort to humiliate her, he also aired out the fact that her expensive cars, her rent, and several thousand dollars’ worth of jewelry are all funded by him. Nonetheless, Chyna is the mother of his child, who lives in the house with her, so is his paying the rent entirely out of the question? And once again, expensive gifts do not justify disrespect. Dangling gifts in front of your partner (or ex partner in this case), then boasting about having paid for them with intentions to humiliate said partner is financial violence. Rob went on to accuse Chyna of bringing alcohol, drugs, and men into the home and bed that he pays for—the home that their young child lives in as well. If this is true, the dangers of bringing drugs into a home where young children live is obvious. However, Chyna’s alleged irresponsibility does not justify public shaming or revenge porn—the latter of which is illegal in Rob’s state of California.
Many people have taken to social media to pick a side in this celebrity feud. While it is worth noting that Rob has had a history of mental health struggles (which should not be dismissed as many Chyna supporters have so readily done), this cannot be used as an excuse for emotional, financial, and sexual violence. Maintaining mental health is a challenge, but many people coping with depression and other mental illnesses still manage not to abuse their partners. What is deeply troubling is the amount of people using Blac Chyna’s claim to fame as a defense for Rob’s recent Instagram posts. As previously mentioned, Chyna was an exotic dancer and now is a model. As such, it is safe to say that lots of people saw her naked. But the fundamental difference between that and what Rob has done is that Chyna willingly consented to those displays of her body. As a dancer and a model, she was in complete control of how much of and to whom her body would be revealed.
Much of the critique of Blac Chyna is entrenched in the far too rigid ideas of gender roles and womanhood. According to US social norms regarding gender, a woman should be “pure” and prude. In deviation from this gendered expectation, Chyna is a woman who seems to be in control of and unashamed of her sexuality. Her unabashed sexuality thereby rendered her a woman no longer worthy of respect; so to many, Chyna was getting what she deserved. These are the unfortunate consequences of sexism and slut-shaming. It is so critical to remember that all people deserve to be treated with basic human decency, including women who are not afraid of their own sexuality. As often as Blac Chyna may have taken her clothes off in front of others, we must remember and respect her agency in the decision to do so. Contrastingly, the sexual content that Rob posted on social media was without her consent, and thereby is sexual assault. The state of California has fairly strict revenge porn laws, and since this social media incident Chyna has lawyered up.
Chyna and her lawyer went on Good Morning America the following Monday to address the posts. “I was devastated. How could somebody post these pictures of me? … This is a person I trusted. … I felt betrayed.” In court the same day, Chyna told a judge that Rob had physically attacked her in April. If Chyna’s allegations are true, this adds to the list of violent behaviours that Rob directed towards his former fiancée. After the hearing, Blac Chyna and her lawyer Lisa Bloom addressed the public. Bloom announced:
“The judge gave us everything we asked for which is a set of very strong and enforceable restraining orders against Rob Kardashian, restraining him from coming near her, and restraining him from cyber bullying; restraining him from posting anything about her online of a personal nature including photos and videos. As we have said all along, revenge porn is a form of domestic abuse. It is also a crime in California and 38 other states, and it’s a civil wrong.”
It is sad to see a once loving relationship degenerate into sexual, financial, and emotional abuse and allegations of cheating. We will have to wait and see how this all plays out, and hope that everyone involved—for the sake of themselves and for the sake of the children involved—is able to move forward and develop healthy and respectful relationships.
At the Katie Brown Educational Program, we teach young people about the different types of relationship violence and the building blocks of healthy relationships. Despite what a person’s background is— whether they live with a mental illness or are a sex worker— everyone deserves to enter relationships that are respectful, consensual, and free from violence.
¹ Screenshot from Blac Chyna’s Instagram Account (https://www.instagram.com/blacchyna)
² Screenshot from Rob Kardashian’s Twitter Account (https://twitter.com/robkardashian)