Opinion | TikTok encourages possessive behavior in relationships

By Vidhi Patel, Columnist

It is hard to pinpoint where exactly the romanticization of abusive behavior began on social media. #BookTok, for one, has started to romanticize clearly toxic fictional behavior enough to ask for it in real life. 

It may be hot for a fictional character to violently attack a man for flirting with his love interest, but that kind of behavior would raise all kinds of red flags in real life. Unfortunately, TikTok has created hypothetical scenarios highlighting and encouraging behavior like this, further blurring the lines between fiction and reality. 

There was a trend going around in 2021 of women expressing their attraction to men who tell their girlfriends to wear whatever they want solely because they can fight anyone who gives their girlfriend attention.

This idea of the violently protective boyfriend immediately spread around TikTok, and men started using it to make thirst traps about how they are willing to fight for women. Rather than endearing or admirable, this mindset is extremely problematic because it limits a woman’s choice to her boyfriend’s physical strength and violent tendencies. He allows her to wear revealing clothes — not because she has the right to wear what she wants but because he is capable of getting violent over the attention she might receive. 

Not only does this encourage abusive and possessive behavior, but it portrays the girlfriends as helpless women that need to be controlled. 

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Another trend of similar behavior with real-world consequences is the “I saw it, you can take it down” trend. Women began talking about how attractive it is to them when men, specifically the man they like, replies “I saw it, you can take it down now” to a social media post.

This mindset, while disguised as confidence from the man, demonstrates more possessive behavior and TikTok-fueled delusions. It implies that women only post pictures of themselves for the attention of men. 

Unfortunately, many men took this trend as encouragement to comment that line under women’s posts — with disappointing results. Evidently, a woman gets weirded out when random men act as if her actions are for their attention.

Another aspect of this possessiveness romanticized by TikTok is jealousy. While jealousy is not inherently a toxic trait, as it is primarily a feeling, this type of TikTok jealousy takes the form of anger and controlling behavior. 

This is seen in skits of men pretending their imaginary girlfriend got a call from another man, prompting the “jealous boyfriend” to grab her phone to yell at the man. Once he discovers it’s her father, he apologizes and feels awkward — apparently, women are only allowed to talk to their boyfriends and fathers. 

This type of behavior is glorified to no end on TikTok by men and women. TikTok users create scenarios of boyfriends getting violent and possessive as an outlet for their jealousy, and the comments section loves it every time. 

While fiction can be enjoyed as fiction, it is important to consider how many young people will see this depiction of “love” and internalize it until they find themselves in abusive relationships under the pretense of romance. 


Vidhi is a sophomore in LAS.

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