"If your wife says 'no,' turn her around, and rip her clothes off. She wants to be dominated."
That is an actual sentence by Joe Gorga, published in Real Housewife Melissa Gorga's new book Love Italian Style. New Jersey's segment of the Real Housewives traffics in the showcasing of appalling misogyny. But what started as a metajoke mocking these awful men has become tacit endorsement after years of unpunished behavior. And now, we've reached the point where St. Martin's Press has published a book by a Real Housewife that seemingly advocates men raping their wives.
Melissa opens every Real Housewives of New Jersey episode with the line, "Sexy life, loyal wife. Take a page from my book." Now audience members can quite literally do so. And it's some truly scary stuff. Gorga documents the ways in which she is essentially a slave to her husband, going so far as to explain the training he's given her during their marriage: "His style was to make corrections and to teach me from the beginning days of our marriage exactly how he envisioned our life together."
For those familiar with the show, Joe Gorga is portrayed as a lovable, harmless oaf, the foil to his sister Teresa's husband Joe Guidice, who seems more overtly abusive. The key difference between the two is that audiences are trained to hate Guidice as he publicly demeans his wife, gets caught on a hot mic calling her unspeakable names, and is currently involved in legal troubles that may lead to an extended incarceration. But Gorga is presented as a hothead with the best of intentions, to which Melissa fake-smiles her way through a cesspool of misogyny, as she's routinely objectified.
In that duplicitous vein, Melissa Gorga has responded to the controversy by claiming her book doesn't endorse rape. "That is so awful. That word is so disgusting to me and that's horrible," she tells E! News. Notice what disgusts her isn't the concept, just the word. She then attempts to recontextualize the quote topping this article by describing that passage as "playful" and "teasing."
In a televised interview on Bethenny, rape again seems to be endorsed with a high-five from another guest as Joe Gorga explains, "She fights it, but I always win... Daddy needs his sleeping pill."
What the Gorgas represent is a backlash to consent that's become shockingly trendy, especially in music. Notable recent examples include Robin Thicke's subtle but problematic "Blurred Lines" and the much more overt lyric from Rick Ross on the top-twenty hit "U.O.E.N.O": "Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain't even know it. I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it." Perhaps it's no coincidence that Melissa is now a pop singer.
While Ross lost an endorsement deal with Reebok for his lyric, the Gorgas have an expanding platform that doesn't even pretend to challenge their twisted ideas.
St. Martin's Press should pull the book and donate any existing profit to a rape awareness organization, while Bravo needs to hold these people accountable or get them off the air. Preferably both.
If you have been the victim of sexual assault, call 1.800.656.HOPE or visit www.rainn.org.