Stop fetishizing Nate Jacobs

Lily Mae Lazarus, Managing Editor

Content Warning: The following article contains subject matter pertaining to domestic abuse and dating violence.

Euphoria’s Nate Jacob epitomizes impunity for domestic abusers. (Maggie Pasterz)

I am the type of victim who tends to ignore trigger warnings. Having been in a physically, mentally and sexually abusive relationship and as a multiple-time victim of sexual violence, I am sick of avoiding popular media out of fear. 

Euphoria” was the first TV show that prompted me to walk away with a pallid face, my ears ringing and my heart vibrating through my chest. In the face of Nate Jacobs I saw my abuser, handsome, confident and unafraid of being caught with his hands around my throat. I saw myself in Maddy Perez, blinded by young love, broken down to the most basic of human elements and hiding the finger shaped bruises on my neck.

“Euphoria” is the second most-watched TV series in HBO’s history. The series’ second season averages an estimated 16.3 million viewers. Despite its cult following, “Euphoria” has drawn some criticism from its depiction of domestic violence and alleged romanticization of substance abuse.

No amount of “TV-MA for ​​drug use, nudity, violence, and language” disclaimers prepare potential viewers for the show’s disturbing representations of abuse. Fictional or not, “Euphoria” is a difficult show to watch for survivors of domestic violence. 

Both season one and season two of “Euphoria” showcase domestic violence and abuse at the hands of Nate. Nate’s toxic masculinity, internalized homophobia and need for control serve as the conditions for his abusive behavior. These traits, however, are not the reason for which he is abusive, that responsibility lies with him.

In humanizing Nate, the directors of  “Euphoria” muddled down the impact of his abuse both physically and emotionally. Nate is not toxic. Nate is an abuser. No amount of “daddy issues” and teenage angst changes that fact. 

In season two, when Nate holds a gun to his ex-girlfriend’s head and psychologically tortures her, he commits overt acts of domestic violence. When Nate wakes up in a cold sweat after having an incestious and homoerotic nightmare, he is still guilty of domestic violence, and he is still an abuser. Abusers caught in moments of vulnerability remain responsible for their actions.

Nate’s character is recognizable to many female viewers. One in three women experience some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. Women between the ages of 18 and 24 years old are the most frequently abused demographic. According to HBO’s Programming President Casey Bloys, the show’s target audience is viewers 18 to 34 years old. 

Demographics and statistics aside, dating violence and abuse is inescapable in both seasons of the show. The first four episodes of season one build the narrative of the fifth episode’s abusive apex. Nate’s abuse of his on-again-off-again girlfriend Maddy plays out in a somewhat cliche storyline. Maddy’s vulnerability stems from witnessing her parents’ loveless marriage and the validation she receives from her external beauty. 

Maddy’s lack of a positive example of healthy communication, intimacy and love in relationships provides ample conditions for potential abuse. However, her family tumult in no way excuses Nate’s behavior. Regardless of her backstory, Maddy’s reaction to Nate’s abuse is normal. She defends his behavior and excuses the heartbreak because, in her eyes, he loves her regardless. The toxic yet addictive nature of their relationship draws Maddy back to Nate much like protagonist Rue is drawn back to drugs. 

There are many parallels in the show that set the stage for upcoming abuse by Nate. In the first episode of season one, after Maddy hooks up with someone else to make Nate jealous, Nate practically beats the boy to death. After Nate choked Maddy for embarrassing him and questioning his sexuality, Maddy tells the police that the boy she hooked up with in the first episode is responsible for the bruises around her neck. 

Despite being physically restrained, photographed, interrogated and told that she is a victim of domestic violence, Maddy still begs for Nate’s forgiveness knowing she will never be given the same apology. 

It would be unfair to call Maddy naive or immature for remaining in an abusive relationship. Behind the gut wrenching tears, slut shaming and physical violence, there are the good moments of their relationship. The gifts, compliments, fleeting chivalry and physical intimacy dilute Maddy’s cognizance of her relationship’s grim reality. 

As a victim, Maddy is fairly textbook. Victims of domestic abuse return to their abuser an average of 6.3 times before leaving for good. No victim is the same in their reasons for returning, but the behavior itself is incredibly common. For non-victims, it may feel frustrating to watch someone who is battered and bruised run back into the arms that beat them. For victims like me, we may see ourselves in Maddy, a young woman so broken down by abuse and so conditioned by her first love that she does not know any different. 

There is no resolution or justice for Maddy. We see her at the end of season two attempting to rebuild her self worth and navigate singleness. Nate, however, remains the subject of sexual attraction and desireablilty. 

By fetishizing Nate’s unresolved aggression and impunity, “Euphoria” perpetuates cyclical violence and revictimization patterns. Although this is hopefully unintentional, it overshadows the fact that Maddy and millions of other women will never see their abuser behind bars nor will they ever publicly acknowledge their abuse. 

Nate Jacobs is not a sex object. He is an abuser.

The National Dating Abuse Helpline offers resources for individuals experiencing abuse by intimate partners, is LGBT+ inclusive and can be reached at 866-331-9474.

Resources are available for Tulane students who are victims of sexual violence. Contact Sexual Assault Peer Hotline and Education‘s 24/7 Peer Run Hotline at 504-654-9543 if you need help. 

Tulane Emergency Medical Services can be reached at 504-865-5911. TEMS is a free, student-run service. In addition, Tulane University Police Department’s non-emergency Uptown number is 504-865-5381.

You can also reach out to Case Management and Victim Support Services at 504-314-2160 and they can offer support and help you file a report.

RAINN: Rape Abuse + Incest National Network provides resources that are LGBTQ+ inclusive and can be reached at 800-656-4673.

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