There's nothing funny or cheeky about an abusive relationship. Which is why an app called "The Boyfriend Trainer" that encourages players to force their virtual boyfriends to act according to their liking has become a subject of controversy.
The app, available on the iTunes App Store and Google's Android app store, states in the description that "no boyfriend is perfect," and urges users to "zap him, whack him and train him to be your ideal man."
According to The Telegraph, Apple has a zero-tolerance policy for nudity in apps and does not allow apps that promote violence against women, raising questions about why there appears to be a double standard when it comes to offering an app that encourages virtual female characters to treat men poorly. The Telegraph notes that The Boyfriend Trainer has users leading their digital boyfriends around on a leash, and encourages them to use mace if their boyfriend's eyes wander.
Judging from the reviews on the Google app store, users' opinions of the game are divided. "The concept is highly offensive and inappropriate. Hitting men to learn? Really?" wrote one user.
"Men have bn beaten on woman 4 4ever now we get a little payback HELL YEA doesn't get any better !!!!!!!!!!" raved another.
And yet another reviewer lamented the use of violence in general in gaming.
"With all the shootings and the violence out there right now the last thing we need [is an] application that promotes violence against anybody," the user wrote.
A quick search of the Google app store shows The Boyfriend Trainer isn't the only one that has female characters acting out aggressively against their male partners.
There's the "Funny Whack Your Boy Friend" app, for instance, which advertises a screenshot of a cartoon woman who has decapitated her beau with a knife. There's the "Girlfriends Strike Back" app that allows players to choose their weapons, such as purses, high-heeled shoes, lighters and frying pans, with which they are encouraged to exact revenge on their boyfriends, "especially if you're [sic] boyfriend's a slob, a liar, a flirt, or a loud snorer who's always late." And there's the "Angry Girlfriend" app, which doesn't appear to allow users to strike their virtual boyfriends per se, but does have them destroy their boyfriend's belongings out of spite.
Certainly, violent video games don't necessarily cause players to act out violently in real life. For many, gaming is just an amusing way to pass the time and put themselves in a fictional character's shoes.
But those who argue against The Boyfriend Trainer make a good point: An app called "The Girlfriend Trainer" that reversed the roles would surely never be allowed.
So why would aggressive girlfriend characters be considered merely sassy rather than unacceptable? What's with the double standard?