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Breaking the Taboo: Abusive Lesbian Relationships in the Work of Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro

Sarah Simpson, University of Edinburgh



Abuse in queer relationships is a complex issue; a reluctance to acknowledge abuse in lesbian relationships has been noted by researchers in the fields of psychology and social work. This reluctance has been attributed partially to a fear that the existence of abuse will be used by a homophobic society to justify negative views of lesbian relationships in general and partially to the fact that domestic abuse has traditionally been understood within a heteronormative framework. The latter has led to abuse being characterised mainly on the basis of gender, assuming maleness on the part of the perpetrator; this model does little to facilitate analysis of abuse in same-gender relationships.

The work of Puerto Rican writer Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro breaks the taboo on acknowledging abuse in lesbian relationships, often featuring abusive relationships between women. In Arroyo Pizarro’s novel Caparazones (2010), the narrator Nessa is emotionally abused and controlled by her partner Alexia. In this paper, I will explore the complex ways in which gender performance and race play into the dynamics of this abusive relationship. I will interrogate and complicate critic Sophie Large’s reading of the novel, in particular her statement that depictions of lesbian relationships in Arroyo Pizarro’s work demonstrate “una clara reactualización del modelo de pareja heteropatriarcal”.

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