Violence: The Kind of Work You Don’t Want to Bring Home

Fighting, Porn, Abuse, and Assault in Las Vegas
Note: this article is opinion, reflection, and analysis, not authoritative accounts of factual events. Source material should be used for citation, not this article, except as it pertains to the opinions of the author.

Rarely do I step outside of my usual fiction-philosophy mode of content for this site and do current event topics, but an interesting story popped up on my radar from my former home of Las Vegas. It seems that a professional MMA fighter promoted through Bellator MMA who calls himself “War Machine” (allegedly) severely beat his girlfriend, porn star Christy Mack, sending her to the hospital. He is now a fugitive and wanted by the LVPD, which hasn’t stopped him from making a fool of himself over twitter. Before I dive into some analysis, some philosophical discussion, and some practical advice, let’s have a quick rundown of some of the facts.
John “War Machine” Koppenhaver (For more, try Wikipedia):
“War Machine” is the legal name of the fighter in question. His birth name was John Koppenhaver. He changed his name legally in 2008.
War Machine fought on the Ultimate Fighter series under his birth name. He was eliminated in the first round.
His father died when he was thirteen, while Koppenhaver attempted to revive him using CPR.
He has been convicted of numerous assaults. He has received probation and was also sentenced to a year in prison in 2011.
War Machine performed as a pornographic actor in more than 12 films and has worked at a gay nightclub. He was also accused of assaulting people at a birthday party for a pornographic actress.
After being trolled by users of 4chan in 2013, he punched himself numerous times in the face. (source-video below)
He began his relationship with Christy Mack by stalking her over twitter. She eventually responded to the advances. He is ten years her senior.
He has a tattoo of “Mack” on the front of his neck for his girlfriend.
Christy Mack (For more, try Wikipedia):
Christy Mack is a pornographic actress and has worked in the industry for about two years. She was not involved in porn while War Machine was active in the industry.
She is recognizable for her extensive tattoo work and her unique hairstyle, which looks like a Mohawk.
She has claimed that she wanted to retire from the industry but had a large house and had to take care of her mother (source in video below)
She has a tattoo reading “Property of War Machine” on her shoulder (source: twitter)
Together:
They were dating for approximately 10 months before the altercation in question happened.
Mack and Koppenhaver have done interviews together where they discuss their relationship. In one (see analysis), Koppenhaver explains his tattoo on his neck and also tells the interviewer that he would kill Christy instead of breaking up with her.
They posed nude together in Hustler.
The supposed events (these are in dispute): (source)
According to John, he went home to surprise Christy (later he said with an engagement ring) and found another man there, and was “Fighting for his life.”
No other person has been implicated at the scene, but Christy Mack was hospitalized with a broken jaw and shattered eye socket.
John left the home after the assault and is still being sought by the police. He has continued to post on twitter.
Mack’s mother is offering a 5,000 dollar reward to bring War Machine in to authorities.
UPDATE: Christy Mack put out a full statement, here. In this statement, she said John showed up at here house early in the morning, battered another male, then proceeded to beat, stab, and attempt to rape her. She claims the relationship was dissolved in May.
A Short Opinionated Analysis
           
            This twitter cap could speak quite a bit in my absence:
            The first thing that I noticed was the shirt “War Machine” was wearing, which reads “I do alpha male shit.” This speaks volumes about the man’s motivations. For those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, a currently popular trope among men is the concept of “Alpha” (the dominant male who gets all the women) and “Beta” (a passive male that is frequently rejected). Neither of these concepts are meaningful to adults who have families or monogamous relationships; the idea of coming off as dominant or passive is not very relevant to the demands of career, family, and children. It is, however, meaningful between young men as part of a social label. The fact that Koppenhaver needs a shirt to broadcast this status means that he is seeking it, which also means that he has not, in his own mind at least, obtained it.
            This psychological defect, which can in some ways be seen as Oedipal (in a Freudian sense- http://psychology.about.com/od/oindex/g/def_oedipuscomp.htm), manifests itself through actions which are intended to elevate masculine appearance. He is still trying to prove is ascent to manhood, which due to his loss of his father early on, can never be provided through the traditional role of the elder male. Where others are legitimized through the relationship with their fathers, he is denied his chance to come of age, and so must attempt it through other means.
 “Machismo,” in other words, demands that it be backed up through action. For Koppenhaver, this means doing things that our society has labeled to be masculine: initiating violence, enduring pain, and being hyper-sexual. These are manifested through his fighting career, his tattoos (and fighting), and his involvement in the porn industry as both actor and significant other to an actor.
            This also helps explain his twisting of the situation to cast himself as victim, and therefore justified in his violence. By claiming that Mack was being unfaithful, his machismo response – violence – is explained. By adding another male assailant to the mix, he is also legitimizing violence against other males. The violence becomes acceptable in his mind because it is either enacting vengeance or stopping a mate from having sex with males, both of which are illegitimate morally.
Above we have a video of the couple together. Some notable points in the discussion are: The each got tattoos of each other, Koppenhaver dislikes Mack’s profession but views it as a means to an end, Koppenhaver casually discusses killing Christy (shortly before the six minute mark) if they break up and that she would “probably deserve it,” their relationship began via twitter stalking/harassment, and in frustration from internet trolling from 4chan he beat his own face.
Christy Mack’s history is less visible than Koppenhaver’s, but from her interaction in the video I see problems that are in many ways the compliment to her boyfriend’s. She chose a career that sells her image as a lust commodity – her self-validation comes not from “machismo” like respect, but from external sources of desire for her body. It makes sense to me that she would choose someone who is extremely possessive. In the video she also casually dismisses Koppenhaver’s death threat, saying that she “would probably deserve it,” which is typical of abused women (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battered_person_syndrome). Whether she was abused prior to this relationship is possible, as it is not uncommon for battered or abused individuals to find themselves in the same situation over and over, but it is not known. In any event, this video should have been a huge red flag for them, and most importantly, for the interviewer, who casually rushed through the awkward and disturbing moments.
Making Money From Your Body – Practice and Pragmatics
            Both Mack and Koppenhaver make money from their bodies. Mack does it through sex, Koppenhaver does it through violence. Philosophically, there is no objection to either of these people doing what they do; they own their bodies and therefor also own any production created by their bodies. In the mainstream, there is a bit more acceptance of individuals who are athletes than there are for pornstars. The discussion of the similarity between these two is perhaps worthy of its own article, but in short, both activities are within the individual’s rights and responsibilities, and differ only in perception.
            That being said, this situation should also inform pragmatic behaviors. Just because something is within an individual’s rights does not mean it is healthy, nor does it mean all behavior or careers should be accepted in a partner. “War Machine” makes his money by hurting other people, and being hurt himself. His profession is violence. While I respect martial arts and I don’t think violence in sporting capacity translates to violence in a private capacity, the subject’s pursuit of violence as a profession is a meaningful piece to the puzzle of his dysfunction. Hurting others gave him validation; we should beware those who study violence to make themselves feel better or for status.
            Likewise Christy Mack’s vocation, though within her rights, would not be compatible with the lifestyles of most individuals. This is because monogamy, or fidelity, is a typical part of a romantic relationship and is also incompatible with work in porn. There are lots of social reasons for this, including the need to be assured of parentage on the male side and of secured resources on the female side. This doesn’t mean individuals have to care about these things, but behavior can often be the result of internalized value systems that the individual may overtly try to reject. If Koppenhaver’s version of events is true, Christy Mack violated some fidelity arrangement, which provided his post-facto justification for violence. I will say that if that is true, expecting fidelity from an active pornographic actress is probably not a very good expectation. It certainly does not justify violence after the fact.
            It seems that on the surface Mack and Koppenhaver had compatible values, both having been involved in the pornography industry and both using their bodies for money. However, events show that this was probably closer to complimentary dysfunction than complimentary value systems. In application, we should all be wary of individuals who have a history of violence. This does not mean that the victim, like she capitulates in the video, is responsible for abuse or violence, or was somehow deserving of it, but that if we seek to avoid being victims, we should be vigilant for the signs and motivations of violence. In this case, what John Koppenhaver did outside the ring with his fists is far more important than what he has done inside of it.

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