They always come back. That’s my go-to morsel of wisdom for women who are attracted to men. For better or for worse, there is a high probability that a man that you’ve dated once will try to find a way back into your life after you’ve called things quits. It’s basically science. Don’t believe me? Go look at the comments on Rihanna’s Instagram and behold, her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown falling way too deep into the thirst trap that is Rihanna in lingerie.
After she dropped some promotional shots for her Savage X Fenty “Naughty Not Nice” holiday collection, Brown left “flushed” emojis underneath the comments. You know the one… big eyes, blushing cheeks. Five years after their final split, Brown is still hot and bothered by Bad Gal RiRi, and he wants the world to know it. That’s what men do. Brown has done it before. It’s a boisterous display of desire that only makes sense underneath the banner of male privilege. It's one of those annoying things you sign up for when you date men, and at least part of the reason why the internet is so upset about it. Rihanna’s “Navy” has flooded Brown’s mentions with emojis of their own — the middle finger and the eye-roll ones among them. Other commenters have taken it upon themselves to revive Brown’s label as an abuser.
Being a real ally to women with toxic men in their lives means swallowing your own pride and supporting them in the ways that they want and need to be supported.
Given the violent history between the former couple, there’s good reason for Rihanna’s supporters to want Brown to stay as far away from her as possible. But it’s possible that the public rallying against him might actually be more harmful to Rihanna. So despite our good intentions, I think we should chill.
Let me be very clear. I’m not at all bothered by Brown being publicly scrutinized for being problematic, predatory, and just plain creepy. In the years since that infamous physical altercation and his subsequent breakup with Rih, Brown has proven himself to be all of the above, on multiple occasions. I think Brown is a classic example of men being trash, and I cringed when I saw him fawning over a woman he doesn’t deserve. But that’s my own personal opinion about him. And what I’ve learned in my 20 or so years of supporting women who’ve dated trash men is that my opinion doesn’t matter unless said trash dude is mine.
Being a real ally to women with toxic men in their lives means swallowing your own pride and supporting them in the ways that they want and need to be supported. Reminding them of their own victimhood at the hands of someone else may quell our own anger, but it doesn’t make them feel any better. Unfortunately, our righteous outrage about Brown’s audacity to publicly pursue Rihanna won’t keep her safe from his abuse. It won’t stop her from reconnecting with him if she wants to, and if we’re to really support survivors of trash men — abusive and otherwise — we have to be ready to ride for them no matter what.
How we feel about Brown popping up in Rihanna’s life — digital and otherwise — isn’t necessarily how she feels about it. The line between defending her and projecting our own stance onto her is blurred. That’s the uncomfortable truth of situations like this one. If we want to advocate for Rihanna living her best life, let’s pour our energy into reminding her that she’s a style god, a hit-making queen, and a constant mood. As for her personal relationships and past trauma, it’s probably best for us to all stay in our lanes until we get the signal to do otherwise.
For what it’s worth, I like to imagine a world where Rihanna also holds my motto about men in general — that they always come back — to be true. As such, I hope that she saw Brown’s emoji and chuckled at his futile attempt to get her attention if for no other reason than it being so damned predictable. At the very least, I hope she has at least one song lyric about all of her exes still being obsessed with her on the next album.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).