It got me to thinking about whether or not there is a male version of the femme fatale. If we go with the French, we could name him the homme fatale. (I'll admit, it doesn't have that same ring of alliteration to it). I googled homme fatale but didn't get many results, and Google even asked me "Did you mean femme fatale?"
The definition of a femme fatale is a woman who is toxic to a man, whose (usually sexual) involvement in his life leads to his demise. If he does escape the evil femme, he is a scarred man for having come in contact with her. By the sheer fact that humans, whether male or female, don't act all that differently from one another when you come right down to it, I'm sure there's a deadly man out there, too.
We just haven't called him out, yet.
But I see him everywhere. We've all read the novels or seen the movies in which a woman completely gives up her life and her identity for a man, becomes nothing more than an extension of him. Sometimes this is painted in a rosy 50s idyllic family* sort of way, or a "one true love happy fairytale ending"** sort of way, and sometimes it's shown for what it is: unhealthy.
I would argue that this man, the one who somehow appears worth giving up one's very self for, is an homme fatale. He eats up the woman in a way I'd say mirrors in intensity (if not in action) the way the femme fatale destroys men. A man who wants to own his women, who mistreats or abuses his women, is an homme fatale by all senses of the idea that a person can be deadly. Perhaps not deadly to the body (except in the case of abuse, clearly), but certainly deadly to the soul. (And it probably goes without saying that so is a (male) rapist.)
The reason I bring this up is that we haven't really named him. We have names for men who mistreat women: womanizer, misogynist. But when a woman is bad for a man, she's deadly to his manliness. The archetype has been perpetuated for so long I won't even venture a guess as to how many centuries. Men need to be protected because the woman usurps his sense of self.
But I don't think we look at men as being bad for women in the same way. Women need to be protected because the man hurts her or damages her in some way. BUT he also usurps her sense of self. When a man is bad for a woman, he is just as deadly to the self, and sense of self is just as important and just as bad to lose for a woman as it is for a man. It may be more socially acceptable for a woman to give herself up for a man, but that doesn't make it fair. I'm not sure our society totally gets that yet, though I sincerely hope we're getting there.
All I am saying is this: women deserve to value themselves in the same way men do, and have been encouraged to do. Historically women haven't had that option (I'm trying to refrain on remarking about today's state of affairs because it's such unsteady ground). But since we live in the 21st century, I AM saying that if a woman can be fatal, so can a man.
*This is not my condemnation of the nuclear family. You can have a nuclear family without expecting the female to give up her entire self. In the same vein, a woman can choose to make sacrifices to help her boyfriend or husband achieve goals without being this kind of woman. I am not condemning relationships with more traditional gender roles necessarily. I am speaking of a specific occurrence in which the woman doesn't have a choice.
**Nor do I think that fairytales which end with a romantic kiss necessarily perpetuate this ideal.