I was wondering why some couples with a very violent streak like Buffy/ Spike or Starbuck/Apollo appeal to me so much. I'm picky with my violence and it is not something that I find appealing in itself. Actually it tends to squick me, when one partner is physically abused by the other as is so often the case in reality.
Thing is even as a kid I always loved friendships that started with a good fight. I love the staff fight between Robin Hood and Little John, I adored the fights the knights of the round table had, before they became fast friends. I loved the fights between Kirk and Spock or the way D'Artagnan starts off having a duel with each of the musketeers. These rocky starts and fights somehow always managed to set up the characters as respecting each other's skills. The fights cleared the air, it solved something. This is of course fantasy violence but the way it works between those characters, it is not about one character abusing the other, it's more creating a set up of mutual respect.
Later when I became more interested in romantic relationships I always resented it that men and women were so rarely allowed to have that sort of physical way to clear the air.
"A good man does not hit a woman."
Sounds about all right, doesn't it? But it really should not be the moral guideline. Think of how many play fights girls are automatically excluded and how it affects them. You only gain confidence in your body, if you use it. And how is it ok, for a much stronger boy to hit another boy, who is much weaker? The moral guideline should be: Nobody should hit someone clearly weaker than themselves. It should not say that the girls are automatically the weaker ones. There is physical reality, yes, but there is also a huge, huge social construct that keeps girls in that weaker role, never allows them to even properly physically compete with men above a certain age. Remember that first woman, that ran a marathon? The guy arranging the race tried to drag her of the slope because he could not bear the thought that she was even participating in his competition.
And that actual physical difference is so much smaller than it is made to be. I have a tiny blond friend, who loves sports. Most men would not stand a chance against her physically. Yes an equally trained man is stronger, but most men aren't, still if they see her they automatically assume they are stronger because of the very stereotype Joss was trying to counter with Buffy.
Yes, abuse of a weaker person by a stronger one is bad, but not all physical clashes between men and women are abusive. Recognizing the physical strength of a woman instead of pseudo chivalrously refusing to compete with her is an important form of respect.
That casual way, with which Apollo punched Starbuck right back in the pilot of BSG? I found it more empowering than anything in a very long time. He knows, she can deal. He takes her for full as a fighter. They have that way of clearing the air in the box ring later on. There relationship is at no point physically abusive, though it often is very physical.
Buffy and Spike had a very similar thing going for me. Buffy is a born fighter. She solves her problems every night by hitting them to a pulp and killing them. She can never do that with her human problems though and she often almost breaks on it. With Spike she can, he goes on her nerves, she punches him. He comes right back up happy to fight on. He loves to fight Slayers. Not because he is such a sadist, but because he revels in a fight the he can most definitely lose. Throwing your all into a duel only one will walk away from gives him a thrill, he would never get from fighting some helpless victim. They both love the physical fight and they both respect each other as warriors.
When Spike learns in S6 that he can hit Buffy again, he seems perfectly gleefull to show her, that they are once again equals, that they can dance this thrilling dance again, that would smash someone weaker into a thousand pieces. It's also what I interpreted as the reason for Buffy finally having sex with him. Knowing that he can give as good as he gets again.
I don't think a physical fight between two equally strong people is abuse just because one of them happens to be a woman, but Spike and Buffy are difficult, because there are definitely abusive patterns in their relationship too (see that alley scene, where Spike does not even hit back), but for the most parts their fights are foreplay for very strong beings.
There is no clear physical power gap between them, which is why I always thought the one set up during the AR so silly. It was solely there to push Buffy into a victim role she never ever fit in relation to Spike before, where I think you can only interpret her a victim if you automatically stereotype her was weak, because she is a woman, contradicting all facts the show presents.
Spike and Buffy, Apollo and Starbuck (and also Anders) they have a form of physical respect and knowledge of each other that appeals to me. They could not have gained that other than in a physical competition.