Christmas is nearly here and the warm glow of love and fellowship is in the air, so what better time to explore the subject of huge, athletic men punching women in the face?

This actually isn’t a laughing matter at all. Even if you don’t follow college football, you’ve probably seen the story about Oklahoma player Joe Mixon and the video which has now surfaced of him punching a young woman so hard that he shattered some of the bones in her face. This has elicited considerable outrage, particularly since it took place more than two years ago and Mixon was initially suspended over it, but has been back playing collegiate ball again. ESPN has the details.

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon told police in 2014 that “it felt like a dude hit me” when Amelia Molitor slapped him, and that he punched her as a reaction, according to a video The Oklahoman obtained of his interview with police three days after the incident inside a sandwich shop near campus.

In the video, Mixon told police that he heard a racial slur from Molitor’s male friend, but not from Molitor. And Mixon admitted that he responded with an anti-gay slur at the male friend.

“The gay dude … he called me something,” Mixon said in the video. “He was like, ‘n—–.’ So then I was like, ‘you got me messed up.’ And then I called him a f-g. And after that, the girl, she dropped her purse, that’s when she came in my face, pushed me, and then my glasses came off, and then, like, I had, like, jumped at her, like, to watch out. And then she came in my face. I put my head down. And she swung on me.

I’m going to include the video here in case you somehow missed it just to provide the full details of the encounter. They’ll become important in a moment. I need to preface this with the usual warning that the content is fairly graphic and you may find it disturbing, so click play at your own risk. It’s the surveillance footage which actually shows Mixon busting the young girl in the head and it’s not blurred out.

So here’s the uncomfortable question for us to bat around this evening. When, if ever, is it “okay” for a guy to hit a girl? Before you light the torches and grab the pitchforks, I already know the default answer. It’s “never.” But as I considered this story, I quickly realized that the actual answer is… almost never, assuming we take the word “hit” to include any physical contact intended to restrain someone. If you watched that video you already know that Mixon is correct at least in as far as saying that he didn’t start the fight. I don’t know what they were talking about which led to racial and gay epithets being tossed around on both sides within five seconds of him entering the establishment, but the girl was the one who first came up and shoved Mixon. She then brings up both hands, slaps him in the face and appears to be grabbing his throat. At that point he decks her with astonishing force and walks out.

As for me, my idea of when you hit a girl is… you don’t. Acting like a gentleman was originally predicated on the idea that the girls would act like ladies, but that’s still no excuse. I think that if you do somehow find yourself in a situation where you are being physically assaulted by a girl, if there is any avenue of escape available you take it. Even if your friends laugh at you later it’s better than being that guy who punches a girl. The reason I said “almost never” above is that you could find yourself in a corner with no escape route. Even then I don’t think you should hit a girl, but I think we have to excuse you if you grab her forearms to stop her from hitting or scratching you further (even if it results in a bruise on her arms) and steering her around to a position where you can get out of there. To be clear, this doesn’t apply to Mixon. He could have easily slipped out of the shop. We’re talking hypotheticals here.

That’s just my personal take and how I would choose to conduct myself, but now we get to the ugly part. (This is where you should feel free to light up those torches and break out the pitchforks again.)

Why? Why is that how we handle this situation in court or even an academic review? While this is probably strictly hypothetical, I’m forced to look at this for a moment through the Libertarian lens. I won’t even waste your time with the whole, you said women and men are equal in every way so why don’t we treat her that way diatribe because that’s nonsense. Women and men are different. But we’re diving into legal matters here.

The general rules of engagement in simple assault hold that the person who throws the first punch is in the wrong. Nobody blames you for defending yourself. Think back to that video for a moment and imagine that instead of a pretty blond girl, it was a muscular blond male football player from another team who had a beef with Mixon. If he had shoved Mixon, punched him in the face and grabbed for his throat, and then Mixon responded by totally lighting him up with a single punch that knocked him out, it would be the blond guy who was charged with assault. Mixon would have been high fived back in the locker room for taking the guy out with such aplomb.

But this was a young lady so the whole thing goes out the window. If this was being considered in a court of law, how is it that she wasn’t the one charged with simple assault?

Yeah, it creeps me out to even type that because I know that it’s wrong. But from a strictly legal, “everyone is equal under the law” perspective, I can’t tell you why it’s wrong. Just something to ponder as you debate whether or not to tar and feather me for asking the question.