Papua New Guinea (PNG) has introduced laws and policies aimed at protecting women from intimate partner violence. This article examines how men who live in Lae, PNG, have made sense of and reacted to these laws and policies. Two evocative metaphors –‘popcorn’ and ‘blanket’ – emerge from our research. For ‘popcorn’, we see how the reforms created a chain reaction similar to that when popcorn is made. Using this metaphor, we analyse men’s responses to the reforms, which range from a perceived threat to their cultural dominance, to fears about their personal problems being made public, to practical limits of the reforms. For ‘blanket’, we show how laws and policies can act like a blanket to smother men’s agency in resolving violence and conflict within their homes and communities. The blanket metaphor further highlights how women’s ability to seek support under the new laws are constrained by PNG’s male dominated society. Adopting the idea that productive change is sometimes incremental, we argue that reforms focused on creating paradigmatic change through legislation and state policies should not occur at the expense of open-mindedness to partial and incomplete local innovations in reducing intimate partner violence.