Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Taming the human male: Sandy Hook and the problem of male violence

By Sean Ewart

It would be a tragedy if, in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we put the blame on guns.

Yes, we need to fix our nation's gun laws.

But better regulating guns will not stop the next Adam Lanza.

On the morning of December 14 there was another, less deadly, attack on school children. In central China a 36 year old man named Min Yingjun stabbed one elderly woman and then 22 primary students as they arrived at school.

Those advocating stricter gun control have been quick to point out that none of Min Yingjun's victims have died - if only America, like China, prohibited its citizens from owning guns.

Never mind the fact that in 2010 a full 20 schoolchildren were murdered by similar knife attacks.

But the attacks at Sandy Hook and in China and in Oregon and in Arizona and in Colorado and in Columbia and, indeed the world round, are all connected by one central and crucially important thread: violence is a male problem.

Male violence is so all encompassing, in fact, that the term itself is almost redundant. Besides the ability to give birth, violence is one of the starkest differences between men and women. Certainly women are violent, but not to the same degree and not in the same way as men.

In every nation on earth, in every civilization and culture that has ever existed, men are the more violent sex.

Azer Gat, the Israeli scholar of warfare, says, "In the USA, males comprise 83% of murderers, a similar share of those committing aggravated assault, 93% of druken drivers and about the same percentage of armed robbers."

Looking closer, most female violence is actually in reaction to male violence.

Take for example this report out of Istanbul:

"... 10 women, 4 men and 1 infant were reported murdered, 18 raped, 15 wounded and 9 harassed by men in November [2012]."

In response, three women took violent action against their attacker. One used a pistol, one beat the man and one used fire. (The full report can be found on Bianet, under the heading "10 Women Reporter Murdered, 17 Raped By Men in November.")

Gat says, "in comparison with men's violent aggression, that of women tends to be non-physical, indirect, and anonymous." And when women are violent, it is most often in defense, either of themselves or their children, or against other women.

Moreover, because these gender based differences in violent tendencies are true regardless of culture, pointing the finger at violent video games, MTV, easily accessible guns or pornography is missing the inherent truth: the human male is an animal that, through the forces of natural selection, is violent by nature.

We cannot hope to address the problem of male violence until we understand it.

Even calling into question the mental health of the violent offender is, while not unimportant, a distraction from the real problem. Only 4% of violence in the USA can be attributed to mental illness.

Mental illness is not the problem; male violence is.

Yet this is not as grim a picture as we might imagine.

Gat notes that in human populations living in the dawn of history the violent death rate was an astounding 15%. It approached 25% among males.

Look at modern hunter-gatherer and primitive agricultural societies. Eskimos in the Canadian Arctic have been shown to have a violent death rate of 1 in 1,000; fully 10 times the peak of violent death in America in 1990.

In highland Papua New Guinea the primitive agriculturalists had a violent death rate of 28.5% in men and 2.4% in women.

Contrast this with the most brutal episodes of violence in so-called civilized nations.

In the American Civil War just 1.3% of the population was killed or wounded.

In World War Two, a full 15% of the population of the Soviet Union was killed and 5% of the German population likewise perished.

But even that astounding figure merely approaches the average violent death rate in pre-state societies. Humanity is, whether we know it or not, doing something right when it comes to dealing with violence.

Despite what it looks like, we are curbing male violence. In fact, following the arrival of the state, humans have become the mammal least likely to kill other members of the same species.

So while we hopefully address the very real, very pressing issue of male violence, perhaps we should look to our own history. What is it that we did that reduced the average violent death rate from 15% in pre-state societies to .0065% in the United States of America today?

While we may not know the specific problems afflicting Adam Lanza, we know that by virtue of his gender he was already more likely to engage in horrific violence than if he were female, all other factors being the same.

Attempting to stop the next Adam Lanza is a question of how best to continue the project of taming the human race.


  1. How is "male violence" different from violence? How do you address it differently than violence? You do realize that most males will never do anything like this, right? If you say that mental health problems didn't cause this, then doesn't it logically follow that any man could do this?

  2. The fact is that, while we don't yet know if Adam Lanza had any mental illness, we do know that most violent criminals are not mentally ill. But they are male. It logically follows that this is a serious problem.

  3. Wow Edgar, sexist much? Have you seen the statistics on Black violence? There's your next article. Or, y'know, you could look a little deeper into the complex societal structures that cause some demographics to show up more than others in crime statistics. If you're going to make a statement about how gendered violence is, maybe do a bit more research.

  4. This Argument is almost as disturbing as the incidents themselves.
    To claim that these are issues within our society caused by "male violence" is unfounded and sexist! The statistics given are unsupported and no doubt full of lurking variables.
    It would be fair to make these claims if these men acted in a sane and sober state, which is clearly not the case.
    Do you not realising that hanging the "violent" label on a half of our society creates mentalities that are likely to lead to more violent incidents.

  5. Despite the fact that you clearly cherry-picked your stats , the truth is that men do commit the majority of violence.

    Now , while we're on the subject of truth , let's point out that they mostly hurt other men. In fact , men are about 9 times more likely to be murdered or assaulted than are females. Come to think of it , do you know who is greatest threat to a baby or infant ? It's a mother. Statistically speaking , women commit the greatest amount of child abuse and infanticide when compared with any other group.

    Having said all that , if you want to actually address male violence then stop acting like you know the first thing about it. There is literally no advice less useful than a woman telling a boy how to be a man. You may be a male but if you think the problem is maleness then you're no man.

    When we started kicking fathers out of their own children's lives through the force of feminist-inspired law , we also started guaranteeing that nobody would be around to make sure that little Johnny knew what to do with all that natural aggression and enthusiasm. Left to women , they tell little Johnny what to do for women but never give a second thought to what little Johnny can do for himself or for society as a whole. They simply don't understand what it's like to be a male and they have no clue how to teach him to channel his energy towards constructive means.

    Lastly , some of the statistics you quote are completely out of context. Do you have any idea what life is like for the Inuit ? If you did , you'd also know that that accounts for far more of the reason for the murder rate than plain old masculinity. I'm willing to bet that if I gave your town nothing but booze and drugs to use while they waited for the great future that wasn't coming , sooner or later you or somebody you know would pull out a gun and start shooting too.

    Lastly , do you know why more women than men are killed in cases of domestic violence leading to murder ? Because men are bigger and stronger. You seem to be suffering under the delusion that the women aren't trying their damnedest to keep up with the boys in this regard. I guess I can't blame you since you've also been fed the line about how only men abuse women but the truth is that we have hundreds of studies going back 40 years that say women are as violent as men. They just don't get the same results in the end.

  6. i must say i was looking for the second page when i finished this article... very little was explained as to why males have evolved to be more violent or what physiological differences are responsible for their more aggressive behaviour...

  7. 100% of violent criminals breathe oxygen. ITS TIME WE BANNED OXYGEN!

    For the women and children of course.

  8. It says something when the people commenting on a page have a deeper understanding of the subject than the author of the article. The complexities of the human psyche deserves much more investigation than this type of generalized claim portraying males as nothing other than violent, aggressive animals. How do these figures translate? Mental illness has much more to do with the problem than the author of this article realizes.