Ariane David Gender Equality Why Are Men Violent

Why are Men Violent?

Hint: It’s not testosterone.

A comment on an article by Alexis Takahashi...

Takahashi makes some excellent points in her article about men and violence. She calls attention to the fact that while 99% of all mass killings are committed by men, the media don’t ever point out this fact.

The simple fact is that males exhibit far more violence than females.

Takahashi attributes this not to testosterone, but to conditioning.

Her premise is that males learn violence through a pervasive culture that promotes and glorifies violence-as-masculinity.

Takahashi talks about the evolutionary mythology that plants males firmly in the man-the-hunter, protector, and dominator corner, and women in the submissive, camp-scullery, and nurturing mom corner.

We live in a culture that normalizes hyper-masculinity, elevating extreme masculine traits such as aggression, domination, and toughness to the pinnacle of desirability, while turning women (and men who don’t fit these characteristics) into cultural outsiders, except to the extent that they reinforce the male stereotype.

As recently as the early 1990s mainstream archeologists and paleoanthropologists bought into the myth that life for hominids has always been like this, with men doing the glamorous public work of hunting, farming, warring, and performing rituals, and women hidden away in smoke-filled hovels doing the much more private and low-status drudge work.

And all of this male supremacy, they believed, was biological destiny.

But that’s not what studies of over 300 excavations in the mid-east show. Archaeologists examined evidence involving burial sites, skeletal remains, artifacts, and dwellings in the area around ancient Mesopotamia dating to the onset of the agricultural revolution.

They found no signs of war or group violence of any kind, no signs of hoarding or social hierarchy, very little evidence of interpersonal violence, and no evidence of status differential between men and women.

It seems that our newly sedentary early agricultural forebears were gender-egalitarian sharing pacifists.

This is certainly hopeful, as it tells us that war, greed, and gender inequality aren’t in our DNA and out of control violence is not the destiny of the male half of the human race.

War, greed, and gender inequality are not in our DNA.

What it does tell us is that with enough courage, will, and vision we could, as fantastic as it might seem, overcome these things.

Read Takahashi’s Full Article Here….


  • Claire Edwards

    I read your article and had some thoughts about it. I don’t know whether violence is in our DNA or not.

    I don’t think it necessarily matters. Nature vs nurture has been an ongoing issue ever since armchair psychology has been going on. I think there are probably studies that will prove either position.

    What I think matters is that we recognize that in order for our culture to grow in desirable directions, we have to see that violence, male or female, is not the path we want to take. Given the technology we now have, violence is not the path we can afford to take.

    So what matters is to realize that whether violence is in our DNA or not, we, all of us, at any given moment have the choice whether to be kind or violent, in thought or deed. We actually have that choice.

    But as long as we believe that violence is not a choice, but dependent on some other outer factor, we abdicate the responsibility for making the right decision.

    Human violence expresses itself in huge wars and cruelty of the most extreme kind, but more importantly, it occurs all day long in all of us because we are not aware of how we think about and speak to others on a moment to moment basis.

    All action begins with thought and we are not aware of how we think. We justify judgment, criticism, gossip and the like and then wonder why we have such a violent society.
    If we are willing to make the changes in our thinking and refuse to justify violence, then our actions will change as well. Until we become aware of how we think and refuse to go down the same old path, justifying, blaming, being angry, selfish, nothing can change.

    Until that point, nature vs nurture, male vs female, rich vs poor, none of it means anything because we are still making excuses for our own individual moment by moment irresponsibility for how we think, and therefore how we act. We continue to abdicate responsibility for how our world is going and are therefore turning our backs on the only thing that can ever bring about the changes we say we want.

    Lets, first of all, be honest and admit that we do not want change. We want the other guy to change but we do not want to change our own thinking.

    Criticizing feels good, complaining makes us righteous, being right bolsters our weak self-image and justifying ourselves validates our negativity. We want to analyze our problems but we re not willing to do the one thing that would solve them.

    Creating a better world begins by creating a better person, and that comes from an open-minded willingness to challenge and change the way we think.

    Claire Edwards

  • Steve Olson


    I think that this is a very interesting article that I am in general agreement with. However, in the beginning of the article,

    “We live in a culture that normalizes hyper-masculinity, elevating extreme masculine traits such as aggression, domination, and toughness to the pinnacle of desirability, while turning women (and men who don’t fit these characteristics) into cultural outsiders, except to the extent that they reinforce the male stereotype.”

    I don’t quite agree that the non-aggressive men are the outsiders in all societies. It is probably the case in war-torn countries such as Iraq, but much less the case in the suburban USA. When I think back, it seems to be how you are raised. How your parents behave and teach you.

    Another factor I recall was the effect of high school coaches that encouraged football and wrestling. The more successful in these got recognition far more than the academically successful. However, the group that was successful in the violent sports were in the minority in numbers.

    Just a few observations.

    Thanks for sharing,


    Steve Olson

    • Ariane David

      Steve, thank you for this wonderful insightful comment.

      I agree with what you say. Unlike Steven Pinker, I tend to use an extended definition of violence to include extreme competition and domination.

      Just as 150 years ago “work” was defined almost completely as physical, but now is 90% non-physical, so, too has violence gone from being completely physical to, in much of the world, non-physical.

      For example, people are put out of their homes, not by invading armies, but by banks. The end result is not all that different.

      Even today, brains are valued to the extent that they eventually lead to profit. Bill Gates is no gladiator, but his brains have made him one of the richest people in the world. Would bill Gates be so revered for his brains if it hadn’t led to wealth?

      I tend to doubt it. So my point is that our culture still trains men to be dominating and acquisitive, to look for near-term gains, rather than considering the long-term.

      • Steve Olson

        I certainly agree with you that there has been a shift from physical labor in the United States, but much less so in some other countries where the predominance of war is currently taking place.

        Yes, aggressive behavior and dominance is still in the actions people take, such as hiring practices. I agree with you that our culture continues to train boys to be dominant.

        It starts in the home at a very early age. I emphasize boys as opposed to men, because I believe that the patterns are established at an early age.

        I believe that girls competing in sports at an early age is beginning to change these behaviors, such as team building. When I was in high school, it was against the law for girls to participate in group sports. Absurd.

        My granddaughters are exceptional and I am convinced that part their exceptionalism is from participating in various sports and athletic activities.

  • Jud Lawrie


    As promised, some thoughts on the subject…

    Nature vs. nurture, nurture vs. nature? That is the eternal question. I’m not up on the scientific literature but it’s hard for me to believe that aggression/violence is not hard-wired into men to some degree (perhaps through a long, long process of acculturation?), or that testosterone is not a factor.

    I wonder what would happen if they gave large doses of estrogen to a violent man or a lot of testosterone to a normal woman?

    On the other hand, it often seems to be largely a matter of “nurture.” Not surprisingly, the U.S. is head and shoulders above other advanced countries in terms of gun violence.

    More “American exceptionalism” at work? Shameful!

    I’ve been a member of the ManKind Project ( since 1991. We believe that men can be taught to be non-violent, that being a tough “macho man” is not a desirable goal.

    We try to teach what we call “mature masculinity.” Men who are responsible in their lives, are accountable for their actions, are congruent between what they say and do, who are emotionally intelligent. To quote from the website:

    Men not afraid to revolt against repressive social norms, take off their masks and break through their personal barriers. Men ready to take real risks and step into their full power.

    Men not afraid to inhabit ALL the characteristics required of men in changing times; resiliency, integrity, courage, creativity, innovation, adaptability, compassion, empathy, radical self-responsibility, inclusiveness, generosity and respect.

    And then there is the whole field of conflict resolution, teaching people to resolve conflict in peaceful ways, not through violent confrontation. It can be done.

    As Rumi has said: “If we fight within to make ourselves clear, once that inner war is over, there need be no outer war. The only war is within”

    I hope this helps.



    • Ariane David

      Jud – thank you for your very thoughtful comment.

      The debate about innate vs learned will likely rage on until the end of time.

      I think that hormones are responsible for tendencies (testosterone would give men the tendency towards violence and domination) but how that tendency is manifest is, I think, a matter of learning.

      We teach males that the way to express their tendencies is through physical, political, and economic violence.

      Since we’re dealing with tendencies we have a choice, and ManKind Project is the proof.

  • Patrick Dufour

    Great article Ariane. And thank you for letting me discover Alexis Takahashi and her website.

    I believe indeed “that males learn violence through a pervasive culture that promotes and glorifies violence-as-masculinity.”

    Check American Football, the cult of colleges sport, most action movies and so on.

    Always the idea of winning, being stronger than steal, rarely
    mentioning consequences for the bodies, and so on. Almost a constant promotional setting to make sure the Armed Forces can recruit. The dream of being a successful bad guy!!!

    Lots of work ahead for change!!!

    Patrick Dufour

  • Brian Hospodar

    Excellent Ariane.   Well done.  

    It’s nice to see your inquiry validates work we’ve begun with identifying why male cops can be inappropriately violent and whether their role in our culture is that of ‘guardian or warrior’.  

    Consistent with your observations, we are looking at the ‘tribal mentality’ created within the profession but actuated by reinforced aggressive behavior learned early in their life development . . .  and whether women in law enforcement, despite different enculturation, develop aggression through emersion in the same tribal exposure.  

    We are trying to shine a light on these patterns and attempting to deconstruct them…     well-done Ariane. 

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