The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed”:
“The overwhelming majority of violence against women and girls is committed every day and in every nation by men. Where sexual violence and exploitation takes place against men and/or boys, the perpetrators are, again, overwhelmingly male. In categories where violence is embedded in tradition, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and “honour” crimes, women may also play an active role.
Despite the progress that has been made to introduce legal and social reforms to address gender inequality, violence against women and girls continues. Evidence suggests, in fact, that violations such as trafficking, rape, child abuse, child prostitution and pornography are on the rise. The majority of studies of gender-based violence echo the findings of two psychologists whose research led them to conclude, “Most sexual offenders are men. Men commit most of the aberrant and deviant sexual behaviours such as rape, child molestation and exhibitionism. …” Furthermore, and more relevantly, when females are involved in aberrant or illegal sexual behaviour, coercion and violence is less commonly employed.
Even though most acts of violence are committed by men – and studies confirm that men have a higher propensity for violent behaviour than women – not all men behave violently. Are men genetically motivated, or hard-wired, in a significantly different way than women? Or does society teach the sexes to act the way they do?
The nature/nurture polarity
Most researchers reject the notion that biology can be blamed for violent behavior. Male violence, they say, is not genetically based but is instead perpetuated by a model of masculinity that permits and even encourages men to be aggressive. “Men’s monopoly of violence stems from lifelong training in sexist models of masculinity.” Anthropological research shows that domestic violence is virtually nonexistent in some societies, and therefore not an inevitable human condition.
Generally, the “nurture” position rejects the idea that men have a natural propensity to violence of that men have “uncontrollable” violent and sexual urges. In the case of intimate-partner abuse, for example, observers point out that men are able to control themselves in settings where the social or professional cost of their behavior would be too high, but are unwilling to exercise the same restraint when they are behind closed doors.
Those advancing this perspective challenge apologists for male violence, who use biological arguments or the “psychopathological model” for male sexual violence to explain men’s behavior. Instead, they insist that these men are not “sick” or pathological and are responsible for their actions, behaving reprehensibly, with free, conscious choice.
The counterargument to this opinion – which is regularly reinforced and perpetuated via popular culture and religious dogma – claims that men are captive of their libidos. This view maintains that the historic and global evidence of male’s natural aggression and the biological imperative cannot be ignored. While socialization may play an important role in how people behave in different societies and at different points in history, the “nature” position argues that sexual violence is too widespread and too overwhelmingly perpetrated by males to suggest that men and women are not motivated by different forces. These arguments appear to echo 19th-century pseudo-medical claims promoted by some scientists that men were a breed apart and slaves to uncontrollable testosterone, where male promiscuity is seen as a critical vestige of evolutionary forces conferring “selective advantage” on men who impregnate multiple partners.
Other theorists, however, are situated between the two poles of “nature” and “nurture”. They acknowledge a degree of “natural male inclination”, which in combination with repeated negative socialisation reinforces violent characteristics. In patriarchal societies, a significant manifestation of male aggression is man’s perpetration of sexual coercion and violence against women.
Irrespective of this debate, there is a virtually univeral de facto acceptance amongst people and communities worldwide that men and women have different natures and different roles to play. Whatever the origin of male violence, most people are caught up in their societies and the times they live and, as a result, may play a strong part in the maintenance of these stereotypes.
In many countries, gender roles are deeply entrenched and reinforced by cultural norms, to such an extent that questioning the status quo involves risk. Even in countires that are seemingly less bound by tradition, where equal rights are codified in law and widely accepted, these stereotypes still dominate the popular mindset.
The United States and Australia are examples of industrialized countries where sexual stereotyping and violence-supporting attitudes remain entrenched among the majority. High incidents of rape, domestic abuse and child abuse in these countries are thought to be linked to a general acceptance of these stereotypes. One study recently estimated that during a 12-month period in the United States, more than 302,000 women and almost 93,000 men experienced a completed or attempted rape. In a 1995 study in Australia, 37 percent of the male participants disagreed with the statement that “Women rarely make false claims of rape.” One in six respondents to the survey agreed that “Women who are raped often ask for it.” Rape is, of course, only an indirect indicator of such beliefs or stereotypes.
Psychological research demonstrates strong evidence that violence is a learned behavior that may be passed down the generations. “The highest risk marker for a man to use violence against his wife and child is early exposure to violence in his childhood home.” A negative finding when one considers the current number of boys witnessing their fathers’ violent behavior, but also one that offers hope, perhaps, that nonviolence can be similarly learned. ”