My wife asked me “why are men so violent?” today, and after yelling at her to ‘get back in the kitchen’, it got me thinking. What is it about men and violence? Did the constant struggle to survive throughout the centuries cause a genetic predisposition towards violence? Do boys just not get enough hugs from their mommies? What is it that makes physically assaulting another human being even an option?
In attempting to answer this question, it brings up a lot of new ones so as best I can I will try to stick to the topic at hand and save the others for a post for another day. I think that there is some evolutionary basis (if you want to call it that) for why men are violent. Men have traditionally held the role of protector of their family unit. Why was it so important to protect their families? The wives bore children, and the children not only grew up to help with protection duties but ultimately bore the genetic code of the man, thereby allowing him to live on forever through his genes. Protecting the family was no small task for the man. Whether it was an attack from a smilodon (saber-tooth cat) or a raiding party from a neighboring clan, it was the job of the men as individuals or groups to repel this threat to their family. In most cases these interactions were violent. Violence was almost the only way to survive. On the other side of things were the men who had no (or few) mates. They also wanted to the wealth and status of large families. Violence was used as a way of securing goods, women, and beasts for themselves. Any man not strong enough to protect his family would lose it. That is how it was.
As man formed larger and more stable groups, violence became a means for control. Weaker males were pushed lower in society while the strong ones took more mates and more wealth. The threat of violence kept the members of society in check.
It wasn’t long before violence became entertainment. Boxing is often credited for being one of the oldest sports, second only to running. Running could turn into boxing if the man running slept with a slightly faster man’s wife.
Through the centuries, violence continues to be useful as a method of control. Although today, and especially in wealthy nations we have no excuse for acting violently towards one another, it is still quite prevalent. An as terrible as violence is, we continue to glorify it. On television and in the movies it is easier to see someone murdered than to see someone naked. There’s something wrong with that.
Stay tuned for the next part of my series, “Is violence funny?”
Addendum: Let me also add seriously, that I do not advocate violence. If you are being victimized by any type of violence, please ask for help from someone you trust. No one deserves to be hit. That is all.