Sex differences in aggression

Statistics taken from criminal reports, from shelters for battered women, and from therapy sessions for males convicted of violence towards their intimate partners show two clear trends: first, that men tend to be overwhelmingly more aggressive than their female intimate partners and that in those couples where the violence is mutual, women are overwhelmingly more likely to be injured in the violence. These statistics are often cited in support for continued funding for domestic violence programs targeted towards protecting women and, sometimes, even in the creation of conditions that are patently inimical to battered men.

What these statistics largely ignore is that there is a selection bias in how this data is collected that overstates effect sizes of male-on-female violence. Such statistics often consider the act of violence out of context, and largely ignore the consequences of the act. Numerous authors have showed that if one studies the evolution of the conflict up to the terminating act of violence, then any clear trend in the division of perpetrators and victims by gender disappears. Similarly, if violence were to be studied only in terms of the outcomes of the violence, the majority of the victims turn out to be women, yet, acts of physical violence are reported equally frequently by members of either gender.

These selection biases often reflect the personal biases of the people collecting and analyzing the data. There are primarily two groups of people who study such issues; family conflict researchers and feminist researchers. Family conflict researchers typically study representative samples of married, cohabiting or dating couples whereas feminist researchers typically sample from populations selected to reflect high level of violence from male partners.

In a study published in 2000, Archer conducted a meta analysis of a large number of studies done in the 1980s and the 1990s in the US. The samples for these studies were primarily young adults. In his meta-analysis, he observed some interesting phenomena.

  1. Based on self-reports, women were more likely than men to indulge in physical violence, but if one were to study partner reports, this difference disappears. A possible explanation for this is that women chronically report more violence (from themselves and their partners) than men do.
  2. The effect size of injury is larger for men than for women, and even removing outliers, the difference is statistically significant. This means that significantly more women are injured in domestic violence than men.
  3. If one measures violence based on specific acts, and not just on injury, then women are significantly more likely to use physical aggression towards their partners, and are likely to use it more often.
  4. One can measure violence by using two metrics: act-based metrics and meaning based metrics. The meaning based metric uses the qualifiers undefendable, intimidating and injurious (aggression form which partners cannot defend themselves and that which has a high chance of causing injury). Act based metrics have a significant effect size towards the female population (more women do it), while meaning based metrics have a significant effect size towards the male population (more men do it).

At the very least, Archer’s study brings up two important conclusions. Firstly, domestic violence does not fit the predominantly feminist position of involving a male perpetrator and a female victim. Second, the kind of violence that men and women indulge in is different, and needs to be dealt with differently.

This also helps me put into context Erin Pizzey’s statement that of the battered women she worked with, more than half were as or more violent than the partners they left.

The complete reference for Archer’s study is Archer, J. (2000).  Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners:  A meta-analytic review.  Psychological Bulletin, 126 (5), 651-680.

A Google search also throws up a pdf that is not blocked by a journal pay-wall.

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Daphne Patai on political indoctrination on campuses

Daphne Patai writes about how political indoctrination is now a major part of academic life. Universities, especially liberal arts colleges, once the hotbed of lively, and frequently uncomfortable, debate about rights, liberties, and other social issues, are now being pushed into mediocrity by adopting speech codes, and pushing political agendas in admissions and hiring.

Dr. Patai talks about a questionnaire that members on the hiring committees are expected to ask prospective candidates about their commitment to, and activities in support of, “disadvantaged” groups, such as minorities, women, the disabled, the colored and others. The questions, according to her, do not reflect, nor attempt to reflect, on any scholastic abilities of the interviewee. Instead, these questions are structured so that political opinions of the candidate become obvious. In fact, the questions are structured to evade the defenses of the cautions candidate who may want to give the “right” answers to these questions.

Dr. Patai argues that doing so pushes the discourse in academic institutions into a single sided monologue with no dissent. Education, therefore, becomes replaced by political indoctrination.

The complete article is here.

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Kim Quinn on competent fathers

In this post on the Good Men Project, Kim Quinn wonders why people act as if good fathers are a rare commodity. She makes the case that good fathers are, in fact, not rare, and the reason why people assume they are is because society is biased towards believing that women make better parents.

Kim’s post can be found here.

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Dina Rabinovitch interviews Erin Pizzey

I came across an interview of Erin Pizzey for the Guardian by Dina Rabinovitch. The interview talks briefly about how Erin Pizzey was once a celebrity within the feminist movement and was the founder of the original shelter for battered women. She laid the groundwork for the charity now popularly known, in the UK, as The Refuge.

The article suggests that Pizzey became alien to the feminist movement after she threatened to inform the police of the illegal activities of the Angry Brigade. In a documentary, Erin Pizzey has suggested otherwise; she has claimed that she became a persona non grata within the feminist movement after she started to voice the idea that domestic violence wasn’t necessarily something that happened along gender lines, and that of the women she had seen in her shelters, more than half were at least as violent as the partners they left.

She claims that domestic violence is something that is often expressed in people who come from dysfunctional families. In her words

“It’s not that I’m saying women are as abusive as men; the point is, it’s not men and women at all. It’s anybody who comes from that kind of background. “

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Amy Benfer interviews Warren Farrel for Salon

Amy Benfer, in this excellent interview, talks about Warren Farrel’s then recent book, Father-Child Reunion. The interview touches on some what Amy believes to be some of Farrel’s views on feminism. Farrel is described as one of the most successful male feminists of the 1970s who was exceedingly well respected in feminist and academic circles. He broke away from feminism after NOW advocated primary custody of children for women in cases of separation. Farrel disagreed with this viewpoint, and, paid a literal price: he got poor. Farrel is described as a feminist turned advocate for gender-equality.

Highlighted are two paragraphs likely to be considered controversial.

“‘Women’s bodies, women’s business,’” Farrell says, “is a crock. It’s very, very bad. It can only come out of an insidious form of sexism that doesn’t consider anybody but the woman.” True reproductive rights, says Farrell, would take into consideration the rights of the man, the woman and the fetus. Farrell believes that both men and women should have the right to choose abortion (in the man’s case, “abortion” could also mean refusing to pay child support for an unwanted child), “but I believe that abortion is killing. But I also eat meat and wear leather, and that is killing as well.”

Warren Farrell, masculinist, believes that there should never have been a women’s movement that blamed men for the ills of society. There should not be a men’s movement blaming women. There should only be a gender transitional movement that encompasses both genders. Sadly, he says, 30 years of feminism have made the men’s movement necessary. “But as soon as things get anywhere near balanced — if I live that long — when men start blaming women, I will be on their backs just as hard and as strong as I am now that it’s the other way around.”

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Domestic violence and the narrative of victimhood

In this 4 part series, some interviews, and a commentary, discuss the often repeated statistics that one in four women are subject to domestic violence in their lives. Of note is Erin Pizzey who talks about how her life became a living hell after she dared suggest that of the women who came to her shelter, 60% or more were at least as violent as the partners they left.

A downside to this series is that the narrator is not neutral. Nevertheless, this is an informative watch.

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Violence against men is normalized

There is a fairly common tendency in Western society (and as a consequence, increasingly in other societies as well) to normalize violence against men. The physical humiliation of a man through acts as violent as punching or kicking the groin, shooting at genitalia, or even severing genitalia is frequently depicted in Hollywood. And it is not just limited to fantasy.


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