The Triad of Men’s Violence: Men’s Violence Against Women

Within relationships, forms of male violence such as rape, battering, and what Meg Luxton calls the “petty tyranny” of male domination in the household [1] must be understood both “in terms of violence directed against women as women and against women as wives.”[2] The family provides an arena for the expression of needs and emotions not considered legitimate elsewhere.[3] It is the one of the only places where men feel safe enough to express emotions. As the dams break, the flood pours out on women and children.[4] The family also becomes the place where the violence suffered by individuals in their work lives is discharged. “At work men are powerless, so in their leisure time they want to have a feeling that they control their lives.”[5]



While this violence can be discussed in terms of men’s aggression, it operates within the dualism of activity and passivity, masculinity and femininity. Neither can exist without the other. This is not to blame women for being beaten, nor to excuse men who beat. It is but an indication that the various forms of men’s violence against women are a dynamic affirmation of a masculinity that can only exist as distinguished from femininity. It is my argument that masculinity needs constant nurturing and affirmation. This affirmation takes many different forms. The majority of men are not rapists or batterers, although it is possible that the majority of men have used superior physical strength or physical coercion or the threat of force against a woman at least once as a teenager or as an adult. But in those who harbor great personal doubts or strongly negative self-images, or who cannot cope with a daily feeling of powerlessness, violence against women can become a means of trying to affirm their personal power in the language of our sex-gender system. That these forms of violence only reconfirm the negative self-image and the feeling of powerlessness shows the fragility, artificiality, and precariousness of masculinity.”


Kaufman, Michael. 1987. “The Construction of Masculinity and the Triad of Men’s Violence.” Pp. 1-17 in Beyond Patriarchy: Essays by Men on Pleasure, Power, and Change, edited by M. Kaufman. New York: Oxford University Press. [Page 9. From the sub-section Men’s Violence Against Women,  within the larger section THE TRIAD OF MEN’S VIOLENCE. See my other post regarding Men’s Violence Against Oneself here. Bold and pictures not in original. References reposted below:]

1. Meg Luxton, More Than a Labour of Love (Toronto: Women’s Press, 1980), 66.
2. Margaret M. Killoran, “The Sound of Silence Breaking: Toward a Metatheory of Wife Abuse” (M.A. thesis, McMaster University, 1981), 148.
3. Michele Barrett and Mary Macintosh, The Anti-Social Family (London: Verso/New Left Books, 1982), 23.
4. Of course, household violence is not monopolized by men. In the United States roughly the same number of domestic homicides are committed by each sex. In 1975, 8.0% of homicides were committed by husbands against wives and 7.8% by wives against husbands. These figures, however, do not indicate the chain of violence, that is, the fact that most of these women were reacting to battering by their husbands. (See Suzanne K. Steinmetz, The Cycle of Violence (New York: Praeger, 1977), 90.) Similarly, verbal and physical abuse of children appears to be committed by men and women equally. Only in the case of incest is there a near monopoly by men. Estimates vary greatly, but between one-fifth and one-third of all girls experience some sort of sexual contact with an adult male, in most cases with a father, stepfather, other relative, or teacher. (See Herman, Father-Daughter Incest (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), 12 and passim.)
5. Luxton, op. cit., p. 65.

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