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Life Arts

Why Men's Violence Against Women? Why the War on Women's Reproductive Rights?

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(Article changed on August 27, 2013 at 18:20)

Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 27, 2013: In his famous dystopian novel BRAVE NEW WORLD (1935), Aldous Huxley portrays the assembly-line reproduction of the human race in carefully monitored bottles. In this way, future science will liberate women from bearing children and thereby free them up for lives of sex, sex, sex.

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If and when women no longer bear children, there will probably no longer be any violence against women by men.

As long as women continue to bear children, men's violence against women will probably continue -- unfortunately. Let me explain why this seems to be the case.

Because women bear children, the mother looms large in the psyches of all children.

But male children tend to work to separate themselves psychologically from the powerful and at times seemingly overpowering feminine image in their psyches.

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In his book FIGHTING FOR LIFE: CONTEST, SEXUALITY, AND CONSCIOUSNESS (Cornell University Press, 1981), the published version of his 1979 Messenger Lectures at Cornell University, Walter J. Ong, S.J. (1912-2003), claims that human males have a psychological need to work out and establish a distinctively masculine identity.

Moreover, Ong claims that human males suffer from a distinct male insecurity, which is not the same as the insecurity that girls and women have. In other words, the distinct male insecurity requires the formation of a distinctively masculine identity, because the distinct male insecurity grows out of the overpowering image of the feminine in the psyche and out of the fact that only women bear children -- men don't.

Furthermore, Ong also claims human males have to work out a distinctively masculine identity in the context of other males, not in the context of their mothers or sisters or lovers or wives. So male agonistic behavior give rise to rivalry and competitiveness -- usually involving other males as the real or imagined adversaries.

Historically, many cultures over the centuries devised male puberty rites to help young males at the age of puberty to work out a way to separate themselves psychologically from the overwhelming power of the feminine image in their psyches. Male puberty rites involved all-male cohorts in certain activities structured by older males, not by females. However, male puberty rites resulted at times in suicides. Suicides are the downside of male puberty rites. For this reason, I do not recommend any attempt to resurrect male puberty rites.


When we turn our attention to men's violence against women, we can extrapolate from Ong's claim and say that the men involved in violence against women probably do not have a strong and secure masculine identity. Let's consider three broad kinds of men's violence against women.

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(1) Physical violence. Lacking a strong and secure masculine identity, certain men can feel threatened by women and respond violently.

(2) Rape of women unknown by the rapists. In many cases of sexual violence, it is hard to understand how the women made the rapists feel threatened. In such cases, the rapists most likely feel threatened by the powerful feminine image in their psyches.

(3) Date rape. But in cases of date rape, the rapists usually know the women they rape, at leas to some extent. Those rapists are not going to take "No" for an answer. As a result, they overpower their victims and rape them.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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