Transform Messages Into Stories I provided the 4 articles FIRST! The last download is the assignmnet dirretions! This week’s four required resources were B

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I provided the 4 articles FIRST! The last download is the assignmnet dirretions!
This week’s four required resources were Blanco (2012), Hamer & Wilson (2014), Kincaid (1978), and Kivel (2007),

Copyright 2007 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com

Men’s Work—To Stop
Male Violence

by P a u l K i v e l

“WHY DO MEN BATTER WOMEN?” “Why do men rape women?”
“Why do men stalk, harass, exploit and mistreat women?” To
answer such questions we must first of all discard the easy answer:

“They’re monsters.” In fact, research shows that most men who
batter, rape, or harass women are very ordinary and not much
different from most other men. In all too many “normal”
households, workplaces, congregations, and schools, violence is a
common family secret. Nor are they crazy. Most of these men are
sane, rational, and lead socially acceptable lives.

Answers which portray men who are abusive as ogres put a wall
around these men, separating “them” from “us.” If we’re male, we
want to believe they are different from us. If we’re female, we
want to believe they’re different from the men we know. But these
walls won’t protect us from the reality that men who abuse women
and men who don’t are not all that different in many ways.

Estimates are that men batter 2-3 million women in the U.S. every
year.1 Nearly one-third of the women in this country will
experience at least one incident of domestic violence by their
current or former male partner at some point in their lives.2 Each
year approximately 1,200 women are murdered by their spouses or
boyfriends.3 The unfortunate truth is that male violence is normal
in our society: vast numbers, i.e. millions, of men participate. Any
explanation which tries to explain why men abuse women through
individual psychology or the pathology of particular men won’t
help us understand the systematic, routine and widespread
persistence of male violence.

1San Francisco Chronicle, 6-24-94, p. A16

2The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: The Commonwealth Fund 1998
Survey of Women’s Health. May 1999.
http://www.commonwealthfund.org/usr_doc/Healthconcerns__surveyreport.pdf?section=4039

3Bureau of Justice Statistics, Homicide Trends in the U.S.: Intimate Homicide,
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/intimates.htm#intimates (accessed 2/10/2007)

Copyright 2007 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com
“Men’s Work—To Stop Male Violence” page: 2

Boys are taught to accept violence as a manly response to real or
imagined threats. At the same time, men get little training in
negotiating intimate relationships. Moreover, in our patriarchal
society, all too many men are raised to believe, or learn from their
peers, that they have the “right” to control “their” women and
children. The result is a tendency for many men to view difficulties
in relationships as a threat to their manhood, and they respond with
violence.

Gender roles are not foreordained by our biology or our genetic
composition. We learn gender roles as part of our socialization into
the culture. When a child is born the first question asked is often,
“Is it a boy or girl?” Our response to the child is then mediated by
our knowledge of its genitals. Children learn from our actions what
behavior is appropriate for their gender identities. Boys are taught
to expect girls to be pretty, sexy, emotional, clean, thin,
acquiescent, and dependent, and to become caretakers and child
bearers. To be sure, many young men today tend to question these
expectations, but the grip of traditional role expectations remains
very strong.

The definitions of masculinity provide a set of 24-hour-a-day,
seven-days-a-week rigid gender role expectations that every boy is
constantly reminded he must live up to so he can be a “real” man.

How do boys get these ideas about male identity and manhood?
The training begins early. Many parents stop holding, kissing, and
hugging boys by the time their sons are 4 or 5 in order to toughen
them up. We tell them to act like a man, to be tough, aggressive, in
control, not to express their feelings, not to cry, and never to ask
for help. Approximately one out of every six boys is sexually
assaulted,4 and many, many more are hit, yelled at, teased, and
goaded into fighting to prove they’re tough and can take it. Each
part of the training teaches boys that they will be violated until
they toughen up and learn to protect themselves through the use of
force. It also teaches them to take their pain and anger out on
others the way older men have done to them.

Our society trains young boys so well that by the time they are in
school they can police themselves using names and fights to keep
each other in line. “Wimp,” “fag,” “punk,” “mama’s boy,” “girl,”
“sissy,”—each taunt acts as a reminder to hang tough. Behind each

4Russell, Diana E. H. “The Incidence and Prevalence of Intrafamilial and Extrafamilial Sexual Abuse of Female
Children,” in Handbook on Sexual Abuse of Children, edited by Lenore E.A. Walker, Springer Publishing Co
1988

Copyright 2007 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com
“Men’s Work—To Stop Male Violence” page: 3

name is the challenge, “What are you going to do about it?” Often,
young boys have to fight to prove they’re tough and won’t be
pushed around.

Feeling powerless and constantly challenged, boys look for power
and control, but over whom? Not those who have greater power
than them such as parents, teachers, or police. The best
targets—and usually the only ones available—for aggression are
girls and younger boys. When a boy or man is challenged by
another guy, he can prove he’s a man either by fighting the
challenger or by finding a girl or younger, more vulnerable male to
demonstrate how aggressive he is. Although anyone will do,
abusing girls establishes his heterosexual credentials while
relieving any anxiety that he may not be tough enough. Hurting
girls becomes both a sign of his (heterosexual) interest in them
(he’s paying attention to them) and a symbol of his difference from
them (he’s in control).

This aggressive relationship to girls seems perfectly natural
because boys are taught that women are primarily sexual objects.
A boy will see literally tens of thousands of visual images during
childhood of young, thin, sexy, beautiful women who are promised
to him if he’s rich enough, if he’s powerful enough, if he has the
right material possessions—if he’s “man” enough. In fact, many
men come to see a woman as just another material possession that
comes with the car, stereo, clothes, gun, education, or job.

But when it comes down to his expectation that a particular woman
will provide sex for him, if he doesn’t buy her services either
directly through prostitution or indirectly through pornography, he
has to strategize to get what he has been taught to feel is his due.
He “knows” he deserves sex because he’s a man even at the same
time he “knows” that she has been trained to protest his sexual
advances at first to show that she is a “good” girl, not a slut. He
has been taught that women really want sex—after all, that’s
primarily what he has learned they are for (besides taking care of
the kids, cooking, cleaning, etc.) He has also been taught that when
they say “no,” they really mean, “yes, just try a little harder, show
me how much I’m worth to you.” Because of their general
expectations that women are available to men sexually, many men
give themselves license to use absolutely any tactics to get a
particular woman to give in to sex. They might negotiate, bargain,
cajole or demand, manipulate, inebriate, threaten, bribe, intimidate,
or simply attack.

Copyright 2007 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com
“Men’s Work—To Stop Male Violence” page: 4

The toughening up process for boys includes the message that the
worst thing in the world they can be is feminine, i.e. a woman.
They are getting a message not only about what men should be
like, but about the inferiority of women. The other strong message
they receive is that they should do anything they can to prove they
are not gay. Being homosexual is seen as nearly on a par with
being a woman. Therefore homophobia—not just a hatred of
homosexuals, but also the fear of gays or the threat of being
perceived as gay—can be used to get heterosexual men to commit
acts of violence to establish their male credentials. (Think of what
some of our political leaders have done to prove they are not
wimps.)

Men are trained to think that we need, and deserve, women to take
care of us physically and emotionally, and to service us sexually. I
remember thinking as a teenager that as long as I did my part, girls
should do theirs. If I initiated dates, paid for our time together,
arranged transportation, and protected them on the streets, then
girls should show their appreciation by taking care of me
emotionally, putting their own concerns and interests aside, and
putting out sexually. I think this unspoken contract is one that
many heterosexual men operate by.

However, we are also taught that the more powerful we are as men,
the less force we should need to use to get what we want. The vast
differences between men in the resources we have to command
women’s sexual and caretaking services depend on our race, class,
job, and education.

Copyright 2007 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com
“Men’s Work—To Stop Male Violence” page: 5

The more “male power” we accumulate or are given by class or
racial birthright, the more we can use money, status, power, and
control instead of physical force to get sexual attention and other
services from women. The more force we have to use, the less
entitlement we feel and the more angry and impatient we become.
So we always start out hoping and expecting it to be easy, with
lines like the following:

• Have another drink.
• You look tense. Let me give you a massage or rub your

shoulders.

• Relax, you’ll enjoy it.
• Don’t you like me?
• Show me you love me.
• You know, there are lots of other women out there.
• I spent a lot of money on you.
• It’s time.
• You got me all excited.
• You are special; you’re different from other women.
• I’m special; I’m different from other men.
• You don’t know how good it can be.
• I can’t live without you.
• I’m not leaving.

Since by definition “real” men naturally end up having sex
with women, the pressure we might be willing to apply to get what
we think we need and deserve is unlimited. If a woman is pretty or
smart or rich, we justify what we do as a challenge with phrases
like “She thinks she’s so …” “Who does she think she is?” “She
probably thinks I’m too …” “I’ll cut her down to size.” “I’ll show
her.”

If our manipulations fail, we end up hitting her or raping her. Then
we have to blame her so that we can deny our aggression and keep
our self-esteem and self-image intact. We might rely on
rationalizations like the following: “she’s fucked up”, “she’s
frigid”, “she’s too emotional”, “she shouldn’t have said that”, “she
knew that would make me angry”, “she asked for it”, “she said
‘no’ but she meant ‘yes’”, “she pushed my buttons”, “she’s a
tease”, “look what she was wearing”, “she was really drunk”, “she
was all over me”, “she wanted it”.

Copyright 2007 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com
“Men’s Work—To Stop Male Violence” page: 6

If she is less educated, poorer, or not “good-looking”, or if we’re
white and she is not, that alone can be a justification for treating
her abusively because we’ve been taught that she doesn’t deserve
any better.

In the final analysis we never do see the woman as a real,
independent human being with feelings, concerns, and a
perspective of her own. Because we have pre-explained women’s
needs, thoughts, and actions according to our male projections, it
invariably comes as a surprise to us when women are hurt by and
angry about our violence. We respond by minimizing and
justifying our actions with phrases like the following:

• I didn’t know.
• I didn’t mean …
• I didn’t intend …
• You’re too sensitive …
• It was just normal male and female stuff
• That’s the way guys are.
• You shouldn’t be so angry.
• It wasn’t such a big deal.
• Women are just too … anyway.
• It was just the heat of the moment.
• What can you expect?

Many men feel set up. We spend years learning a set of
expectations about women’s services and think that we are just
following the rules. In a sense we have been set up. We have been
set up by the gender roles we were trained in and the expectations
about women that we were led to believe were true. We end up
living our lives feeling superior to women: we are condescending
in our words and actions, and we feel entitled to their services. In
our everyday interactions, we interrupt women by talking louder
than they do; we don’t value women’s opinions about something
because they are women; we make comments in public about
women’s bodies and discuss women’s bodies with other men; we
don’t take it seriously when we are told by women that we are
sexist or abusive; we are told by women that they want more
affection and less sex from us and we don’t know how to respond;
we cheat on our lovers and then we lie about it; we abuse women
through our use of pornography and prostitution; we use our voices
or bodies to scare or intimidate women; we hit, slap, shove, or
push women; and we have sex with women when we know they

Copyright 2007 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com
“Men’s Work—To Stop Male Violence” page: 7

don’t want to. We’ve been set up by the sense of superiority and
entitlement, and the small benefits we gain to collude with and
perpetuate sexism and male supremacy.

We can’t make better choices unless we understand the social
framework of power and violence that constantly pressures us to be
in control and on top. We live in a society based on over 500 years
of violence directed towards people with less power who were
considered inferior, evil, sinful, uncivilized, and less than human.
An important part of our work is to look at how power and
inequality are structured into social relationships. The chart below
captures some of the ways that power, and therefore the ability to
do violence to others, is structured in U.S. society.

5

5 © Oakland Men’s Project

Copyright 2007 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com
“Men’s Work—To Stop Male Violence” page: 8

These inequalities are maintained through discrimination, laws,
stereotypes, rules, exploitation, and ultimately through force and
violence. The violence is interlinked: violence against one targeted
group encourages violence against other less powerful groups. All
forms of violence are used to cover up the fact that 1% of the
people in the United States control 42% of the financial wealth and
the top 10% control 81% of that wealth.6

Most boys are trained to act like a “real” man as preparation for
fulfilling roles in our society that will maintain political and
economic structure and protect the wealth and power of the ruling
class—the wealthiest and most powerful 1%. Because people are
always resisting, rebelling, and organizing against inequalities of
wealth and power, those in power need people to supervise,
discipline, and control those who challenge the status quo. As
police officers, security guards, prison wardens, immigration
officials, deans and administrators, soldiers, members of the
National Guard, sheriffs, and as partners and fathers—when they
commit acts of interpersonal violence, men are acting as the
enforcers of hierarchy and domination. Male violence is the
enforcement mechanism for inequality, exploitation, and all other
forms of social injustice. Men are the enforcers. Men are not only
the enforcers for sexism. White men are the enforcers of racism,
straight men are the enforcers of heterosexism, men who are
citizens are the enforcers of the exploitation of immigrants, and
well-off men are the enforcers for economic injustice. All for the
benefit of the ruling class.

How can men of all races and classes be brought into the struggle
against abuse and violence? There are growing numbers of men
who are critical of sexism and realize that they have become
enforcers of a system that is destroying all of our lives. All too
often, however, these men as individuals are isolated and fearful of
raising their concerns with other men for fear of themselves being
targeted for violence. It is time for men who want to stop the
violence to break through the fear that has silenced us and reach
out to other men.

Men must understand how we also are damaged by sexism and that
male violence against women keeps us from the collective action
needed to confront racial, gender-based, and economic injustice.

A system that requires that we always act as though we were in
control while repressing our emotions takes a heavy toll. It

6 Mishel, Lawrence, Jared Bernstein, and Sylvia Allegretto. The State of Working America 2006/2007.
Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2008, p. 249.

Copyright 2007 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com
“Men’s Work—To Stop Male Violence” page: 9

damages our sense of authenticity and prevents us from
challenging abuses of power and authority except in self-
destructive ways. It results in a loss of intimacy with women and
children—and other men. It produces stress that is a hazard to our
health and shortens our lives. It makes us sick in our souls and our
bodies, and it turns us into the enemies of those we love and
supporters of those who exploit us.

Why do men batter, harass, and sexually assault women? The
answer is complex. Because we have been trained to. Because
there are few social sanctions against it. Because men are trained
not to see women as people, nor the effects that our actions have
on them. Because we live in a society where it is acceptable to
exploit people with less social and personal power. Because we are
offered meager rewards for toeing the line and fulfilling our (often
dangerous) jobs as enforcers.

Whatever the reasons for male violence, men are responsible for
battery and sexual assault and for stopping male violence. Our
male training and expectations of women have been defined and
enforced by individual men and a male-dominated society.
Therefore it is particularly powerful when men challenge other
men on issues of male violence, contradicting the myth that it is
natural, inevitable, or inconsequential for men to abuse women.
Men must challenge each other to stop the violence. We must
challenge notions of manhood that lead us to injure or kill those we
love. We must confront male friends when we see them heading
down the destructive path of becoming enforcers for the ruling
class. We must work with women and other men to build safe,
healthy and just communities.

This is truly men’s work—to reclaim our own humanity and stop
all forms of male violence and exploitation.

Men’s Work Is

Personal—to look in our own lives at any ways we are controlling,
abusive or disrespectful towards women. Do we objectify women,
tease women, tell demeaning jokes, use pornography or prostitutes,
or sexually harass women? Do we expect our partners to put out
for us, do what we want, and put our needs first? Do we force or
manipulate women into having sex with us? Do we interrupt
women, disparage or undervalue their contributions, disrespect
their intelligence, dominate our conversations with them?

Copyright 2007 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com
“Men’s Work—To Stop Male Violence” page: 10

Interpersonal—to reach out to other men and challenge the
culture of violence which allows abuse and injustice to go
unchallenged. Too many times we are silent when the comments
are made, the jokes told, the pornography pulled out, the conquests
recounted, or the abuse carried out. Too often we are silent in the
face of sexual harassment, wage discrimination, and male
objectification and abuse of women. Part of men’s work is to
challenge other men.

Parental—to model for and teach our sons and the other young
men in our community different ways to relate to women, children,
and other men which are based on respect, mutuality, equality and
caring. Many boys and young men in your community are
watching you as a model of how to be an ally to women. What are
they learning from you?

Socio-political—to challenge the systematic mistreatment of
women which makes them vulnerable to battery, sexual assault,
incest, and date and marital rape. Job discrimination, routine sexual
harassment, lack of police protection, and cultural objectification
all make women less privileged than men, putting them at risk. We
must understand that abuse and violence arise from a system of
sexual inequality. To stop them requires us to challenge the
socialization of young people into gender roles and to challenge
the institutions and the unequal distribution of power upon which
sexism and racism and homophobia and economic exploitation are
based. Men’s work is to become allies to women in the struggle to
stop the violence, challenge the mistreatment, and work for justice
for all women, children and men in our society.7

This is a big task, but it is one which each of us can start in small
ways—in our homes, in our schools, in our communities. We can
educate ourselves, and offer our children new models of male
behavior. We can support each other in finding a healing response
to the pain and hurt we have suffered. We can challenge the
schools to educate young people about empowering ways to
counter sexism and racism. We can confront institutionalized
oppression and violence in our communities. We can support
movements and organizations that work for social justice. In sum,
instead of colluding with injustice, by working together with others
as allies we can build community responses to the system of
inequality and the cycle of violence that are so damaging to our
lives.

7 There are more specific suggestions for being a male ally at
http://www.paulkivel.com/resources/sexismguidelines.pdf.

Copyright 2007 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com
“Men’s Work—To Stop Male Violence” page: 11

“Why are men violent?” is an interesting question. But the more
important question is, “What are we going to do about it?”

Please send comments, feedback, resources, and suggestions for
distribution to paul@paulkivel.com. Further resources are
available at www.paulkivel.com.

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