Contexts Triggering Aggression

Humans establish violent male-bonded coalitions in which members encourage one another in their mutual goal to attack others. Spartans and Athenians, the Crusades, the Hatfields and McCoys, Palestinians and Israelis, Sunnis and Shi'ites, and Tutsis and Hutus are all examples of such rivalries in recorded history. Men have regularly banded together in all civilizations to fight rival tribes or defend themselves.

No other known species has this distinct pattern of aggressiveness with humans and chimps. Women's physical same-sex violence is less frequent, aggressive, and spectacular than men's, but does not imply hostility. Sexual jealousy is the primary cause of men's nonsexual violence towards women directed at spouses, partners, or girlfriends, and is the most prevalent reason for spousal killing.

Contexts Triggering Men's Aggression against Men

Homicide is the most extreme form of aggressiveness, and homicide statistics worldwide show that most perpetrators and victims are males. Several causal factors surround male-on-male killings.

Marital and Employment Status

First, murderers and victims frequently have characteristics such as being jobless and, maybe related, unmarried. In a 1982 study of Detroit killings, for example, 43 per cent of the victims and 41 per cent of the perpetrators were jobless, even though just 11 per cent of adult men in Detroit were unemployed that year. According to the same survey, 73 per cent of male perpetrators and 69 per cent of male victims were unmarried, compared to 43 per cent of the same-age males in the Detroit region.

As a result, a lack of resources and an inability to attract a long-term spouse appear to be social settings associated with male-male killings. This is especially true for young males who are fresh and unproven participants in the highly competitive realm of status and mating. When one is on the verge of reproductive oblivion, it appears to pay to take enormous and risky chances.

Status and Reputation

The defence of status, reputation, and honour in the local peer group is one of the primary motivations for male-male violence. One individual described his early gang battles using reputation and deterrent as motivations for aggression: The person who gave out the most stitches earned notoriety. It also made others think twice before approaching you. Inadvertently, these are frequently labelled as "trivial altercations" in police reports. A typical example is a barroom verbal brawl that spirals out of control. Sometimes unwilling to back down and fearing public humiliation, the fighters shatter a bottle, grab a knife, or start a fire.

Police are sometimes perplexed by the seemingly insignificant nature of the disagreements. "Murders result from little 01' arguments over nothing at all," a Dallas homicide investigator observed. Temperaments flare. A battle breaks out, and someone is stabbed or shot. I have worked on instances where the principals were squabbling over a ten-cent jukebox record or a one-dollar gambling obligation from a dice game."

Contexts Triggering Women's Aggression against Women

Women's physical same-sex violence is less frequent, aggressive, and spectacular than men's. Only three of the forty-seven Detroit killings involving sexual jealousy in 1972 were perpetrated by women against a same-sex competitor. However, low levels of hazardous physical violence do not imply hostility. Women's hostility may be extreme if understood as imposing costs on someone else. In a study of competitor derogation, women engaged in equal amounts of verbal hostility as males. However, the derogation's substance was different.

Women outperformed males in disparaging their opponents based on physical attractiveness and sexual promiscuity, for example. They were more likely than males to label their competition obese and ugly, note their opponent's thighs being heavy, make fun of their rival's body size and form, and declare their rival physically unappealing. Women tend to be particularly aware of physical flaws in other women's looks and take care to bring them out publicly in the setting of intrasexual rivalry, so attracting attention to them and increasing their relevance in men's attentional field.

Women were more likely than males to claim that their competitors slept around a lot, had a lot of prior relationships, were sexually promiscuous, and would sleep with almost anyone. Furthermore, this derogatory strategy was situational. When the guy was looking for a short-term partner, indicating promiscuity in a competition was ineffective, likely because men are largely indifferent to this attribute in a short-term mate and may even prefer it because it suggests an increased possibility of sexual intercourse. On the other hand, derogating a rival on the promiscuity dimension was particularly successful when the guy sought a long-term partner, probably because males seeking long-term mates place a premium on sexual faithfulness.

Contexts Triggering Men's Aggression against Women

Sexual jealousy is the primary cause of men's nonsexual violence towards women directed at spouses, partners, or girlfriends. In one study of marital killings in Baltimore, twenty-five of thirty-six incidents were related to jealousy, and the wives were the victims in twenty-four cases. According to a survey, two-thirds of abused women in safe houses or shelters stated that their spouses were intensely jealous.

In another research, 57 of 60 beaten women experienced intense jealousy and possessiveness from their spouses. In another research, the husbands indicated irritation about their failure to manage their wives in most of the one hundred incidents of marital violence reviewed, with charges of infidelity being the most prevalent complaint.

Sexual jealousy is another necessary background for spousal killing, and it appears to be the most prevalent reason across cultures. Men who murder their wives or girlfriends usually do it under one of two circumstances: the observation or suspicion of sexual infidelity or the woman's decision to leave the relationship. The first is cuckoldry, which involves a guy risking his limited resources on babies to whom he is not genetically related. The second symbolises the loss of a reproductively valuable woman to a competitor, which is likewise a direct loss in fitness currency. This adaptive logic, of course, does not exist in the minds of men.

However, males inherit the psychological processes that enabled their forefathers' success. One set of such mechanisms fosters sexual jealousy and proprietariness over mates, both of which can lead to aggressiveness.

Contexts Triggering Women's Aggression against Men

It may appear that women rarely engage in violent hostility towards males. However, in complaints of marital abuse, such as slapping, spitting, beating, and calling foul names, the percentages of male and female victims are frequently nearly equal.

Protection from an Attack

Extreme hostility, such as spousal homicide, is committed less commonly by women, although it does occur. The settings are nearly invariably related to one of two factors: the woman is defending herself against a husband who is outraged about actual or suspected adultery or after a lengthy history of physical abuse when the woman sees no way out of her husband's oppressive hold. Male sexual jealousy appears to be the basis of both women killing their husbands and the more prevalent occurrence of men killing their wives.


Men attack women primarily to exert control over their sexuality. Sexual jealousy is a significant motivation for men's aggressiveness towards their mates. Historically, such aggressiveness was likely used to prevent a partner from future infidelity or from leaving the relationship altogether.

Younger women with a higher reproductive value are more exposed to partner violence because ancestral men have a more significant motive to preserve exclusive sexual access to more desirable women. Women seldom murder males, but when they do, it is usually in self-defence. Typically, the situation involves a woman defending herself against a partner who is outraged about actual or alleged adultery.

Updated on: 20-Apr-2023


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