Women and men do not commit acts of violence at the same rate; nor do they do it for the same reasons. Family violence researcher Kersti Yllo argues that men tend to use domestic violence instrumentally, for the specific purpose of striking fear and terror in their wives’ hearts, to insure compliance, obedience, and passive acceptance of his rule in the home. Women, by contrast, tend to use violence expressively, to express frustration or immediate anger, or, of course defensively, to prevent further injury. But rarely is women’s violence systematic, purposive, and routine. As two psychologists recently put it:
in heterosexual relationships, battering is primarily something that men do to women, rather than the reverse … [T]here are many battered women who are violent, mostly, but not always, in self-defense. Battered women are living in a culture of violence, and they are part of that culture. Some battered women defend themselves: they hit back, and might even hit or push as often as their husbands do. But they are the ones who are beaten up. (Jacobson & Gottman, 1998, p. 36)
In the results of some surveys that simply add up all violent acts women and men might appear to be equally violent. But the hospital emergency rooms, battered women’s shelters, and county morgues suggest that such appearances are deadly deceptive.
Michael Kimmel, The Gender Of Desire: Essays On Male Sexuality