Masculinity And Violence


In his new book, American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men, David McConnell examines four murder cases through the prism of masculinity:

I think of this book as a feminist work even though women barely appear in it. Crime is often about winning or triumphing or prevailing by destructive means. Rape is a vile “triumph” in the sexual realm. It’s not sex so much as it is “contest” in the mind of the rapist. This is the oppositional way a lot of young men think about women. Even though the stories I treated have a subcultural aspect, I think I’m talking about a larger general truth about men, and indeed about all people. Our minds are built for struggle. The struggle can darken into something truly terrible and unacceptable. I don’t want to make too baggy a generalization, but even terrorism, when you take away the politics and look at the acts of individuals, has the hallmarks of a half-formed and half-sickened masculinity.

McConnell offers advice about how we, as readers, might approach true stories of violence:

It’s immensely frustrating that we’re forced to deal with subjects as complex as violence with a vocabulary that amounts to “like,” “yes,” and “no.” … [F]or many of us, our habits of thinking have become a matter of votes or clicks. “Hate Crime” is a click of a phrase. It’s not meaningless or useless except that people will just, in a sense, click on it and then move on to the next story. There’s almost a greed for stories out there. People think knowing about every story and categorizing them all will bring a “big data” perfection of understanding. In fact, just knowing one or two stories well, turning them over in your mind, accepting the contradictions, is a much surer route to broad understanding.

(Photo: US Nik Lentz (top) fights against Brazilian Diego Nunes during the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) at Ibirapuera gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on January 19, 2013. By Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty.)