Why Men Compete

May 30th, 2010 by Pelle Billing

The men’s movement is growing. Slowly, perhaps, but nevertheless making strides forward each and every day. Recently one of my Swedish blog readers told me that his daughters had learnt about domestic violence against men in school. Would that even have happened last year, let alone a decade ago? I doubt it.

In the midst of this stream of small victories, you may find yourself blindsided by a well meaning friend or a less than friendly feminist who asks you “But why do men keep on assaulting other men? Male-on-male violence is one of the biggest problems in this world, and surely that has to be an issue where the blame falls squarely on men and where men have to do better?”

I fully agree that men can do much better, and that male-on-male violence is an issue that the men’s movement cannot afford to ignore. The good news is that men are already doing substantially better; during the Stone Age between 15 and 60 percent of men died an early death at the hands of another man, and that is hardly the case in our day and age.

However, the issue of blame is quite different, and it’s not as simple as pegging the blame on men or on masculinity. On one level every man is responsible for his own actions, and choosing to assault or even murder another man is completely unacceptable. But there’s a deeper dynamic at play here, and without understanding that dynamic we will fail to understand the actions of men, and create more blame than is necessary.

To get to the root of male-on-male violence, we need to take a closer look at human sexuality and human sexual selection. We all know that women are the ultimate selectors in the sexual game (and if you don’t know that, then go ask ten different married women who made the ultimate selection). The facts are pretty straightforward: Women ovulate once a month, and a pregnancy takes nine months during which you become increasingly immobilized. Men, on the other hand, produce millions of sperms each hour, and are not physically affected at all while they are waiting to become fathers. Who has more reason to choose their sexual partner carefully, men or women? Who is the buyer and who is the seller in the sexual market?

What this means is that men have always had to work hard in order to prove their worth to women. In fact, the competition between men has been so fierce that only half as many men as women have passed on their genes throughout history, according to a research report from 2004. This kind of competition to get access to sex and to have the ability to pass on your genes has never been a situation that women have needed to face, and for the most part women simply fail to understand this aspect of being a man.

Men will compete in whatever ways are available to reach the top of the food chain, and be able to provide for women. In a civilized society that will usually mean constructive behaviors such as working hard and becoming a well respected person. In an uncivilized society, which has been the case through most of history, men will instead resort to violence towards other men, to fend off the competition. Why are so many women attracted to bad boys and even prisoners? Well, during most of human history that kind of behavior from men was an effective way to be respected by other men and therefore rise to the top of the food chain.

Male violence is therefore the end result of a dance in which both women and men participate. Women select the most suitable men, men compete to be chosen (using violence if needed), women again select the most suitable men (regardless of whether they used violence or not to become suitable), men compete to be chosen… On and on it goes.

So while each individual man is fully responsible for his own actions, and never able to blame anyone but himself for any violence that he inflicts upon another man, it’s crucial that we see and understand the deeper dynamic of male-on-male violence. Failure to do so will lead to a collective blaming of men, instead of realizing that men and women alike are part of the twisted tango of violence.

15 Responses to “Why Men Compete”

  1. Tweets that mention Why Men Compete -- Topsy.com Says:

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  2. Jim Says:

    Quite often a lot of this violence between men is at the direct prompting of women:


    And this is just the informal variant of male-on-male violence in the form of rape prosecutions documented on a dialy basis over at http://falserapesociety.blogspot.com/.

    This is aside from women’s role in pro-war cultural pressure on men.

  3. Jay R Says:

    To anyone who points the finger at men for their violence it can be noted that women’s mating choices over the ages have literally made men what we are. If we are ass-kickers, it’s because women wanted a supply of ass-kickers. Now they are stuck with us! Too bad, so sad.

  4. masculinist Says:

    Better to eschew female definition/judgement altogether, Jay R.

  5. Kimberly Johnson Says:

    This article is full of biological determinism– Darwinian-style. So because of genetic selection, men fight to compete as a means to propagate their genes- really? is this the “new paradigm”? Sounds like kind of an old paradigm.

  6. hopeless_case Says:


    Nowhere in the article are genes mentioned. Genes are not the only thing evolving; culture and language evolve much more rapidly and profoundly affect how people think and act.

    Pelle described a few of the rewards and punishments men have faced through history and how those might explain behavior.

    I would be curious to hear a more plausible explanation from you, since you find Pelle’s hard to credit.

  7. Danny Says:

    Not only did Pelle not mention them but they don’t come up at all until Kimberly brings them up.

    Pelle isn’t trying to say that genes are the reason, he’s trying to look at history itself for evidence of how things came to be. Parents showing and telling their sons that they have to be the toughest in order be with a woman. Parents showing and telling daughters to go for the toughest guy since is most likely the best provider. Those behaviors weren’t passed along in genes they were passed along as learned behavior. They saw their parents do it so they do it. Think about how gender roles are changing so much and its throwing people for such a loop. Its throwing them for a loop because it goes against the behaviors they learned, ie what they learned from their parents. This is why today you have men who think they need to be the roughest, toughest, emotionless badass to find a woman and women who think they need to make sure they present properly in order to appeal to the man they think will be the best provider for them that seem lost. Each are realizing they don’t have to play those roles in order to survive.

    And considering that the old paradigm can’t seem to get past, “men are violent brutes and that’s all they are” I’d say that at least Pelle it trying to think/look outside the box.

  8. Steve Says:

    @Kimberly Johnson and others.

    OK, you’re offended biological determinism…


    Biology does not care one iota what your concerns

    Do you seriously believe that there are no genetically defined behavioral differences between men and woman. In which case full marks to to your liberal arts gender studies lecturer for selling you the left-wing politically correct polemic that we are all made of the same blank clay.

    It is tosh.

    Boys and girls have different genes. Our differences start in our DNA. Every single cell is different.

    Boys grow up awash in testosterone. Our brains are different from day 1 and continue to develop along different pathways. We are more similar than we are different but we are different. Simply consider the different rates of Aspergers and similar autism spectrum disorders between boys and girls. Yes societal pressures, media, parental models affect us but we are made such that we are affected differentially. It is easier to influence a male towards competitive violence. We are made such that we are differentially receptive.

    A consequence of out different biology is that most successful reproductive strategies for men and women are different. The strategies predicted by Batmen’s Principle are more or less observed in humans as well as thousand and thousands of other species. This is not some PC debate about how the world should be. It is hard empirical testable evidence based science and it pisses all over your warm and fuzzy liberal arts feel good wishful thinking view of the world.

    If you don’t or can’t accept that human nature has been strongly influenced by the genetic legacy left us by the life, struggle and death of the hundreds of millions of generations that have preceded us then you are delusional. Evolution via natural selection is a brutally effective mechanism.

    Evolutionary psychology may be hard pressed to call itself a science but it tries to be far more empirical than competing schools.

    Men want sex, and lots of it from lots of different women.
    To get it they will compete to be selected by women for that chance. They will fight to the death if they must because if they don’t risk everything then they have almost no chance of having their genes present in future generations and that is all evolution cares about.

    Women want safety, why would they risk when they have almost no need to. The biggest risk to a woman – from an evolutionary perspective – is not getting a mate, it is successfully getting her offspring to an age where they are old enough to likely survive to reproductive age themselves. For that she need resource security, safety etc.

    Which sex wants sex on the first date? Men or women ?
    Which wants their partner to establish that they are committed and loving etc before sex ?
    Which sex is more attracted to a powerful partner ?
    Which sex is more competitive for power, rank etc.
    And for extra points: Which sex is physically larger and why?

    Further I contend that the social changes desired by the more recent aspects of feminism are so contra to that of men that men will simply disconnect form women. That men will become more misogynistic and less inclined to let women into the few remaining male only spaces where we can be happy to be as we are without some crackpot telling us how we should be. At every turn men are being told we are bad, we are wrong, we must change. It seems to be outside the charter of feminism to believe that a woman could ever be wrong. As such you will never get to understand what men can be. One thing is sure – we will no longer countenance letting you shape us. The line has been crosses.

  9. Emilio Says:

    En español se conserva el dicho: “el hombre y el oso, cuanto más feo, más hermoso”

  10. It’s Time to Start Negotiating Says:

    [...] to the women’s movement. Women are more aware of their choices, and evolutionary speaking women have always had to think about how good a deal they can get when interacting with [...]

  11. Oh...those differences between men and women..... - Page 38 - Christian Forums Says:

    [...] to the women’s movement. Women are more aware of their choices, and evolutionary speaking women have always had to think about how good a deal they can get when interacting with men. Men, on the other hand, still believe that they need to perform their [...]

  12. Dina Says:

    I think both sexes compete for the BEST and for the BEST option they can get!

  13. LR Says:

    Truth is, men outnumber women in the world, even in Russia and the USA. And the lack of eligible women forces men to settle for less. Females get killed more in homicides in Russia and USA than any other country, especially with young girls. And yes, women want sex and lots of men but we call them sluts for it. We still hold onto the tradition of men competing with other men to court women rather than vice versa.

  14. RussianGuy Says:

    LR, are you a bigot? What a rubbish are you talking? Women outnumber men in Russia on 10 millions! Russia is one of country with highest male death.

    When are you going to stop lie and talk truth? m?

  15. Pelle Billing Says:

    Here are the gender demographics for Russia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Russia#Sex_ratio