Sow the wind of femininity, reap the whirlwind of violence

Annalisa Barbieri in the Guardian is properly concerned about the proliferation of abusive relationships and wonders what can be done to stop it:

We can teach our children about the correct way to deal with emotions such as anger and frustration, and that it's never OK to hit another person. Currently, where do our children learn about this? The top source is from soap operas, where the information may or may not be accurate. Only 13% had learned about it at school. The logical place would be in Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), but even in schools where PSHE is taught, (it is not compulsory although the sex education element is) domestic abuse is rarely covered.
PSHE is taught in the age group 10-16. Children (and I use the word advisedly) of that age do not in general have the emotional or social maturity to appreciate the implications of what they are being told. I can't see this making much of a difference to the problem, no matter how good the intentions.

If you want to know why modern young men are so prone to violence in relationships, look at the environment in which they grew up. The usual outlets of the violent impulses that arise naturally in young men (play wrestling with other boys, playing soldiers, physical playground games) have been systematically suppressed. Where else are these violent impulses - strengthening with age - going to be channelled? As Annalisa herself writes "it's never OK to hit another person" - but punching and grappling is what boys thrive on. What they need to learn, and indeed learn as they grow up, is the difference between a moderate punch to the arm or torso to score a metaphorical point, and a punch to the head aiming to cause injury or worse. Remove the opportunity to play fight, and you remove the place where they learn those lessons - where a playful punch grazes your buddy's nose, causes it to bleed profusely and generates remorse and moderate recriminations.

Rory Miller's Meditations on Violence made clear the distinction between playground violence, confrontations for territory / status, and then the third tier of violence intended to injure or kill. This third tier can be seen in UK cities when alcohol or aggression have young men throwing kicks at the heads of innocent victims. A kick at the head has only one purpose - to injure severely or kill. This is bottled-up violence finding an outlet that ruins the lives of people - the injured party, their family, and then the aggressor himself as he is sent down for a number of years.

Barbieri quotes Refuge's CEO Sandra Horley:

If the abuse is physical, she advises, "Never ignore that first push, that first shove."
She's right enough; that's the sign of a man (or woman) who has not learned control over their violent impulses and found an appropriate channel for them. If you're the inappropriate channel, pack your bags and leave. But we want this to be a rare occurrence, we need to restore the time-honoured ways in which young men can relieve the pressure of their violence urges harmlessly. Feminising them is not helping.

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