Men and abuse – let’s have the conversation

Men and abuse – let’s have the conversation

Men and abuse – let’s have the conversation

Let’s be honest, men have got a bit of a reputation for being the abusive gender on the planet and with good reason, as the following statistics highlight…

  • Men commit 75% of violent crime (and are twice as likely to be victims of violent crime)[1]

  • Men make up 95% of the prison population[2]

So what is going on here?

Are men naturally abusive or this is something they learn along the way?

Why are men so abusive towards others? And why is this something that has never changed?

Well, there is another statistic that could shed some light on this subject…

  • A study that looked at men’s lifestyles found that men were more likely to participate in a combination of three or four risky health behaviours. These included; smoking, excessive alcohol use, poor diet and low levels of physical activity.[3]

From this it is clear that men are habitually harming themselves as much as they are others. Perhaps this allows us to look a little deeper beyond the usual blame that happens when it comes to discussing men and abuse.

We all know the story of how a bully is created through being bullied themselves and desensitised to abuse to the point that they no longer consciously recognise that what they are doing is abusive. We have all seen this play out in our lives in one way or another, from the schoolyard playground to the sporting field, to the home or workplace.

To really start to arrest this alarming trend between men and abuse we need to consider the bigger picture in terms of how this could have been created in the first place. It’s time we all consider our relationship with abuse.

The world has normalised abuse and redefined the word. It has become such a common human experience that perhaps we have all become desensitised to it.

These days our modern societies have adopted a certain definition of abuse and if you cross a certain legal line you are dealt with appropriately, and rightly so, but what about all the recurring abusive behaviours that we accept as a regular part of human life?

For example, an angry or demeaning word, look, gesture, email, text message, social media comment, a hangover or fight with our partner or children after drinking excessive alcohol, a concussion or other injury that we inflict on each other while playing contact sports, or derogatory workplace banter and putdowns.

Can we honestly say that these things (amongst many other examples) don’t hurt us, or hurt us any less?

Abuse still seems to be something that is assigned to some extreme or obvious event, but what about all the other events or situations such as those mentioned above which are currently widely accepted as normal and ok, and in some cases may not even be called abuse or abusive? Can we accept that abuse is not something reserved for a domestic violence case or workplace bullying investigation but that it might actually be occurring every day in our lives in less obvious ways?

Consider that we can feel and discern energy in our bodies and that we are energetic beings as well as men. Our bodies know energetically and intuitively what love is and what abuse is and they register this – this is our natural innate sensitivity. But everywhere and everyone around us are telling us these situations or events are not abusive and so we feel a tension and unrest from this contradiction. Do we stay true to who we innately know we are and what we can feel? Do we shut down this connection with our bodies, our natural awareness and sensitivity, and enjoin the world to fit in?

As men I am sure we can agree that we have all had the experience of feeling hurt at some point in our lives but not feeling comfortable to share how we feel.

We all can remember incidents or actions that hurt us, and we have all felt the pressure from society to not express honestly what we are feeling, but it is us and us alone who make the decision to abandon our natural innate awareness and sensitivity. This is the ultimate form of abuse, a self-rejection that hurts us the most. So we cannot blame the world for this. As men we all have a responsibility to get honest about the decision we have all made at some point to disconnect from our natural sensitivity and tenderness.

Once we have lost this foundation of the steady connection with our natural way of being and the confidence and presence that comes with this, we are left with an insecurity that needs to be protected at all costs and so we are much more likely to fear the world and seek to control, dominate or attack it in one way or another. With this insecurity we are also much more likely to fear being different, standing out or going against the grain of normalised male behavior, the many forms of abuse that play out in the world every day. It is this fear of standing out or standing up to challenge abuse that drives group or pack energy: this can result in truly horrific consequences.

Sometimes we can shut down our bodies and our sensitivity so much that we are not even consciously aware that we are abusing ourselves and abusing others.

So as young boys we are crushed by the world (which is an abuse in itself) and then we make a choice to abandon what we actually feel and join in with this global cycle of allowing normalised abuse. We look around us and we see how the world is and we just assume there is something wrong with us rather than understanding that it is the world with its constructed beliefs and ideals that is actually not right. We don’t feel we have permission to express how we feel when we feel hurt or disturbed. We then make a choice to harden and protect ourselves and enjoin the way the world is, thus contributing to the cycle of normalised abuse.

Once we normalise abuse then it is a slippery slope to all the other more extreme behaviours that we see in the world and that we rightly abhor. But this starts with the seeds of normalised abuse being sown everywhere in our society from both genders. If we are to truly eradicate male led abuse we need to look at our relationship with abuse as a whole community or society, for this is the only way we will cut off the supply that is fuelling the abusive actions that we see men committing every day in the world.

The seeds are sown from very young with the way we treat our boys and ridicule them for being sensitive and delicate, telling them they have to toughen up and deny them their right to express how they feel inside. So we definitely need to start here with our young ones. Let’s confirm, appreciate and honour all young boys to accept their sensitivity and tenderness; not be led to feel that it is wrong, weird or incorrect.

We also need to give men permission to be tender, delicate and highly sensitive beings. For men to admit that they have been deeply hurt and abused is a very powerful healing and allows men to display who they naturally are.

The key to reconnecting to our natural tenderness is by reconnecting to our bodies: this brings back the natural awareness and sensitivity we had as children and young boys.

Feeling this gives us the honesty of what self-love feels like in the body. It creates a marker or reference point in our bodies of what love, care and tenderness is, and stops the cycle of self-abuse. Once we have this marker in our bodies (which starts by simply introducing gentleness into our daily lives) we will see much more clearly what is not love or what is abusive. Since the world is not going to provide this anytime soon, we need to do this for ourselves.

Once we know what tenderness feels like in our bodies and we rebuild our foundation of honouring who we are and what we feel, then the option of choosing abuse will no longer hold its appeal and sway with us as men.


  • [1]

  • [2]

    UK Prison Population Statistics (2018) Briefing Paper Nu. CBP-04334, July 2018; House of Commons Library.

  • [3]

    Buck D, Frosini F (2012) Clustering of Unhealthy Behaviours over Time: Implications for policy and practice; The Kings Fund.

Filed under

BrotherhoodBullyingDomestic violenceHealthy relationshipsMen's health

  • Photography: Matt Paul