Feminists, Domestic Violence Studies, and the CTS Straw Person Argument

In a previous post, I made mention of Amanda Marcotte’s sophomoric pan of Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs). Apparently, she has graciously provided her readers with a second and third serving of the same steaming pile. I want to focus on one assertion made by Amanda in her series on MRAs, one that her feminist cohorts also make: Domestic violence is largely a phenomenon wherein men are aggressors and women are victims.

There are plenty of studies to show that the rates of aggression committed by women against their male partners are essentially equal to that of men committed against their female partners. But how do feminists respond? Well, feminists in the Blogosphere such as Barry Deutsch (“Ampersand”), Trish Wilson, and now Amanda Marcotte retort that said studies are based on the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS), a methodology which they assert is flawed.

So now can we just dismiss all those disturbing studies that underscore female aggression against men? We can breathe a collective sigh of relief, congratulating ourselves on saving our precious paradigm of Male Oppression from those dastardly MRAs, right? Not so fast ….

Here are just a few links that take into account the objections made by feminists regarding the CTS:

1. Kelly, Linda. “Disabusing the Definition of Domestic Violence: How Women Batter Men and the Role of the Feminist State.” Fla. St. Univ. Law Rev, Vol 30:791 (Summer 2003)

2. Dutton, Donald. “Patriarchy and Wife Assault: The Ecological Fallacy.” Violence & Victims 1994, 9, (2), 125 – 140

3. … And for good measure, click here for a discussion among MRAs regarding the feminist ballyhoo about CTS flaws.

Let me conclude by quoting Donald Dutton, a well-known expert in the study of domestic violence:

“I have critiqued the feminist position elsewhere (Dutton, 1994c) and will simply summarize the essence of that criticism here. Feminist theory has difficulty accounting for individual differences in male assaultiveness or explaining several key empirical findings: that all abuse rates (physical, verbal, sexual) are higher in lesbian relationships than in heterosexual relationships (Lie, Schilit, Bush, Montague, & Reyes 1991); that abuse rates are lower in more patriarchal cultures (Sorenson & Telles, 1991; Campbell, 1992); that there is no linear correlation between dyadic power and wife assault (Coleman & Straus, 1990); that there is a “near zero” correlation between structural patriarchy (defined as male-female inequality) and individual patriarchal beliefs (Yllo & Straus 1990, p.395) and that direct tests of structural patriarchy and patriarchal beliefs yield only weak relationships to assaultiveness (Smith, 1990). Indeed, what the latter study found, rather than invariant male patriarchal ideology, was evidence for the heterogenity of male beliefs about women. This is matched, I might add, by a heterogenity of male actions: only about 12% of men would have lifetime incidence of “serious” violent acts (punching, kicking or worse on the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS: Straus, 1979)) at any time towards their wives (Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980), according to surveys done by women interviewers with women respondents. About 8% are repeatedly assaultive during the duration of the marriage with the percentage dropping further as incidence increases. When we add to this the finding that only about 9% of men are dominant within their family according to a “final say” measure of power (Coleman & Straus, 1990), we get a picture of male dominance and violence very different from that painted by sociological feminism. Furthermore, in contradistinction to the feminist view, male violence seems to be more strongly associated with powerlessness in males, not to power maintenance. One of the problems, I suspect, is that sociological feminism has attempted to graft a sociopolitical model onto male-female relationships. Attempting to reduce the complexity of intimate power dynamics in this way has led to an inevitable simplifying. Apart from the inexplicable data sources reported above, the sociological/feminist model cannot account for male feelings of powerlessness in intimate relationships (Dutton & Strachan, 1987), various subtypes of wife assaulter (Dutton, 1988, 1995; Saunders, 1992, Holtzworth-Munroe & Stuart, 1994), or cyclical or phasic battering (Dutton, 1994 a & b; Dutton & Starzomski, 1993; Walker, 1979).” (Source: Intimate Abusiveness, Donald G. Dutton)

Enough said for now.

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