How did you come up with the idea of quantifying “the cost of virility”?
One day I came across a simple figure: 96% of the prison population in France is male. This figure struck me, in that it says that people convicted of crimes and misdemeanors are, more than nine times out of ten, men. So I decided to pull the thread, to take an interest in what these behaviors cost the State, which spends billions to apprehend, investigate, judge, sanction, re-educate and treat the perpetrators. Not to mention the indirect cost for society, which must respond to the suffering of the victims. To my surprise, this work had never been done before. The figures make you dizzy: 86% of homicides, 99% of rapes, 84% of beatings and violence, 95% of thefts with weapons, 90% of damages are committed by men.
“Nothing predetermines men to these antisocial behaviors. It is not a question of the brain, nor of testosterone production, as we can sometimes hear. Biology therefore has nothing to do with it ”.
And yet, insist immediately, the stronger sex is not violent by nature …
Indeed, the figures are startling: in France, in the 21st century, a man is six times more likely to become a murderer and five times more likely to become a delinquent than a woman. But it seems important to me to say it: nothing predetermines men to these antisocial behaviors. It is not a question of the brain, nor of testosterone production, as we can sometimes hear. So biology has nothing to do with it. A simple example: a survey of 114 convicted rapists showed that 89% of these men had consensual sex at least twice a week before the crime. Rape is therefore not the result of an uncontrollable drive. Moreover, when men go to court, they are held responsible for their actions. Responsibility rests with the education given to male children.
And the propensity of boys to adopt antisocial behaviors is measurable very early on …
Indeed, 92% of college students sanctioned for attacks on property or people are boys. And it even starts before: from elementary school, girls testify to the verbal or physical aggressiveness of little boys. Researchers have noted systemic violence on the part of teenagers on those they consider weak: girls, shy people, fat people, “nerds”, homosexuals …
“Manly values are instilled from an early age. It has even been shown that mothers breastfeed baby boys and baby girls differently ”.
How does education prepare boys for this violence?
Manly values are instilled from an early age. Mothers have even been shown to breastfeed baby boys and baby girls differently. They make it easier for the former to choose when to feed, while they impose a rhythm on the latter. From the first months of life, therefore, girls learn that there are rules to follow.
What do these “virile values” responsible, in your opinion, for men’s penchant for violence cover?
From baby, we value the strength and vigor of boys. Later, we install violence in games, by promoting brawl, for example. Then, we put in their hands films and books whose heroes, mainly men, resort to violence. What we are witnessing is an acculturation of men to this violence. We can see the consequences. And in the same movement, we devalue the feminine. For example, if it is fully admitted and accepted that girls may want to join football or boxing, we always have more trouble with the little boy who asks to dance.
The problem is that beyond gender education, it is a whole culture that should be tackled …
Yes, but it is possible. It is a social construction, therefore, by definition, we can deconstruct it. We are already making progress: the MeToo movement is an illustration of this, because it questions the aggressive behavior of men.
“If we taught both boys and girls empathy, humanistic behavior, that we stopped emphasizing physical and mental strength, etc., in short, we educated both sexes in the same way, while would be changed ”.
This education, which values mental and physical strength, the domination of the other, sometimes brutality, is it universal?
She is. All over the world, it is men, far more than women, who are being tried and imprisoned. The country where the most women are behind bars is Hong Kong, but they never represent more than 20% of prisoners. Whatever the social background, the figures show that women indulge in much less violence than men. And this is true for those who grow up in poverty, under the beatings, or undergoing sexual assault. Poverty is therefore a less determining factor than sex.
So you’ve done the math: the cost of manhood is nearly 100 billion euros per year in France. What does this figure contain?
This is the cost borne each year by the French State to deal with the asocial behavior of men: direct expenditure on security, justice, health, to which must be added the cost of the victims’ psychological and physical suffering, that of damage materials, loss of production by victims. Imagine what we could invest in if we saved on this budget …
You draw a recommendation from this: rather than spending huge sums of money to judge and repair male violence, our society would rather have an interest in investing in other educational methods. Which ?
The educational mode, we have it in front of us: it is the one we give to the girls. Gender-neutral education, experienced in Denmark, for example, does not work. It does not stop the violence. Whereas if we taught both boys and girls empathy, humanistic behavior, that we stopped promoting physical and mental strength, etc., in short, we educated both sexes in the same way, everything would be changed. In the future, the state would save billions and women would no longer be afraid of being alone at night in the street, no longer afraid of letting children play outside, etc., all these situations considered to be at risk and that ‘we have fully integrated.
* “The cost of virility: what would France save if men behaved like women?” », Anne Carrière editions, € 17.50.
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