Generally speaking, the more violent the crime, the more stark the difference. Overall, men represent over 80% of those arrested for violent crime including roughly 90% for homicide, 85% for burglary, and 83% for arson. Meanwhile, less violent crimes like fraud, larceny and embezzlement are more equally split between the genders.
These facts are regularly touted as evidence that men wield all the power in society via the “patriarchy.” Of course, just a little consideration and analysis shows this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Why do men really commit more crime?
Men are far from the only demographic that commits disproportionately more crime. Per capita, African-Americans, for example, are arrested 2.6 times as often as Americans in general. Again, this is exaggerated for violent crime with African-Americans representing some 56% of homicide convictions despite only being 13% of the population.
Of course, aside from a small subset of racist antagonists, most people would readily point out another key fact: African-Americans represent the majority of victims of violent crime as well. For example, about 55% of homicide victims in the US are African-American. What’s uncomfortable for most misandrists is that the same is true for men as well. Men are more than twice as likely as women to be the victims of homicide.
In the case of African-Americans, it’s well accepted that their increased criminal activity and victimization is a result of their marginalization. It’s certainly not evidence that they control society and subjugate the other races through violent crime. However, what most people don’t want to admit is that the same is true for men.
Men are disproportionately likely to be socioeconomically dispossessed compared to women. They represent the vast majority of homeless, drug addicts and, as mentioned previously, the incarcerated. Meanwhile, they have fewer social programs devoted to helping them. This causes men to commit more crime for a couple of reasons.
First of all, and most obviously, men are more desperate. Either they’re already socially marginalized or they’ve internalized the fact that they live in a society that will refuse to help them unless they can support themselves—often by any means necessary.
Aside from promoting simple property crime like burglary and theft, this simply encourages men to become involved with criminal enterprise as a means to make a living. This can be seen in the fact that men are the victims in some 95% of drug- and gang-related homicides.
One of the most popular theories in criminology is called “social control theory,” and it posits that crime is mostly committed by those with a lack of social bonds in their community. In other words, they don’t feel any motivation to conform to society’s rules because they don’t have any attachment to it.
What does it say about society that men are this much more likely not to feel bonded or attached to the community around them? When we consider the higher likelihood of men being dispossessed as we already discussed, we can see what’s really going on here. Society simply doesn’t love or care for men as much, so they love and care for it less in return.
Misandrists who use male crime as evidence of “patriarchy” have a complicated relationship with the relationship between male biology and criminal behavior. Basically, they will either exaggerate it or completely dismiss it depending on whether it lets them discriminate against men in the given context. For example, men’s disproportionate incarceration is explained by biology, but then they claim men’s increased violence is the result of cultural internalizations like misogyny and male ego. Of course, the truth is more nuanced than either of these explanations.
It’s true that men have nearly 10 times the testosterone of women and that testosterone promotes aggression and risk taking and is correlated with antisocial behavior. Indeed, the males of most mammal species, especially those closely related to humans like the great apes, are considerably more aggressive than the females.
So yes, the truth is that men probably are genetically or biologically more “predisposed” to violence and aggression, but there are several important implications to point out here.
Aggression ≠ Crime
The most important thing to recognize is that just because men are biologically more aggressive or even “violent,” this doesn’t equate to criminality. Being a soldier, police officer or athlete is violent and aggressive, but it’s not a crime. Similarly, many activities from business to law require what could be called “aggression.”
In fact, men being the dominant demographic in society and naturally criminal are contradictory and paradoxical claims. Crime is behavior that society condemns and usually punishes, in modern society with incarceration. If men are making the rules, why would they make them to throw themselves in prison?
Biology Is Inseparable From Environment
Any epigeneticist will tell you: genes don’t determine behavior. Genes provide a map for how the body and mind reacts and adapts to its environment. Indeed, prominent epigeneticist Donald Hebb, when asked which contributes more to personality, nature or nurture, replied:
“Which contributes more to the area of a rectangle, its length or its width?”
Many misandrists use the importance of environment whenever it allows them to dismiss male biology and blame culture or personal choice for men’s increased criminality. However, what exactly are the environmental factors that bring out criminal aggression and violence in men?
No, it isn’t a patriarchal culture telling men they can do whatever they want. On the contrary, antisocial behavior is directly linked epigenetically to abuse, neglect and lack of love in childhood.
Men’s statistical overrepresentation in criminal behavior, then, means that they must be overrepresented as childhood victims of abuse, neglect, and lack of love and social support. Indeed, evidence shows mothers show more affection towards their daughters than their sons.
Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System
The last question to ask is, do men actually commit more crime? So far the statistics we’ve used to make this claim have been arrests, convictions and incarceration rates. We all know that these do not necessarily reflect reality but can instead reflect serious biases in the criminal justice system.
That’s certainly the case here. For a man and woman who commit the same exact crime, the man is more likely to be arrested and certainly more likely to be convicted. Then, even if both are convicted, the man will receive on average a 63% longer prison sentence.
Now, I’m willing to admit that, despite this discrimination, men still likely commit the majority of crime. However, when we relate this discrimination back to the discussion of environmental and social influences on criminal behavior, we can see how it only exacerbates male criminality.
If our goal is to prevent crime and produce a more orderly and peaceful society for everyone, then it’s essential we recognize the true reasons men commit more crime. It isn’t power or “patriarchy.” It’s the opposite: powerlessness and marginalization that we must address.