Men, Women, and Optimal Violence

40 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2016

See all articles by Mary Anne Franks

Mary Anne Franks

University of Miami School of Law

Date Written: March 14, 2016


While both men and women can, and do, use violence against each other, men’s violence against women is far more common, less justified, and more destructive than women’s violence against men. One of the reasons for this asymmetry is that men do not fear retaliation for violence against women, whereas women do fear retaliation for their use of violence against men. The distribution of violence between the genders, then, is suboptimal. Society would be better off as a whole if more women were willing to engage in justified violence against men, and fewer men were willing to engage in unjustified violence against women. To that end, women’s justified violence against men should be encouraged, protected, and publicized. This will require a reversal of the current trend in legal and social practices, which is to tolerate and encourage men’s unjustified violence against women while discouraging and legally restricting women’s violence against men. Even if encouraging an increase in women’s justified violence against men may sometimes result in unjustified or disproportionate violence in individual situations, the overall effects of the redistribution of violence will be preferable to the current asymmetry.

Keywords: criminal law, violence, justifiable force, self-defense, domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, battered women

Suggested Citation

Franks, Mary Anne, Men, Women, and Optimal Violence (March 14, 2016). University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 2016, No. 3, 929, University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 16-33 , Available at SSRN:

Mary Anne Franks (Contact Author)

University of Miami School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 248087
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States


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