Toxic masculinity dictates that men dominate and control women in ways that often involve violence. This virulent form of social control constructs manhood and masculinity as inextricably tied to shows of strength and aggression. Psychologist and author Terry Real, perhaps the most informed voice on men’s issues and trauma, has said a gun is the most extreme version of toxic masculinity. The troubling reality of that statement is borne out by a new study finding that more than “1,600 women were murdered by men in 2015 and the most common weapon used was a gun.”
The report, titled “When Men Murder Women,” is compiled annually by the Violence Policy Center. Researchers analyzed data from 2015, the most recent year for which numbers are available. Study authors note that they examined “only those instances involving one female homicide victim and one male offender…the exact scenario—the lone male attacker and the vulnerable woman—that is often used to promote gun ownership among women.” What they found was that a gun in the home, generally bought to protect residents from intruders, was far more likely to be lethally used against a woman by an intimate partner, such as a boyfriend or husband. Report authors cite U.S. Department of Justice findings that show women are not only far likelier than men to be the victims of domestic abuse involving a weapon, they are attacked in their own homes more than any other location.
Disturbing findings detailed by study authors also include, per the report:
- For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 93 percent of female victims (1,450 out of 1,551) were murdered by a male they knew.
- Fourteen times as many females were murdered by a male they knew (1,450 victims) than were killed by male strangers (101 victims).
- For victims who knew their offenders, 64 percent (928) of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers.
- There were 266 women shot and killed by either their husband or intimate acquaintance during the course of an argument.
- Nationwide, for homicides in which the weapon could be determined (1,522), more female homicides were committed with firearms (55 percent) than with any other weapon. Knives and other cutting instruments accounted for 20 percent of all female murders, bodily force 11 percent, and murder by blunt object six percent. Of the homicides committed with firearms, 69 percent were committed with handguns.
- In 84 percent of all incidents where the circumstances could be determined, homicides were not related to the commission of any other felony, such as rape or robbery.
While murder is the most horrific outcome when domestic violence and guns intersect, weapons are also used as a means of intimidation in non-fatal cases of gun violence. Report authors point to a paper from the Harvard School of Public Health that determined “hostile gun displays against family members may be more common than gun use in self-defense, and that hostile gun displays are often acts of domestic violence directed against women.”
According to a 2016 report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the number of women buying guns has been growing faster than any other group in recent years. Between 2004 and 2011, the number of women gun owners reportedly skyrocketed by 77 percent. The NRA has helped drive those numbers, focusing its efforts over the last decade on women, whom the organization regards as an untapped market. The ludicrous ends the gun group has gone to include releasing a video this year hailing gun ownership by women as an act of feminist resistance, and putting on a “Concealed Carry Fashion Show” just this past August. Wrapped up in this messaging is the disproven idea that the only thing that can kill a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, and if a man isn’t around, an armed woman can do the job. But the Violence Policy Center study—which follows dozens upon dozens of surveys with similar findings—has proven yet again that gun ownership leads only to more gun violence, of which women are disproportionately the victims.
Researchers also noted that black women are more than twice as likely to be murdered by men as their white peers. Numerous anecdotal reports suggest that while gun sales overall have gone down since Donald Trump entered office, gun sales to black women have increased. All available evidence suggests those guns are more likely to be used against those women than to save them.
The report ranked U.S. states by their levels of the rate of women murdered by men, with the top 10 states as follows. (Each ratio represents the state’s homicide rate, females murdered by males.)
- Alaska: 2.86 per 100,000
- Nevada: 2.29 per 100,000
- Louisiana: 2.22 per 100,000
- Tennessee: 2.10 per 100,000
- South Carolina: 1.83 per 100,000
- Arkansas: 1.78 per 100,000
- Kansas: 1.65 per 100,000
- Kentucky: 1.60 per 100,000
- Texas: 1.54 per 100,000
- New Mexico & Missouri: 1.52 per 100,000
“Women killed by men are most often killed by someone they know and more than half were killed by an intimate partner,” Violence Policy Center legislative director Kristen Rand said in a statement. “Much more must be done to identify and implement strategies to prevent these tragedies. More resources are needed at the federal, state and local levels to help keep women safe.”
The study is available online in its entirety.