gender: violence

This post originally appeared on Sociological Images in 2009.

Emily D. sent us a link to a post by Flowing Data linking to multiple efforts to visualize crime data. One of them featured an illustration (I split it into four parts for easy viewing).  I’m sure the graphic elides details in the data, but I still think it’s interesting.  I challenged some of my preconceived notions about who dies by gun, and you may find it surprising too.

The data is from 2004.  That year, an average of 81 people died from a gunshot wound each day.  In the figures below, each bullet represents 81 deaths; grey bullets are homicides, pink suicides, and yellow accidents or being killed by a police officer.

(Methodological note: Differences in gun deaths by age group could be a matter of lifecycle or it could be a cohort effect.  Since this data is a snapshot and not longitudinal, it’s hard to tell.  Also, when you’re comparing age groups, it’s important to remember that people in these four age groups are not evenly distributed across the population.)


Five percent of the people who died due to guns was age 17 or younger (I say “only” advisedly).  People under 18 make up about 24% of the population.  Black men and white men are murdered at about the same rate (one a day, or one every 30 hours, respectively) which means that blacks are disproportionately victims of murder because they make up 12-13 percent of the population as opposed to the 80 percent of the population that is white.  Men are four times as likely as women to be killed. There were about half as many suicides as there were murders, and half as many accidents/police killings as well.


About 21 percent of all gun deaths were among people ages 18 to 25.  About 90 percent of all murder victims are men, and about half of those are black men.  Accidents/police action are occurring at about the same rate, but suicides have skyrocketed.  There are five times more suicides among people 18 to 25 than there were among those 17 and under.  Four-fifths of the people who choose to take their own life are white men (who make up less than 40% of the population).


People 26 to 39 years old accounted for 26 percent of gun deaths.  The murder rate has a similar racial distribution.  Like before, the rate of accidents/police killings have stayed the same.  But suicide rates have continued to climb.  There are nearly twice as many suicides among this age group as there were in the previous one.  The majority of these are white men.  One in nine was a woman.


Among those 40 and over (48 percent of all gun deaths occur to someone over 40), there is a stark increase in the number of suicides.  There were 2,430 suicides, compared to 1,215 suicides among all other age groups combined.   Eighty-three percent of these suicides are committed by white men.  Murder has finally decreased and the racial and gender distribution is less uneven than before.  There are twice as many accidents/police killings among this cohort.

Media portrayals of gun violence tends to highlight women who are murdered (especially if you watch crime and law TV shows), black on white violent crime (if you watch the news), youth violence (take your pick), and murder over suicide.   This graphic challenges all of those notions.

This site lets you parse out data for homicides in Philadelphia by gender, age, time of day, and weapon, and this site lets you parse out similar data for homicide in Los Angeles county.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Cross-posted at Caroline Heldman’s Blog.

During a debate this past Tuesday, Indiana Republican senate nominee, Richard Mourdock, made the case against the rape exception for abortions: “I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God, and even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

So according to Mourdock, God intends for rape to happen, and the outcome of rape is a gift from God.

What puzzles me is how Mourdock’s rape enthusiast comments fit with Missouri Republican senate candidate Todd Akin’s recent comments that “legitimate rape” (read“forcible rape”) rarely leads to pregnancy because, ”If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Mourdock and Akin’s beliefs, when considered together, produce a bizarre philosophy. I would like to know: Why would God create female bodies that reject God’s “gifts”? And if women don’t get pregnant from “forcible rape,” does that mean that God doesn’t intend ”forcible rapes”? Put another way, does God only intend certain types of rape, you know, the ones that come with “the gift”?

One-in-five Americans agree with Mourdock and Akin’s abortion stance. Razib Khan’sanalysis of the General Social Survey shows that 20% of Americans think abortion should be illegal in cases of rape. Republicans with lower levels of education who identify as extremely conservative and believe the Bible is the word of God are more likely than other Americans to hold this belief.

For Mourdock, Akin, and more than 50 million other Americans, God truly does work in mysterious ways.

Caroline Heldman is a professor of politics at Occidental College. You can follow her at her blog and on Twitter and Facebook.

Cross-posted at Family Inequality.

You can’t get 18 pages into Hanna Rosin’s blockbuster myth-making machine The End of Men, before you get to this (on page 19):

One of the great crime stories of the last twenty years is the dramatic decline of sexual assault. Rates are so low in parts of the country — for white women especially — that criminologists can’t plot the numbers on a chart. “Women in much of America might as well be living in Sweden,* they’re so safe,” says criminologist Mike Males.

That’s ridiculous, as I’ll show. Rape is difficult to measure, partly because of limiting state definitions, but the numbers are consistent enough from different sources to support the conclusion that reported rape in the United States has become less common in the last several decades — along with violent crime in general. This is good news. Here is the rate of reported “forcible rape” (of women) as defined by the FBI’s crime reporting system, the Uniform Crime Reports.**  See the big drop — and also that the rate of decline slowed in the 2000s compared with the 1990s:

(Source: Uniform Crime Reports, 2010)

The claim in Rosin’s book — which, like much of the book, is not sourced in the footnotes — is almost too vague to fact-check. What is “much of the country,” and what is a number “so low” that a criminologist “can’t plot” it on a chart? (I’m no criminologist, but I have even plotted negative numbers on a chart.)

Even though she makes things up and her publisher apparently doesn’t care, we must resist the urge to just ignore it. The book is getting a lot of attention, and it’s climbing bestseller lists. Just staying with the FBI database of reported rates, they do report them by state, so we can look for that “much of the country” she’s talking about. I made a map using this handy free tool.

(Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 2010, Table 47)

The lowest state rate is 11.2 per 100,000 (New Jersey), the highest is 75 (Alaska). You can also get the numbers for 360 metropolitan areas. For these, the average rate of forcible rape reported was 31.5 per 100,000 population. One place, Carson City, Nevada, had a very low rate (just one reported in 2010), but no place else had a rate lower than 5.1. (you can see the full list here). I have no trouble plotting numbers that low. I could even plot numbers as low as those reported by police in Europe, where, according to the European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics, for 32 countries in 2007, the median rate was just 5 per 100,000 — which is lower than every U.S. metropolitan area for 2010 (except Carson City, Nevada).

These police reports are under-counts compared with population surveys that ask people whether they have been the victim of a crime, regardless of whether it was reported to police. According to the government’s Crime Victimization Survey (CVS), 65% of rape/sexual assault is not reported. The CVS rate of rape and sexual assault (combined) was 70 per 100,000 in 2010. That does reflect a substantial drop since 2001 (although there was also a significant increase from 2009 to 2010).

And what about the “for white women especially” part of Rosin’s claim? According to the Crime Victimization Survey (Table 9), the white victimization rate is the same as the national average: 70 per 100,000.

I hope it’s true, as Rosin says, that “what makes [this era] stand out is the new power women have to ward off men if they want to.” But it’s hard to see how that cause is served by inventing an end of rape.


*That is an unintentionally ironic reference, because Sweden actually has very high (for Europe) rate reported rape, which has been attributed to its broad definition and aggressive attempts at prosecution and data collection.

** Believe it or not, this was their definition: “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. Attempts or assaults to commit rape by force or threat of force are also included; however, statutory rape (without force) and other sex offenses are excluded.” That is being changed to include oral and anal penetration, as well as male victims, but data based on those changes aren’t reported yet.

Check the Hanna Rosin tag for other posts in this series.

Cross-posted at Jezebel.

In 2009 R&B singer Chris Brown pled guilty to assaulting singer Rihanna.  At the time of the incident, photographs of her bruised and swollen face were passed all over the internet.  This week we learned that Brown has tattooed the face of a battered woman on a very public part of his body, his neck.

I was particularly impressed by Amanda Marcotte’s analysis of his decision, sent in by Tom Megginson.   I encourage you to read it at Pandagon, but I’ll also summarize here.

People, Marcotte begins, are “… scrambling to claim that Brown’s tattoo is somehow not what it seems. But it is what it seems.”

What it is, she contends, is a way of bragging about the beating.

Men who beat and rape women want to feel powerful. They want to feel manly. And because hitting women and raping women makes them feel these things, they want to brag about it… A tattoo commemorating beating down your girlfriend is a trophy.

A desire to brag is the reaction of violent men — instead of, say, shame — because they don’t feel ashamed.  Citing research by psychologist David Lisak, who found that certain men will happily tell stories about successful sexual assaults, Marcotte argues that batterers and rapists are proud of what they’ve done because they believe that they are right.

[Many perpetrators] are defiant. They believe they are entitled to dominate women, and they feel victimized by a world that doesn’t give them what they believe is theirs. They act out, looking for little ways to assert the right to dominate they believe is theirs.

Because they believe that they are in the right, they aren’t troubled by other people’s outrage.  Marcotte again:

…telling others about it and watching them recoil basically means reliving the power trip… Not only did they dominate the victim, but they have provoked anger and disgust in you, and that makes them feel powerful all over again.

As a further example, she includes a two-minute clip of TV evangelist Pat Robertson recommending, gleefully, that a man beat his wife into submission:

Robertson’s advice here is plain: Women should be subordinate to their husbands and, if they are not, husbands have a right to beat them into subordination.  Husbands can get together and chuckle about this; getting women into line is a good thing, not a bad thing.  Actor Sean Connery — and many other people — agree that it’s “absolutely right” to slap a woman.  It’s part of being a real man.  Those men who might object to your treatment of women?  They’re pathetic and weak and upsetting them makes us laugh.

In sum, while it might be hard to believe, I think Marcotte’s analysis here is right on.  The tattoo — especially on such an exposed and public part of the body — is a giant “fuck you” to everyone who thinks he shouldn’t have beaten Rihanna.   It seems that way and “it is what it seems.”

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

[Note: Trigger warning for sexist, demeaning language and violent imagery.]

If you’re a regular reader of Soc Images, chances are pretty good that you also know about Anita Sarkeesian’s project to look at sexism in video games. Sarkeesian, who runs the fantastic Feminist Frequency site, attracted a large amount of hateful online attacks and harassment after starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise a few thousand dollars for a project looking at sexism in video games. If you aren’t aware of the story, check out any of the many media stories about her experience.

Sarkeesian’s project looks at stereotypes or sexist imagery in the design of the games themselves. My coworker Darren D. let me know about a website that highlights another element of sexism in the gaming community: the demeaning or threatening sexist comments gamers often send to other players, especially those they believe are women. Fat, Ugly or Slutty collects examples of the sexual harassment and sexist attacks that are an unfortunately common part of female gamers’ lives.

Many of the comments sexualize and objectify the women by suggesting they should be sexually available to other players or open to comments on their appearance. Some angrily lash out with hateful sexist attacks and put-downs about physical appearance and sexuality. Others send threats or vivid scenarios of violence.

As one of my female students told me last semester, as a gamer, she has the extra mental and emotional burden of having to decide, every time she considers playing, whether the joy she gets from the game outweighs the likelihood that she’ll be called a whore or a bitch or have to ignore sexual comments as she tries to concentrate on the game.

For more on the topic, check out the BBC’s documentary “Guns, Girls and Games.” Also check out Not in the Kitchen Anymore, where Jenny Haniver posts recordings of the types of sexist comments she has to deal with as a female gamer.

UPDATE: Several commenters have pointed out that men also get comments like at least some of these. That is absolutely true. Insults of a wide and creative variety are thrown around. But these comments, whether targeted at men or women, illustrate a common cost of admission to online gaming: whether a man or a woman, you have to expect sexist, demeaning, violent insults if you want to play. Those are the informal rules of the game.

And yes, both men and women receive these types of objectifying or sexist comments. In a world in which women are more likely to face this type of behavior in their everyday lives outside of gaming, and in which women playing multi-player or FPS games generally find themselves in the minority, the fact that both male and female gamers experience these insults shouldn’t reassure us that the impacts of them are equal and, thus, harmless.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

First the marketing team for an energy drink out of Poland, called “Black,” hired a Black person, Mike Tyson, to personify its product.  Then, they surround him with White, female models and have the convicted rapist call himself a “beast” that can’t control himself.  Tag lines include “that’s the power of Black” and “Black power.”

So we have, in one ad campaign, the fetishization of Black men, the White supremacist portrayal of White women as the ultimate female, their objectification (see #3, he actually hands one out in the second ad), the trivialization of his crime (he can’t control himself, LOL right!?), the use of animalistic language to refer to Black people, and the appropriation of the Black Power movement.  Anyone see anything else?  Does it matter that this comes out of Poland and not the U.S.?

Thanks to Tom Megginson at Work That Matters for the heads up.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Sociologist Michael Kimmel and a reader named L.A. sent along a link to a fashion spread on a Bulgarian magazine’s website.  It’s another example of the glamorization and sexualization of violence against women.  Titled, “Victim of Beauty,” the featured photographs have absolutely nothing to offer, short of showing beautiful women who appear to have been beaten, cut, strangled, and burned.   As I’ve written elsewhere:

As much as I’m bored of seeing women appear to be beaten, sick, or dead in fashion spreads, it also really feels like we must hate them.  Why else?  Why else this constant glorification of their abuse?

I’m going to show one image and throw the rest behind the jump.  They’re very disturbing (e.g., women with slit throats and more). Take a morbid tour, if you like, through more examples of violence against women in fashion:  the fear and suffering of women as a sexual turn on, dead and deadish ladies in fashion (herehere, and here), ads with women looking supremely uncomfortableAsian bondage fantasies, two more examples of the sexy black eye trope, and gulf oil spill themed-examples (here, and here).


Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

This weekend I read an article in Bitch magazine about Project Unbreakable. Last fall, then 19-year-old Grace Brown began photographing survivors of sexual assault holding posters with quotes from their attackers (or, in some cases, the police or others they told about the attack). It’s a powerful art project that highlights the emotional manipulation (“I love you,” or “If you tell your mom she’ll hate you for causing us to break up”) that often accompanies rape and sexual abuse. Collectively they illustrate many of the justifications perpetrators give. The quotes chosen by the survivors also make clear that the demands to keep the incident secret and the efforts of abusers to justify their behavior are as much a part of the attack as the physical element.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.