I have always believed that the reason it is more wrong for a man to hit a woman than vice versa is mainly because women tend to be physically weaker then men, and that even if a women initiated violence the man should not hit back.

This somehow came up in conversation with a friend who then asked that by this reasoning, if a weaker man attacked a stronger man without provocation, would it be wrong for the stronger man to hit back? We both agreed this did not feel right.

I am looking for any reasons why the specific case of a man hitting a woman (whether provoked or unprovoked) is worse than a man or woman hitting another man, without it being logically inconsistent.

For clarity, I am not asking about whether violence in itself is wrong (I do hold the view that it is usually not the answer). But I am more interested in why the one form of violence is morally different to the other.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Mozibur Ullah, curiousdannii, Mark Andrews, Geoffrey Thomas Nov 26 at 9:07

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I think "logical consistency" is out of place here. There is nothing contradictory about saying that male on female violence is wrong, or female on male violence is wrong, or they are both wrong, or even that they are both fine. The real question is if there is something about male on female violence that makes it more morally objectionable than the other way around. The next question is what sort of morality this is based on. One can come up with utilitarian reasons, for example: women are potential child-bearers, so it benefits society to afford them greater degree of physical protection. – Conifold Jun 22 at 8:34
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    Thanks for your response. What I meant by "logically inconsistent" was that we shouldn't use a reason/argument to justify something but then say that that same reason doesn't apply in a different context without a good reason to do so. The example you gave about being potential child-bearers is the kind of thing I was looking for – user19179 Jun 22 at 8:58
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    Actual domestic violence statistics show that female-on-male violence is just as prevalent as male-on-female. The law and society regard them differently. – user4894 Jun 23 at 8:58

I claim that logical consistency in evaluating moral and ethical values is not acceptable in today's political climate. The question of whether an act is "right" or "wrong" depends on one's ethical framework and culture. There is no universal standard that can be applied in an unbiased way.

Therefore, the be logically consistent about morality one must be biased. There is no universal morality.

For example, while civil law in western cultures holds male on female violence as more reprehensible than the opposite, in Islamic cultures male on female violence is generally condoned while the female on male violence is frowned upon. The general opinion is that both moral systems are compatible.

Thus, to arrive at a moral decision in this case it is necessary to condemn some cultures and elevate others.

In George Orwell's 1984, Doublethink is the ability to hold contradictory moral standards or beliefs as valid at the same time. Perhaps it is possible that 1984 has arrived.

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    We are looking for balanced answers backed up by published references rather than users' opinions on the issue. You could expand on the reasons for different cultures to view different types of violence differently, which would be closer to answering the OP. The last paragraph seems disconnected from the rest: even if cultural standards clash why should any one individual hold them at the same time. – Conifold Jun 23 at 10:58
  • I think your objection to my answer is short-sighted. The works I referred to, the Koran and the Bible, ARE published documents relating to philosophy. George Orwell's book is also published. I thought what I presented was sufficient. The original question was posed assuming a unified single version of truth about violence was possible, and my response was basically that such and assumption is mistaken and leads to the dilemma described in the George Orwell quote. – Sacrebleu The Prophet Jun 24 at 22:27
  • The Koran and the Bible do not address "current political climate", neither does Orwell, and they are so metaphorical as to be interpreted every which way. If you addressed why they are interpreted as they are concerning the morality of violence that would be more to the point, especially if backed up by professional literature. The issue is not with the opinions you express, but rather that they are disconnected from each other and from the references, as currently presented. – Conifold Jun 25 at 1:55
  • I'm sorry, this claim is misguided on several dimensions. You've conflated politics and culture, confused religion with values, used a jaded and bigoted example, and inverted Orwell in an extremely Orwellian manner to argue that moral relativism is the only true morality. I'm downvoting, and hoping that StackExchange has implemented that beta feature where downvotes create a mild electric shock on your device. – Ted Wrigley Nov 25 at 14:34

Any logic system needs some finite number of assumptions before it can function. These are generally invisible and permeate the thoughts of thinkers in the form of value systems.

Your example is in fact a collision between two different value systems, rather than a logical inconsistency.

The older system values the propagation of race as one of the most important values. Thus, woman who are tasked with critical duty of reproduction are to be given higher societal protection.

The new system which is based on liberty and equality, was gradually but firmly pushing other values outside. According to this system, gender will be just another aspect of identity of an individual and thus cannot be used to stop from serving the Justice of Equality


I think that everyone agrees — as you do — that interpersonal assaults are intrinsically morally bad. This is, I think, a basic part of our social nature as human beings, though it seems to be overridden in many cultural contexts. For instance, in ancient Rome it was apparently acceptable for men to engage in fatal knife fights in the street (passersby would stop and bet on the outcome), and in much of the Western world duels of honor were legitimized up through the 19th century.

There is, in fact, a cultural bias in the West against large men attacking small men, as there is against men attacking women. We generally interpret it as bullying, and try to induce shame in the larger man (e.g., accusing him of being a coward, or telling him to pick on someone his own size), but the bias is not as strong, because smaller men are not (culturally) viewed as being as defenseless as women.

What you're neglecting to consider, I think, is the statistical side of this issue. If I remember the stats correctly, in over 90% of domestic violence type cases men are the aggressors. When a woman attacks a man, we think the violence is bad, but we see it as a unique context or rare aberration. We don't have a reason to create a categorical rule for the event, because we conceptually class it as a one-off. But when a man attacks a woman, it's practically a trope; we see it as a consistent class of behavior that calls for a categorical rule. The bias in our rule system stems directly from the bias in our empirical observations. That is not philosophically inconsistent, any more than it is philosophically inconsistent that a Canadian might have a set of rules for encountering a bear but not have a set of rules for encountering a kangaroo.