The Real Reason Men Might Fight Over a Woman

Most women might like to believe that men fight to win their affections. However, the aggression men display toward one another often has little or nothing to do with the woman in question. According to a recent study led by Sarah E. Ainsworth of the Department of Psychology at Florida State University, men are more inclined to engage in violence to exhibit social dominance. Research has theorized that the desire for procreation motivates men to use certain behaviors to attract women. Less is known about the factors that prompt men to behave aggressively when they are faced with competition for a woman. Violence is a serious problem within intimate relationships. In social settings, violence can occur not just between two partners, but between two adversaries. Understanding why men become aggressive toward one another when they are in pursuit of a woman could help researchers design interventions and prevention strategies that target the root of the aggression.

In her study, Ainsworth enlisted male and female participants and conducted an experiment in which the men competed against other men or other women in a mating objective, and were instructed to deliver aggressive noise blasts in order to win. Another experiment gave the men an opportunity to assert dominance and control over their male rivals through nonviolent means. Ainsworth found that the men displayed more aggression—louder noise blasts—to the male adversaries than the female adversaries. In fact, when pitted against a female, the men did not show any signs of aggression. Similarly, when the men were given a method of asserting dominance over their male rivals without aggression, they chose the nonaggressive approach.

Ainsworth believes these results are clinically significant. Although the men in this study varied in age, she believes these findings demonstrate one of the causes of violence, particularly in younger men more vulnerable to impulsive behavior. “In tying male violence to its more ultimate motivational roots, the current research provides a basis for understanding—and reducing—many seemingly irrational acts of violence,” Ainsworth said. Having insight into these causes can help with the formation of treatments for violent behavior and can help men develop the skills necessary to seek out alternate methods of achieving a sense of social dominance over rivals without the use of aggressive tactics.

Ainsworth, Sarah E., and Jon K. Maner. Sex begets violence: Mating motives, social dominance, and physical aggression in men. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 103.5 (2012): 819-29. Print.

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  • Carl

    November 29th, 2012 at 12:44 AM

    A man will never want a tresspasser on his turf.It is more of a conflict for the dominance that men have an innate feeling of that is threatened when thy face competition for a woman.It is like a duel, what the trophy is is not as important as winning is ultimately.

  • Adds

    June 17th, 2016 at 8:57 PM

    So hang on women are a man’s “turf” and “trophies” ?

  • Danielle

    November 29th, 2012 at 3:53 AM

    It’s kind of like how we talk about the reason women try to look their best. We try to do that not for a man but to upstage other women. I think that men are the same way. This has little to do with the woman, as much as we might like to think that it does. It has to do with showing up another man and showing everyone who is the strongest both in a social sense as well as on the social scene. So the bottom line is that we are all doing this for each other, and yet very little is getting accomplished either way!

  • Bob

    November 29th, 2012 at 8:05 AM

    I find the most interesting part of this post to be the part when the author says that males chose the nonviolent means of asserting dominance. I wonder why the blasts of noise were considered to be violent. What exactly were the nonviolent means that were chosen. And, how did the men know they were asserting dominance if it wasn’t a physical thing? Left with way more questions than answers on this one.

  • Jamie C

    November 29th, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    Men are just pigs. That’s what I’ve always thought and this just proves it.

  • Adds

    June 17th, 2016 at 8:45 PM

    I agree, it’s disgusting the whole “dominant male” s***. I hate when guys fight over women its objectifying. And they’re like well I had to keep him away from my woman…what!? U don’t own us and we don’t want u to fight over us like we’re a natural resource to be used up and tossed out. We aren’t YOUR anything. We don’t need u to protect us, we’re big girls now. Forget that stupid saying “boys will b boys” or that lame excuse “oh well it’s all that testosterone” well if u can’t handle yourself and exhibit self control like other human beings, then we’ll put u in a cage where the other animals with high testosterone levels and no self control go. Women are not here for men to dominate, we’ve lived in a mans world for a long time and it’s gone to s*** no offense to the amazing guys out there cuz there are plenty of u and we love u all, but I think it’s time for a new approach…

  • Forl. G.

    July 4th, 2016 at 5:41 PM

    Ignorant fool. Not every man is a “pig”. The act of you generalizing a whole gender is despicable.

  • Abby

    October 3rd, 2018 at 1:39 PM


  • everette

    November 29th, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    Hold on there jamie c. i mean really? isn’t that just a little antiquated. have we not moved past “all men are pigs.” those type of blanket statements don’t help anybody at all. If you have something constructive to say on the subject, I’d like to hear it. but generalizing a few bad apples to all men is a little inappropriate and well just wrong.


    November 29th, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    I find this a little too hard to believe. If I am pursuing a woman and am threatened with competition it is not SOLELY to demonstrate my dominance that I fight or compete but also for the woman. Now which of the two is more important to the man depends on the individual and the situation.A generalization does not seem too accurate.

  • Blake

    November 29th, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    Social settings. . . alcohol. . . anyone agree that this could be aroot cause of the aggression that might be overlooked?

  • paris

    November 29th, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    it’s natural to compete against others Of your kind.that explains why men were more aggressive against other men with the sound blasts than against women.and I agree that it is often the Same reason why men and even women for that matter go up against their ‘rivals’ in the pursuit of a mate.

  • Liam

    November 30th, 2012 at 4:07 AM

    As I have matured I have found that I do this far less frequently than I may have once done.
    However I think that it is some instinctual thing that sets you up for this type of competition and nature takes over.
    You want to be the most virile, and I think that much of this stems from evolution and the whole survival of the fittest phenomenon.
    I honestly don’t think that this is a human trait that will ever weed its way out, because I think that to survive it has to be so.

  • Keaton.S

    November 30th, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    We havent totally outgrown our animal instincts have we? It is more of a territorial and supremacy dispute than the pursuit as the post has pointed out here.Not to offend the ladies,but it really isnt as much about you!

  • LR

    May 21st, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    It’s natural for men to fight over women since there’s more men than women in the world, including North America since we prefer sons over daughters. Yes men fight a lot over women in the US and Canada, even in Eastern and Southern Europe, except France where the gender ratios are equal.

  • Daryl T

    June 1st, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    Actually there are more women than men.

  • Adds

    June 17th, 2016 at 8:55 PM

    Pretty sure there were more women than men? Idk that’s not the point, ppl don’t like sons more than daughters that’s in like China. LR person, ur crazy how r things better when there are, more men? Do u see the mess the world is in?! Donald f***ing trump?! The world is in dire need of assistance….hint America is steadily falling apart and has been virtually since I’m like forever and there has never been a female president I do think there is a direct correlation. Women are not allowed the same opportunities as men and so we shall continue to fail. I agree men are more dangerous in power, ppl say women are too “emotional” to be in charge, but men are far too quick to anger and have huge egos… Not to mention they refuses to share their positions with women who might help them

  • LR

    June 8th, 2013 at 6:59 PM

    And also men are not sexual objects nor trophies, either. They are expected to work hard to keep the woman from noticing another man.

  • LR

    July 6th, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    @Daryl T-There are more men than women due to termination of female infants. And it’s better that we live in a world full of men. Why? Do you hate competing with other men for a woman? Women love it when men compete for them.

  • sati

    July 19th, 2014 at 6:42 PM

    There are more women than men on this planet and in North America. The only country the exterminates female babies is China.

    Men ruling the country has ensured never ending wars, inhumane treatment, and entire continents lacking food and water. Men in power are too easily corrupted. They’re far too concerned with their egos than doing the greater good. That’s why all the countries where women have no voice are the most violent, desolate, and have the majority impoverished.

  • Caroline

    July 26th, 2014 at 5:55 AM

    actually many cultures abort female foetuses and sadly infant females too across the Middle East, in India, as well as China and many other asian countries. This is going to cause a massive problem in a few years time when there will be far more males than females in these contries, but it may go someway toward eliminating dowaries and high prices which families have to pay to marry their daughters off (which is still widespread despite laws to try to stop it)

  • Amy

    May 21st, 2015 at 4:29 PM

    LR I would also like to point out that assuming all women enjoy being fought over is the same kind of generalization as all men are pigs. Neither one of them is correct. I do believe that Liam has a point in saying that it should remain so. At our base, we are all animals and that’s not a bad thing.

  • LR

    April 6th, 2016 at 9:16 AM

    Caroline is right. Many cultures abort female fetuses, including American culture (while in Eastern Europe, Ukraine, and Russia, female infants were aborted during the Cold War as well) as to why there are more men than there are women in the world. Typically everything is best when there are more men than there are women. And also there are mass femicides taking place in which men kill a lot of women and girls as well, especially in Latin America. Another thing is female infants die more often at the hands of most families who would rather care for infant sons instead.

  • Nightlight

    April 29th, 2018 at 8:39 AM

    WTF LR?? I completely know and acknowledge the femicide taking place, and i was halfway through your comment until you said it was better that way?? Like what?? More women have been killed in the past 50 years than any mass genocide ever recorded, and you dare say that “typically it is best when there are more men than women”??

  • Dev

    November 2nd, 2020 at 2:57 PM

    “G” in “girl stands for GETTING BOYS TO FIGHT

  • bob

    May 13th, 2021 at 9:35 PM

    The final comments are terrible. It is not good that there are so many more males than females in the world. It is the reason for mass loneliness, mental illness and crime. When there are more men than women, there is more cheating by the female because it is more common the female will end up with more sexual partners in her life than the male. It also causes much higher percentage of females to die with a partner and for a higher percentage of males to die alone. Terrible government leadership. Greed. Eugenics. God must be ashamed.

  • Lydia

    March 10th, 2023 at 9:48 AM

    The truth is, not all women try to get men to fight and not all men are “pigs”. Although female infanticide rates are high in certain countries, that doesn’t mean men have to fight over women. It also doesn’t mean women should pressure men into fighting over them. Yes, men fighting over women is natural, but, there are many ways to show dominance or impress a woman without fighting another man. Sometimes a woman can already have a crush on you but just be too shy or insecure to say so. Also it is not just the men that get pressure from a fight, women can feel unsure or stressed as the result of a fight like this. If the man is mostly trying to show dominance, then they could have self confidence. Self confidence is one of the most powerful tools of mankind. Not only that, women find it very attractive when men are confident in themselves.

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