Masculine Empires: How Men Use Violence to keep Women in Line

Masculine Empire

Masculine Empires: How Men Use Violence to keep Women in Line

Launched as part of the White Ribbon Campaign at The University of Auckland, Masculine Empires: How Men Use Violence to keep Women in Line, takes an entirely new perspective on issues of violence towards women, and is therefore able to offer insights that many readers will not have encountered before.

The book is written by Associate Professor Peter Adams from the School of Population Health at The University of Auckland, published by Dunmore Publishing Ltd and supported by the White Ribbon Campaign, the National Network for Stopping Violence Services and Women’s Refuge.

Associate Professor Adams says his intention has been to examine the broader social underpinnings of men’s violence – to look at how a deeply-engrained belief in male superiority can drive a perception of male entitlement to power in the home: ‘It flips explanations for violence from what is happening in the minds of individual ‘bad’ men to a broader exploration of the social world and of ways in which men approach intimate relationships, and how male friendships help them maintain positions of power.

‘The book is unusual in two ways. One is its narrative structure which focuses on the conversation of five men who meet regularly in a bar, and talk about their lives and their relationships, allowing readers to gain an understanding of the assumptions men make about women, the influence of the history of men being in charge and various control strategies that men can use to perpetuate their dominance in the home.

‘The other unusual feature is the focus on colonisation as a way of understanding violence’, says Associate Professor Adams: ‘At an academic level I have set out to show how the oppressive dominance that men impose on women in violent and abusive relationships can be seen as paralleling the strategies used by one people in their colonisation of another… Indeed the alienation, loss of ownership and disempowerment experienced by those living in such colonies resembles in many ways the violations that women experience in oppressive intimacies.’

Each chapter of the book begins with a vignette focused on the voices of colonisers in New Zealand’s colonial history.order

Masculine Empires was launched at 5.30pm on Tuesday 20 November as part of the Families Commission’s nation-wide White Ribbon Campaign, which aims to encourage men to stand up and be visible about men’s violence to women.

The launch included an acted scene from the book and readings of brief extracts.

Information on Peter
Peter Adams practised as a clinical psychologist from 1981 to 2002, working primarily with issues relating to addiction and violence. During this time he co-founded an organisation providing intervention services for violence, and initiated a specialist training programme on violence and trauma. He has been an investigator in a series of research projects looking at how men talk about their violence against women and is the author of two previous sole-authored books.



Sharmian Firth (editor from Dunmore Publishing, behind desk) and Fiona Rossen and Robert Brown at the book launch


Peter Adams and Alison Towns (researcher)












Masculine Empire: A Reading


Peter J. Adams



The play has five characters who congregate regularly in a bar at a squash club. The book eaves-drops on their conversations about women and relationships. This scene involves three of the characters.


Bill:                       Late thirties to late forties. General labourer. In second marriage to Vera. They have two children. Bill speaks confidently and coursely. Dresses in rough jeans and teeshirt or jacket.

Gavin:                   Late thirties to late forties. Telecommunications technician. Heavy drinker. Married to Rose, with three children. Known Bill from childhood (went to same school). Dresses neatly but informally.

Aaron:                  Mid-late thirties. University educated, migrated from England 20 years ago. Employed as floor manager in home appliance store. Married to Lana with one pre-school child. Christian and avoids swearing. Dresses with work shirt, open collar.


Scene Description

A bare table with three chairs. Aaron arrives straight from work, walks across with a beer to find Gavin at the table by himself looking glumly down into his second glass of beer.

AARON                What’s up?

GAVIN                 I’ve had a row with the missus. I’m in the dog-box again… she’s not talking to me.

AARON                That’s no good, me ol’ mate. I was hoping after our last discussion things might’ve improved?

GAVIN                 Rose continues to get on her high horse about things.

Both pause to drink

AARON                What sort of things? Is she talking of extending the house again?

GAVIN                 No, not that.

Gavin pauses and looks up quizzically at Aaron.

GAVIN                 Well, actually it’s all gone downhill ever since she started training as a teacher.

AARON                As I remember, you sounded really pleased when she took that on.

GAVIN                 Well, I’m not so sure anymore… It was okay before, when she was at home bringing up the kids; back then we seemed to get along fine. But now, since she’s started studying, she’s coming home with all these fancy new ideas about how our family should operate. These ideas just keep leading us into all sorts of arguments.

AARON                If you don’t mind me saying, you’re not a little threatened by her getting all that education?

GAVIN                 No, no. I don’t mind that. It’ll be good when she brings home another salary. No, it’s more to do with the ideas they’re putting into her head at college and the new people she’s hanging out with.

Both pause to drink.

GAVIN                 Now, I’m the first to say women need their independence; we’ve made a lot of progress with this over the last century…

AARON                Hmmm, too right, as long as they don’t take over, eh?

GAVIN                 Hmm…. But this new bunch of college friends are stuffing all sorts of women’s libber ideas into her head. She keeps raising things we’ve never discussed before. She wants more say in how we spend our money, how we communicate, more time with her friends… all that sort of stuff.

AARON                Yeah?

GAVIN                 Well, I reckon they’ve persuaded her that I’m a male chauvinist pig; that I’m trying to fuckin’ hold her back and control her.

AARON                That’s so not true… I know you and Rose, and I know that there’s nothing stopping Rose from doing most the things she wants… No way have you held her back.

GAVIN                 Yes, mate; that’s how I see it… This all blew up because she’s opened up her own fuckin’ bank account. Imagine that! We’ve always operated off a joint account; I’ve always put all my earnings into that one account. Now that she’s heading for full time work, she wants one of her own. I tell you, it’s fuckin’ ripe if you ask me.

AARON                We’ve got all our money in a joint account. I let Lana use it for most things, but I always check over the bank statements and ask her about anything I don’t understand.

GAVIN                 Yeah, that’s how we used to do it. It worked well.

Both look up to see Bill sauntering towards the table with two jugs of beer. He plonks them on the table.

BILL                     Here you guys, some more for your fuckin’ fuel tanks.

AARON                Aw, thanks Bill… Gavin’s describing how women’s libbers are trying to influence his missus.

BILL                     Orrww that’s rough mate.

Bill sits down and pours himself a beer.

BILL                     Look I’m a feminist… I love women.

Bill watches the confused looks of the other men.

BILL                     I love to fuck women.

AARON                Bill, you must be a feminist’s worst nightmare.

All three laugh.

BILL                     Nah mate, arsehole feminists; always trying to ruin things.

AARON                So Gavin, where have you left it with the bank accounts?

Gavin pauses for a moment, looking down at his beer glass.

GAVIN                 I
said to her, if that’s what she wants, then I’m opening my own fuckin’ account and I’m going to put all my own earnings into it.

AARON                Fair enough, mate. She can’t have it both ways. I bet she wasn’t pleased with that?

GAVIN                 Too right she wasn’t! I tell you, did she go fuckin’ ballistic; she started gibbering on accusing me of always trying to control the finances. What nonsense! All my wages go into that joint account, and she spends most of it. I don’t see fuck-all—except maybe the occasional bit I spend on clothes…

BILL                     Ah, and on fuckin’ booze, huh…  I tell you, I don’t have anything to do with the money; Vera handles all of it. I just check it from time to time and give her arseholes if she’s fucked up or spent too much.

AARON                Like an auditor, eh Bill? … She does all the work and you’re the authority who checks up on her?

Bill pauses briefly and glares at Aaron, then takes a large swig of his beer.

BILL                     Nah, I tell you guys, men are meant to be in charge. That’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it’s gonna stay.

GAVIN                 Right-on Bill. The man has to wear the pants. You can’t possibly have women wearing the pants; everything would be chaos.

AARON                I dunno Gavin. Couldn’t women share half the pants?

GAVIN                 No, mate, then the whole outfit would fall over… I mean, you look at how they’ve acted throughout history. Are there any women who’ve been great leaders or scientists, or writers? No, they’re all men. And you look at all the various tribes; they’ve had bugger all contact with each other and yet, no matter where in the world, it’s men who are in charge. It’s just a fact of life; men are natural-born leaders. That’s it, pure and simple, men are designed to rule.

AARON                Hmm Gavin, I’m not convinced. I think you need to provide us with more reasons why it’s like that.

GAVIN                Yeah, but let’s face it. We go to work, we earn the money, we run the bloody place… Look, how many women have we had in charge of a corporation or a council, or even a country?

Gavin pauses to check they are following.

GAVIN                 Yes, hardly any… And that’s why they’re out of touch; they simply aren’t connected to how things operate in the wider world.

BILL                     That’s ‘cause their fuckin’ brains are wired up differently than our’s. Their heads are all full of fluff. That’s the way they are. You just look at their magazines: full of gossip and mindless rubbish.

AARON                Oh come on Bill! Don’t exaggerate. They’re not morons; they’re capable of many of the same things as us.

Bill steers intensely at Aaron.

BILL                     Nah, listen Aaron. You think I’m fuckin’ stupid don’t you… I’ve read all about it. Women’s heads are full of fuckin’ girly crap.

AARON                Bill, don’t be so gross.

Aaron turns to Gavin.

AARON                But Gavin, you still haven’t given a reason for why men should be in charge?

GAVIN                 Ahh… well… men are natural bosses because that’s the way we’ve evolved. See, scientists have found out that those species which specialise in particular roles are more likely to survive. Sharks eat other fish, snapper eat shellfish, cod eat seaweed; you know, each animal fits in with each other in its own special way. It’s similar with humans; men specialize in certain tasks and women in other tasks. As they get better at these tasks, they work together more efficiently and then that contributes to our chances of survival. Men are stronger and more innovative so they have tended to take up roles involving leadership.

BILL                     Yeah, yeah, I agree with you there mate. Men have evolved to be in charge; they’re stronger and therefore they’re natural bosses.

AARON                Look, I don’t think you need evolution to explain all this… I reckon it’s all laid out quite well in the Bible. The Holy Book makes it very clear what should happen regarding the relationship between men and women; it says that women are designed to be led by men.

Silence. Bill and Gavin exchange glances.

GAVIN                 Aw, you don’t really think that what’s written down in the Bible explains anything?

BILL                     Yeah, and all that fuckin’ crap about Adam and Eve; Bloody fairy-tales if you ask me.

AARON                No, no, hold on guys. Our pastor has been talking to us over the last two weeks on just this issue. Look, in Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he talks about: ‘For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.’ I understand this as saying God not only intended but also created woman for the purpose of serving men.

BILL                     Aw, but what the fuck do pastors or priests or any of that lot know?

AARON                See, when you think about it, God designed men to be stronger for a purpose… and the purpose He has in mind is for men to be in charge… and for men to plan and build up the world we live in to be prosperous and to be good and…

BILL                     Aw bullshit Aaron. You can’t tell me that book’s believable: men dying then rising from the dead, men being swallowed by whales, virgins giving birth and all that stuff. It’s just not fuckin’ believable!

AARON                Well, hold on Bill. If you can’t call on the Bible to explain why men should be in charge then what are you going to base your claims on? It seems to me that all you have to offer is that men are in charge because they are in charge. That’s no defence; that’s just totally circular!

Bill is staring intensely at Aaron and moves his head forward.

BILL                     Nah, fuck all this bullshit. You just think you’re fuckin’ smarter than any of us because you’ve had more education.

Bill stands and leans forward more towards Aaron.

BILL                     Well you can just go fuck yourself.

Gavin stands up next to him and whispers

GAVIN                 Calm down, Bill. He’s not meaning anything by this.

                              Bill stands back and continues to glare.

BILL                     Look Aaron, you shit-head. You’re not fuckin’ better than any of us…

Bill glances at Gavin then back at Aaron.

BILL                     Fuck this, I’m out of here.

As Bill marches angrily away Gavin grabs his sports-bag and yells out.

GAVIN                 Wait for me mate…  I need a lift


Peter can be contacted here:

Associate Professor Peter Adams School of Population Health
The University of Auckland

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White Ribbon is a community led campaign to end men's violence towards women

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