agree to pretend that the balls just aren’t there
March 14, 2015 9:31 AM   Subscribe

 
I think that blow is the escalating factor that turns physical posing, into an automatic death match. I think fighting is flirting in many cases it is an age old mode of intimate communication. Many fights are a personal communication having little to do with property disputes, or right and wrong. When fighting, quarreling are showmanship, then groin shots are bad self promotion.
posted by Oyéah at 9:42 AM on March 14, 2015 [13 favorites]




Oh. So this is how women feel when men start talking about things they know nothing about. Now the dismissive scorn makes so much sense.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:48 AM on March 14, 2015 [68 favorites]


I haven't been in a fight in probably about fifteen years, but I did get in a couple of fights in my early adulthood, and I agree that it's a matter of escalation. You don't hit someone in the balls for the same reason that you don't eye gouge, or pull an ear off, or punch for the throat; doing those things signals that you are looking to fuck someone up permanently, at which point you're opening yourself up to a world of shit.

I did Krav Maga for a few years, and they very explicitly taught attacking the testicles, because their program assumed that you were training to fight for your life. Most fights don't go that far, so most fights observe the "try not to fuck this guy up forever" decorum.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:49 AM on March 14, 2015 [52 favorites]


I don't think this that accurate an analysis. I don't think the conception of fighting is very realistic.

In macho dickhead scuffling (most "fights") people don't tend to hit each other in the balls because they don't really want to do much damage. A lot of fights are between people who are about as scared of really hurting their opponent as of getting really hurt themselves. In those fights, most of the time, not a single serious punch is thrown.

In actual vicious fights people hit each other anywhere they think it will hurt. Most of those fights are very uneven matches, because people who really like hurting people tend to pick on people who are weaker than them. Ball kicking isn't much of an advantage to the stronger party in those kinds of fights, and anyone who has actually had the shit beaten out of them will remember that you're usually not thinking fast enough to plot your deadly strike. You fall down and take a kicking or you stay on your feet and run like fuck.
posted by howfar at 9:52 AM on March 14, 2015 [15 favorites]




"This is probably because groin attacks might make for short fights or ones where everyone just goes around protecting their balls."

That put very humorous images into my mind.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:53 AM on March 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


This article doesn't understand the difference between a fight and combat. In a fight, you're just trying to prove that you're a bigger guy. You aren't trying to cause real permanent damage. Injuring the other person isn't the point, the point is status. That's why you won't tend to see a bar fight involve weapons, or as Parasite Unseen has pointed out, things like eye gouges.

In combat, you have two people fighting for their life. In this sort of situation there are no rules, you're just trying to survive.
posted by sp160n at 9:55 AM on March 14, 2015 [17 favorites]


I never knew that Yahoo! Answers was full of such great information that the responses there could be used to form broadly generalized characterizations of gender roles in society.

Oh, wait. It isn't.
posted by Revvy at 9:59 AM on March 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


Ceci n'est pas une balls.
posted by pwally at 10:00 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think just about any guy in fear of his life would go for the balls without hesitation, if connecting with a solid kick was a sure thing.

But this is very much an "If you go to kill the king, you must kill the king" kind of thing. Men are, by and large, very good at moving their legs to protect their balls. People are, by and large, not particularly good at kicking.

I've also heard that, for some men with a full rage on, getting kicked in the balls is not a show-stopper. I don't have personal experience with that -- the few times it has happened to me, it has indeed stopped my show.
posted by gurple at 10:03 AM on March 14, 2015 [16 favorites]


"Why don't men kick each other in the balls?"

Most boys learn to know better around second or third grade, at the latest. Any persistent kicking below the waist, as in the case of swing fights, tends to be reserved for the shins or knees.
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:03 AM on March 14, 2015


I never knew that Yahoo! Answers was full of such great information that the responses there could be used to form broadly generalized characterizations of gender roles in society.

Oh, wait. It isn't.


I once bought a laptop based partially on a yahoo answer that said it sucked and you shouldn't get it.

It was the best laptop I ever owned.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:05 AM on March 14, 2015 [29 favorites]


I thought this was very good analysis:

Not hitting below the belt, then, protects the idea that men’s bodies are fighting machines. It protects masculinity, the very idea that men are big and strong, pain- and impact-resistant, impenetrable like an edifice. So not hitting below the belt doesn’t just protect individual men from pain, it protects our ideas about masculinity.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:05 AM on March 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


Mr. T ate them a long, long time ago.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:06 AM on March 14, 2015 [24 favorites]


I thought this was very good analysis:

The word for that analysis is "truthy".
posted by gurple at 10:06 AM on March 14, 2015 [29 favorites]


Why Men Don't Kick Each Other In The Balls:
"because it hurts like fucking hell and an overwhelming majority of fights aren't about hurting the other person like hell but establishing rank."

How much does that contribute to making women appear weaker? I don't know, I have to sit and think about that more. My immediate answer is "testicles being a vulnerable part of the body is something nature made and I don't think nature has a purpose to subjugate women" but on the other hand perhaps how our culture codes that vulnerability into masculinity is worth examining and reevaluating.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:07 AM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I thought this was very good analysis:

It's crappy analysis, written by someone who doesn't know what they're talking about, but who none the less has an opinion.

As others have noted in this thread have noted, there several reasons that men don't usually go for the balls. There are shades of grey in the various reasons.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:09 AM on March 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


Other things we don't do: break fingers, smash heads against concrete, gouge eyes and kick teeth, to name a few. All of those risk causing permanent damage, which is the same for kicking balls.
posted by furtive at 10:11 AM on March 14, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'm not sure how this was even a question.
posted by octothorpe at 10:13 AM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


While we're throwing out ideas, what about the evolutionary advantage? If we as a species crush all the balls then we set ourselves up for failure.
posted by furtive at 10:15 AM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


"It protects masculinity, the very idea that men are big and strong, pain- and impact-resistant, impenetrable like an edifice."

If violent men were scared of violating the taboo of male impenetrability, raping men would not be such a commonly used weapon in enforcing dominance.
posted by howfar at 10:16 AM on March 14, 2015 [30 favorites]


Starting when I was very little, my dad taught me that if a man tried to grab me or touch me I was without hesitation supposed to find his testicles and kick, punch, grab, fold, spindle, mutilate until he dropped me and then run like hell.

So when the little boy on the playground in kindergarten tried to kiss me, I kicked him in the balls and then punched him in the chest for good measure before running to tell the teacher. I got in trouble (at school) for this. At home my dad gave me an extra scoop of ice cream for dessert.

10/10 would kick in balls again.
posted by phunniemee at 10:18 AM on March 14, 2015 [152 favorites]


Other things we don't do: break fingers, smash heads against concrete, gouge eyes and kick teeth, to name a few. All of those risk causing permanent damage, which is the same for kicking balls.

Depends where you live, I guess.
posted by billiebee at 10:19 AM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Is this 'protecting masculinity' thing maybe more applicable to the question of why the rules of organized fighting like MMA prohibit it? People have pointed out the difference between two kinds of real-world fights (regular and for-your-life), but there's a third kind which the author mentions where maybe it makes this kind of 'for the viewer's sensibilities' consideration make more sense?
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:19 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


But this is very much an "If you go to kill the king, you must kill the king" kind of thing.

That's exactly what Omar was talking about in The Wire. Ball-kicking.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:20 AM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


So, men generally agree to pretend that the balls just aren’t there.

Heterosexual panic is everywhere.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:22 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's because the pain is instant, long-lasting and utterly unbelievable in how horrible an act it is, and it is not something that should be coded into any organized sport. It's called respecting the human body and the capacity for it to feel extereme pain. "no ball kicking" is a good social contract. How that is coded into masculinity is worth examining though.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:22 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it's still about general damage limitation, LobsterMitten. Strikes to the back of the head, throat strikes, kidney punches etc, are all prohibited in MMA.

There are interesting things to be said about the ways that men perform violence in order to perform masculinity. Part of that is the way that most violence is not about doing much physical damage. But I think focusing on ball-kicking is not particularly useful, and doesn't really help produce an insightful critique.
posted by howfar at 10:29 AM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Starting when I was very little, my dad taught me that if a man tried to grab me or touch me I was without hesitation supposed to find his testicles and kick, punch, grab, fold, spindle, mutilate until he dropped me and then run like hell.

I like that he left the challenge of finding them up to you rather than telling you where they are generally kept. Kids love puzzles.
posted by srboisvert at 10:31 AM on March 14, 2015 [24 favorites]


Men don't go for the balls because we don't want other men to go for the balls. There's really nothing more to it, and that 'analysis' is a bunch of blather put on top of a basic biological fact: getting sacked HURTS LIKE HELL.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:32 AM on March 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Is this 'protecting masculinity' thing maybe more applicable to the question of why the rules of organized fighting like MMA prohibit it?

I dont' think so. Any sort of commercial fight is about getting people to pay for entertainment. A 5 second fight, which would occur if ball kicking was the goal, isn't going to be any sort of long entertainment.

Plus, it's entertainment that could destroy a person's ability to have children, which most societies frown upon.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:35 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Obligatory.
(too late--just noticed the link is in the post)
posted by eye of newt at 10:35 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Aaannd...this is why, on the very rare occasions that they actually happen, girl fights are sooooooo much scarier. Not so much eye rolling and saying "lord what a couple of assholes" as it is "Shit! Run! Call the cops!"
posted by sexyrobot at 10:38 AM on March 14, 2015


One thing I didn't see at all mentioned in the article that I seem to remember from my schoolyard days is that there was also a pretty strong undercurrent of homophobia in why men don't go for the balls when fighting. The idea being that aiming specifically for the genitals indicated that you were interested in touching the other guys nuts, which ran counter to the sort of macho posturing that fighting was about in the first place.
posted by The Gooch at 10:39 AM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Fighting is an innate dominance ritual. It is the same in other animals. Dogs don't bite each other's balls off.
posted by bhnyc at 10:41 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Um, why wasn't that Chris guy wearing a cup?
posted by valkane at 10:48 AM on March 14, 2015


Dogs don't bite each other's balls off.

...but chimps do.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:49 AM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


a basic biological fact: getting sacked HURTS LIKE HELL

Yeah, but lots of stuff hurts like hell. I'm a woman so I'm finding this conversation interesting, and I'm not saying I have any insight whatsoever. I'm terribly fond of balls but don't have any to call my own so I can't offer any definitive opinions. But it prompted me to have a conversation with my partner.

We live somewhere where "punishment beatings" were (and still are) a Thing. Plus he is older than me and grew up in the worst of the conflict here. People - generally young men - were shot in the knees and/or were beaten up and had limbs broken with baseball bats and hurling sticks, iron bars, or on occasion clubs with nails put through them. These were for a variety of transgressions. In these cases it was not about a fight to the death, or about some kind of equal fight. Basically, you were getting what you were owed and you were taking it. So I asked SO were men kicked in the balls in these instances, and he said no. Given that the pain couldn't have been worse than actually being shot, or having your arm deliberately broken, it doesn't seem to back up the "because it's the worst possible pain" angle. It's also not the case where "if I go to do it and I miss I'm totally fucked"; you could miss all you want - guy is defenceless. So why, I wondered, would men not kick someone in the balls when they're already inflicting maximum pain and they're not at risk of losing the fight in any way. He said maybe it's because "men know it's such a horrible thing to happen to you".

So...empathy? Even when you're kicking the living shit out of someone, men have some empathy for it being a horrible experience and that's why they don't do it? Interestingly, he said that the only time his chaps had been deliberately targeted was when he was 17 and a British soldier had him up against a wall one night and was threatening to kill him. Someone appeared on the scene so the soldier hit him in the balls with the butt of his rifle. That kind of ties in with the empathy thing too - you don't have it for people who you don't think of as human. Anyway, that's my cheery contribution to the conversation. Carry on.
posted by billiebee at 10:51 AM on March 14, 2015 [38 favorites]


The last time I was in a fight, a very adept friend wanted to know if I had learned anything from my martial arts teacher. He kept eggimg me on, I was disinclined until he started mocking me while sparring, then I showed him what I know about infighting. When I landed a face shot, at his insistence, the match went on for ten minutes, all over the back yard. I did damage to the bicep and radial ulnar nerve defending with my right shoulder, it took until a shoulder repair two years ago, to fix it. Going for the balls, not on the table, if you want to keep a friend, who enjoys martial arts.

He thought his skill set, and fitness level, would control the match, then he realized he was out of control, it just took ten minutes, which is a long match. He never managed to hit my face. I mostly defended after we started.
posted by Oyéah at 10:51 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Really obligatory.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:51 AM on March 14, 2015


He didn't actually carry out any beatings btw in case it looked like that.
posted by billiebee at 10:56 AM on March 14, 2015


Mirror neurons.
posted by Segundus at 10:56 AM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think I learned about age 8 or 9 that this Just Is Not Done. Since the purpose of schoolyard fights is largely to enhance status, and ball kicking ("racking" as we called it) would severely undercut that goal, the ban was effective.
posted by thelonius at 10:56 AM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Given that the pain couldn't have been worse than actually being shot, or having your arm deliberately broken, its doesn't seem to back up the "because it's the worst possible pain" angle

It's really simple. No man wants to be kicked in the balls. So we don't kick other men in the balls.

It may not be the worst pain one can experience (appendicitis was worse, e.g.), but it is immediate and all-encompassing. This sort of white light suffuses your brain and literally nothing else exists except the oceans of pain radiating from your danglies.

Plus, Brandon Blatcher kinda nailed (ahem) it upthread: this is a thing that cis women absolutely cannot understand, so commentary about motivations and whatnot is kind of out of place in a similar way that men braying about how men are discriminated against too in feminist conversations is.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:57 AM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


this is a thing that cis women absolutely cannot understand

Yup. That's why I said I had no insight of my own and asked my cis male partner about it. Because I am interested in listening to this convo and understanding, not because I have anything to offer. I'm happy to listen to y'all talk about your jewels all day.
posted by billiebee at 11:00 AM on March 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Because if I'm in a fight and you kick me in the balls it won't stop me. Then I will beat the shit out of you. At least that's my what's my very unreliable masculine inner voice tells me I should say.
posted by rdr at 11:01 AM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Didn't we have another ball-kicking thread recently?
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:02 AM on March 14, 2015


It really is a unique kind of pain.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 11:03 AM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


that there was also a pretty strong undercurrent of homophobia in why men don't go for the balls when fighting

This may come as a shock but when gay guys get in physical altercations, we don't go for the balls either.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:04 AM on March 14, 2015 [39 favorites]


You know how in Civilization II, when you use nuclear weapons against an adversary all the other players immediately declare war on you?

Ball Kicking is the Nuclear Option. There are pacts and treaties in place to restrict most fights to conventional armaments only.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 11:04 AM on March 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


One thing I didn't see at all mentioned in the article that I seem to remember from my schoolyard days is that there was also a pretty strong undercurrent of homophobia in why men don't go for the balls when fighting. The idea being that aiming specifically for the genitals indicated that you were interested in touching the other guys nuts, which ran counter to the sort of macho posturing that fighting was about in the first place.

This fits my memory of the playground. Ball-kicking is an underhanded, feminine way of fighting.

Also going for the balls guarantees immediate escalation. Ball-strikes are kind of like an old school Countervalue Preemptive strike, only without strategic nukes.

Edit: Aww, jinx. You owe me a coke, muller.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:04 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ball-kicking escalates the fight's probable level of lasting physical damage, while also failing to provide nearly as much of a tactical advantage as other techniques. I don't doubt that there are also some aspects of this prohibition which relate more directly to ideas of masculinity, but these aspects exist within a greater reality - not the other way around.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:05 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have kicked people in the balls in a fight before. It's not that effective actually because, unless you're a really good kicker they're going to catch your leg or knee and can strike at your exposed face or torso. The same with a punch, unless they are much bigger than you, it leaves you bent over and exposed even if you solidly land the shot. You're better off sticking with nails or pokes to the eye or knuckles to the throat or better yet swiftly backing TF out of there and running away.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:07 AM on March 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


Then I will beat the shit out of you.

To me that's a huge reason why it isn't done. It brings on a pure rage where you literally want to kill whoever did this to you. Pushing that button of escalation usually isn't something one usually wants done.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:09 AM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's really simple. No man wants to be kicked in the balls. So we don't kick other men in the balls.

(I am not a cis woman, and) I can't see it being this simple. Nobody wants to be shot in the knee either. In fact, I want to be shot in the knee even less than I want to be kicked in the balls. I'd choose a few minutes of blinding, consciousness-erasing pain and a few days of dull ache over the risk of being permanently disabled.

I think billiebee's partner's suggestion that it's at least partly about empathy and humanity is closer to the truth. It's not entirely about the rational knowledge that a kick to the balls feels awful, or the game-theoretic decision that escalating to ball-kicking is not a winning strategy, because there are other awful-feeling escalating moves that aren't taboo in quite the same way. I do think it's also, in part, about the pre-rational, instinctive wince that one ball-owner feels at seeing another ball-owning human hurt there. (In fact, I still have that instinctive response as a former ball-owner.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:09 AM on March 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


It definitely depends on the fight.

In many fights the combatants want to hurt and humiliate each other, but they don't really want to damage each other. And in this sort of fight, there is a kind of etiquette. You don't see guys kicking each other's balls in this kind of fight for the same reason you don't see guys stomping in the sides of knee joints, tearing elbows apart with arm bars, ripping off ears, gouging eyes or jumping on arms to break the bones -- all of which aren't all that difficult to do if one is so inclined. It's not supposed to be that kind of fight, and neither combatant wants to escalate it into that kind of fight by crossing any of those lines. You can kick a guy's ass in a parking lot and that can be the end of it. But if you knock him down and kick in half of his ribs, there's a chance he or is friends are going to come looking for you down the road to do even worse. Additionally, there is a kind of stigma associated with ball kicking in this sort of fight. "Jimmy would have beat his ass, but Steve kicked him in the balls." Steve won the fight, but will be perceived as a coward and a cheap shot artist. In a way this is ridiculous, because Jimmy may be twice the size of Steve and ball kicking may be Steve's only chance to avoid a beatdown. But there it is.

The other kind of fight is a real fight, where each combatant is each genuinely trying to inflict as much damage as possible on his opponent and possibly even kill him. In this sort of fight, there is plenty of testicle abuse when the opportunity arises.
posted by slkinsey at 11:12 AM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I haven't been in a fight since I was 8. I went for the balls. I guess word got out.
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:15 AM on March 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


And I mean more generally it's sort of weird that we're debating about The One True Reason why it's not done. Seems to me like a taboo this strong and common ought to serve many purposes, and be supported by many (biological and social) facts.

I'm sure there are situations where the sole reason one cis guy decides not to kick another cis guy in the balls is that it would be a bad strategic decision. And I'm sure there are also situations where the sole reason is homophobia, or empathy, or macho posturing and the desire to be seen as fighting fair. But it seems like really it's a bad idea in a lot of different situations, for a lot of different reasons, different ones of which are more salient to different people.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:16 AM on March 14, 2015 [20 favorites]


With obligatory disclaimer that I am summarizing an ongoing topic of discussion in a sport:

In fencing, this is an ongoing argument because male fencers don't like to wear cups but they occasionally do get hit in the balls -- and with a stiffened steel stick -- by accident. And then they writhe on the ground for a while. A mother of a fencer hit thus once remarked, as her son went to the bathroom to check if he was still intact, "Well, there goes my chances of having grandchildren." Cups are not required in the sport.

Women, on the other hand, are required to wear breast protection. Although people like to suggest that bruising can correlate with breast cancer, there does not seem to be any research justifying that assumption, and otherwise there is no indication that getting hit in the breasts will cause any permanent damage. It does hurt to get there, as I can attest, but it's more of a sting than a crushing blow, and it probably hurts guys much the same.
posted by Peach at 11:18 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


It definitely depends on the fight.

And defines (along with other variables) whether you are ever going to have a beer with the guy after the fact.
posted by BWA at 11:19 AM on March 14, 2015


Men don't kick each other in the balls for the same reason they don't bring a knife to a fist fight. These are folks who like the idea of fighting, but don't really care to explore its possibilities. I'm pretty sure they would cringe at the idea of hitting a person while he's down, too. They maybe subscribe to the movie version of fighting, where bones don't break, eyes don't get damaged, and teeth remain in place. The winner gets some sort of bragging rights.

IRL, an untrained fighter is more likely to damage someone accidentally than on purpose.

I used to think that "most people" wouldn't try to damage someone on purpose when they engaged them in a street fight. That was in junior high school. I don't know that I would say that now. In the street, fighting someone I didn't know, I always assumed my nuts were a legitimate target, and so I took stances that tended to make it hard to hit them.

In a cage fight the fighters use more or less standard tactics to protect the groin against a blow or kick--the rules, you see, tell them not to do that. You could lose a point or a round, or the match, if the ref thinks you did it on purpose. So it comes as a surprise, most of the time, when they get kicked there.

At some point I began to view street fights (as we old farts called them) as combat. You had to assume that the moron you were fighting either had deadly skills, or he might get in a lucky, lethal punch. My tactic was to get the scuffle over as soon as possible. A kick to the nuts will do that job, but you must try to evaluate the guy's skill level before you stick your kick out there--having a grappler get hold of my foot is not my idea of a good time.

By the way, I have it on a good authority that a kick delivered to a woman's pudendum is as debilitating as a kick to a man's nuts. Obviously I can't vouch for that personally, but believe that under the right circumstances I would have gone for it. As it turned out, I never fought a woman in the street. One afternoon at the Shotokan dojo in Hawaii a short woman attacked me with a flurry of kicks and punches, which I successfully blocked, but by the time the flurry was over she had put herself in a position to trip me. In the street she would have kick my ass up down and sideways with that attack.

Anyhow, for the past few years I pretty much use up the range of motion in my hips when I step up on a curb, so the discussion, while interesting in its own way, is moot for me.
posted by mule98J at 11:20 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


1. Kicking someone in the balls in a stand up fight is a very difficult move to pull off, compared to punching them in the throat, and is very likely to result in injuring your foot more than you injure your opponent. If it was open season on testicles in MMA, I think you would see a lot of testicle submission holds when grappling, but very few attempts to strike the groin while standing.

2. The fights that you see in the non-combat-sports world are essentially never directly about hurting someone, they are about showing dominance. The author gets this, but she then completely misses the point. Kicking someone in the balls doesn't deflate the collective idea that the alpha male role is important. Instead it shows that the kicker is low-status by its very employ. Showing an understanding of and belief in the rules of "fighting fair" is part of the demonstration of masculinity. Note that intentionally not "fighting fair" can itself be a strong status declaration when the other party is low enough status. The high man on the totem pole can and will kick the low guy on the totem pole in the nuts preemptively, thus avoiding giving the low man status by the mere act of acknowledging him as a worthy "fighting fair" opponent. The fact that this happens seems to directly discredit the authors facile theory. To repeat, the vast majority of fights are NOT about hurting people, they are about signalling. And this in no way shows that "masculinity is a fiction" unless you also believe that "society is a fiction." It's just a meaningless statement.

3. Human bodies are fighting machines. The groin is not even their worst weakness. the existence of the testicles does not make a mockery of our natural combat abilities.

4. In an actual fighting-for-your-life situation (where you have a direct rather than indirect interest in hurting your adversary), near 100% of men will take the groin shot should it present itself without thinking about it.

5. Put the average man in the ring with the average woman or the world's best female fighter in the ring with the world's best male fighter. Allow groin shots. The man still wins every time.

Basically, the author presents a really facile analysis that demonstrates a near-total ignorance of both actual fighting, and the role of fighting in male social groups.
posted by 256 at 11:21 AM on March 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


The "bringing a knife to a fistfight" comparison is pretty good, except for the fact that a knife is much, much more effective in a fight than a kick to the balls. Knives are far deadlier than people realize. Kicking people in the balls is less effective than people realize.

People need to disabuse themselves of the notion that being kicked in the balls is some kind of always-effective power move. It's not like hitting a Sontaran on their little neck thingy. There are a critical mass of guys who will not only power through it, but they will actually go harder, because of adrenaline and the escalation of the fight. In addition, kicking somebody in the balls frequently necessitates putting yourself in a position which could expose you to considerable damage, either on your way to completing your attack, or shortly afterwards.

So, once it's established that ball-kicking 1) can cause lasting damage and 2) doesn't work against everybody, it plummets down the list of effective strategies, especially since the vast majority of fights are status displays, and not actually attempts to give the opponent lasting damage. And since ball-kicking already has all of those problems, it's unsurprising that it would also develop many other negative associations, including gendered ones.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:24 AM on March 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


It really is a unique kind of pain.

It really is. The most similar kind of pain I can think of, among the types of pain I've had the displeasure of enduring, was kidney pain, in that both of them gives you (at least gave me) the curious sensation not of burning, throbbing, or even shooting, but of lacking, if that makes sense. Like something has been carved out of you and your body just doesn't know how to rationalize that sudden absence, runs around in panic, trying to come up with a 'correct' response, even if hurtful, but fails.
posted by procrastinator at 11:25 AM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


In high school, I was acquainted with this skinhead dude who liked kicking people in the balls for fun (it was the nineties) and I discovered first hand how easy it is to guard against; you just close your thighs a little, and it hits the inside of your thigh, and then dude is off balance with his foot in the air. I guess what I'm trying to say is , "how did I make it to adulthood"
posted by Greg Nog at 11:25 AM on March 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


> So...empathy?

I won't rule out empathy but I think it's not the main thing. If you're hauling off on somebody with a spiked bat, odds of empathizing with him are slight.

It's more that there's a kind of Geneva Conventions of street thuggery. Hit the testicles and you're no longer dominating him, you're just taking a cheap shot. If there's any single thing you could do that will make the victim and his allies rally against you, it's that.

The why of that -- what constitutes weakness in displays of strength -- is a bigger question than why men won't hit other men in the balls, and probably a more interesting discussion too, since it doesn't have to slide into an eternally-divisive argument over whether women can understand why men don't hit men in the balls.
posted by at by at 11:26 AM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I haven't been in a fight with another guy since middle school, other than a couple of halfway things in clubs that ended before they began, but I have had girlfriends who liked to wrestle around (and one or two who had taken self defense classes where nut strikes were taught), and protecting my nuts is not hard. Outside of an MMA ring, I'll bet that landing an actual testicle kick is a lot more difficult than it looks in the diagrams; I'd put my money on eyes and throat over nuts as effective attack places.

For competition, though, I agree with the people talking about putting on a good show. Boxers can batter faces and abdomens for round after round, but there's limited entertainment in nut strikes.

The punishment beating/kneecapping thing is interesting though. The way those were meant to serve a public function is important, however -- systemic torture, the kind practiced by police and military units all around the world, is rarely shy about using the genitals to inflict pain. Changing the setting from public (so everyone knows what happened to the person and why) to private (where they disappear into the system and maybe reappear only years later if at all) changes what torture methods are used.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:27 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why don't men kick each other in the balls?

Because: You come at the king, you best not miss.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:32 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was acquainted with this skinhead dude who liked kicking people in the balls for fun (it was the nineties)

Uh . . . . . I was around no small number of skins and other punks in the 90's, and I gotta say your nineties was really different from my nineties.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:34 AM on March 14, 2015


according to the dictates if my people, this is traditionally when I am to call you a poseur
posted by Greg Nog at 11:39 AM on March 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


Billiebee's excellent comment above actually backs up the article a little bit. She says that "Basically, you were getting what you were owed and you were taking it." Which is a very masculine-oriented approach, showing that you can take pain as well as dish it out. Even there, where almost everything else is not off-limits, attacking the testicles prevents men from maintaining that "manly" posture - much as the article suggests.

Think about movie scenes where men are disgusted by their victims groveling. They don't want their victims emasculated - it detracts from the pleasure of beating them and makes it almost as bad as beating up "a woman".

I'll leave that here as a rebuttal against the criticism of the article and the rampant man-splaining above. . .
posted by ianhattwick at 11:39 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


OK, that's it, it's on, Greg Nog. I'll see you outside in the parking lot and we'll see who's a fucking poser.

No nut shots tho, right?
posted by soundguy99 at 11:43 AM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


As folks have noted, the question of why people don't kick Omar in the balls is not a difficult one.

In a more general sense, it's worth asking about what kind of violence we're talking about. MMA is not a slowly escalating fistfight among drunk is not a mugging, etc., and the norms around violence will change with culture and subculture. So it's worth asking what contexts we're talking about and how sure we are about what we think we know about all of them.

The notion of men being discouraged from attack each others' testicles as a bad thing, in that it reinforces some notion of male impregnability suffers from a)the fact that we're talking about men being beaten up and defeated with force and that b)more restrictive fighting norms are probably good on their own. If the 'manly' or 'honest' (or whatever) way to fight was only to fold your arms up like a T-Rex and slap vertically, the world would be a better place.
posted by The Gaffer at 11:43 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Think about movie scenes where men are disgusted by their victims groveling. They don't want their victims emasculated - it detracts from the pleasure of beating them and makes it almost as bad as beating up "a woman".

I'm having trouble thinking of any scenes like this, although I can think of many more of the opposite scenes, e.g. "I want to see you beg".
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:44 AM on March 14, 2015


I'll leave that here as a rebuttal against the criticism of the article and the rampant man-splaining above

It's not mansplaining when it's men talking about an issue that affects only men, and it's seriously not OK to cast it as such.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:49 AM on March 14, 2015 [56 favorites]


[Yeah, just to forestall a derail, this will be a more interesting discussion if we can skip a debate over 'mansplaining,' especially in a thread about men's behavior and anatomy. Ball-havers are free to talk about their experiences with this stuff.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:51 AM on March 14, 2015 [27 favorites]


Parasite Unseen: “Most fights don't go that far, so most fights observe the ‘try not to fuck this guy up forever’ decorum.”

This is an interesting point. We generally take it as established that kicking a guy hard in the crotch will instantly and permanently render them impotent, but I somehow doubt that this is unreservedly true. I guess it may be a lack of data – as far as I can recall, I was only kicked hard in the crotch once, in gradeschool, but it didn't apparently cause me any permanent damage. But, as I say, I haven't been kicked in the crotch much in my life; and I don't think I've ever kicked anyone in the crotch.

Is there data on this? How likely is it really that guys who are kicked in the crotch will be rendered impotent? Or is this just an imagined outcome based on the extremity of the perceived pain caused?
posted by koeselitz at 11:52 AM on March 14, 2015


As a man, let me just say, incidentally, that I really liked this article. I think it's true. "But it's really painful!" doesn't justify an avoidance of kicking someone in the crotch when we're talking about sports where guys get punched full-on in the face, kicked in the chest, sometimes have arms twisted hard enough to break them, etc. There has to be something else going on with the forbidding of groin shots, and it makes sense to see patriarchy there.
posted by koeselitz at 11:52 AM on March 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


OK, that's it, it's on, Greg Nog. I'll see you outside in the parking lot and we'll see who's a fucking poser.

No nut shots tho, right?


we will agree to aim only for each other's Bouncing Souls albums
posted by Greg Nog at 11:53 AM on March 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


"...and nothing of value was lost."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:54 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


*holds Bouncing Souls album over crotch*
posted by koeselitz at 11:55 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: ball-havers are free to talk about their experiences
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:58 AM on March 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


"But it's really painful!" doesn't justify an avoidance to kick someone in the crotch when we're talking about sports where guys get punched full-on in the face, kicked in the chest, sometimes have arms twisted hard enough to break them, etc.

The list of MMA fouls is actually quite lengthy.
As set out by the Association of Boxing Commissions:[7]
Holding or grabbing the fence
Holding opponent’s shorts or gloves
Butting with the head
Biting or spitting at an opponent
Hair pulling
Fish-hooking
Intentionally placing a finger into any orifice, or into any cut or laceration of an opponent
Eye gouging of any kind
Groin attacks of any kind
Downward pointing of elbow strikes (see Elbow strike)
Small joint manipulation
Strikes to the spine or back of the head (see Rabbit punch)
Heel kicks to the kidney
Throat strikes of any kind, including, without limitation, grabbing the trachea
Clawing, pinching, twisting the flesh or grabbing the clavicle
Kicking the head of a grounded opponent (see Soccer kick)
Kneeing the head of a grounded opponent
Stomping on a grounded fighter
The use of abusive language in fighting area
Any unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to opponent
Attacking an opponent during a break
Attacking an opponent who is under the care of the referee
Timidity (avoiding contact, consistent dropping of mouthpiece, or faking an injury)
Interference from a mixed martial artist's cornerman
Throwing an opponent out of the ring or caged area
Flagrant disregard of the referee’s instructions
Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his or her head or neck (see Piledriver)
Attacking an opponent after the bell has sounded the end of the period of unarmed combat
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:00 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, I apologize for tweaking any noses. I was only trying to point out that the author's argument has more merit to it than many of the above posts are willing to grant. Given the FPP it would seem appropriate for the discussion to be as much about the ways in which we maintain the myth of masculinity as it has been about reinforcing the "codes of conflict".
posted by ianhattwick at 12:02 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Chopper, sick balls.
posted by thatnerd at 12:05 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was only trying to point out that the author's argument has more merit to it than many of the above posts are willing to grant.

It really doesn't seem to. There's been plenty of holes punched in her rationale, so it's kinda amusing to see someone still insisting that her argument has some sort of merit. It sounds like she had a thought and is just coming up with reasons to justify it, reasons that fall apart with the slightest of serious thought.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:06 PM on March 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Sticherbeast: “The list of MMA fouls is actually quite lengthy.”

Yeah, but like the article says, this is across all sports and even outside of them, in "casual" contests or even situations where the clear goal is to hurt someone for a real and salient reason. No matter what, in every situation, it is generally seen as a violation of deeply-held principles.

To kind of go on a little – it's odd, isn't it, that men are perceived as having an "off switch" that cannot be touched, whereas women are not? I guess historically, in "polite society," women's whole bodies were regarded as untouchable; hence the continued and just-now-flagging bans on women in fighting sports. And most fighting sports are generally (I think) just proving grounds for some interesting notions of what "manhood" constitutes. It seems as though "no blows below the belt" is a vestige of some sort of "noble manhood" ideal, the idea that there are some rules which "true men" will never violate.

Nietzsche once wrote that successful philosophers must become like old women. I believe that what he meant was that, in the patriarchal world we live in, men (and women) who wish to become philosophical must divorce themselves from whatever place of privilege they hold and learn the practice of cold, careful, calculating resolution which living as an old woman in a patriarchal society requires. I think he was right; and, in a sense, this really makes a lot of sense. In this case, the rational way to approach a fight with a man would be to say: "if I want to win, I should be willing to kick this guy in the crotch."

The fact that that offends our ideas of noble masculinity might be less of a reason to reject the possibility of kicking a guy in the crotch and more a reason to interrogate our ideas about what a "true man" is.
posted by koeselitz at 12:09 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think I've written about this before on the blue, but Sociological Images is one the most bafflingly lazy blogs out there. It continues to amaze me that the authors, presumably interested in their careers, are willing to put their names on it.
posted by threeants at 12:10 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm a woman with balls. I wonder if my balls are out of the question from attacking in a moment of trans panic? Thinking about it I'm not "a man" but something else, I wonder how I code into "no nut punch" rule now.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:11 PM on March 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: “It really doesn't seem to. There's been plenty of holes punched in her rationale, so it's kinda amusing to see someone still insisting that her argument has some sort of merit. It sounds like she had a thought and is just coming up with reasons to justify it, reasons that fall apart with the slightest of serious thought.”

As far as I can tell, the only objection anybody's offered to this piece has been 'but it really, really hurts!' – an argument which, as far as I can tell, she dealt with pretty handily. Am I wrong about that?
posted by koeselitz at 12:11 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


And as a woman, if I were being attacked, I would have a hard time deciding when it was okay to violate my own boymode programming of "don't punch nuts", which maybe doesn't exist so strongly, If at all, with cis women?
There's something to what she is bringing up here, I'm not too fond with how the article is written, but she is onto something that warrants a deeper look.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:14 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I was only trying to point out that the author's argument has more merit to it than many of the above posts are willing to grant.

I agree that billiebee's comment was great, but what she mostly seemed to be describing was reprisal beatings, where the perpetrator wants others to recognize that someone has been beaten and who they've been beaten by - as someone notes above, it's a public display. Kicks to the nuts don't leave a lasting legacy of intimidation like a torn ear, missing finger, or noticeable limp do.
posted by LionIndex at 12:14 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll leave that here as a rebuttal against the criticism of the article and the rampant man-splaining above

I don’t disagree with the original article, but I do have a different interpretation of Billiebee’s comment. If you live in a culture where “punishment beatings” (…jesus) are enough of a thing to merit a name, then they probably serve a particular purpose.. Once you’re kicking the shit out of someone writhing on the ground in pain, why not kick him in the balls? Why not cut off his hand? Why not cut off his head? Because that isn’t what you’re doing. Mutilating someone’s genitals with a bat with a spike in it serves a different purpose than breaking their arm and leg and leaving them a bloody mess, even though you’re using the same spiked bat in both cases.

To second koeselitz’s comment, though, it’s interesting that ball-kicking seems to fall into the realm of torture and mutilation, a level beyond simply beating the shit out of someone. Accepting that it’s treated differently, why is it treated differently? I don’t know that the article’s answer is right, but I’m not sure “it really hurts!” is sufficient, either.
posted by Ptrin at 12:17 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Why don't men kick each other in the balls?"

Yeah, really guys, if you're gonna fight, why aren't you actively trying to maim each other? Once you get your opponent down, slam his head repeatedly into the concrete. Oh wait, you don't want to reveal that "masculinity is a fiction"! This "article" is embarrassing.

(Some posters up thread have also made a good point that trying to do that in an active fight would be difficult: it's not like the other guy is staying still so you can aim.)
posted by sfkiddo at 12:18 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


As far as I can tell, the only objection anybody's offered to this piece has been 'but it really, really hurts!' – an argument which, as far as I can tell, she dealt with pretty handily. Am I wrong about that?

Yes, you are wrong about that.

Multiple comments have been made in this thread that counter the original post, or go beyond "it really hurts" so I'm totally not getting where you're coming from on this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:20 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Has anyone actually established that kicking someone in the crotch would invariably maim them? Seriously, I am still not convinced that this is a thing, although I welcome data. The idea that one hard kick to the crotch will always instantly render a guy impotent seems doubtful to me.

I will point out that one of the odd things I notice here is that people seem to like winning fights, but not that much. Why not? If you actually need to win a fight, why are social mores like this coming into it?

And if you don't actually need to win a fight, why are you fighting in the first place?
posted by koeselitz at 12:24 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell, the only objection anybody's offered to this piece has been 'but it really, really hurts!' – an argument which, as far as I can tell, she dealt with pretty handily. Am I wrong about that?

Yes. "It really really hurts" isn't even an counterargument to the piece. I mean, she is quite clear that she is not advocating for kicks to the nuts.

As best as I can tell, her argument seems to be:

1. Nut kicking is obviously the best tactic for winning a fight
2. The reason nobody nut kicks is because seeing someone get kicked in the nuts would deflate the constructed image of masculine strength
3. If it weren't for the ban on nut kicking, people wouldn't think that men are physically hardier than women.

When you look at her argument that way, there have been multiple very strong rebuttals to all three points in this thread, none of which revolve around how much getting kicked in the nuts hurts.

It's really just a very bad argument written, as I said before, from an obvious place of ignorance of both the social and physical reality of fighting. It's lazy and wrong.
posted by 256 at 12:25 PM on March 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


boymode programming of "don't punch nuts", which maybe doesn't exist so strongly, If at all, with cis women?

Correct, it's a man-vs-man thing. Women being attacked should do whatever's necessary to disable the attacker, up to and including permanent damage. That's not a "fair fight."

we're binge-watching Alias, and I can't believe Sydney doesn't totally go for the balls in every defending-her-life fight
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:25 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


sfkiddo, I think part of the implicit point that others have made about the "rules" in fighting is that once you try to maim someone you escalate to a point where, if you lose, you are maimed as well (see "if you go to kill the king, you must kill the king" comment).

In a fight, both parties stopping short of permanent damage also provides a way to manage your own risk in the event that you lose.

koeselitz, I think this applies to your question as well. Winning the fight might seem important, but not necessarily as important as risking an all-out brawl that will leave one of the fighting parties permanently disabled/disfigured/dead. ("Why are you fighting at all then" is a whole additional question.)
posted by auggy at 12:27 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Has anyone actually established that kicking someone in the crotch would invariably maim them?

Are you really asking for a peer reviewed study on nut kicking to believe that kicking a guy in the nut is incapacitating and/or painful?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:28 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


And if you don't actually need to win a fight, why are you fighting in the first place?

Someone's not read Bukowski.
posted by procrastinator at 12:28 PM on March 14, 2015


If you actually need to win a fight, why are social mores like this coming into it?

Because in a near totality of fights as they actually happen, the winner isn't the person who is able to walk away with fewer injuries, the winner is the person who is judged superior by either their peers or, in the case of sport, the referee.

In both of these contexts, intentionally kicking someone in the nuts usually means you lose the fight.

In the vanishingly small number of fights that are actually judged by who walks away (like when being mugged), men will go for the nut kick pretty much every time, in the unlikely case that it presents itself.
posted by 256 at 12:30 PM on March 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Brandon, I took it the question was, we all agree it's incredibly painful in the moment, but does it really cause permanent physical damage like infertility?
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:30 PM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Are you really asking for a peer reviewed study on nut kicking to believe that kicking a guy in the nut is incapacitating and/or painful?

To be fair, "maim" implies permanent damage, not temporary damage--even if it's incapacitating or painful temporary damage. Can you cause permanent damage with a sufficiently strong (or, hell, even an average) kick or attack to the testicles? I think if you crushed them badly enough you could, but I'm sort of doubtful that you could manage to bring that level of force to bear in the average fight.

I'm actually a little at a loss thinking of other forms of temporary, even if nasty, damage which are treated at the same level as a kick to the testicles in a fight between men. I mean, I don't have testicles so I've never tested this, but is there lasting damage beyond maybe a few days of soreness after the average nut jab?
posted by sciatrix at 12:32 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are there any pro doms/dommes in this thread who specialize in CBT*? It would be interesting to hear from the people who get PAID to hoof dudes in the painbags.


*hint: that does not stand for "cognitive behavioural therapy"
posted by mrjohnmuller at 12:33 PM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Most people, even fairly seasoned brawlers, don't have the slightest idea how to use kicks in a standup fight. Even a fair number of professional MMA fighters aren't terribly good at it. Not only is it not all that easy to kick someone in the balls during a standup fight, but there is a not insignificant possibility that attempting to do so will leave you in a very vulnerable position that will possibly lead to you getting your ass kicked -- e.g., your opponent catches your foot, uses is to leverage you to the ground and then kicks the shit out of you (the "beatdown" portion of the fight being the only one in which it is pretty obvious what to do with your feet). If you are going to use your feet against a standing opponent, a hard kick to the knee is more effective and far less risky than attempting a kick in the balls. Most people don't attempt any kicks at all.
posted by slkinsey at 12:35 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


PAID to hoof dudes in the painbags

If there are I really suggest they have that on their business cards
posted by billiebee at 12:35 PM on March 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


sciatrix,

I wonder if something like hair pulling would count? I have not witnessed a fight in which men yanked on each other's hair, so it might constitute the type of action that is "frowned upon" in normal (whatever that means) fighting.
posted by auggy at 12:36 PM on March 14, 2015




Koeselitz, what are the facts underlying your argument? There is something to be said for an argument of how prohibitions of ball-kicking tie into masculinity, but these ideas need to come from knowledge of things which actually exist in the real world and in culture. Ball-kicking is neither unique nor uniquely ubiquitous among prohibitions in fight. Only ignorant people think that a blow to the balls is an "off-switch".

As far as I can tell, the only objection anybody's offered to this piece has been 'but it really, really hurts!' – an argument which, as far as I can tell, she dealt with pretty handily. Am I wrong about that?

Read the comments. Ball-kicking is a frequently ineffective attack which carries a higher risk of acute, potentially lasting damage than other forms of attack, i.e. testicular torsion can require immediate medical care in a way that a broken leg will not. This escalates the fight, while also potentially putting yourself at unnecessary risk.

Has anyone actually established that kicking someone in the crotch would invariably maim them? Seriously, I am still not convinced that this is a thing, although I welcome data. The idea that one hard kick to the crotch will always instantly render a guy impotent seems doubtful to me.

Google is your friend. Urologists deal with this stuff all the time. It's a shame that the real Merck Manuals aren't online, but here's a start. You yourself are inserting the idea of invariability - the reality is that there testicular injuries are likely enough to either cause lasting injury, to to cause conditions which require prompt medical care in order to prevent lasting injury. Testicular torsion is a real thing. Tears to the scrotal area can become infected much more easily than other sorts of tears, which can lead to gangrene and removal. It goes on and on.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:40 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Huh, yeah. That's another move that tends to be coded as a "feminine" attack tactic, along with scratching, now that I think about it.

What about biting? How does biting play into this? I mention it because it seems to fall into the category of "oh my god BELOW THE BELT," while being not coded feminine at all that I can think of. It's coded childish, maybe.
posted by sciatrix at 12:40 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


does [getting kicked in the balls] really cause permanent physical damage like infertility?

Not necessarily. But, then again, kicking someone in the knee doesn't necessarily cause permanent physical damage either. Or punching them in the throat. Or stomping on their forearm. Or twisting their arm as hard as you can. But all of these things, including kicking someone in the testicles most certainly can lead to permanent damage (testicular rupture being the obvious one in the case of nut kicking).
posted by slkinsey at 12:41 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm actually a little at a loss thinking of other forms of temporary, even if nasty, damage which are treated at the same level as a kick to the testicles in a fight between men. I mean, I don't have testicles so I've never tested this, but is there lasting damage beyond maybe a few days of soreness after the average nut jab?

Eyes. Eyes are totally off limits in "fair" fights, even the kind where people are trying to hurt each other.

In terms of the pain of a testicle hit, I've taken some pretty good shots from misjudging fence heights, getting run into by toddlers, or even accidental knees from girlfriends while snuggling, and short of a direct hit by a trained MMA fighter I think people are exaggerating the effect. Yes it hurts, to the point of nausea, but it takes an incredibly hard and direct hit to drop someone rather than just hurt them.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:41 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


And biting is at least as likely to be ineffective at non-close quarters as testicle kicks, now I think of it, too...
posted by sciatrix at 12:43 PM on March 14, 2015


I'm actually a little at a loss thinking of other forms of temporary, even if nasty, damage which are treated at the same level as a kick to the testicles in a fight between men.

Look up banned moves in fights. Even outside of MMA, guys are not usually gouging out one another's eyes or breaking individual fingers.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:43 PM on March 14, 2015


an issue that affects only men

Belated apologies, Annika Cicada's comment reminded me that this is an issue that affects some trans women as well.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:44 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Brandon, I took it the question was, we all agree it's incredibly painful in the moment, but does it really cause permanent physical damage like infertility?

True, but he's quick to limit it to a single kick, which is an odd condition.

But there is data about this, so yay, probably solved!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:47 PM on March 14, 2015


I, ahem, used to perform CBT therapy, ahem...

the thing about BDSM though (and paid sexual exchanges too) is the implicit understanding that the guy might want pain but there is no place for actual injury in the interaction. in fact, the avoidance of injury is part of the process. like, how can I give pain without damaging them?

so yeah, when I was paid to kick a guy in the balls, it was with no shoes on, and over his pants and I did not whale 100% (I have strong legs!) I would start out soft and work my way up to their desired limit by careful and attentive observation of their response to each kick. because it was my responsibility to NOT cause damage, which is sort of the opposite of a fight, right?
posted by supermedusa at 12:48 PM on March 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


What about biting? How does biting play into this? I mention it because it seems to fall into the category of "oh my god BELOW THE BELT," while being not coded feminine at all that I can think of. It's coded childish, maybe.

FWIW, bites are disproportionately common in cases of sexual assault. I would say that they're considered more animalistic than anything else. Either way, bites are discouraged in "fair" fights, and again, human bites can become infected quite easily, thereby causing lasting damage at a higher rate than a bruised face.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:56 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's really painful and has potential for long term damage, I think that is basically all it is. Remember when Adrian Peterson beat his kid? Somehow the one detail that made it so basically nobody could defend it was that he hit him in the testicles while he was switching him. Beating the crap out of a four year old, fine, just don't go for the balls! It's pretty well understood.

Anyway, I haven't been in a fight since grade school and if I ever end up in one again in my life I'm going to ball kick because I have no fucking interest in getting in fights and will want to end it quickly if I can. Actually, I'll probably ball punch. Men are good at leg checking the kick as discussed above. The punch will not be expected.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:01 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


We generally take it as established that kicking a guy hard in the crotch will instantly and permanently render them impotent, but I somehow doubt that this is unreservedly true.

Wait, this is accepted wisdom? I have had a set of testicles for decades now and taken at least three or four hits in them (although not in many years now, I am happy to report). I have never heard any such thing until I read this thread.

It is a long way from maximum fun but the big issue is the debilitating pain that curls up in your gut afterward. No other pain like it. I am sure it doe not compare to labour pains, but women have more warning as to when that might happen,
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:01 PM on March 14, 2015


My karate teacher warned me of sterility when I didn't wear my cup to sparring practice when I was a kid. I think it's possible but more urban legend that it is a very likely consequence of a single blow.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:03 PM on March 14, 2015


And if you don't actually need to win a fight, why are you fighting in the first place?

GOOD NATURED BRAWLING!!!
posted by happyroach at 1:05 PM on March 14, 2015


Bullhead would be an appropriate film to recommend round about now.
posted by dng at 1:06 PM on March 14, 2015


(sarcasm tag)

Taking a shot to the balls is worse than maternity pain. Childbirth is nothing compared to it.

My proof?

Many women will get pregnant, on purpose, multiple times over the course of their lifetime.

But no man is willing to take a second shot to the balls.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:31 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


The sociological conclusions in the article are as interesting as they are handwavy. I think it would be interesting to study if and how the ball taboo differs across cultures. I'm frankly a little shocked if there isn't already some study on the topic given how much men love to talk about their balls.
posted by edeezy at 1:31 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought Lisa Wade's hypothesis was very plausible, personally, and those of you who are critiquing it should consider that she marshals some good evidence for this admittedly ad-hoc explanation:

One of the common responses involved the idea that not hitting below the belt was “an unspoken rule.”...“For ‘alpha male’ fights, nut shots are just wrong.”...“If a guy kicks another guy in the balls on purpose during a fight,” one replied to the question on Yahoo, “he will forever be banished from manhood.” Another said: “Winning like this means that you cannot beat up the other guy by ‘real’ fighting.” It’s a matter of one’s own reputation: “A man who kicks another man in the balls,” said a third, “immediately loses all manliness and respect.”

If the aversion to striking the groin has nothing to do with constructions of masculinity, why does masculinity itself figure so prominently in men's own explanations for the norm? I don't see a good answer to this. I think her explanation may not be fully complete, may not cover all aspects of a complex social phenomenon, but it seems compelling and not incorrect to me.

On the other hand, there are other parts of the body that people typically avoid targeting; for example, you don't often see people trying to gouge each other's eyes out in a brawl, or tearing fingers off. So there's another explanation: the men who answered the Yahoo Questions post were being honest and illustrating something real about manhood by saying that kicking the balls would exclude someone from "man" status, but perhaps that's because doing something that could permanently damage the function of a unique organ is an inappropriate level of violence in a status-contestation-type fight.
posted by clockzero at 1:35 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Accepting that it’s treated differently, why is it treated differently? I don’t know that the article’s answer is right, but I’m not sure “it really hurts!” is sufficient, either.

Maybe its sexual assault?

But no man is willing to take a second shot to the balls.

Some men pay a lot of money for it. Because its so taboo and vulnerable feeling.
posted by Phalene at 1:36 PM on March 14, 2015


If the aversion to striking the groin has nothing to do with constructions of masculinity, why does masculinity itself figure so prominently in men's own explanations for the norm?

This is a straw man. Nobody is arguing that this has "nothing to do with constructions of masculinity". What people are critiquing is the apparently rampant, almost-proud ignorance of where ball-kicking fits into the world, both in terms of physical effects, effectiveness as a fighting tactic, etc. and also how it fits in socially, from playground fights to street fights to MMA to fights to the death. Of course masculine, "chivalrous" fighting depends on ideas about a lack of cheap shots, but there is also quite a bit much more to it. There is no reason to actively avoid learning about the subject.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:41 PM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Some men pay a lot of money for it.

This is true. That Rule 34 thing is real, it's not just an Internet joke.
posted by thelonius at 1:43 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


What people are critiquing is the apparently rampant, almost-proud ignorance of where ball-kicking fits into the world, both in terms of physical effects, effectiveness as a fighting tactic, etc. and also how it fits in socially, from playground fights to street fights to MMA to fights to the death.

I'm not sure I understand --isn't the post in question an attempt to investigate and explain why ball-kicking has a unique status?
posted by clockzero at 1:54 PM on March 14, 2015


I'm not sure I understand --isn't the post in question an attempt to investigate and explain why ball-kicking has a unique status?

For one thing, there has been quite a lot of pushback against people who are accurately pointing out how, on a factual level, ball-kicking is neither unique, nor uniquely ubiquitous, as an often-prohibited "move".
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:04 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I understand --isn't the post in question an attempt to investigate and explain why ball-kicking has a unique status?

Sure, but it's a very shallow investigation (the "data" apparently mostly taken from Yahoo! Answers to one question) and so the author basically leaps to conclusions based more on her previously held assumptions rather than any actual considered analysis of how ball-kicking plays out in masculine culture.
posted by soundguy99 at 2:09 PM on March 14, 2015


Not so many men ride horses nowadays. I wonder if in part that's because you can bang your balls on the saddle, particularly when you are just starting out (I speak from experience). The standard explanation for why more women than men ride (at least at the grassroots level) is that women have taken up an activity that is less associated with male prestige, and that men have moved on to motor vehicles. Alternative explanation: men no longer have to ride, and we will go a very long way to avoid a ball-banging.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 2:22 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Many women will get pregnant, on purpose, multiple times over the course of their lifetime.

But no man is willing to take a second shot to the balls.


I don't know . . .

If men were subjected to intense societal expectations that they would get hit in the balls at least once?

If men were taught, from childhood, that being kicked in the balls was both the natural conclusion to romance and their purpose as a man?

If they were pressured to take a pain-management class that promised to control ball pain with deep breathing?

If they were pressured to take that class instead of a drug that would take away a lot of the ball-crushing pain because the pain means you're doing it right?

I don't know. I haven't been a girl fight since elementary school, but it never occurred to me to try to stretch my opponent's cervix almost half an inch either.
posted by bibliowench at 2:24 PM on March 14, 2015 [21 favorites]


It feels to me like a lot of the knee-jerk reaction to this -- for example Brandon's first comment -- is focusing on "she's a woman, how can she possibly know anything about our Precious Masculine Orbs and our Manly Means of Fighting" and ignoring the fact that the author's a sociology professor and co-author of a textbook on gender.

In other words: this may be something she has professional expertise on; compared to a lot of comments in this thread which are basically "well I've got balls and opinions about them."
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:25 PM on March 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


In other words: this may be something she has professional expertise on; compared to a lot of comments in this thread which are basically "well I've got balls and opinions about them."

Maybe. And yet... us men get told all the time by women that when women are speaking about women's issues, we need to listen. So what some of us are saying here is, we are men speaking about an issue that affects men almost exclusively (and some trans women), so maybe it would be a really great idea for women to stop telling us how we actually feel/think/react to this question?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:32 PM on March 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


In other words: this may be something she has professional expertise on; compared to a lot of comments in this thread which are basically "well I've got balls and opinions about them."

Also consider that most men don't really spend a lot of time considering masculinities in the context of patriarchy due to privilege, and I'm more inclined to say that the people who actually study masculinities - which are ironically mostly women - have more insight on these issues. I'm saying this as a ball-owner myself - there's less motivation for me to question gender tropes even when they pertain to my own gender than there is for women to question the tropes applied to men.
posted by Conspire at 2:34 PM on March 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


In other words: this may be something she has professional expertise on; compared to a lot of comments in this thread which are basically "well I've got balls and opinions about them."

People are citing facts and people are looking at her work, which in this case is rather poor. The fact that she is a sociologist does not magically make her factual inaccuracies true, especially when we can actually evaluate her arguments, especially when she speaks outside of her field, and especially when people are pushing back against the ignorance displayed by others within this thread.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:34 PM on March 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


Also consider that most men don't really spend a lot of time considering masculinities in the context of patriarchy due to privilege, and I'm more inclined to say that the people who actually study masculinities - which are ironically mostly women

I wish more men would actively work on this stuff, because sometimes when I look at the academic looks at masculinity it just...does not connect with my experience very well. I can't help but think it's possibly because not enough men are making contributions and offering insight that can be scientifically verified on the subject.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:36 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


People are citing facts and people are looking at her work, which in this case is rather poor. The fact that she is a sociologist does not magically make her factual inaccuracies true, especially when we can actually evaluate her arguments, especially when she speaks outside of her field, and especially when people are pushing back against the ignorance displayed by others within this thread.

What factual inaccuracies did you notice in her post?
posted by clockzero at 2:38 PM on March 14, 2015


The author starts with the assumption that the primary goal of fighting is ... to do some damage out of anger or defensiveness... I can't imagine that most teenage boys believe that, let alone a professor of sociology. I strongly suspect that an anthropologist would present a much more nuanced, culturally aware argument.

It might be that the no ball kicking rule is tied in with masculinity somehow but in our current culture the reason to avoid kicking balls is that it's a stupid idea. You can see human interactions as conversations. Ball kicking moves a fight from being a heated exchange with raised voices to a full on winner take all screaming match.
posted by rdr at 2:38 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


ignoring the fact that the author's a sociology professor and co-author of a textbook on gender.

It's a terrible article to be written by anyone. It's a shitty article to be written by a professor.

Co-authoring a book on gender doesn't make anyone an automatic expert on anything. 'Cause there's plenty of shitty textbooks in the world.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:39 PM on March 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


this may be something she has professional expertise on

It may be. But, in my view, as the argument stands, the author has not presented a good, well researched or well reasoned case. Where are the data to back up the speculation? Who are the people who answer Yahoo questions? What other factors might explain the tendency to avoid nut shots in many situations?

We aren't going to have a productive discussion by you engaging with what you see as unproductive lines of thought. If you think the argument is a good one, it will probably be more useful for all of us if you deal with the substantive criticisms of it.

Not every assertion about the particular way in which patriarchy functions in our society, even when made by an academic, is a true assertion, despite the fact that patriarchy operates on every level, all the time. If you would like to focus on how you think the specific claim that is made in the article is borne out by the data we have available, that would be brilliant. At this point in time I'm really not seeing the strength of the argument that you perceive.
posted by howfar at 2:39 PM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


If men were taught, from childhood, that being kicked in the balls was both the natural conclusion to romance and their purpose as a man?

Wait, you mean it's not?
posted by neroli at 2:43 PM on March 14, 2015


What factual inaccuracies did you notice in her post?

Even just in the first few sentences:

In Greco-Roman wrestling, boxing, and mixed martial arts, there is a rule that you never hit “below the belt.”

This is laughably wrong with regard to MMA. "Below the belt" is not the same thing as "groin attack".
The area of biggest concern is the testicles.
Citation needed. Author's opinion presented as fact.
As the Ultimate Fighting Championship rules specify, “groin attacks of any kind” are a foul.
Technically true, but this speciously and dishonestly implies that groin attacks are uniquely prohibited in UFC or other forms of MMA. This leads to ignorant, factually incorrect ideas about the uniqueness of the groin with regard to various MMA rules.
This is probably because groin attacks might make for short fights or ones where everyone just goes around protecting their balls.
"Probably" is a red flag that this is what it is: mere speculation by an ignorant person. Only somebody with a lack of basic working knowledge about MMA would think that permissible ball attacks would produce this result, as ball attacks are not consistently effective, and are actually quite likely to open the attacker up to worse damage.
I do think it’s somewhat odd, though, that men who fight each other outside of controlled conditions—men in street fights, bar brawls, and parking lot scuffles—also usually avoid hitting below the belt. These fights aren’t about training or skill, like those between professional athletes, they’re real attempts to do some damage out of anger or defensiveness. So, why no hits to the balls?
While there is indeed social opprobrium against ball attacks, and it would be worthwhile for an intelligent and informed study of this phenomenon, the fact that this person wrote this paragraph without even bothering to look into the physical realities around ball attacks, for both the attacker and the attacked, proves a fatal lack of rigor and seriousness.

And then, Yahoo! Answers answers are leaned on for data.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:50 PM on March 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


To be fair, I tried to use a higher quality answer site to find data on this and the results were inconclusive. I did however learn that some people don't know that men can pee and poop at the same time while sitting on the toilet.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:56 PM on March 14, 2015


Well, someone should post a new AskMe question.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:59 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think it needs to directly resonate with men to be a reasonable theory - part of the way the patriarchy asserts its effects on men is that it insists that we be blind to the fragile ways in which we construct masculinity. To me, it actually does resonate because I've become uncomfortably aware that a lot of our rituals of masculinity are just so arbitrary - I mean, people are giving pragmatic reasons for not kicking other men in the balls, but that doesn't explain the huge amount of social stigma around the action and the way it's coded as feminine.
posted by Conspire at 3:00 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


so maybe it would be a really great idea for women to stop telling us how we actually feel/think/react to this question?

I'm not sure any women are "telling" men how they feel, rather than asking questions and wondering aloud, and there are men doing this also. The article is framed as a question. Men may have the definitive answer, although judging from the thread there's a lot of debate about it, which is an interesting and good thing in a discussion. I don't see any women saying "you are wrong it's clearly THIS".

Speaking for myself I've always wondered what the experience of getting a blow to the balls feels like, and the question of why it's deemed out of bounds in some fights made me curious. I think it should be ok to ask men "is it because of X?" and listening to the answers. That's different than wading into the thread saying "What do you people even know about pain lemme tell you about menstrual cramps" which is more akin to the men-in-feminism-threads analogy.
posted by billiebee at 3:01 PM on March 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


Sticherbeast: “There is something to be said for an argument of how prohibitions of ball-kicking tie into masculinity, but...”

Then why in the world aren't we talking about that – which is quite obviously the point of the essay – instead of this endless parade of "NOPE NOPE NOPE, WOMAN IS WRONG!" comments?
posted by koeselitz at 3:04 PM on March 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


this may be something she has professional expertise on


Appeals to authority in this case hold as much water as if a male sociologist had written up a weak theory about some issue that affects only women. That we've gotten to that particular defense in this conversation usually means the other arguments have already been thoroughly disassembled.

Also I have never +1d so many comments in one thread before.
posted by echocollate at 3:05 PM on March 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


The article is framed as a question.

I don't think it's unreasonable to say that it does seem to go on to give a pretty definitive answer to that question. Lenin's 'What Is to Be Done?' was also framed as a question, but it wasn't the most balanced, moderate or productive of takes on the issues it tackled.
posted by howfar at 3:07 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure any women are "telling" men how they feel

The author of the article is, and the person who wrote the comment dismissing the opinion of people who actually have the body parts in question.

Appeals to authority in this case hold as much water as if a male sociologist had written up a weak theory about some issue that affects only women.

Bingo.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:09 PM on March 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Then why in the world aren't we talking about that – which is quite obviously the point of the essay – instead of this endless parade of "NOPE NOPE NOPE, WOMAN IS WRONG!" comments?"

Then do so, instead of trying to argue that her fucked up reasoning makes sense and then trying to play the "you're beating up her because she's a woman" card.

Come on, you're better than that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:09 PM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've done so repeatedly, Brandon. But all I ever get in response is angry replies about how I'm full of shit.

It's just really weird how incredibly defensive some men can get when you start talking about groin-kicks. To me, that defensiveness itself points to some sociological issues that are clearly at play. See also the post from a few months ago about "Below The Belt," with Susan Schorn.
posted by koeselitz at 3:12 PM on March 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


I mean, people are giving pragmatic reasons for not kicking other men in the balls, but that doesn't explain the huge amount of social stigma around the action and the way it's coded as feminine.

It's been my perception that it is associated with women for pragmatic reasons. Women are more likely to do it because either they don't understand how painful it is or they do know and are attempting to use one of a few ways they might gain an advantage in an altercation with a larger man.

Using a blow to the testicles in a situation where it isn't warranted signals an ignorance of the consequences more likely to be associated with someone who has not personally experienced them. If you look at other stuff like eye gouging...well everyone has at least been accidentally poked in an eye once and understands it's extremely uncomfortable even with a glancing blow so that has no particular association with women.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:13 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


[At this point, let's move on from the 'you're commenting wrong' metaconversation, and instead just have the good conversation we'd all rather be having, about why the rule exists and whether there's anything salvageable in the article's premise?]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:14 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


uge amount of social stigma around the action and the way it's coded as feminine.

The mistake here is believing or suspecting that how it's coded is in any way related to why it isn't done.

The men in this thread have offered an exhaustive list of practical reasons why it generally isn't done, so it's baffling why anyone would continue to give weight to the squishier, psychologized theories.
posted by echocollate at 3:14 PM on March 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Then why in the world aren't we talking about that – which is quite obviously the point of the essay – instead of this endless parade of "NOPE NOPE NOPE, WOMAN IS WRONG!" comments?

I think it's probably just not a very good article to open that sort of conservation with. Largely because it partakes in the same mythologising of testicular sensitivity that it seeks to analyse. This may be why many men are reacting so badly to it. Getting hit in the balls really fucking hurts, but it is not a magic way to win a fight, even if you manage to pull it off. Yet the author treats it as if it is. The author also fails to consider the gender construction of violence in any serious way, but then goes on to often a rather tenuous construction of one specific aspect of it. The article doesn't engage in anywhere near enough analysis to be anything but glib. You could probably make a form of this argument in a persuasive and interesting way, but it would take a lot more thought and work than this article exhibits.

People are just reacting to what's there, basically.
posted by howfar at 3:15 PM on March 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Well, people are certainly allowed to disagree. I'll let it go, anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 3:24 PM on March 14, 2015


"Why don't men kick each other in the balls?"

One answer might be that, in the context of mating contests, ball-kicking could lead to higher rates of infanticide:
Previous research has shown that infanticide by males is widespread in many mammal species, but most commonly occurs in those species where females live in social groups dominated by one or a few males.

Outsiders will fight dominant males for access to the females. When a rival male takes over a group, they will kill the infants of previously dominant males to render the females 'sexually receptive' again, so that they can sire their own offspring. This may be the main cause of infant mortality in some species, such as Chacma baboons.

Now, a new study published today in the journal Science shows that these brutal acts are strategic; males may only have a short time in charge before they themselves are deposed, and want to ensure the maternal investment of females is directed towards their own future offspring for the longest time possible.

However, the females of some species -- such as the mouse lemur -- have evolved a highly-effective counter-strategy to stop males from killing their offspring: by having as many mates as possible in a short amount of time. By confusing the paternity of the infants, known as 'paternity dilution', any male act of infanticide risks the possibility of killing his own offspring.

In such species, reproductive competition shifts to after copulation, not before -- so that the most successful male is the one whose sperm outcompetes those of the others. This leads to males producing ever larger quantities of sperm, leading in turn to increases in testis size. The testes of male mouse lemurs swell 5-10 times larger during the breeding season.

"In species in which infanticide occurs, testis size increases over generations, suggesting that females are more and more promiscuous to confuse paternity," said lead author Dr Dieter Lukas, from University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology.

"Once sperm competition has become so intense that no male can be certain of his own paternity, infanticide disappears -- since males face the risk of killing their own offspring, and might not get the benefit of siring the next offspring."

Closely related species that differ in infanticide and testes size include chimpanzees (males commit infanticide) versus bonobos (males have not been observed to kill offspring). Bonobos have testes that are roughly 15% larger than those of chimpanzees.
Because bigger testicles are far more vulnerable to kicking than smaller ones, and if kicking testicles were to be a prime strategy, it would lead, all other factors being equal, to men with smaller testicles having an advantage, and that in turn would lead to selection against large testes, which would reduce sperm competition and cause rates of infanticide to go up.

This view may have problems -- what about llamas, for example, which seem to have big testes but also appear to have teeth specialized to bite off the testicles of opponents? -- and applying it to human beings would be very tricky at best.
posted by jamjam at 3:32 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The only aspect of the article which can be salvaged from the article is the fact that it is generally forbidden to kick one another in the balls, and that there exists a cluster of various qualities around this social opprobrium.

Study of these qualities cannot proceed until we disabuse ourselves of some factually incorrect ideas people apparently have about being kicked in the balls, such as:

- the idea that ball-kicking is itself unique, or uniquely ubiquitous, as being a proscribed "move"
- the idea that ball-kicking is generally a good fighting technique
- the idea if ball-kicking were allowed, men would just be covering their balls all the time
- the idea that being kicked in the balls is a sort of "off switch" for a man
- the idea that being kicked in the balls simply causes blinding pain, with no other risk of lasting injury
- the idea that injuries to the testicles are not substantively different from other sorts of injuries
- the idea that all fights come down to the desire to inflict the most pain or damage

To the extent that we want to situate ball-kicking in the world of the rules about fights, we must also address the fact that prohibitions against ball-kicking against alongside a surprisingly long list of prohibitions. We also must address the fact that being kicked in the balls is a frequent source of comedy, in a way that eye-gouging or broken fingers generally are not. And of course there are many other things to consider besides.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:35 PM on March 14, 2015 [19 favorites]


whether there's anything salvageable in the article's premise

Yeah, I think this the main issue here, namely there's not a lot of there there. The author thinks the rule against groin hitting is about hiding that males bodies are weak. Along the way she makes a laundry list of half thought out errors, so it makes me wonder if there's anything at all to this premise.

One of the reasons this post irritated me so much is that I read it while my 43 year old, type II diabetic ass was recovering from a cardio session after a too long absence from the gym. Pretty much all the friends my age are aware of how weak the human body can is, be they male or female. So it sounded like the author was talking about a specific demographic of men, even though she was using the term in the general sense. While doing a terrible job of it.

The other reason was just the sloppy thought process.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:35 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter: teeth specialized to bite off the testicles of opponents
posted by neroli at 3:36 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


On a cheerier note, in the terrible film Jason Goes to Hell, there's a really weird running thing where a "bad-ass" named Creighton Duke keeps breaking people's fingers. At one point, he appears to accept it as a form of payment. It's super weird, and you just know that the filmmakers were utterly convinced that this guy was going to be the new Snake Plissken.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:38 PM on March 14, 2015


It is really hard to land a blow to the testicles. No one who's fought me sincerely (as opposed to sparring) has avoided going for that shot, but even an untrained fighter can block it pretty easily. You pretty much have to stand completely still and wait for it to get hit there. Closing the thighs or twisting the hips will block it. Heck I was in a ground fight once and someone tried to punch me there and couldn't connect.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:41 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


i once did Larp, or a subgenre of larp known as "dragonheir" or something similar. it was basically an all combat version of larping. Foam swords/hammers/etc. Anyway, the last time I went I was hit in the balls with a tennis-ball tipped arrow from the only archer. Lots of pain. Probably incapacitated for 10 minutes. Decided not to go back after that.
posted by hellojed at 3:58 PM on March 14, 2015


We also must address the fact that being kicked in the balls is a frequent source of comedy, in a way that eye-gouging or broken fingers generally are not.

This would appear to significantly undermine the author's thesis, or at very least call for significant exploration and explanation. If "no nut shots" is really intended to preserve the myth of male invulnerability, why is the "devastating power of the nut shot" so frequently depicted in entertainment? Maybe there's a reason for this apparent inconsistency which preserves the author's thesis, but it would require a much more nuanced and thorough presentation than this piece offers.
posted by howfar at 4:05 PM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Googling groin shots in movies definitely show groin shots are a thing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:19 PM on March 14, 2015


By the way, I have it on a good authority that a kick delivered to a woman's pudendum is as debilitating as a kick to a man's nuts.

I'm female. I was accidentally kicked in the groin once as a girl. I don't even recall by whom or what happened exactly. I went down much like my brother did anytime he got hit in the nuts. Yes, it hurt like hell and was debilitating.

Also, I don't see why this needs a complicated explanation. "We don't want to be kicked in the nuts, so we don't do it to others" seems like an excellent Occam's Razor kind of explanation. It's a form of social contract.
posted by Michele in California at 4:29 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is really hard to land a blow to the testicles

Back when I was younger, I've seen and been in some fights that involved ball kicks. They usually didn't end up well- in one case with the kickeee holding onto the kickers foot and forcing him to hop backwards until he fell over. On the other hand, one time it did give a guy pause long enough for the kicker to get a good running start.

It's also worth pointing out that as far as being prohibited goes, one of the basic kicks I learned in karate was the snap kick- which is obviously designed to be a kick in the crotch. A lot of katas also used that maneuver. It's just that if you really want to hurt and cripple a person, you're better off with other targets.
posted by happyroach at 4:33 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the biggest mistake she makes is to posit that groin shots are outlawed more frequently than several other types of fouls. She is incorrect about this. For instance, while modern MMA has many fouls including a prohibition against groin shots, the original UFC only had two: eye-gouging and biting. Groin shots were allowed. They were also allowed in vale tudo, resulting in this infamous match.

They were also permitted in the famous southern rough-and-tumble fights that became known as eye-gougers. I don't think that groin shots are prohibited at a rate greater than, say, fish-hooking, which is banned mostly because it's really painful.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:34 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: crush all the balls
posted by CynicalKnight at 4:54 PM on March 14, 2015


sciatrix: "And biting is at least as likely to be ineffective at non-close quarters as testicle kicks, now I think of it, too..."

Except for that one fight when I had to bite a guy in the groin area...
posted by Samizdata at 5:16 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, I was getting out of a small plane and fell with my full body weight on the doorjamb, one leg out and one leg in, thus delivering myself a good hard sharp crotch shot. I don't think it hurts women as much, because I didn't need to go to the hospital and I don't think I even got icepacks. But I was nauseated and breathless and blinded by the pain. Just a datapoint.
posted by gingerest at 5:20 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's my purse! I don't know you!

I really wish I hadn't been drinking a glass of Pepsi when I clicked this. My main keyboard is unplugged and hanging up to dry as I type- the spray pattern across the monitor resembled a Mandelbrot set.
posted by The Zeroth Law at 5:39 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


But I was nauseated and breathless and blinded by the pain.

That 's pretty much how i'd describe a groin shot. It annihilates the self for a few, you are nothing but pain.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:42 PM on March 14, 2015


Why don't we kick each other in the nuts?

Because:
"Not cool, dude, not cool."

(Translate to your local patois as appropriate)
posted by madajb at 5:55 PM on March 14, 2015


The best way to describe getting hit in the testicles I've found is this:

Imagine your genital area trying to crawl its way up into your lower abdomen with pitons and ropes made of pain and nausea. Meanwhile, the rest of your body is unsure as to whether it wants to vomit or violently shit itself or both.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:59 PM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Every time i've been seriously hit in the nuts, I've just ended up in the fetal position until the pain and nausea have faded.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:10 PM on March 14, 2015


Also it sort of feels like the reverse of a fart

Like imagine a bunch of farts being put back in
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:12 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


As far as I can tell, the only objection anybody's offered to this piece has been 'but it really, really hurts!' – an argument which, as far as I can tell, she dealt with pretty handily. Am I wrong about that?

You are, though of course guys here are taking it too personally. Look, any possible explanation on this topic is going to be 100% about patriarchy. I have no argument with that. But there's a patriarchial justification right there on the surface of what you learn as a boy - "a real man fights fair." A fight is supposed to be won by a display of masculine strength and skill - or lost despite a good, male-role-rule-abiding dignified attempt. I think conceptually the inversion Wade tries do - the suggestion that the aversion to testicular attacks is really about avoiding a display of masculine weakness - is clever. But she kind of just skips to this "twist" without making any real attempt to explore what the conventional male perspectives mean or address why groin shots are different from eye gouging or biting or other "unsporting," un-masculine fighting techniques. It's just kind of a glib take on an area of masculinity that would be pretty interesting to take apart more carefully. Which may be all she meant, and if she meant it as an intentional tweak of the male ego it's been more than successful. But taken seriously as an argument it's unconvincing.
posted by atoxyl at 6:15 PM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


The last time when I got into a fight, many, many years ago I, a child, fought to kill. I was deliberately trying to blind my enemy and when he realized this, he panicked, messed himself and managed to fight me off and run.

I am horrified by this memory. I am not that scared, lonely child that thought "kill or be killed" is the only option. But I still remember my terror, my rage in that moment, when I would do anything to destroy my tormentor. This is why bullying must stop. It turns decent kids, like I was, into monsters.
posted by SPrintF at 7:01 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


*visits Metafilter for the first time today, discovers thread about nuts-kicking with 185 comments already* I love you guys.
posted by Melismata at 7:18 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


The official theme song of the thread, by MeFi's own mediocre.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:31 PM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm not a fighter. I've worked with some guys who were fighters. One guy who was what I thought was a fairly credible street fighter said: "9 out of 10 times, if you kick him right in the balls, he'll just fall over; but the 1 in 10 who doesn't: he will kill you." So that's Statistics, kinda loosely interpreted. Don't ask me for sample data, etc.
posted by ovvl at 7:42 PM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Here's another way of putting this.

Punched in the face : insult :: kicked in the nuts : burning down your fucking house
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:11 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was always told you don't kick another man in the nuts because "it's just something you don't do".

I got into quite a number of fights when I was in a hardcore straight edge crew, and some of these involved weapons. I got very hurt, my friends got very hurt, and the other people got very hurt. There were a lot of fights at hardcore shows or immediately after hardcore shows. Because of these experiences, which are firmly rooted in toxic masculinity and a weird sense of territory/ownership/alliances with bands, I've developed an extreme anxiety about fighting that basically tells me that I have to do whatever I can in order to shut a threat down. This mostly comes from me being a skinny guy and having much larger people beat the shit out of me. I have gotten concussions at shows and been bashed in the face with a baseball bat, and for a period of time carried a collapsible baton with me because I was scared to walk anywhere alone. I chalk it up to being a dumb teenager who wanted to belong and do crazy shit with my friends, but idk what the huge motherfuckers who were many years older than me were thinking as they beat down a 17-year-old kid.

Go watch Boston Beatdown, I'm pretty sure it's on YouTube. It's about the Boston hardcore scene and is a bit more extreme than what I was part of, but similar enough. There is a lot of footage in that and I don't think anyone gets kicked in the nuts. Those guys are idiots, as was I. Fighting sucks.
posted by gucci mane at 8:22 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Why don't men kick each other in the balls?"

What, like, as a greeting?
posted by dirigibleman at 8:57 PM on March 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Got hit HARD in the balls once. No interest in kicking someone there. I still cannot articulate why I wouldn't kick someone there to win a fight, but I wouldn't.
posted by 724A at 9:18 PM on March 14, 2015


First rule of wing chun
Protect the groin
Second rule
Incapacitate opponent in 2.3 seconds

That's it.
posted by clavdivs at 10:13 PM on March 14, 2015


I think that when people ask why dirty fighting/the nuclear option isn't used right from the start of a conflict, it's because they have misunderstood when a conflict starts, and that there is an implicit assumption that those involved in the conflict will still be around and interacting in some form when the conflict is over. The conflict starts when the status/dominance question is first brought up not when the first punch is thrown. It is possible for the conflict to be resolved without violence. And there is a kind of high status masculinity in being able to settle these questions with the least amount of effort possible/necessary. Also, if both sides are going to have to deal with each other when the conflict is over it doesn't make a lot of sense to do any more damage than you have to, if only to minimize what you might have to deal with in terms of reprisals down the line. Which is part of why there is a stigma associated with throwing the first punch.

None of this is true for all times, places and conflicts. But being able to figure this stuff out is in and of itself a status/dominance marker. That said, the best analogy I can come up with is asking why you don't start with fighting dirty is like asking why countries don't weaponize small pox and use it on their enemies. Yeah you might win, but few people will want to talk to you when it's over, and the next time there is conflict it's weaponized plagues for everyone.
posted by Meeks Ormand at 11:21 PM on March 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've trained my Boy to do his worst if anybody grabs him...

That's Entertainment. Paul Weller agrees.

...and that there is no such thing as a fair fight. These sports improve no viewer.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:00 AM on March 15, 2015


Simple schoolyard reasoning: going for the balls was strictly a girl's move. A move the girls were universally allowed to make on the assumption that there was no possibility of a "fair fight" in a boy /girl matchup.

it was acknowledged that some fights between boys were not going to be fair, so boys policed for " dirty fighting" instead. This included chasing the stronger boy off if he was still attacking after winning.

So, If a boy went for "the rupture" move that boy would never ever live it down. Schoolyard status would heal with time if you lost a fight without running away, but never if you kicked the nuts. Boys and girls would shun that poor boy.

There may be a Kantian imperative at play also, but I'm skeptical because then we would never have heard the "wat's the Capitol of Thailand?" joke....
posted by drowsy at 6:51 AM on March 15, 2015


Got beat to posting dick punching previously on Metafilter. 😢
posted by anthill at 9:19 AM on March 15, 2015


Eyes. Eyes are totally off limits in "fair" fights, even the kind where people are trying to hurt each other.

The thumb or forked finger jab to the eyes was among my go-to moves back in the day--it's a rare technique, and usually unexpected, so they don't make a point of defending it. Some people in this thread obviously are trained, so they may support my statement that basic stances cover certain grounds, and imply certain moves. Stand-up punching, you try to keep your chin level or below your leading shoulder, for example, and your lead elbow over the ribs. Southpaws make conventional fighters train especially for their attacks, because they are vulnerable to a right cross. The science here is in commanding the tempo of an attack, so that your opponent shifts his defense in predictable ways, leaving him vulnerable in one critical area long enough for you to nail him. Stuff like that. You train with combinations, and try to come up with a sequence he doesn't expect. Grapplers use a different theory, designed to get them in close, so they can practice their flavor of the day, usually a bone-lock or choke, or else mount a ride designed to tire the guy out so they can beat the shit out of him.

An untrained fighter who gets into a street fight is a fool on several levels, one being that he hasn't any way to assess the nature of what's about to befall him. By the time it becomes clear it may be too late. This is where the knife to the fistfight analogy comes into play. Even though your opponent has no knife, he may have just the right amount of training to nail you, but not enough to hurt you without damaging you. Or you may be facing a psychopath out for his evening stroll.

But, yeah, in fair fights eyes and nutsacks are off limits. The assumption that a fight will be fair is sort of naïve, unless you have already come to an agreement that there will be rules, and that among them you will be allowed to yield when you can't effectively continue. This brings up a point that I believe Wade was trying to make. Maybe you can trace this idea back to medieval times, when knights of old ran rampant and bold, and chivalry begot rules where common sense was lacking: "Some things are just not done by civilized people." I used to like the romantic view of fighting that I held in junior high school. Win or lose, I was the good guy and a shiner was a small price to pay for (largely imaginary) glory. I was sort of shortish, so when I won I was a giantkiller, and when I lost I was a downtrodden hero. All this was good so long as I was perceived to be the guy who didn't start the fight. I got fairly adept at that part, too. It was all part of the game.

Some commenters here have mentioned that the nut strike is not always a reliable move to take a person down. I agree. Neither is the eye jab. Some people are very hard to stop by inflicting pain. These folks must actually be damaged in a way that makes it hard for them to attack you. Broken stuff, for example. A person's reaction to pain is complex. Pain bothers some people more than others (perhaps because that's the way their chemistry works), but most fighters can learn to raise their pain threshold through training, and recalibrate their expectations about how they may react to a punch.

BTW, I enthusiastically will distinguish between a clean snap kick to the nuts and the painful, if accidental bump inflicted by a romantic partner. The proper analogy would be scratching an itch to ripping off your skin in wide strips.

So, kicking to the nuts: It's wrong only if it's not right.
posted by mule98J at 9:43 AM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


The thumb or forked finger jab to the eyes was among my go-to moves back in the day--it's a rare technique, and usually unexpected, so they don't make a point of defending it.


I had no idea Moe Howard was a Mefite.
posted by The Gooch at 12:30 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is so universal it is probably a species survival trait. Winning the fight makes one the dominant male in the situation, but if all losers are rendered sterile, then our species loses hybrid vigor. Since most humans male and female are in a fight at least once, it would devastate our populations if we didn't have this taboo ingrained.
posted by Oyéah at 12:57 PM on March 15, 2015


I am disappoint. Three hours and nobody has thought to post the cliche, this article is a load of bollocks.

I haven't had the misfortune to experience borstal or prison, but I have it on good authority that a flick to the nads is a common way to exert dominance in a heavily surveiled location. It is also used on dancefloors by arseholes who want to start trouble/get other men away from their target female and people who want to create aggravation in a crowded club or bar. So, I don't agree with the suggestion that this attack is out of bounds for people who want to exert masculine dominance. It's just nasty.

This reminds me. if you want to attack a man's testicles you should distract them in some way because there is an ingrained flinch reaction to avoid damage to the testicles.

For instance if you are a psycho and bored at a busy bar, you will find that most people are not protecting their nads as they are holding a beer in their hand. Walk through the crowd flicking people in the nuts until you get someone to throw their beer on some one else. If it isn't the first person you sting, there will be a trail of angry people looking around for someone to blame for their discomfort, all angry and suddenly full of adrenaline. The likelihood that there will be a fight is very high. Stand back and enjoy the sight of a formerly happy bunch of people now upset and violent.

Pretty much the same as the Begbie approach to disruption, but more intimate.
posted by asok at 3:09 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Professor Vincent Jones has some empirical evidence which contradicts this articles central thesis.
posted by howfar at 3:27 PM on March 15, 2015


Remind me not to go bar hopping with asok.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:32 PM on March 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


It turns out that Man Getting Hit By Football really does work on so many levels...
posted by um at 3:55 PM on March 15, 2015


My husband openly admits that during his tenure as a boy and man who got into fights (middle school through college), he always went for the balls (except for his first fight, where he pulled down Marky Finnegan's sweatpants down as a diversion instead) and he always won. This, despite hitting his dad in the balls once as a wee lad when they wrestled. His dad, doubled over in pain, wheezed, "You never do that to anyone!" My husband figured he shouldn't hit his dad in the balls but realized it would be a pretty good way to win in a fight.

He said he's never been hit in the balls, but wonders why no one did, because maybe then they would have won the fights.

I told him about this thread, and the claims that ball hitting is ineffective or hard to do and, more, considered bad form, and he just laughed and said, "What, should we start off at ten paces, too?"

As a lady, I was taught to go for the eyes, knees, groin and throat, in that order. There's something interesting in that to me, that the ladylike method of fighting is the one that's more violent and perhaps immediately effective but then there's the idea that women are more vulnerable, I guess.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:47 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


My problems with the article (and with many, many articles) are that (1) it takes a whole bunch of different phenomena and groups them as a single thing, and (2) it then tries to come up with some single reason that encompasses all of it. Like "Why do electronic appliances make toast? I believe it is because people like peach melba jam" Well, yes, some appliances make toast, but others refrigerate food, or cook rice, or wash clothes. And some people make toast to put melba jam on, but other people just put butter on it, and others use it in pizza toast.

And then, on top of that, she provides no evidence for one of her main contentions, "When a man hits below the belt, he is revealing to everyone present that masculinity is a fiction", she uses quotes as evidence despite the quotes not relating to what she's saying ("That’s why one guy said: “For ‘alpha male’ fights, nut shots are just wrong.”" ...That's why he said that? If he said something that indicated that that's why he said that, then why not quote the actual part that serves as evidence for your contention?).

And she says kinda mystifying things: "So, men generally agree to pretend that the balls just aren’t there. The effect is that we tend to forget just how vulnerable men are to the right attack and continue to think of women as naturally more fragile." We do? We forget about that? In karate class, ball-kicking is forbidden in sparring, but we practice it in basic training. Before I even started karate I taught my kids that if some scary adult guy assaults them, the best idea is (1) scream and run, or, if you unable to scream and run, because he's got a hold of you or something, (2) scream, kick him in the nuts, and run. And, in fact, there was an assault nearby, and my son's classmate was choked by some guy in a park. The kid kicked the guy in the nuts, causing him to loosen his grip, and then the kid ran away.

So, I didn't forget about kicking in the nuts. My karate teacher hasn't forgotten about kicking in the nuts. The parents of the kid who got attacked didn't forget about kicking in the nuts. So who is it that is "forget(ing) just how vulnerable men are to the right attack"?

Sorry, so, going back to the "grouping disparate phenomena" bit, I think you could reach some interesting conclusions by looking at why ball-kicks are not used in specific situations. For experienced fighters, for example, the answer might be "Too easy to block, and may incite the opponent instead of slowing them down". In schoolyard fights, it might be "Don't want to escalate the fight to 'trying to cause serious lasting damage' (not that ball-kicking will necessarily do this, but it may, as above, escalate the fight so that the previously punching opponent is now a trying-to-gouge-your-eyes-out opponent)", or it might be "it's against the unspoken rules of fair-fighting, which probably trace back to duels and chivalrous fights and all that gentlemanly combat stuff of yore". For asshole adult brawlers, it may be "it's too effective, so if I use it it makes it look like I couldn't win a fight any other way, making me look less manly, and fighting is more about showing off masculinity than anything else". For people like me (and, I suspect, a lot of adult mefites who have little or no fighting history beyond gradeschool), it may be "What do you mean, 'why wouldn't you kick someone in the nuts'? If someone attacked me, I'd totally kick them in the nuts!! I don't want to get fucking killed or show off my manliness, I want to get out of there! Kick them in the nuts and then run like hell!!"

So the basic question ("Why don't men kick each other in the balls?") seems like begging the question (in the old-school sense of "begging the question"), and then even when the question applies, the answer probably varies significantly by scenario. It would be interesting to focus on one of these specific areas, but at this level it's like "Why don't people wear blue?"
posted by Bugbread at 6:17 PM on March 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


The pain is similar to passing your first kidney stone. Only kidney stones take a lot longer. So drink more water!
posted by mdoar at 6:33 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Next up: Why don't alpha lions rip other males to shreds when they are contested? It proves they are afraid of having their lionhood challenged!

What a bullshit hack.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:47 PM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Even though this thread has reached over 200 comments, the more I think about it, the psychology behind why nut shots are considered taboo in fights between men is pretty well illustrated in the second comment in this thread, which features a clip of Jon Stewart's recent appearance on WWE RAW. In the clip, Stewart is portrayed as very wimpy as compared to the wrestler he is confronting, Seth Rollins. He acts scared, he backs away, he sounds nervous, he tries to talk his way out of a physical confrontation. The clip culminates in Stewart kicking Rollins in the balls while he (Rollins) is distracted by the appearance of another wrestler.

The symbolism of the scene is pretty obvious: Stewart is clearly less tough, less macho, less manly than the wrestler he is confronting. Stewart uses a nut shot because it is the only option available to him as a weaker guy who would not stand a chance against Rollins in a typical fistfight. It is a move that he has to use out of desperation as the wimpier guy in the fight. Nobody who watches that clip is supposed to think, "Stewart is tougher than I thought - he really got the better out of that wrestler", they are supposed to think the opposite, that the only chance Stewart had to get out of there without getting his butt kicked was to resort to a cheap tactic that men aren't supposed to have to use.
posted by The Gooch at 8:44 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think ideas of toughness and masculinity are more complex than that, and that they always have been. At the most obvious and archetypal level in Western culture, it is Odysseus the cunning, the man of twists and turns, not Achilles the invulnerable and raging, who wins victory at Troy, and through the lowest of blows imaginable.

Patriarchy has not sustained itself through millennia merely by employing crude notions of the "tough guy". Patriarchy is much more insidious than simple gender policing and ideas of machismo. If we intend to dismantle it (and I, for one, hope to do my part as best I can) we need to analyse it accurately and in its true complexity.
posted by howfar at 12:58 PM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Pro-wresting is probably a really good lens to analyze the display aspects of fighting, since it is a pure distilled scripted performance of it minus all intent to injure or do any real damage and where the greatest winners end up those who consistently impress the crowd the most. That does make it a somewhat simplistic lens for real life disputes, but that was a really insightful comment The Gooch.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:11 PM on March 16, 2015


Lol
posted by clavdivs at 8:09 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think ideas of toughness and masculinity are more complex than that, and that they always have been.

Absolutely.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:16 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


In elementary school a friend kicked me (cis girl) in the crotch on the playground. I whited out, the wind was knocked out of me, I rolled around on the ground in the most horrible pain. I couldn't breathe or think and when I eventually got up I was limping for the afternoon, with cramps in my stomach similar to what I'd later recognize as menstrual pain. Prior to that I had known that kicking boys in the crotch was bad. Since then I figure if that's similar to what getting kicked in the balls is like, it must be truly awful.

Interesting side note: every male I have ever told that story to insists that [cis] women just do not understand and that getting kicked in the crotch just hurts more for [cis] guys, even when I describe how horrible it was for me. Yet, when pressed, none of them could say how exactly they know that it's more painful. Obviously testicles are more vulnerable, ie you could hit them more easily than kicking someone in the box. But I think what they mean is, men's pain is more important/real to them.

I know several other women who have been kicked in the crotch and describe it as just as horrible as it was for me. And yet, it hurts worse for guys. Oh and period cramps are all in your head.
posted by SassHat at 2:05 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


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