A long time ago, there were men roaming the Earth in the same era as the Saber-toothed Tiger. Basically a tiger on steroids, man would want to avoid this beast at all costs. The tiger was larger, stronger, and better equipped at killing than man. Because of this power dynamic, man had a natural respect for the tiger. They coexisted in the same environment, often sharing similar food sources. Man would scavenge meat from leftover tiger kills. The tiger always had the right of way, and should a confrontation ensue, man was most often killed by the tiger. Man’s most basic instinct is that of self-preservation, and he would avoid confrontation with the tiger in order to preserve his life.

This same power dynamic exists between other animals. Lion > Hyena > Gazelle. Animals will always concede ground to their more powerful and dangerous counterparts in an effort to stay alive. They co-exist in the same areas, but an animal doesn’t dare provoke one higher than itself in the hierarchy. It’s one of the basic laws of nature.

The Human Dynamic

While the power dynamic is still very much present in humans, the relationship dynamic also carries equal weight. Humans can willingly repress their violent nature because they desire relationships with other humans. If you killed your best friend when you had a disagreement, you wouldn’t have any friends left. If you killed your sexual partner when they displeased you, you would have to go hunting for a new one. Your gut natural instinct may tell you to jump to violence, but our brains are incredibly powerful, and give us willpower—the ability to restrain our natural instincts in order to produce a more positive outcome. This is the driving characteristic that separates us from most of the animal kingdom.

Man vs. Man

Just like in the animal world, there is a natural power dynamic between men when it comes to physical violence and the ability to kill. In addition to our natural abilities, the evolution of weaponry has helped skew the natural order. Guy With Gun > NFL Linebacker > Gym Rat > Average Guy > Hipster > 8 Year Old Boy. As a general rule, it is not a good idea to provoke anyone higher than yourself in this hierarchy, as the potential for it to turn violent could conflict with your need for self-preservation. There are laws in place that try to minimize the confrontation between different levels, but we all know that humans don’t always obey those laws.

This internal battle to abstain from violence is constantly in flux and, especially in men, the end result can come out anywhere on the spectrum. There are men in jail for murdering other men. There are men who are completely passive, and have never been in a fight in their lives. The more common scenario lies somewhere in the middle ground, where small amounts of violence are still used when men need to be reminded of the natural power dynamic.

Walk into any bar in the South, go up to a big redneck, and tell him his girl is an ugly cunt. I guarantee you’ll be hit right in the face. A good old-fashioned fist fight is one of the ways men communicate. Up until recently it was perfectly acceptable to drag somebody outside and whip their ass because they “needed to be taught a lesson.”

That “lesson” is simply a reminder of the natural power dynamic. The more powerful man is constantly suppressing his natural tendency for violence as a benefit to those around him. This requires a great deal of effort and patience. The moment the lesser man forgets this, he needs a reminder, and receives it in the form of a knuckle sandwich. Most of the time, the point is taken and the confrontation ends.

Man vs. Woman

Although I understand that Ronda Rousey could kick my ass, the natural power dynamic between men and women is hard to contest. The average man is more powerful and prone to violence than the average woman. It goes back to our early roles in human history—men fight the battles and kill for food; women give birth and nurture babies. For most of human history this was fully understood by both sexes. Since men appreciated women (for their sexual pleasure, for raising children, etc.), they desired a continuous relationship with women. Understanding that women were the weaker sex, men took extra care not to be violent with women, as it was beneficial to their mutual relationship.

This is where the old saying “real men don’t hit women” originated. The key to this being true at the time was that in turn, women were respectful to men. They did not provoke men, as they knew they would be on the losing end of a physical confrontation. They appreciated men’s ability to repress their violent nature in the name of a beneficial relationship between the two parties. They also understood the need for man’s violent nature. It is this nature that provides safety and security. It’s why “women and children first” was always the motto. It’s why men fought the bad guys. Women understood the balance between having a man violent enough to provide security and not too violent as to cause her harm.

Enter Feminism

One of feminism’s main goals has been to take the violent nature out of men. Even in young children, boys in school are reprimanded for even the smallest acts of violence—holding a toy like a gun, drawing a violent picture, or pushing other kids down on the playground. In grown men, acts like grabbing a woman’s wrist in the heat of an argument became full-on physical assault. When we stopped touching them completely, they came up with “emotional abuse.” They have tried to label any negative reaction a man has to a woman’s behavior as abuse.

Simultaneously, they have lost all respect for men. Today’s women feel that they can say and do anything to a man, yet he should not be able to respond. She can yell and scream all she wants, but if he raises his voice above hers, it is emotional abuse. If she slaps, punches, or bites him and he hits back, it is physical abuse. The problem with this concept is that the definition of abuse is dependent on the hierarchy of the power dynamic. It is only abuse because He is physically stronger than She. It’s not abuse because She isn’t really capable of physically hurting Him. Abuse can only go from higher to lower in the power dynamic.

Here lies the hypocritical flaw in today’s perception of domestic violence: Women want the benefit of the natural power dynamic without any of the consequences. They want the men to protect them. They want to be able to cry abuse when they are subjected to violence. Yet they do not want to acknowledge the power dynamic and respect someone with greater physical strength. They want to be able to provoke a man to his breaking point, yet have the man restrain all natural physical reactions.

And you know what? They’ve got it. That is how the western world works today, for the most part. Most men don’t hit women. Most men will deal with a woman screaming at them and simply do not react— they work to suppress the anger. It isn’t because we respect women, or don’t have the violent urges anymore. It’s because we don’t want to go to jail. But every now and then, Ray Rice hits back, and the world loses its mind.

Janay Rice wasn’t sitting on the couch minding her own business when Ray walked up and punched her in the face. Rihanna wasn’t making pancakes when Chris Brown walked in the kitchen and slapped the shit out of her. Violence is rarely unprovoked. It’s a natural reaction to being pushed to your breaking point. I’m not condoning domestic violence or hitting women. In fact, in both the cases above, the man’s violence was awful and incredibly disproportionate to the level of force or arguing that the women were using. However, if you slap a tiger in the face, don’t be surprised when it eats you. That’s just common sense. Maybe you should learn to respect the Tiger a little more.

Read More: Violence Is A Means To An End, Not A Coming Of Age Ritual