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    • CommentTimeJul 14th 2010

    Female warriors abound in fantasy, yet historically men have been the warriors in most societies. This made me wonder, do men make better warriors than women? Men do tend to be physically stronger and have a higher tolerance for pain than women, which are advantageous to being a warrior. Do women have their own physical and/or mental advantages that could help in being a warrior?


    have a higher tolerance for pain than women

    Do you have some kind of scientific evidence for this?

    The obvious answer for why men typically did the fighting is because childbearing was too valuable an ability in societies with low life expectancies to throw away in combat. Losing lots of your women will have serious consequences on your overall birthrate. Losing lots of your men can be worked around, since one man can impregnate multiple females.

    • CommentTimeJul 14th 2010

    Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure that women have more nerve endings than men, which leads to more pain overall. They aren’t necessarily weaker to it, but men and women just feel it differently. Of course, there’s adrenaline and whatnot that goes through fighters, which could partially negate these effects in the same way that childbirth does.

    That being said, I think it depends on the specific fantasy world, and the society as Sansafro mentioned. I don’t think women would be any worse as warriors, necessarily, as being a medieval soldier isn’t all about how huge and muscled you are.


    I have actually been considering this issue as of late with one of my magical societies. They have a rather small population, and so the women are furiously trying to get more and more babies out, but on the other hand, they are fighting a war, in which having a larger force would be helpful. Do the women fight? At this point, it wouldn’t make sense, at least, not for those of childbearing age. Maybe the infertile or those who can no longer have children? In terms of magic, there is really no better or worse between the sexes, so in that sense, women are just as useful as men on the battlefield.



    Do you have some kind of scientific evidence for this?

    Quite a bit, actually.


    Fair enough. In my experience, though, pain tolerance is primarily psychological(pain tolerance and amount of pain felt being distinct traits), and therefore, at least somewhat a function of culture. Basically what I’m saying is that if a woman is raised to be a badass, she’ll be a badass.

    She’ll always be an inferior sprinter to a man of the same relative physical condition, though, thanks to hip angle.

    That and men produce more testerone which means higher aggression and more potential for muscle building. Men are generally taller as well which means a longer reach. Also, men don't menstruate and can't get pregnant (If we're talking up until now that is) and if a female warrior was captured by people who didn't have a problem with rape. . .

    Now that being said if you wan't female warriors that's fine. They had them in history and there's no reason why you can't have them in your story.
    • CommentTimeJul 14th 2010 edited

    There’s also the general theory that men evolved to be hunters (and therefore more bloodthirsty/stronger/faster/better at hunting) while women evolved for childbearing, social-norms-upholding and foraging for fruits and nuts and such.

    There’s definitely sociocultural and psychological factors in the equation, but purely on a biological basis men are generally better-developed to be warriors and soldiers (and hunters) while women are better as, say, teachers, priests, potters, weavers, artists/storytellers and the like (like foraging for hours to find edible roots or grubs). Things that require concentration on small details for an extended time.

    Also regarding the pain thing, I thought it was that women have a higher tolerance for pain than men, but men are able to shrug it off or ignore the pain for longer (and starting with smaller amounts of pain). Like how a guy can cut himself somewhere and not notice, but a woman can stumb a toe and be in tears; BUT a woman can give birth to an 8 or 9 pound baby while a guy screams because of a syringe to the spine. Basically, men can shrug off the small day-to-day injuries, but women can tolerate more extreme levels of pain.

    Does that make sense?


    That’s very interesting, Taku. I never knew that, and I might end up incorporating that information in some way. Thanks. :)

    • CommentTimeJul 15th 2010

    Yes. Yes it is.


    Losing lots of your men can be worked around, since one man can impregnate multiple females.

    Assuming the females are okay with this idea…

    As for whether or not women warriors are plausible, go Google ‘women warriors in history’ and you’ll see that there have been quite a few. Archeology also suggests that the Amazons existed.

    I would say that a woman trying to fight would have some difficulties against her that men wouldn’t have, and I would suggest showing these if you write about them (trying to appear as non-sexist as possible, of course :) ), but I wouldn’t say that it was impossible for a woman to do so.

    • CommentTimeJul 20th 2010

    It depends a lot on the way the societies go about combat. In general, women make poor brawlers, but if magic is involved in fighting the military probably wouldn’t care about upper body strength so much. Just make sure that women have roles in combat that make sense.

    That said, anything is possible. I think it’s most important to understand that being an effective fighter requires physically. If you’re built like an ox, it doesn’t particularly matter whether you’re a guy or a girl, but if your character is coming out of grand melees alive there must be a good explanation, especially if she has the “slender plus boobs” build that’s only practical in the male imagination.

    • CommentAuthorRocky
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2010
    bq. Basically, men can shrug off the small day-to-day injuries, but women can tolerate more extreme levels of pain.

    I'm not sure if that's necessarily true, at least for a majority of circumstances. I've heard second-hand accounts of military guys finishing a PT competition with a broken ankle. Or, more recently, there was a cyclist in the Tour de France who rode I don't remember how many miles with a broken wrist. Personally, I think both genders have a near-equal capacity to endure pain over long periods. That sort of thing comes down to the psychological approach, and for something like childbirth, I think maternal instincts kick in and in a very powerful way.


    That’s why I’m telling y’all, unless your brain actually shuts down from pain overload, pain tolerance is a function of the mind, and the mind belongs to the individual.

      CommentAuthorthat girl
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2010
    I know some girls that if you met them you would not be questioning if there were female warriors.
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2010

    IIRC, in Japan, women used to be preferred over men for cavalry roles since generally women were lighter, which meant that they could carry more equipment without exhausting the horse and were more mobile archers.

    As far as pain tolerance goes, as Sansa pointed out, it’s more psychological than physical. While women may have more nerve endings, more nerve endings does not equate to more pain. It just means a greater awareness of the pain in that region. For example, think of it like cameras. You could have one camera or ten of the same type, but regardless of how many you have, they will see the same car pass by. It’s just that with ten cameras, there’s a wider field of view (or awareness) that the car can be seen in. None of the cameras are “seeing” the car more acutely than the others, and the combined camera feeds do not make the car any more car-like.

    Now, if there were different kinds of pain receptors, and women were stuck with the ones that processed pain more severely, then there’d be a case for women feeling more pain than men. But, as far as I know, there is only one type of pain receptor.

    Personally, I can’t count the times that I’ve cut or otherwise injured myself and not noticed until I saw it or someone pointed it out. And, of course, that’s when it starts hurting. I actually once sliced a good chunk of my shoulder with a fishhook, and it wasn’t until someone started going “OMG! You’re BLEEDING!!!” that it registered. >.>

    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2010

    That’s why I’m telling y’all, unless your brain actually shuts down from pain overload, pain tolerance is a function of the mind, and the mind belongs to the individual.

    “Are you telling me I can ignore bullet-wounds?”

    “No. I’m telling you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.”


    It’s not the pain from a bullet wound that does you.

    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2010 edited

    That is true. There are times when you can have been shot but not realise it. Usually it’s blood loss through internal haemorrhaging, right? I’m not too well-versed with this modern fancy-pants “fire powder” stuff.

    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2010

    I’ve heard lots of arguments against women in combat over the years, but the most interesting was the assertion that, all modern concepts of family aside, if women went to war alongside men, they would be leaving behind a completely broken-down family structure. Therefore, their children would not be guaranteed even one living parent, and it would wreak havoc on society as we know it.

    Another theory I’ve heard is that women in combat is a terrible idea because men apparently feel more protective towards women than towards their fellow men, which could be the difference between winning a battle or losing it or something disastrous like that.

    Can’t say i completely agree with either point, but they’re both interesting to consider.

    And I really doubt that pain thresholds have anything to do with the argument against women warriors. Men and women alike are capable of enduring massive amounts of pain with the right mindset. I don’t think there’s any way to compare them.

    Men are absolutely better warriors. You'd be stupid to say that isn't true.

    And actually, men are better at nearly everything.

    And actually, men are better at nearly everything.

    Troller or not a troller? I don’t want to assume and then look like an idiot, because everyone knows what happens when you assume…


    Seems like a pretty plausible assumption to me.


    I’d say a troll, and a dumb one to boot.

    • CommentTimeJul 22nd 2010

    I’d say a troll, but I can’t tell its intelligence from this post alone.

    • CommentTimeJul 22nd 2010 edited

    Get back to gardenshed, troll. And make me a spice rack.

    • CommentAuthorNo One
    • CommentTimeJul 24th 2010

    There was an experiment on a science program called Catalyst about the pain threshold between man and women. Women rules when it comes to coping with ridiculous pain. (The result was Woman = 10 hours and Man = 6 hours. Something about contractions, I can’t remember.)

    That aside, I have to agree that it’s all down to psychology.

    What about those science/medical articles that says some people have no sensory thingies (can’t feel pain)? Would that be better in battle?

    Oh hey, Troll Alert.

    • CommentTimeJul 24th 2010

    Paolini’s critics agree, not feeling pain wold be extremely detrimental to battle (you wouldn’t even notice as you bled to death). People who are born with that condition often don’t survive to adulthood, because they simply don’t ntice things like scrapes and cuts, which can become infected without their knowledge. Pain is, above all, a protective reaction. This thing is causing damage, get it away from me! This fire is hot enough to cause permanent scarring, get away from it! This mosquito-bite is larger and more annoying than the average… I’d better see someone about it!

    • CommentAuthormelanthes
    • CommentTimeJul 24th 2010

    People with those conditions (there’s more than one cause) have to be really careful not to injure themselves, because they won’t realise through pain that they have injured themselves e.g. they won’t realise that they’ve got really bad burns from a hot pan. So, in a battle, they wouldn’t necessarily realise that they’d been badly wounded. I would imagine that would make them very good fighters for a time, but also that that time would be quite short, because they wouldn’t necessarily perceive wounds and would perhaps then die of blood loss etc. To my mind, if you had unlimited troops who couldn’t perceive or couldn’t react appropriately to pain, then you’d have a pretty useful army (assuming they were well-trained and well-fed etc. and you didn’t mind, on a moral level, a large number of your forces dying). On the other hand, I would think your chances, as an individual with such a condition, of surviving in a battle would be quite low.


    ^ Newborns? :P I thought that was leprosy- not registering pain. Or maybe just a sympton of leprosy.

    I do think women would be on the losing end of an honest, my strength vs. your strength fight. That’s pretty obvious? But there’s obviously been some awesome women warriors. Boudicca, Fa Mulan, (is she real life? I don’t remember.) Anne Bonny, Deborah, etc.

    • CommentAuthormelanthes
    • CommentTimeJul 25th 2010

    @ SweetRunningBreeze

    I take it you mean Twilight vampire newborns. Not quite, because newborns are stronger than the average vampire, so less likely to be killed, I assume, whereas people who can’t feel any pain would be, I think, more likely to die in battle overall.

    Not feeling pain is a symptom of leprosy, because frequently the nerve endings have died (I think that’s what happens), so you lose all sensation. That might actually make you a worse warrior, because you wouldn’t be able to tell if you were still holding onto your weapons, if you’d lost all sensation, without visually checking. I was more thinking of something like familial dysautonomia or other forms of congenital insensitivity to pain.

    • CommentTimeJul 25th 2010

    But there’s obviously been some awesome women warriors. Boudicca,

    Boudicca’s my woman. You know history is awesome when your homeplace has its own legends that Boudicca is buried a couple of miles away.

    ...I wish I had a time machine. :/


    Earth to Jeni: Britain has Dr Who and a TARDIS. Just go find ‘em!

    • CommentTimeJul 30th 2010 edited
    I personally wouldn't mind seeing the battle. But I wouldn't care to be near it.

    To top it off those guys (The legionaries) would have REEKED of garlic and onions.


    Another thing.

    Due to genetics most women are 45-50% weaker then men. I remember reading an Airborne soldier saying that their class started out with 200 women and at the end all of said women had been sent back because of broken bones.

    In Israel they don't allow women in combat positions because when they got wounded, male soldiers would forget everything and go into a killing rage when they saw the woman get hurt.