Socializing Violent Sex/Gender Roles: Teen Males as Hunters—Teen Girls the Prey

By Jeanne Sarson | Sep 25, 2012

Last week I read various accounts of shockingly disturbing yet not surprising articles. The reporters, Hoffman,[1] and Bakken,[2] discussed that the student council in a Minnesota high school organized a “Prey and Predator Day”. This ‘fun’ day was played out by male students dressed up in hunter camouflage or in other hunter-like clothing and female students dressed up in animal prints. It appears the school superintendent downplayed the theme by relating it to the hunting culture that was popular in the region. Hoffman goes on to say how this theme of hunter and prey reinforces the rape culture that is so dominate in western patriarchal cultures. This article also discussed the commercial images that perpetuate misogynistic beliefs and attitudes that can lead to normalizing violence against girls and women.

Reading these articles is disturbing given that an adult superintendent missed these perspectives. He appears to have missed the dangers of reinforcing attitudes that can contribute to relational violence and oppression. How complex is it to understand that casting teen males as aggressors and killers and teen girls are the prey to be hunted and killed? How complex is it to understand that the teenage girls were being firstly dehumanized and animalized and objectified as animal prey?

The publication of these articles discussing sex- or gender-based roles of females as prey and males as predators are important to Linda and me because it provides us with this opportunity to present hunter and prey realities that has yet to be disclosed. I will disclose these now.

Linda and I have been, since 1993, grass root supporters and human right defenders of mainly women who have survived torture by private persons or non-state actors. In the course of these almost 20 years we have been entrusted to hear of the many life-threatening ordeals they survived. These ordeals have included “hunting games”. For example, one woman spoke of being taken to cabins in the woods and told to start running as she was going to be hunted down—she was the prey. She ran and guns were fired. Of course there was never an escape route for her as the torturers knew the area and knew they would ‘capture’ her. She was their ‘prey’. She was then tortured. She suffered sexualized tortures.

Another childhood ‘story’ involved human trafficking and being ‘hunted’. The woman, when she was a young child, was taken to a large Canadian city. Forced out onto the street she was told to start running. Confused and terrified and disorientated she did as she was ordered. The torturers knew she would not speak to anyone having been tortured never to tell so she ran in silence. The predators—the torturers—then had the pleasure of appearing to be chasing her down. She was their prey.

‘Hunting games’ are real and violent. These real life examples provided the torturers with a ‘creative’ way to satisfy the pleasures they derived from the infliction of terror. The other point I make is that Linda and I have also been told that necrophilic bestiality sometimes occurs during regular hunting seasons—the hunter rapes his kill.

How many children may have endured these forms of torture within a family system is still unknown. However, what Linda and I do know is that such family systems do exist. We know that children are subjected to bestiality and pets and other animals are often harmed within violent family systems. We also know that girls are objectified and animalized as women often speak of how they were forced to wear dog collars and leashes, made to be on all fours, and fed like a dog. They were animalized. They were raped. Women also tell us that their male siblings were often forced to inflict acts of violence against them—they were to be the next generation of predators—they were to be the hunters. Given this knowledge, prey and hunter ‘games’ could trigger harms and be inter-generationally dangerous, even deadly. Therefore, in our opinion, a school should not support activities that promote themes of sex- or gender-based violence.

Going back to the Minnesota high school “Prey and Predator Day” incident, educators ought to know there will be students in their school who have been or are being victimized—hunted down in their homes. Students who commonly believe and feel they have no way out—that they cannot escape. Given that society is now aware that a significant number of children grow up in violent family systems, a school superintendent can no longer claim to be ignorant of this fact. A school superintendent needs to think outside of the dominant patriarchal and misogynistic box and seriously consider all these issues and the negative impacts these can have on developing minds, on developing attitudes and on relationships. It is simply wrong to explain away such a violent ‘game’ theme as representing the popular sport of hunting in Minnesota. Hunting girls and women is not a sport.   

Bakken’s and Hoffman’s articles are important for Linda and me because these have enabled us to tell and write of the realities associated with ‘hunting games’ that women so victimized have entrusted to us. These articles help to remove the denial Linda and I usually face when we speak of the ‘creative’ brutalities that non-state torturers are capable of inflicting to satisfy their pleasure—and for fun! Bakken’s and Hoffman’s articles also act as references, enabling us to refer to them in a manner that lends support to the reality that there are women who have been subjected to such violence when they were teens in high school or when they were younger children. The reality is there are perpetrators who do partake in hunting humans—in hunting predominately women and girls. There must be zero tolerance in all schools for behaviours and activities that deliver messages with deep-rooted complex themes of sex/gender-based violence. It is time to think outside of the destructive dominant patriarchal and misogynistic box.


[1] Hoffman, P(2012, September 17). On ‘Predator and Prey Day’ Boys Hunt Girls.
[2] Bakken, R. (2012, September 9). Crookston High School's 'Prey and Predator Day' sparks concern. Grand Forks Herald.


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