Hot Stuff Guys Used To Do: Dueling


You know how sometimes you’re out at, I don’t know, a company picnic, and two men just break out into fisticuffs over you? Suddenly they just begin pummeling one another for your love? And they call one another rapscallions? And roustabouts?


I’ve never been to a company picnic. It seems like the kind of thing that might happen. With the right crudites, anything can happen.

Anyhow, wouldn’t it be great if, instead of just using their tiny primitive fists, those men drew swords, or, hell, pearl handled revolvers and just began… oh. Then they’d die, probably.

Okay, we started this fun new column in a dark place, apparently.

So, it might be a good thing that duels are not something we really do anymore, but there’s still something undeniably hot about men being willing to die to defend their honor. Or a lady’s honor. Or just the concept of honor in general, I guess, if they were gentlemen philosophers.

Samuel Johnson said that “A man may shoot the man who invades his character, as he may shoot him who attempts to break into his house.”

This is… not something we do anymore, at all.

So, how did duels work, exactly?

Well, they had their roots, not as you might expect if all you grew up reading was The Mists of Avalon in the middle ages, but in Ancient Greek literature. Remember single combat? Like with Hector and Achilles, squaring off? It was more of a “war thing” then and less of a “petty insult” thing, but it looked good. Here is a picture from the movie Troy!

troy duel

None of this is really accurate except that men did square off in single hand to hand combat.

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    • Sean

      Just for clarity, gun barrel rifling killed off pistol dueling, and the technology arose during the Civil War. Pistol dueling became dicey when you were pretty much guaranteed to land a kill-shot on your opponent. Honour means nothing when you spend the rest of your life in a 19th century prison. At least with sword duels you always had the option whether or not to kill your opponent.

    • Sammy

      Andrew Jackson was totally the craziest president (please read about his crazy cheese party if you already haven’t), and one of his (many) duels involved an insult to his wife’s honor (again, crazy, but sort of romantic?). You are the best lady on the Internets, gal (your articles are one of the only things I read on the internet that are not the news/my horoscope). (Sorry for all the parentheses.)

    • Shae Rosa

      Can you pretty, pretty please write an entire article about Andrew Jackson? I am desperately interested in our craziest president now. And OOH! A Shelved Doll about Mary Todd Lincoln would be AMAZING.

      • hmhque


    • MR

      From everything I’ve read on him I’ve always liked Washington. I see it the way he saw it. If you’re going to kill someone, it should be over something very important, not some petty disagreement. War and its purpose. Achilles had character, in that he protected a woman who was totally defenseless, and didn’t expect her to sleep with him after. He had honor.

      • MissR

        I agree with your first statement, but your second statement about Achilles is completely untrue, and even though this comment is old I’m going to reply because it’s a misconception that is really common. Achilles had honor but in the ancient Greek way, which is not how we think of honor, it is simply being proficient in battle without being TOO over the top with the blood lust (no eating your enemies flesh or wearing skins as coats). In the Iliad, and in other accounts of Achilles, he’s pretty much a petulant child and refuses to fight because his pride is slighted, and it literally takes hundreds of his countrymen dying and his best friend getting killed before he does anything. The girl is an excuse, not a reason.