Manhood hangs by a thread

Being a “man” is more than just having a sea of testosterone sloshing around inside of you and dangly bits on the outside. Masculinity and manhood are complex things; difficult to achieve and harder to maintain. This has been borne out in some new research which has shown that not only is “manhood” a precarious state, there are definite ways that men seek to regain masculinity once it has been lost.

In the new study researchers had men undertake a “feminine” activity: braiding someone else’s hair. Other men in the study were asked to do the more masculine, or at least gender neutral, task of braiding a piece of rope. Afterwards the men were given the option of punching a punching-bag or doing or doing a puzzle. The men who had braided hair overwhelmingly chose to punch a bag while the rope braiders were evenly split.

In another part of the study when one group of men braided hair and others did not then they all got to punch a bag; the hair braiders punched much harder. On another occasion when all of the men had to braid hair but only some were allowed to punch a bag; the non-punchers showed up as having greater anxiety levels than those who gave the bag a pounding.

To see how women fit into this scenario, the researchers conducted a further experiment wherein they gave men and women a fake police report that outlined an assault. In the fictitious assault either a man or a woman hit someone of their own sex after that person had taunted them by insulting their manhood or womanhood.

When the attacker was a woman, both sexes put their behaviour down to immaturity. When the attacker was a man, women felt the same but men believed that he was provoked and that being humiliated had forced him to defend his manhood.

So what does this all tell us?

It tells us that manhood is defined by actions and not by biology. It seems that no matter what he may have done to achieve it, a man’s manhood can be lost through social transgressions or doing things that are not seen as masculine. Gender, it seems, is more of a social than a biological phenomenon and masculinity is a very fragile thing. It seems though that aggression can be a “manhood-restoring” tactic. Hopefully knowing this can allow men to find acceptable ways to reassert their sense of masculine self.

As a man writing about this I have a vague sense of betraying my sex but I’m fine with it…at least I will be after I’ve pulverised a few cushions.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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