From Susan's Place Transgender Resources
Jump to: navigation, search

Masculinity comprises culturally of the traits assigned to the male in various contexts. The word masculine can refer to:

  • The property of being biologically male, more precisely expressed in biology as "sex"
  • A gender role or behaviour traditionally associated with males
  • Grammatical gender, an inflection of nouns, largely derived from gender role association

Masculinity is sometimes used as a synonym for manhood. The antonym of masculinity is femininity; femininity in men is sometimes called effeminacy.

Masculinity is a gender role associated with male humans and an indicator of social status much as wealth, race or social class. Greater masculinity usually brings greater social status for males, and many English words such as virtue (from the Latin vir for "man'", also used in words such as vim and vigor and virulent) reflect this, implying a clear association with strength. Masculinity is associated more commonly with adult men rather than younger boys as a key characteristic of social persona. The corresponding gender role for females is called femininity. To assert the presence of femininity or masculinity in a member of the opposite gender is to mark them as unusual, often in an undesirable way. In non-human primates, the corresponding trait is called dominance in both sexes, expressed as relative position within a gender group, where human terms such as "masculinity" almost never used in general ethology.

Masculine physical attributes

Some research has indicated that a number of women may be aroused by broad chins and shoulders, high cheekbones, and find large eyes as the most attractive, though there are cultural differences in those preferences. Some research has also indicated that women recognize a good body as indicative of a man of discipline and self-control.

Biology and culture

Masculinity has its roots in genetics (see gender).[1][2] Therefore while masculinity looks different in different cultures, there are common aspects to its definition across cultures.[3]

Some gender studies scholars will use the phrase "hegemonic masculinity" to refer to an ideal of male behaviour which men are strongly encouraged to aim, which is calculated to guarantee the dominant position of some men over others.

Down side and failure of concept

It is a subject of debate whether masculinity concepts followed historically should still be applied. Researchers such as UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) and Care International have argued that there is a harmful down side due to considerations such as

  • The relationship between masculinity and gender based violence[4]
  • The disempowerment and impoverishment of women and the persistence of gender inequalities through men’s violence[5]
  • The loss of men's dignity and self esteem when they are taught to behave violently

Although men may improve their behavior when they are equipped with the proper knowledge and skills, the more deeply rooted gender inequalities that shape sexual encounters are more difficult to transform[6]

The images of boys and young men presented in the media may lead to the persistence of harmful concepts of masculinity. Men's rights activists argue that the media does not pay serious attention to men's rights issues and that men are often portrayed in a negative light, particularly in advertising.[7]

Pressures associated

In 1987, Eisler and Skidmore did studies on masculinity and created the idea of 'masculine stress'. They found four mechanisms of masculinity that accompany masculine gender role often result in emotional stress. They include:

  • The emphasis on prevailing in situations requiring body and fitness
  • Being perceived as emotional
  • The need to feel adequate in regard to sexual matters and work

Because of social norms and pressures associated with masculinity, Men with spinal cord injuries have to adapt their self identity to the losses associated with SCI which may “lead to feelings of decreased physical and sexual prowess with lowered self-esteem and a loss of male identity. Feelings of guilt and overall loss of control are also experienced.”[8]

Masculinity is something that is becoming increasingly challenged, especially in the last century, with the emergence of Women's rights and the development of the role of women in society. Such is the case that in recent years many 'Man Laws' have been created, as a way for men to re-affirm their masculinity. A popular example is the Miller Lite Man Laws, and other various sites on the internet offering rules such as: "15. A real man does not need instruction manuals." [9] Although many of these rules are offered in a humorous fashion, they attempt to define masculinity, and this highlights the change from traditional views on masculinity.


The driver fatality rate per vehicle miles driven is higher for women than for men; although, men are much more likely to cause deaths in the accidents they are involved in. [10] Men drive significantly more miles than women, so, on average, they are more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents. Even in the narrow category of young (16-20) driver fatalities with a high blood alcohol content (BAC), a male's risk of dying is higher than a female's risk at the Same BAC level. [11] That is, young women drivers need to be more drunk to have the same risk of dying in a fatal accident as young men drivers. Men are in fact three times more likely to die in all kinds of accidents than women. In the United States, men make up 92% of workplace deaths, indicating either a greater willingness to perform dangerous work, or a societal expectation to perform this work.[12]

Health care

A growing body of evidence is pointing toward the deleterious impact of masculinity (and hegemonic masculinity in particular) on men's health help-seeking behaviour [13]. American men make 134.5 million fewer physician visits than American women each year. In fact, men make only 40.8% of all physician visits, that is, if you include women's visits for pregnancy, childbirth and associated obstetrical and gynecological visits. A quarter of the men who are 45 to 60 do not have a personal physician. Many men should go to annual heart checkups with physicians but do not, increasing their risk of death from heart disease. Men between the ages of 25 and 65 are four times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than women. Men are more likely to be diagnosed in a later stage of a terminal illness because of their reluctance to go to the doctor.

Reasons men give for not having annual physicals and not visiting their physician include fear, denial, embarrassment, a dislike of situations out of their control, or not worth the time or cost.


  1. John Money, 'The concept of gender identity disorder in childhood and adolescence after 39 years', Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy 20 (1994): 163-77.
  2. Laura Stanton and Brenna Maloney, 'The Perception of Pain', Washington Post, 19 December 2006.
  3. Donald Brown, Human Universals
  6. Care internation Research - Vietnam
  7. Farrell, W. & Sterba, J. P. (2008) Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men: A Debate (Point and Counterpoint), New York: Oxford University Press.
  8. Hutchinson, Susan L "Heroic masculinity following spinal cord injury: Implications for therapeutic recreation practice and research". Therapeutic Recreation Journal. 07 Apr, 2009
  9. "List of Man Law Rules/Rules for Men", Fucking Manly. Retrieved on 2009-08-20. 
  10. [1]
  11. [2]
  12. CFOI Charts, 1992-2006
  13. Galdas P.M., Cheater F. & Marshall P. (2005) Men and health help-seeking behaviour: Literature review. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 49, 616-23


*Some information provided in whole or in part by