Home Concepts Adult Development THE VULNERABILITY OF MEN: SWIMMING UPSTREAM TOWARD INTIMACY

THE VULNERABILITY OF MEN: SWIMMING UPSTREAM TOWARD INTIMACY

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Traditional masculinity has handicapped men and has contributed to a detrimental cycle where men feel that if they violate masculine norms, they will be stereotyped or ridiculed. They fear that they would be called “female.” According to traditional masculinity, being classified as having female characteristics or behaviors is one of the most (or possibly the most) shameful things a man or boy can portray. This presents another problematic aspect of traditional masculinity: the manner in which anything female is considered less, disgraceful, or at least something worth concealing from the outside world. This contributes to how traditional masculine norms condone homophobia and the inappropriate treatment of women or gay women (or gay men) as being “less than” heterosexual “masculine” men. Much of the underlying factors of homophobia is the belief that if a man wishes to “be like a woman,” he is deserving of discrimination, ridicule, or other forms of maltreatment. This relays the social message that to look like a woman, act like a woman, or be a woman is shameful or, at least, not as good as being a man.

Traditional masculinity further inhibits and adversely affects men by dictating that men cannot be dependent or vulnerable, as this is the role of women. The rejection of dependency and vulnerability leads to men avoiding help-seeking behaviors in many aspects of life, including physical and emotional health (Watkins et al., 2011). The stereotypical idea that men “hate the doctor,” or avoid healthcare appointments/medical treatments largely stems from adherence to traditional masculinity. Men fear healthcare because this form of care threatens their masculine identity. By receiving healthcare, men must admit to needing help. Poor or limited help-seeking behavior puts men at great risk of serious medical and psychological problems as they do not seek preventative care, and by the time they do receive treatment, health problems may have become more severe or even irreversible.

Poor help-seeking behaviors also contribute to men resorting to unhealthy and negative ways to cope with health-related problems. Men tend to seek refuge in drugs and/or alcohol more so than women in order to cope with feelings (Markman Geisner et al., 2004; Nolen-Hoeksema, 2004). This explains why a culturally and socially acceptable practice among males is drinking together at bars or other settings (Emslie et al., 2013; Fairbairn et al., 2015). Men, oftentimes, use the state of being intoxicated as an outlet to be able to express their feelings more freely. Since alcohol may somewhat reduce inhibitions, men can, for at least a short period of time, feel comfortable expressing emotions, while securing a plausible explanation (e.g., “I was drunk”) for the expression of such emotion.

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