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

THE VULNERABILITY OF MEN: SWIMMING UPSTREAM TOWARD INTIMACY

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It’s Not the End of the Road: Lessons Learned

Certain emotions are typically considered a universal construct, uninfluenced by factors like the individual’s culture and more to do with psychological, environmental, and neurological influences. However, it does seem to be an exception to cultural influences on emotions with regard to male expression of certain emotions. Research has indicated that men who adhere to traditional masculine culture and values tend to withhold expressing emotion due to the notion that men must be tough and aggressive (Mankowski & Maton, 2010), strong and in control (Addis & Mahalik, 2003). The values and culture surrounding traditional masculinity also dictate that men should avoid demonstrating vulnerability, and that expressing emotion is often a telltale sign of being vulnerable (Mankowski & Maton, 2010).

The message portrayed by traditional masculinity is often conflicting, as traditional male culture discourages expression of emotion while personal male values often dictate that men should be good economic providers to their family and be good father figures by demonstrating qualities such as sensitivity and emotional presence towards their wives and children (Mankowski & Maton, 2010). This represents a dissonance between the values and culture of men, with men feeling a moral obligation to be good fathers and husbands but, at the same time, feel compelled to follow the traditional male culture of limited emotional expression, creating somewhat of a lose-lose situation for men. On one side, if they adhere to their personal moral values and fulfill their role of being a good father and husband, they must express some emotions, at least to a certain extent, if they are to succeed in these roles. On the other hand, if they are “caught” (either realizing their expression of emotion themselves or caught by another male/males) demonstrating sensitivity and emotion, they risk being ostracized, ridiculed, and/or rejected by other males (or engage in self-judgment). Even worse, they may risk losing their masculine identity and being classified a “female” or “sissy”. According to traditional masculine norms, any expression of femininity is considered taboo.

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