What Is Toxic Masculinity?

Toxic masculinity is a culture of harmful behaviors and attitudes associated with men. This includes violence, emotion concealment, and dominance. Toxic masculinity is an erroneous belief of what a man should be. They are dangerous stereotypical ideas of masculinity. The toxic conditioning of the male gender drives men to be:

  • Self-reliant
  • Sexually promiscuous
  • Misogynistic

Toxic masculinity is a product of the patriarchal system. It sees men as superior to their female counterparts.

Toxic masculinity is a psychological concept that describes traditional masculine norms. These norms are harmful to men, women and society at large. It has been viewed by some as a movement intended to reprimand men. This is not true. Rather, it is meant to emphasize the harmful effect of sticking with these cultural masculine norms. It’s also meant to help men address them.

Toxic masculinity can be described as conformity to traditional male gender roles. These tend to restrict the kinds of emotion men can express. So, the emotions allowed for masculine showing are limited to expressions of anger. Anything else is viewed as weakness. It fosters social expectations of men as dominant and self-reliant. Many of these behaviors can produce harmful effects like:

  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual assault
  • Promiscuity
  • Substance abuse
  • Dysfunctional social interaction
  • Other irresponsible social behaviors

Toxic masculinity is an attribute that may arise from a broader practice called hegemonic masculinity. Hegemonic Masculinity is a practice that legitimizes men’s dominant position in society. It justifies the subordination of women and other men deemed as weak. Psychoanalyst, Terry Kupers believes toxic masculinity outlines aspects of hegemonic masculinity. Especially those that are socially destructive. These destructive behaviors are exhibited in misogyny, greed, and violent domination. These traits are in contrast to more positive aspects of hegemonic masculinity. Positive aspects of hegemonic masculinity as described by Kupers are:

  • Pride in ability to win
  • Maintaining solidarity with a friend
  • Quest to succeed at work
  • Desire to provide for family

Masculinity Vs Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity drives the idea of the need for men’s dominance over women. The belief that a man must be in control forces men into domestic violence. Such men become violent when they feel their authority is being threatened. Terry Kupers describes toxic masculinity as the need to compete and dominate others in an aggressive manner. It is a combination of socially aggressive male traits that strive to promote domination. This includes the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence.

You can be masculine without being aggressive. Being aggressive is not what defines you as a man. Expressing emotions does not make you less of a man. It only means that you are human. It’s cool to be human. You can let out your emotions without losing your masculinity.

Men can have physical powers without being aggressive or violent. Masculinity may involve defending others in certain situations. It does not have to always be through violence. The idea of women as weak and vulnerable is wrong. It encourages the belief in male dominance. The genders can be seen as equal, able to help and protect each other. Receiving help from women does not reduce a man’s worth. Empathy is a human trait. It should not be seen as anti-masculine. Men can be rational and sensitive to the emotions of others. At the same time, they can remain disciplined, strong and kind. Objectifying women is not an expression of masculinity. It is a product of toxic masculinity.

Is Toxic Masculinity Biological?

Many are quick to assume that toxic masculine behaviors are a result of differences in the biological make up of both sexes. This makes people excuse men for aggressive behaviors. Some sections of society believe it is their nature. There is no biological evidence to prove this point. This is why not every masculine man conforms to toxic masculinity. Various studies have proven that there’s very little difference in the actual brains of men and women. Toxic masculinity is the product of cultural and social stereotyping. Rigid societal norms about femininity and masculinity result in the difference in behavior.

So, it is important to focus on the way gender and cultural stereotyping is creating toxic masculinity. This way the real problems can be identified and dealt with. This helps to end the practice of men being excused for negative behaviors because “it’s their nature.” Each man should be held accountable for his behavior. Society needs to stop assuming that “boys will be boys.” There is nothing that naturally makes a man aggressive and toxic.

Parenting and social backgrounds are responsible for toxic masculinity. Because of the traditional stereotyping of genders, men are excused for a lot of negative behaviors from childhood. These men grow up believing that’s who a man should be. Parents allow female children to undertake domestic duties. This is done while their male counterparts are allowed a free day. These patterns inform the male child that the female is subservient and subordinate to him. When he grows up, he expects every woman to be subject to his control.

Examples of Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity is a reality of everyday life around us. Men display these traits and carry them around as badges of their masculinity. Some of the examples of toxic masculinity are below.

  1. The idea that male-female interaction has to be a competition and not co-operation. This stems from the belief that men and women can never truly understand each other. They cannot only be friends because men are always interested in sex. No true companionship can be had between the two sexes.
  2. Being a man is defined by aggression and status. Real men are strong. They don’t display emotional signs of shame or weakness. Showing emotions is incompatible with being strong. The only emotion a man is allowed to express is anger. Anger is a way of asserting the masculinity in you. Men shouldn’t display feminine traits such as emotional expression or vulnerability.
  3. Men are sexual beings who only want to have sex. They are ready for sex anytime or almost all the time. A man cannot be a victim of sexual abuse. Talking about being sexually abused as a man is shameful.
  4. Real men should not be interested in “feminine things.” This makes them appear weak. Men shouldn’t engage in gist with women.
  5. Men should always be prepared for violence. Anger and violence are the masculine ways of solving conflicts.
  6. The idea that the man should be the dominant person in a relationship with a woman. His authority must be recognized by the woman.
  7. Men are not interested in parenting and are not suited to being single parents. This idea encourages men not to be involved in their children’s development.
  8. There is a range of “feminine interests” and activities a real man should not be involved. These interests and actions are believed to discredit the man’s masculinity. They are, dressing up, fashion, cosmetics and being interested in one’s physical look. It even includes being romantic.

Dangers of Toxic Masculinity to Men

Men commit the majority of violent and non-violent crimes in the United States. Almost all mass shootings have men as the assailant. Most cases of sexual harassment and abuse involve men trying to lord themselves over women. Men are more likely to become victims of violent attacks from other men. 3 of every 4 prison in-mates are men. The quest for social relevance and pursuit of social status can be harmful to men’s mental health. Failure to achieve these feats drives men to suicide.

According to the American Psychology Association, men who adhere to toxic masculinity norms are more likely to experience psychological problems.

These toxic masculinity norms include:

  • Dominance
  • Violence
  • Risk-taking
  • Desire to win at all costs
  • Need for emotional control

The psychological problems referred to above can include:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Drug abuse
  • Poor social functioning
  • Alcoholism

Bottling up emotions can have an adverse effect on mental health. The pressure for men to be stoic and self-reliant can result in shorter lifespans. This is because they are less likely to discuss health problems with others. They may not even discuss their health problems with their physician. These men do not want to appear weak. So, when they are going through severe health issues, they prefer to keep it to themselves until they break down.

The World Health Organization says that risk-taking behaviors and lack of willingness to seek help are among the top factors responsible for higher rates of health problems among men. This includes health conditions like respiratory diseases, heart disease, and COPD. It is also responsible for a shorter life expectancy rate for men compared to women.

The rate of suicide is higher among men. This is at a ratio of 4:1 when compared with the rate of suicide among women. This ratio is according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. It is because men are less likely to discuss their problems with others. The shame of failure is a serious problem for adherents of toxic masculinity.

Dangers of Toxic Masculinity to the Society

Toxic masculinity is harmful, not only to men and women but the society at large. Violence in the world is at an alarming rate. Most acts of violence are perpetuated by men. The aggressive desire to be in control drives men into violent crimes.

Toxic masculinity is one of the remote causes of the rapid spread of sexually transmitted diseases. This includes diseases such as HIV/AIDS. This is due to promiscuous men in search of women as trophies to be won. Some men believe the use of contraceptives like condoms diminish their masculine ego. Toxic masculinity is implicated in the elevated rates of skin cancer, lung cancer, and liver ailments among men. The high level of drug abuse and alcoholism is due to the culture of self reliance. This leads to depression.

Bullying of other boys and women can be as a result of domestic violence experienced at home. The violent socialization of young boys causes psychological trauma. This results in social aggression and lack of interpersonal interaction. These traumatic behaviors are often disregarded as part of the masculine world.

5 Ways to Address Toxic Masculinity

Check Yourself

You should first conduct an assessment of your life as a man. Try and identify any attribute of toxic masculinity that you exhibit. You can do this by making an effort to note your reaction under certain circumstances. Pay attention to your reactions towards women. Examine your set of values and pinpoint ideas that may conform to toxic masculinity. You can also ask people around you about your lifestyle and their opinion of you.

Once you have conducted this assessment of yourself and you identify traces of toxic masculinity, take actions against it. Toxic behaviors do not just go. You have to remember that these behaviors are a product of years of social construct. It is who society has taught you to be, that you are right from childhood. These behaviors may have been validated by your parents. It can happen from your childhood through gender stereotyping. Make a conscious effort to flush it out of your system.

Engage in Acts of Kindness and Generosity

One way to start breaking masculine toxicity is to engage in deliberate acts of kindness. Go out of your way to be kind to others without seeing them as lesser beings. The more you engage in acts of kindness and love, the more you release toxicity from your system. One of the ways to condemn toxic masculinity is to show other men the way to be good guys. This should not be done for the sake of showing-off. Make it a sincere gesture to improve humanity. Help other men get out of their toxic masculine lifestyle.

Change Your Perception about Women

Men and women are equal. Your journey to positive masculinity is never complete until you recognize this fact. It’s not enough to recognize it. Start acting accordingly. You don’t need to treat women as weaker vessels who will always need your protection. This idea of women as weaker vessel is actually a construct of the patriarchal system. Seeing men and women as equals helps you to stop seeing yourself as superior to women.

Men need to stop seeing women as people of lower IQ. This belief is one of the things that inform toxic masculinity. There are no studies to confirm it. Women are not irrational bags of emotions. Men and women have the same brain structure and can think alike. Seeing women from this positive perspective will help you counter social misconceptions. Women are not only good for sex. They have equal sexual and social rights as men.

Speak Out Against It

We approve toxic masculine behaviors around us by not speaking against it. You have to take issue with your friends that are practicing toxic masculinity. Failure to do so means you are giving approval to their act. Men usually sit in groups discussing women in an objectifying manner. These are opportunities for other men to verbally challenge their toxicity.

Understand that toxic masculinity is as a result of social conditioning. Men are not born with misogyny. Men are not born aggressive and violent. Men are not born rigid and insensitive. It’s a creation of socialization from a young age. Because society believes “men will always be men.” This toxicity is being perpetuated by certain discourses that happen among men.

Express Your Emotions

Stop seeing certain emotions as beneath you as a man. Desist from the practice of concealing your emotions because you don’t want people to see you as weak. It is only normal to feel emotions like empathy and concern for others. Don’t allow societal stereotyping of men to strip you of your humanity. Concealing certain emotions is capable of affecting your mental health. Talk to family and friends about your challenges and seek help from others when you need it. The tough man syndrome is a creation of a society that says a man is not expected to show weakness and vulnerability. The truth is we need each other to get by in life. Anger shouldn’t be the only emotion that defines you as a man.


Toxic masculinity is a creation of society. It’s not who men truly are or what they should be. There is no biological evidence that suggests men should be violent. The social stereotyping of men as strong and women as weak is imprinted in people from childhood. Poor parenting is largely responsible for acts of masculine toxicity. The media boys are exposed to from childhood also contributes to this menace. From childhood, male children see themselves as superior to their female counterparts. Movies and the media

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