According to a new study, if men feel their manhood is being threatened, there may be a psychological factor that results in aggressive behavior. Jennifer K. Bosson and Joseph A. Vandello, psychologists at the University of South Florida, conducted a study that required men to perform what most people consider feminine activities. Half of the men were asked to braid hair, while the other half were asked to braid rope. When the task was completed, the men were then allowed the choice of completing a puzzle or hitting a punching bag. The men who braided the hair overwhelmingly chose to hit the punching bag. When all of the men, hair braiders and rope braiders alike, were asked to punch the bag, those who braided hair punched the bag more aggressively. When all of the men were required to braid hair and only some allowed to punch the bag, those who were not allowed to physically hit something displayed more anxiety when tested further.
The findings indicate what researchers already believed to be true. “Gender is social,” says, Bosson. “Men know this. They are powerfully concerned about how they appear in other people’s eyes.” This fear of identity crisis based on activities may lead to psychological distress when men are put in the position to act in what they perceive to be feminine ways. This effect may also explain why some men show increased anxiety and aggression when they face similar threats to manhood, like being fired or not being able to win a game or sport.
The researchers define this type of aggression as a “manhood-restoring tactic.” Bosson goes on to explain that these findings support theories relating to the psychological effects that social categorizing of gender has on the male population. Many men who identify their value with masculine activities may suffer anxiety, aggression, depression, or low self-esteem when conditions affecting their masculinity are unfavorable.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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