Men who associate with traditional masculine ideals tend to base their masculinity in part on strength, dominance, and power. These traits can help men develop confidence and self-esteem, but can hinder them in the context of romantic relationships. Being honest and emotionally vulnerable can increase the level of intimacy between partners, but men who have high levels of masculinity may find this type of emotional exposure difficult. Additionally, racial identity can shape how a man identifies with masculine ideals. Taken together, these factors can have a significant impact on sexual behaviors and overall relationship satisfaction.
Maya Corneille of the Department of Psychology at North Carolina A&T State University wanted to see how masculinity and racial identity affected the sexual scripts formed by black men. In a recent study, Corneille surveyed 92 black college students ranging in age from 18 to 25 and asked them how they identified with their ethnicity and masculine ideals. She found that those who rejected the traditional masculine traits had fewer sexual partners than those who associated strongly with masculine ideals. She also discovered that the men who were high in ethnic identity had fewer partners. Both of these factors were positive predictors of safer sexual practices, specifically condom use, and high levels of overall relationship satisfaction and mutuality.
The men in this study were recruited from an HIV prevention program and therefore could be higher in both masculine nonconformity and ethnic identity than the general population. Also, the data in this research was based on self-reports from the men, suggesting a potential for bias. Regardless, these findings show that both ethnic identity and nonconformity to traditional masculine ideals provide a foundation of sexual constancy and safe sexual behavior patterns for young black men. “Additionally, research is needed to examine how adapting to racism and poverty may shape sexual health behaviors through their impact on rejection or acceptance of traditional masculinity attitudes,” Corneille said.
Corneille, Maya, John E. Fife, Faye Z. Belgrave, and Brian Carey Sims. Ethnic identity, masculinity, and healthy sexual relationships among African-American men. Psychology of Men & Masculinity 13.4 (2012): 393-99. Print.
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