The Impact of Masculine Ideology and Ethnicity on Sexual Behavior

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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  • Daniel


    November 7th, 2012 at 3:57 AM

    Every man that I know has been heavily influenced by how society views men should act and participate in life. That’s pretty sad right? I think that anyone who raises a boy to a man has a responsibility to teach him the same ideals and priorities in life that we do females, but you teach a boy to be a man and show others respect and honor. Without these things they will never have the self confidence that they need to treat anyone in life right.

  • Rosie


    November 7th, 2012 at 7:01 AM

    If you tie your masculinity to strength, dominance, and power, I can see how you might have difficulty practicing safe sex. It certainly answers the question of why rape is so prevalent in so many societies. And, if you base your idea of masculinity for black men on what is portrayed in movies, I can see why this author was interested in how ethnicity and masculinity tie into sexual behavior. It would be interesting to do research on young black men from all walks of life.

  • Ruby


    November 7th, 2012 at 7:02 AM

    I think it is so sad that black men have to struggle so much when it comes to this issue. I wonder where is started. It would be nice if black men could just be men without so much baggage.

  • Donald


    November 7th, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    If you trouble or harass a woman that doesn’t make you masculine or a male!It only means you are a coward.And those who still think their masculinity is best described with their notions of dominance and power-you couldn’t be any farther from truth.

    Real masculinity is being chivalrous,it is in being good to those around you and in being a gentleman to the ladies.For far too long we have had a wrong notion of masculinity thanks to our ancestral activities but the newer generation thinks all they see in the utterly dumb rap videos is how a man should really be!That has to be some of the most illogical notion that we have been fed with,even by media standards.

  • John


    November 9th, 2012 at 7:42 AM

    Amen! You are right on, Donld. I am a Professional Counselor and I can tell you that, sad to say, black men have a horrible history of mistreating women who they often abuse and misuse for their own selfish wants and needs. The lack of fathers and men as roll models in the home simply cause the cycle to continue.

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