Sexual health series: Can masculinity be healthy?
I am no medical advice giver or doctor, this series is intended to give a basic understanding of various topics in regards to sexual health.
These topics can be triggering for some readers as they may discuss sexual violence, please proceed with caution.
No, no one is saying masculinity is inherently unhealthy.
Similar to femininity, masculinity is a component that exists to give balance. In many old traditions, they both are seen as energies that complement one another.
It is, however, important to note that the ‘masculine vs feminine’ traditional ways of thinking are now outdated and are not to be seen as the entire idea of this text.
The unhealthy response in people due to repressed emotions is their reaction and their treatment of themselves and of others when they have been taught, from a young age, to be ‘grossed out’ by what is or seems ‘girly’ and by repressing every emotion.
“Toxic masculinity is a popular term for stereotypically male behaviours that are harmful to men and society as a whole.” The Children’s Society
Masculinity presents itself as an ultimatum from the get go, and everyone pays for it.
When masculinity is seen as an ultimatum, femininity, then, naturally looks like the other extreme and becomes frowned upon.
We see that in everything as children, blue and anger is for boys and men, when beauty, crying and working ‘easier’ jobs is for girls and women.
When we are taught on top of that that it is not manly to like pink, that it is not manly to cry, that girly things are not for boys, a resentment towards what is being pushed away grows. A resentment for the feminine.
Younger boys are afraid of being feminine, fear being bullied, being shut down, or simply seek to fit in with the other boys, bully other boys if they look ‘different’, if they do not act in a ‘manly’ manner, etc.
“One of the pillars of toxic masculinity or ‘the man box’ is emotional suppression. If these boys at ages 10 to 12 had already internalised this harmful message about what it means to be a man, what would the impact be on their mental and physical health as adults?” Jessica Sanders
Sanders explains that, The Men’s Project showed that men who were between the ages of 18 and 30 and were not taught differently from those outdated ways of thinking were “‘themselves at higher risk of using violence, online bullying and sexual harassment, engaging in risky drinking and reporting poorer levels of mental health.”
Due to the built, continuously growing internal resentment and turmoil, often the response by a boy from a young age is anger, and if normalized and left without therapy, anger can be extremely dangerous.
It has also been shown that “when men actively avoid vulnerability, act on homophobic beliefs, ignore personal traumas, or exhibit prejudice behaviors against women, this contributes to many larger societal problems, such as gender-based violence, sexual assault, and gun violence.”
Healthy anger management growing up is difficult to see, as the majority of the time, parents are reenacting their own intergenerational trauma that is now being passed onto us.
The management of not only anger, but also stress, sadness, when there is a bad day or when someone is being rude. The management of these things that may seem little can go as far as saving somebody’s life.
No matter how little a problem seems, it is okay to cry, it is okay to be stressed, and it is okay to feel those emotions.
It is okay to be annoyed, upset, hurt, it is okay to be feeling any emotion possible, but make sure, in the process, to work on your reactions.
Shutting down, silencing yourself, or locking yourself away from everyone is not healthy.
Exploding, reacting externally and becoming loud is also not healthy.
It is okay to get self-help books, to journal, to write, or to have a counsellor.
It is okay to be on mental health medications if needed, it is okay to not feel fully happy.
Yes, masculinity has its healthy aspects and can be healthy, however, due to the ongoing societal pressures of silencing boys and men and teaching to resent the feminine, masculinity can only be healthy if boys and men work towards bettering themselves and being okay with femininity.
It can be healthy, if that same man who has now worked on his masculinity understands that no one is 100% masculine and 100% feminine, and that everyone is within the spectrum.
Before you wonder about yourself if you are a cisgendered man, or if you are curious to know if masculinity has impacted you, try to answer these few basic questions:
Do I speak up when I hear another man bully someone for ‘acting like a p*ssy’?
Have I ever used those words on someone?
How do I feel when this type of bullying occurs?
How do I describe being me, am I masculine, feminine or both?
List 5 qualities of yourself that you would describe as feminine qualities.
List 5 qualities of yourself that you would describe as masculine qualities.
List 5 weaknesses you have and how you may work on them.
You can also take the Gender-Role test to test out your own stereotypes and potentially outdated ways of thinking.
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