Homophobic men who exhibit traits of toxic masculinity are more likely to be prone to violent bullying, sexual harassment and mental illness, a new study has revealed.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh used a 15-point “Man Box” Scale covering themes such as aggression, control, acting tough, hyper-sexuality, physical attractiveness and rigid gender roles.
Data from from 3,600 men across three different countries was analysed in combination with this scale, with participants scored on their reactions to statements such as “A gay guy is not a real man” and “Straight guys being friends with gay guys is totally fine and normal”.
The team found that “macho” men with aggressive and anti-LGBT+ attitudes are not only more likely to be bullies, but also to experience mental health problems.
Men who scored higher on the Man Box scale were up to five times more likely to engage in sexual harassment and online, physical or verbal bullying, and twice as likely to be at risk of depression or suicidal tendencies.
“These findings highlight how detrimental harmful masculinities can be to the people who endorse them, as well as their peers, families and communities at large,” said the paper’s author Amber Hill of the University of Pittsburgh.
“It’s important to remember that individuals of all genders are influenced and impacted by the heteronormative society that we live in.”
Toxic masculinity: Fellas, is it gay to wash your own genitals?
The limitations imposed by toxic masculinity are seen in countless online posts as men question whether they’re allowed to appreciate sunsets, fruity cocktails, comfortable chairs, recycling, or even wash their own genitals.
More worryingly, a report published in May found that men are much less likely to wear face masks than women because they consider them to be “a sign of weakness”.
“There has been a lot of discussion around harmful masculinities in the media and in the research community,” said medical anthropologist Elizabeth Miller, another of the paper’s authors.
However, she added, “no one has agreed on a standardised way to measure the concept.”
The Man Box scale was developed by the gender equality consortium Promundo-US in the 1980s. Together with the Oakland Men’s Project, activist Paul Kivel created the psychometric study to consider how society tells men to react in various situations.
The exercise asked participants to think about how various traits impact and constrain their behaviour in a series of hypothetical scenarios.
It captures whether the respondent strongly internalises societal masculine norms (“inside the Man Box”) or has internalised more equitable gender attitudes (“outside the Man Box”).
The study has now been adapted to a shorter, five-point version to help clinicians better monitor their male patients’ attitudes.
Suicide is preventable. Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org), or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.
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