Toxic masculinity: what does that mean?

Reading time 6 minutes
Toxic masculinity: what does that mean?

In order to feel like a fully-fledged man, many men want to be perceived as dominant by those around them. However, this desire can take on destructive proportions, so that the supposedly masculine behavior harms those affected as well as their environment. Many men have still internalized the classic role model of the stronger sex. In the following article, you will find out how Toxic masculinity and how you can recognize affected men.

What is toxic masculinity?

Toxic masculinity as mentioned at the beginning, refers to destructive - i.e. damaging - behavior that is fed by the old role models of how a "real" man is supposed to behave. This refers not only to the external effect, but also to the emotional world. emotions to feel or even show openly is considered effeminate by toxic men.

Most men internalize this role model as early as childhood. They experience their male role models as strong, dominant and aggressive. Sooner or later, this is reflected in their own behavior. Destructive images of masculinity do not allow for any gentleness or consideration, as a result of which those affected develop into contemporaries without empathy.

Although the men do everything they can to meet their own expectations, they rarely fulfilled life. Their behavior exposes them to numerous risks and often entangles them in violent confrontations. The consequences can be social isolation and depression.

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How does a toxic man behave?

Affected men have a false image of masculinity internalized. Below we have summarized the ten most common beliefs and behaviors that you can use to recognize traits of exaggerated masculinity.

  1. Men must not cry or otherwise show emotion. This is considered weak. Unless the emotion is anger or aggression.
  2. Conflicts are carried out with violence.
  3. Men are not allowed to express their fears and worries, but have to work everything out with themselves.
  4. A "real" man never feels overwhelmed or helpless. He solves his problems alone, without having to ask other people for help.
  5. Avoidance of behaviors considered effeminate and/or attributed more to women (e.g., crying, timidity, shyness, affectionate gestures such as hugs).
  6. A person affected might think that men and Women do not understand each other, let alone be friends with each other.
  7. The outer appearance must correspond to a masculine ideal image (tall, muscular, broad-shouldered). If this is not the case, one is not taken seriously or even laughed at.
  8. There is no camaraderie among men. Other men are always seen as competitors who need to be shown their place in the hierarchy.
  9. Toxic masculinity also includes the area of sexuality. Men are convinced that a real man is always in the mood for sex and is always ready for it.
  10. Men who have these traits very quickly feel offended in their masculine honor, which manifests itself through aggression.
toxic masculinity definition

How does toxic masculinity arise?

Dysfunctional ideals of masculinity can largely - but not exclusively - be traced back to culture and upbringing. For example, many boys are still taught by their parents that men are not allowed to cry. If children learn not to perceive their own (pain) boundaries and not to communicate accordingly, they acquire behavior that is harmful to themselves and others.

It is human nature to want to belong. A boy who is constantly told that he has to appear invulnerable and hardened in order to be considered a real man is strongly influenced by the corresponding role model. He associates this misconceived masculinity with success and social recognition. Consequently, he will try everything to conform to this stereotypical image.

Sometimes, however, harmful ideas of masculinity only develop in the course of a person's life. This can be the case, for example, after a traumatizing interpersonal experience. A once gentle man who has felt severely humiliated may try to build a wall of toxic masculinity around himself.

What damage can men do with outdated concepts?

Unhealthy masculinity norms are expressed in aggression towards oneself and other people. We would like to shed some light on how this is the case below.

For yourself

A man with harmful ideas of masculinity basically longs for social Acceptance, success and recognition. Through his aggressive and uncooperative behavior, however, he achieves exactly the opposite. Toxic masculinity can isolate those affected socially and impair them in their relationship life as well as professionally.

Hierarchy problems often arise in professional life. These men take criticism personally and feel attacked in their male honor as soon as they are reprimanded. However, it is not necessarily good for your career to attack your superior verbally or even physically at the slightest difference of opinion. In the worst case scenario, you could lose your job.

Making friends is also difficult for toxic men. Because they see other men as competitors and do not want to be friends with women, they are often very lonely. The pressure of suffering is discharged in increased aggression, because such men have not learned to deal with their emotions in any other way. As you can see, those affected find themselves in a vicious circle.

Health consequences

The negative social aspects of toxic masculinity also entail health problems, as certified pedagogue Sebastian Tippe explains in his Reference book explained.

Toxic men have a lower life expectancy because their mentality encourages them to consume addictive substances as well as engage in risky behavior (e.g., driving too fast). Suicide rates are also significantly higher among toxic men. As they have learned to override their own physical and psychological needs, they are also less likely to seek medical help.

For the outside world

Men with harmful behavior are usually unpleasant contemporaries with whom it is easy to get into conflict. They feel easily provoked, even without cause. Sometimes all it takes is a supposedly wrong look. Such men often resolve conflicts with physical violence, as they have not learned to do otherwise. A man like this in your immediate environment usually means unrest and fear.

In addition, these men disrupt the social structures in which they find themselves, be it in their circle of friends or at work. Such a man always wants to be the center of attention and be admired for his masculinity.

For relationships

Hardly any modern woman nowadays wants an overbearing macho man for a partner. Toxic masculinity consequently has an extremely negative effect on relationship life. Most women long for a partner with equal rights, one who can appreciative and treated as equals. These men are not able to do this. They always strive for dominance.

A sad fact is that the greatest danger for women to become victims of homicide comes from their partners and ex-partners. Toxic men who are left for another man and feel their masculinity devalued as a result sometimes cannot bear it. The grief discharges into aggression, which can have dire consequences.

How to recognize harmful masculinity

Harmful masculinity is easy to recognize because it is practically impossible to overlook. Here are three typical everyday examples:

1. sexism

Men with harmful behaviors see themselves as the alpha dog of the family. They need to be in charge of the relationship and try to suppress their partners. This manifests itself in their refusal to provide any support that could be defined as feminine (e.g. housework or child rearing). They do not respond to the wishes and needs of their partners and, in extreme cases, are prone to sexual assault.

2. homophobia

Such men have a delusional fear of being perceived as unmanly. They reject any contact with supposedly unmanly characteristics, including homosexuality. Homosexual men in particular are often discriminated against, insulted, threatened or even physically attacked. This can happen without personal conflict, simply because of chance encounters.

3. numbness in the face of misfortune

Even in the face of tragic loss, these men show no emotion. The conviction that they are not allowed to show weakness is so deeply rooted that they remain emotionally cold even in extreme situations. Repressed emotions are expressed, if at all, in anger and aggression.

Toxic masculinity as part of patriarchy

The fact that toxic masculinity is still so widespread in our society, even though we are striving for equality in all areas, is related not only to individual upbringing but also to patriarchy. The latter means that women are still at a clear disadvantage in some areas despite all efforts.

For example, most leadership positions in politics and business are still predominantly occupied by men, as shown in this Statistics shows.

Toxic masculinity is a social problem that causes great harm both to those affected and to their environment. Unfortunately, the men affected rarely come to the realization that they need to change something about their behavior.

Are you leading a friendship or even Relationship with a toxic Man, it is necessary to take care of yourself first and foremost. No one has the right to attack you verbally or physically. Try to show the person that masculinity does not have to be synonymous with aggression and dominance.


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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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