Toxic masculinity  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"Shepherd Bliss [...] rails against what he calls "toxic masculinity" – which he believes is responsible for most of the evil in the world – and proclaims the unheralded goodness of the men who fight the fires and till the soil and nurture their families." -- Kimmel, Michael S., ed. (1995). The Politics of Manhood. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. pp. 366–7.

Related e



The concept of toxic masculinity describes standards of behavior among men in contemporary American and European society that encourage domination and control of others while being opposed to intellectualism and emotional sensitivity.

Toxic masculinity is closely related to the ideas of hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy. Certain expressions of toxic masculinity may contribute to health problems in men.



Terry Kupers, a professor at The Wright Institute school of psychology, defines toxic masculinity as "the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia and wanton violence".

Writer Amanda Marcotte says that toxic masculinity is

a specific model of manhood, geared towards dominance and control. It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.

According to Kupers, the term toxic masculinity serves to outline aspects of hegemonic masculinity that are socially destructive, "such as misogyny, homophobia, greed, and violent domination". Kupers states that other aspects of hegemonic masculinity such as "pride in [one's] ability to win at sports, to maintain solidarity with a friend, to succeed at work, or to provide for [one's] family", are not part of the concept of toxic masculinity.

Contributing factors

Frank Pittman suggested in 1993 that toxic masculinity originates from men being raised by women, and therefore without male role models. Shepherd Bliss, who coined the term “toxic masculinity”, claimed that “toxic masculinity” was the result of “deep masculinity” being repressed by Western culture; this claim is often considered reactionary.


Social Learning Theory suggests that sexuality is learned through the environment to which you are raised in. This suggests that we learn out sexuality through positive or negative reinforcement, observation and modeling after what we deem normal. So men's sexuality would be learned by observing models (family, friends, and mass mediated images) and coming to understand which behaviors and attitudes are culturally rewarded. This is in direct contrast to sociobiological theories, which posit that behavior is hormonal, innate, or essential.

Homophobia, defined as the fear of anyone or anything defined as gay or lesbian, is implicated in the construction of masculine sexuality. Conceptually, it can be better understood as a complex element of patriarchy and sexism, combined with hatred and fear of homosexuality. Homophobia disables intimacy for men. Masculine sexuality is organized around the underlying belief that women are inferior to men. The unfortunate misperception that gay equals feminine can result in the “sexual prejudice” that to be gay is to be “less than a man”.

Health risks

Toxic masculinity has been blamed for the disproportionately high rates of violence committed by, and against, men, as well as their high rates of alcoholism and tendency for overworking.

Toxic masculinity is also implicated in socially-created public health problems, such as anabolic steroid abuse by men, elevated rates of skin cancer among men, and the role of “trophy-hunting” sexual behavior in rates of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.


Patriarchy, which refers to a society in which social power rests mostly in men's hands, can create a gender hierarchy in which men dominate or exploit women. The cultural value attributed to assertive, initiating, knowledgeable men is consequential. Regardless of sexual orientation, men are expected to take charge and direct the action and interaction (but especially in heterosexual contexts). Certainly, in popular culture, men's sexuality is thought to be driven by efficient and irresistible forces and therefore resistant to social control.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Toxic masculinity" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools