I think “not feeling like a real man” is one of the biggest hidden issues of our day. Many men, maybe most, secretly question their masculinity. We don’t generally discuss this out of fear and shame, so we just sit with it in a dark lonely place.
Part of the problem is we do not have other men to assure us of our masculinity when we are growing up. If my dad was unsure of his masculinity, how can he affirm my masculinity? My friends were in the same situation, so while they beat their chests and yelled they were men, they feared they were not. As teens and young adults, men say horrible emasculating things to one another. The one receiving this plays it off, but it hurts and makes us fear they are right.
Most men are far from secure in their masculinity when they get married. Usually this results in looking to his marriage or his wife to affirm his masculinity – something doomed to fail. This can lead to strange and ugly behaviour.
- Hyper-headship: Not a balanced biblical headship, patriarchy of the worst sort. Men try to convince themselves they are men by ruling over their family with an iron fist. I am not saying every man who believes in harsh headship is insecure about his masculinity, but I see it often.
- Unreasonable Sexual Demands: in our society, being sexual is one of the few things many men do that makes them feel like men. Nothing wrong with feeling masculine because of sex, but when a man looks to affirm his masculinity with nothing but sex it is going to get weird.
- Porn: Most porn is made for men, so it plugs into our minds and gives us what we want. We get a testosterone boost, and we can pretend we are in control sexually. Short-term porn makes a man feel like more of a man. Long term it makes us feel worse – a “real man” does not need porn.
- Stupid Risks: When we take a risk and succeed, it boosts our testosterone. This means risks can make us feel masculine. Unfortunately the “male high” is short lived, and this means taking more risks and taking greater risks.
- Bragging About Past Glory: And by bragging, I mean exaggerating to the point of lying. This is trying to make yourself look like a man to others, and it never makes the one doing it feel manly. If anything, he feels worse, because he has to lie to come across as a real man.
- Sports Mania: Enjoying sports is one thing, living and dying by every win, loss, trade, and injury is a problem. Testosterone is involved here too, as we get spike in our testosterone when “our team” wins. As with some of the above, the issue here is how much and if it is the only think making him feel masculine.
- Hunting and Fishing Obsession: I have nothing against hunting and fishing. Great way to be in nature, build relationships, relax, and put some wonderful food on the table. However, some men take it to an extreme. Spending thousands of dollars for a hundred pounds of meat is an expensive hobby. Some men just enjoy it that much, but many are chasing masculinity. As with sex, this becomes a problem when it is a man’s sole means of feeling male
- Tech Toys: I’m a full on Geek, and I understand first-hand how mastering technology can make one feel manly. Not sure how it works, probably testosterone again. As with anything else, it can be overdone.
Some of what I have listed is fine if a man does not go overboard. They can help him feel more manly, but if he does not feel manly to start with they likely will not solve the issue for him. Masculinity is bestowed on us by men who are masculine. This is best done at a young age, but it can be done at any age. Most men never feel secure in their masculinity until they spend time with a “real man” and receive his assurance.
I do not have a real point or suggestion in all this. I figure the better you understand him, the better for both of you.
~ Paul – I’m XY, and I am deeply thankful for the men who affirmed my masculinity.