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(Jupiterimages/(C) 2009 Jupiterimages)
(Jupiterimages/(C) 2009 Jupiterimages)

Want to be a macho man? Study finds it's not easy Add to ...

It's an oft-spoofed scene: young men who fail to 'score' wailing on each other outside a nightclub.

A new paper suggests that manhood is a precarious status-and when it's threatened, men will often become aggressive to re-assert it. In several studies, University of South Florida psychologists had men perform "feminine" tasks, and recorded the fallout afterwards.

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In one experiment, they had some men braid hair (that's feminine, they said) and others braid rope -- that's more masculine, or gender neutral, they argued.

The men were then all given the options of punching a bag or doing a puzzle. Overwhemingly, the hair-braiders chose to punch the bag.

When the puzzle wasn't an option and only the punching bag was on offer to all the men, the hair-braiders lashed out harder than their rope-braiding counterparts.

When all the men were forced to braid hair but only some got to punch a bag, the non-punchers reported being more anxious on a subsequent test.

In another experiment, the researchers had men and women read a fake police report in which either a man or a woman attacked someone of their own sex after that person insulted their manhood, or womanhood -- the latter being a difficult exchange to wrap your head around: how does one insult womanhood, anyway?

The woman attacker was found by both sexes to be immature; women also said this about the male aggressors.

But when the attacker was a man, the men believed that humiliation forced him to defend his manhood.

"Gender is social," University of South Florida psychologist co-author Jennifer Bosson said in a release.

"Men know this. They are powerfully concerned about how they appear in other people's eyes."

She added: "When I was younger I felt annoyed by my male friends who would refuse to hold a pocketbook or say whether they thought another man was attractive. I thought it was a personal shortcoming that they were so anxious about their manhood. Now I feel much more sympathy for men."



Prof. Bosson argues that her research reinforces that rigid gender roles have negative effects on men including anxiety, low self-esteem and violence.



The paper is published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

 

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