The Problem With How Men Think About Masculinity

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A new study found men think society expects them to conform to stereotypes ... but how right are they?

Society expects men to be breadwinners, sleep with as many women as possible and use violence ... Or does it? A survey of 1,000 young Australian men found guys think they have to conform to traditional masculine standards. But these standards may not be as solid as they imagine.

"Our findings correspond with those from the US, UK and Mexico," write the study's authors, researchers at Jesuit Social Services. "The pressures relating to being a man are everywhere in society and are reinforced and influenced by young men’s closest relationships – families, partners and friends."

Okay, that's probably not a shocker. But the researchers also found that men felt pressured to conform to these values even if they didn't actually believe in them. Men see through their expectations, but they still can't get them out of their heads.

For instance, 56 percent of men think society believes "Men should really be the ones to bring money home to provide for their families, not women," but only 35 percent actually believe this should be the expectation. 47 percent of men think society believes "A ‘real man’ should have as many sexual partners as he can," but only 25 percent of men actually agree. "Men should use violence to get respect if necessary" was also much more popular in "society" than it was among actual men surveyed.

These beliefs make life harder for men, say the researchers. The survey found men who stuff themselves in this "man box" are more likely to feel depressed, get in driving accidents and think about suicide. Interestingly, it also found they were more likely to both bully and get bullied.

The heartbreaking thing is, these supposed social expectations may not even be real. Men seem to be forcing themselves to conform to expectations that they don't actually have about each other.

"Looking at the personal views of young men, there was not one Man Box rule that a majority of young men agreed with, and over three quarters of the young men disagreed with the rules on hypersexuality, rigid household roles, and the idea that men should use violence to get respect," write the researchers.

I can't help but notice a pattern here: men think "society" expects them to get their hands on as much as possible. They have to seize as much money as possible, seduce (hopefully) as many women as possible and fight to earn as much respect as possible.

But that's the problem with the environment, isn't is? Humans keeps on producing and consuming, grabbing as much as they can. They commit massive acts of violence against nature to earn money and respect.

And I'm not so sure that's just a man thing. I know plenty of men and women who feel like society expects them to make more money, find more partners and just generally "win" at life more. This attitude stresses a lot of my friends out, and it also lays the groundwork for a consumption society.

But if this study is any guide, then perhaps people don't expect each other to earn or consume as much as they think they do.