Try not to take this offensively: Men who see themselves as “less masculine” and (this is key) are stressed about it are significantly more prone to violence, according to a study published in Injury Prevention.
In the study, 600 men ages 18 to 50 were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk online data collection site. The researchers surveyed the men about their self-perceptions in regards to traditional gender roles, and assessed whether the men experiencing psychological stress believed others perceived them as less masculine, too. If stressed men had this belief, the researchers then looked to see if their stress manifested in risky or violent behavior.
In short: It did. Men who said they were more stressed about appearing “less masculine” reported rates of assaults 348 percent higher than did men who who were regarded as being more comfortable in their skin. That’s not a typo: 348 percent.
The reason? When a man feels his masculinity is threatened, his response is often an attempt to over-demonstrate his masculinity, researchers say. That doesn’t mean every guy goes on a sulky, rage-fueled rampage to prove that he’s manly—it’s just that men are generally at a higher risk for poor health and injury because they’re more apt to engage in risky behaviors like binge drinking, substance abuse, aggressive driving, weapon carrying, and violence.
One explanation for this unhealthy risk taking behavior is related to “discrepancy stress,” according to the researchers. Threatened masculinity (and clinging to old ideas on what makes a man a man) is definitely a driver, they add.