Precarious Manhood Theory: What Happens When Masculinity is Threatened?

downloadExtreme beliefs in maintaining traditional gender roles may come down to something called the “Precarious Manhood Theory” (Vandello & Bosson, 2013). That is, when men do not feel masculine, they are more likely to engage in gender stereotypical behaviors, such as aggression, taking risks with money, and avoiding things like housework and childcare. One question that remains, though, is does the precarious manhood theory hold up in cultures where there are few, if any, differences between male and female roles? Kosakowska-Berezecka and colleagues (2016) sought to answer this with a study in Poland where there are fewer differences in male and female gender roles.

Kosakowska-Berezecka and colleagues’ work consisted of three studies, in which participants were told they had either high testosterone levels or low testosterone levels (regardless of their actual testosterone levels), were asked to rate themselves on masculine and feminine traits or to justify whether they believed in traditional gender roles.

Results from this study suggest that male individuals who are informed of having low testosterone felt that they were not “manly” enough, and were more likely to engage in gender stereotypical behaviors, such as getting involved in physical fights. On the other hand, males who were told they had high testosterone levels were more likely to agree with equality between females and males and were more likely to partake in perceived “feminine” responsibilities such as caretaking or doing housework. Last, males who identified with an egalitarian culture were less likely to report masculinity threats and did not feel the need to display certain masculine behaviors in order to prove their “manliness” to others.

AlexandraBy Alexandra Graff
Alexandra is a senior, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, she plans on working in the education or healthcare field as a psychometrist.

Kosakowska-Berezecka, N., Besta, T., Adamska, K., Jaśkiewicz, M., Jurek, P., & Vandello, J. (2016). If my masculinity is threatened I won’t support gender equality? The role of agentic self-stereotyping in restoration of manhood and perception of gender relations. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 17, 274-284.

Vandello, J. A., & Bosson, J. K. (2013). Hard won and easily lost: A review and synthesis of theory and research on precarious manhood. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 14(2), 101-113.