(We’ve been tweeting alot lately about manhood and masculinity, and the response so far has been so positive that we’ve decided to write up an article about the state of modern masculinity. Here goes):
Sometime within the past year, nearly 4,800 women participated in a controversial experiment on masculinity.
The participants came from 30 countries including Argentina, Sweden, Russia, Australia and the United States. The women’s country of origin was an important part of the experiment.
After registering on a website site, the women clicked through to a listing of psychology tests then they were presented with pairs of men’s faces. For each set they would need to select the face they considered more attractive and indicate how much they preferred it to the other one.
The faces, it turned out, looked eerily alike and yet subtly different, like identical twins. They were created by software that masculinizes or feminizes a person’s features in a few keystrokes. Only by examining the faces closely could one discern that the man on the left, say, had slightly rounder eyes and a narrower jaw than the one on the right. Some of the faces had slightly thinner lips than their doppelgängers, or wider-set eyes, or thicker archless brows. It took most women fewer than 10 minutes to click through the 20 pairs of male faces and select which ones they found hunkiest.
The data showed that a woman likes her men based on her nation’s World Health Organization statistics for mortality rates, life expectancy and the impact of communicable disease. In countries where poor health is particularly a threat to survival, women leant toward “manlier” men. That is, they preferred their males to have shorter, broader faces and stronger eyebrows, cheekbones and jaw lines.
On the other hand, women from westernised countries with well-funded public health-care systems like Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and Austria, preferred a more feminine looking man.
So how is it even possible to link a woman’s masculinity preferences to the health of her nation? The answer begins with the theory of sexual selection. It goes that women are the choosier sex because they take on most of the risk and burden of reproduction and child rearing. While a man can sleep around with 100 women in a year’s time and have 100 kids, a woman who sleeps with 100 men in a year will only have one baby (barring multiples). She has more at stake in each pregnancy. Therefore, it is in her best interest to at least choose a high-quality mate. And one of the hallmarks of a quality male is good health.
But what does health have to do with masculinity? The link is testosterone, the hormone behind manly muscles, strong jaws, prominent eyebrow ridges, facial hair and deep voices. Testosterone is immunosuppressive. This means a man must be healthy and in good condition to withstand its effects on his development. Testosterone is also linked to other traits related to strength: fitness, fertility and dominance. From an evolutionary perspective, masculinity is basically man’s way of advertising good genes, dominance and likelihood to father healthier kids.
In yet another study of 2,100 Air Force veterans, men with testosterone levels one standard deviation above the mean were 43% more likely to get divorced than men with normal levels, 31% more likely to leave home because of marital problems, 38% more likely to cheat on their wives, and 13% more likely to admit that they hit or hurled things at them.
Therefore it goes without reason that women are abandoning overly macho men; they’re more willing to trade off masculinity for companionship and good parenting, and are increasingly pursuing (women pursuing men being very beginning of the imbalance between the sexes!!) “metrosexuals”—impeccable guys who exfoliate, order salads for dinner and carry man purses.
However all that this demonstrates to us is that the idea of modern society has somehow lost sight of authentic masculinity, linking it now to men who are uncooperative, unsympathetic, philandering, aggressive and disinterested in parenting.
Could it be these men are acting out their frustration of being labelled, emasculated and devalued in society? Have we – both men and women – lost sight of what true masculinity is, and does masculinity really matter? Hell yeah! In fact it matters a hell of a lot!
Much of the contemporary analysis of men and masculinity has been influenced by the work of a number of pro-feminist writers who have been leading figures in developing the now commonly accepted view of men, so much so that men are increasingly beginning to believe it.
Worse still, popular culture mocks manhood on a daily basis; male bashing is common amongst the ladies and men are considered the butt of the many a comedian’s joke. Overly masculine men are portrayed as beasts, or on the flip side, sophomoric weak simpletons who grunt out our desires or weakly go along to get along, which is leading to an entire generation of men who are