Toxic Masculinity and Sexual Violence
June was Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and today we’re looking into how toxic masculinity is harmful for men’s physical and mental health, and the role it plays in the issue of sexual violence.
Toxic masculinity generally refers to the negative aspects of exaggerated hyper-masculine traits and behaviors. Some of these behaviors refer to the need for dominance, violent and aggressive behavior, extreme competitiveness, and suppressing emotions–traits that have negative implications on men’s health.
As a result, men are more likely to suffer from mental health issues. According to the American Psychological Association, men are 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide and are at a higher risk of depression. These issues can be linked to the idea that showing emotions, or seeking help for emotional distress, is a sign of weakness. Some men may hope that by ignoring these problems they might fix themselves or simply go away.
Toxic masculinity also shows up in men’s physical health. Men are at a higher risk of developing substance abuse issues as well as cardiovascular health problems. Both can be traced to emotional suppression and pressures of aggressive and dominant behaviors, as well as a reluctance to seek health care.
Toxic masculinity plays a role in the issue of sexual violence as well. The traits of asserting dominance and power, and the normalization of violent and aggressive behaviors are often apparent in many cases of sexual violence. While toxic masculinity is not the cause of all assaults that happen, it is an underlying factor in many cases.
After an assault, male-identifying survivors of sexual violence are particularly affected by the extra set of barriers that toxic masculinity presents. Because men are not typically socialized to recognize themselves as being at risk of assault, when they are assaulted, it often triggers more feelings of shame, stigma, and weakness. This also can mean that male survivors will take longer to disclose their assault or seek help, and will be left to deal with the trauma and fallout after assault on their own.
Each member of our society feels the effects of toxic masculinity--men experience negative mental and physical health effects and it is often at the root of sexual violence. We can work to end the harmful effects that this has, through allowing a more open and welcoming environment for men to express their emotions. Ending toxic masculinity means redefining masculinity in our culture.
Resources for Men Seeking Mental Health Help:
The Blue Bench 24/7 Hotline: 303-322-7273 (English), 303-329-0031 (Spanish)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - Call: 800-273-TALK (8255)
NAMI Resource Guide for Those Experiencing A Mental Health Emergency - Call: 800 950 6264
National Crisis Text Line - Text HOME to 741741
Youth Line Confidential Teen to Teen Help Line - Call: 877-968-8491