What Is Toxic Masculinity? Causes, Effects, And Solutions

Last updated on July 4th, 2024 at 03:03 pm

What is toxic masculinity? Understand why some men can hurt themselves or others physically or emotionally in their quest to prove they are man enough.

This is because, society says as a man, you must be strong, and dominant, not given to emotions, if he wants to be seen as a real man.

In recent years, the concept of toxic male behaviour has garnered increased attention in discussions about gender, societal norms, and mental health.

This article aims to discuss deeply, the multifaceted aspects of harmful masculinity, exploring its causes, effects, and potential solutions for sustaining healthier masculinity.

Table of Contents

What is Toxic Masculinity?

A man taking a risk - an example of toxic masculinity

Toxic masculinity is a set of harmful societal norms and expectations that define a particular, often harmful, version of being a man.

It emphasizes traits such as emotional suppression, dominance, aggression, and the rejection of anything deemed “feminine.”

This construct enforces rigid gender roles and discourages men from expressing vulnerability, empathy, or sensitivity.

Toxic male behaviour is a pervasive issue that affects individuals, relationships, and society as a whole painting a bad picture of masculinity as weak.

Toxicity in masculinity can have detrimental effects on mental health, relationships, and society as a whole, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and behaviours.

Related: How to Build Confidence as a Real Man

I Nearly Slipped into Toxic Masculinity

In my late 20s, I found myself unwittingly slipping into the grips of toxic masculinity.

Fueled by societal pressures and misguided beliefs, I equated strength with emotional suppression and dominance.

I was driven by the desire to infuse manliness in every situation. I became combative and unyielding, challenging everything I didn’t fancy.

It wasn’t until my dad noticed and constantly confronted me about my dismissive behaviour towards the feelings of others that I realized the damage I was causing.

Reflecting on my actions after several ponderings, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery, embracing vulnerability and empathy.

Through introspection and open dialogue, I shed the shackles of negative masculinity, learning that true strength lies in compassion and respect.

It’s a lesson I carry with me every day, shaping my interactions and worldview.

Related: How Toxic Masculinity Ruins Your Relationship

Toxic Masculinity Traits

Hitting a woman, example of toxic male behaviour

Here are explanations of some characteristics commonly associated with the dark side of manliness:

1. Suppression of Emotions

Harmful masculinity often promotes the idea that men should suppress or hide their emotions, as expressing vulnerability is seen as a sign of weakness.

This can lead to emotional repression, difficulty in forming meaningful connections, and mental health issues.

2. Aggression and Violence

Toxic male behaviour can encourage aggressive and violent behaviour as a means to assert dominance and control.

This can manifest in physical violence, verbal abuse, or other forms of aggression, which can harm both the individual and those around them.

Related: Toxic Masculinity in the Workplace

3. Dominance and Control

Oppressive masculinity often emphasizes the need for men to assert dominance and control over others, particularly in relationships or social situations.

This can lead to power struggles, unhealthy power dynamics, and a lack of respect for consent and boundaries.

4. Homophobia and Misogyny

Negative masculinity perpetuates homophobia and misogyny.

Homophobia stems from the fear or hatred of homosexuality, while misogyny refers to the dislike, contempt, or prejudice against women.

These attitudes can contribute to discrimination, harassment, and violence against individuals who do not conform to traditional gender roles or expectations.

Related: How to be a Real Man through Emotional Intelligence

Causes of Toxic Masculinity

A man smoking - expressing harmful male behaviour

Understanding the root causes of harmful masculinity by shedding light on how socialization, patriarchal structures, and the fear of emasculation contribute to its perpetuation helps in dismantling it.

Let’s take a closer look:

1. How Socialization and Gender Norms Cause Toxic Masculinity

Boys are socialized from birth to conform to rigid gender norms emphasizing toughness, stoicism, and dominance.

Media, peers, and family reinforce these stereotypes, teaching them to suppress emotions and assert control.

Hyper-masculine media representations and peer pressure enforce these ideals, while families may implicitly endorse traditional gender roles.

This indoctrination profoundly shapes boys’ understanding of masculinity, impacting their behavior throughout their lives.

Related: Demystifying the Emasculation of Men

2. How Patriarchal Structures Enhance Harmful Male Behaviour

Patriarchal structures, where men hold primary power, reinforce toxic masculinity by prioritizing male dominance and control.

This creates gender imbalances, subjugating women and imposing unrealistic expectations on men.

From politics to culture, patriarchal ideologies shape norms, laws, and institutions, favoring male privilege.

This unequal power distribution marginalizes women and pressures men to conform to narrow masculine ideals to maintain dominance and social status.

Related: Understanding the Difference between Simping and Being Nice

3. How Fear of Emasculation Causes Toxic Masculinity

The fear of emasculation drives harmful male behaviour, as men fear being perceived as weak or unmanly.

Societal norms equate masculinity with strength and control, leading men to suppress vulnerability and emotions.

Deviating from these norms risks ridicule and ostracization.

Personal insecurities further compel men to conform to traditional ideals, perpetuating toxic behaviors despite the harm to their well-being.

Also Read: Feminism, not be Responsible for Male Emasculation

4. How Socialization Promotes Toxic Masculinity

Through socialization, boys are taught that it is okay to be tough, hard, insensitive and other traditional attributes of being a man to be seen as manly enough. They run off with these innocently.

Media representations of masculinity often reinforce toxic ideals.

Traditional gender roles are frequently portrayed, with men being depicted as strong, aggressive, and sexually dominant.

These portrayals can influence societal expectations and perpetuate harmful behaviours.

6. How Homophobia and Misogyny Causes Toxic Masculinity

Being a man in a toxic way can be fueled by homophobia and misogyny.

Men who fear being perceived as feminine or gay may engage in hypermasculine behaviors to distance themselves from these stereotypes.

This can result in the mistreatment of women and the reinforcement of harmful gender dynamics.

Related: How to Challenge Toxic Masculinity in Relationships

Effects of Toxic Masculinity

A woman with black eye as a result of toxic masculinity

Toxic masculinity, ingrained in societal norms, wreaks havoc on mental health, relationships, and communities as you will see below:

1. Mental Health Issues

Toxic male behaviour sustains a culture of emotional suppression, leading to mental health struggles like depression and anxiety.

Men, pressured to maintain stoicism, often suffer in silence, exacerbating their distress.

2. Relationship Problems

Its promotion of aggression and emotional detachment impedes healthy relationships.

Intimate partner violence and a lack of emotional intimacy are common outcomes, perpetuating cycles of harm.

3. Harmful Behaviours

Toxic masculinity breeds harmful behaviours such as aggression and disregards for others.

This leads to violence, bullying, and antisocial conduct, perpetuating destructive cycles within communities.

3. Suicide Rates Among Men

Due to societal pressures to conform to traditional masculine norms, men may feel compelled to hide their vulnerabilities and suffer in silence.

This can contribute to higher rates of suicide among men, as they may feel unable to seek support or express their emotional pain openly.

4. Impact on Relationships

Oppressive masculinity inhibits men from forming deep emotional connections, as societal pressures compel them to appear strong and self-reliant.

This encourages a culture of aggression, contributing to higher rates of domestic violence.

Beliefs in male control and dominance lead to abusive behaviours, hindering open communication and fostering harmful relationship dynamics.

5. Societal Consequences

Harmful masculinity perpetuates gender inequality by reinforcing rigid roles and stereotypes, and limiting opportunities based on gender.

It correlates masculinity with aggression, leading to higher rates of violent behavior.

Additionally, it stifles creativity and self-expression by discouraging activities or behaviors deemed “feminine,” restricting men’s exploration of their interests and talents beyond traditional norms.

Related: Male Emasculation: Count Feminism Out

Intersectionality and Toxic Masculinity

Intersectionality acknowledges the complex interplay of various aspects of identity like race, class, and gender, impacting experiences and social inequalities.

Harmful masculinity perpetuates damaging stereotypes, promoting dominance and emotional detachment.

While not critiquing all masculinity, it highlights the negative effects of rigid gender norms.

It affects diverse communities, contributing to the oppression of women, harm to men, and negative impacts on LGBTQ+ individuals.

Also Read: Frequently Asked Questions about Masculinity

Overcoming Toxic Masculinity

A man hanging by a rope over a road

Toxic masculinity’s grip on society perpetuates harmful stereotypes and behaviours, but there are ways to dismantle it and encourage healthier expressions of masculinity.

Let’s take a look:

1. Education and Awareness

Promoting education and awareness about toxic masculinity is crucial.

Schools, community organizations, and media platforms can initiate discussions to challenge societal norms and promote gender equality.

2. Encouraging Emotional Literacy

Teaching emotional literacy empowers boys and men to recognize, understand, and express their emotions.

Providing safe spaces for vulnerability promotes emotional well-being and strengthens social connections.

3. Redefining Masculinity

Broadening the definition of masculinity to include empathy, compassion, and collaboration is essential.

Highlighting positive male role models who embody these traits challenges traditional notions and inspires healthier behaviors.

4. Challenging Gender Norms

Dismantling patriarchal structures requires challenging gender norms and promoting gender equality.

Supporting initiatives that empower women and promote inclusive masculinity fosters equitable opportunities for all genders.

5. Promoting Positive Masculinity

This involves embracing traits that are traditionally associated with femininity but are equally important for both men and women.

Encouraging men to express their emotions and seek support when needed, rather than suppressing their feelings.

This helps maintain healthier relationships and emotional well-being.

6. Support Systems for Men

Support systems for men, crucial in navigating challenges associated with traditional masculinity, include men’s support groups and therapy.

These offer safe spaces for open discussion and professional assistance, countering stigma around mental health and fostering emotional well-being and personal growth.

Related: Many Ways Women Emasculate Men

How Gentlemanliness Overcomes Toxic Masculinity

Gentlemanliness, on the other hand, promotes positive and respectful behaviour towards others, regardless of gender.

Here’s how gentlemanliness has combated toxic ways of expressing manliness:

Respect for Others: Being a gentleman emphasizes treating others with respect, kindness, and empathy. By valuing the feelings and perspectives of others, gentlemen reject the notion that dominance and aggression are necessary to assert their masculinity.

Emotional Intelligence: A gentleman can overcome harmful masculinity by developing emotional intelligence, which involves understanding and managing emotions, empathizing with others, and embracing vulnerability and healthy expressions of masculinity.

Promoting Equality: A gentleman promotes equality by challenging toxic ways of expressing masculinity, embracing empathy, respecting boundaries, and supporting gender inclusivity in all aspects of life.

Active Bystander Intervention: Gentlemanliness promotes men’s active intervention against harmful behaviours, such as sexism and discrimination, creating a safer and more respectful environment.

Positive Role Modeling: Gentlemanliness means being a positive role model, especially for younger generations, by showing respect and compassion. It inspires rejecting toxic masculinity and embracing healthier attitudes.

Toxic Masculinity Examples

Examples of toxic masculinity can be observed in various aspects of life, including individual behaviours, media portrayals, and societal expectations.

Here are some notable examples:

1. Emotional Repression

Men adhering to unsafe ways of masculinity often feel pressure to suppress their emotions, especially vulnerability or sadness.

They may avoid crying or showing sensitivity, fearing it will make them appear weak.

2. Dominance and Aggression

The idea of men being dominant and assertive in all situations to prove their masculinity can manifest as overly aggressive behaviour.

This can prompt the need for control, and a tendency to resolve conflicts through physical or verbal aggression.

3. Homophobia and Transphobia

Harmful masculinity often includes rigid gender and sexual orientation norms.

Men who exhibit affection or interest in activities traditionally associated with the opposite gender may face ridicule or discrimination, contributing to the marginalization of LGBTQ+ individuals.

4. Sexual Objectification

Objectifying women and viewing them solely in terms of physical appearance is a common feature of toxic masculinity.

Men may judge their worth or the worth of others based on sexual conquests or the attractiveness of their partners.

5. Pressure to Conform

Men who resist or question traditional masculine norms may be subjected to ridicule or ostracism by their peers.

This peer pressure can reinforce the cycle of unhealthy masculinity.

6. The “Man Up” Mentality

Toxic male behaviour often discourages men from seeking help or expressing vulnerability.

Phrases like “man up” or “be a man” imply that showing weakness or asking for assistance is unacceptable.

7. Stereotyping Male Interests

Dark masculinity confines men to a limited range of acceptable interests and hobbies.

Men may feel compelled to avoid activities or interests perceived as “feminine” to conform to societal expectations.

8. Violence as a Solution

Expressing manhood in a harmful way can promote the idea that violence is an acceptable means of problem-solving.

This can contribute to aggressive behaviour in interpersonal relationships and even involvement in criminal activities.

9. Peer Pressure and Hazing

In environments like sports teams, fraternities, or military units, expressing masculine qualities in a toxic way can lead to harmful initiation rituals or hazing, where individuals are subjected to physical or emotional abuse to prove their toughness.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning of toxic masculinity?

Toxic male behaviour refers to harmful societal expectations and behaviors associated with traditional masculinity that can be detrimental to both men and women.

What is toxic masculinity give an example.

An example is the belief that men should suppress their emotions and display aggression as a means of asserting dominance.

How does toxic masculinity affect females?

It can negatively impact females by perpetuating gender stereotypes, promoting objectification, and normalizing gender-based violence.

What is the root of toxic masculinity?

The root lies in deeply ingrained societal norms and expectations that reinforce rigid gender roles and discourage emotional vulnerability in men.

How can I be masculine without being toxic?

To be masculine without being toxic, focus on embracing healthy expressions of masculinity, such as emotional intelligence, empathy, and respect for others’ autonomy and equality.


Understanding toxic masculinity is crucial in addressing the harmful effects it has on individuals and society as a whole.

By recognizing the causes, such as societal expectations and rigid gender roles, we can begin to dismantle these harmful norms.

The effects of this dark side of masculinity, including aggression, emotional suppression, and violence, can be mitigated through education, open dialogue, and promoting healthy expressions of being a man.

Solutions lie in encouraging empathy, encouraging emotional intelligence, and challenging harmful stereotypes.

By promoting inclusivity, equality, and respect, we can create a society that embraces diverse expressions of gender and fosters healthier relationships, ultimately benefiting everyone.


  1. https://menscenter.org/toxic-masculinity/
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/toxic-masculinity
  3. https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/what-toxic-masculinity-and-how-it-impacts-mental