How to be a Man: Messages on Masculinity – Part 6

Our culture is consistently sending mixed messages about masculinity and sexuality. In this sixth part, we will examine those mixed messages and the statistics as presented in the documentary The Mask You Live In.

Political scientist & educator Dr. Caroline Heldman says, “I call what we do to our little boys and men ‘The Great Setup.’ We raise boys to become men whose very identity is based on rejecting the feminine, and then we are surprised when they don’t see women as being fully human. So we set them up to grow into men who disrespect women on a fundamental level and then we wonder why we have the culture that we have.” This message about masculinity has far-reaching effects.

The prevalence of pornography has become normal in our society and sends the message, “It is what women want, and this is how men are supposed to perform.

Boys are taught to objectify women with no consideration about themselves or women as individual sexual beings.

  • 93% of boys are exposed to internet porn
  • 18% of boys have seen rape online
  • Exposure to pornography increases sexual aggression by 22%
  • And increases the acceptance of rape myths (that women desire sexual violence) by 31%
  • 1 in 5 female college students is the victim of an attempt or completed sexual assault

Educator and Activist Tony Porter says, “We live in a world right here in our country where men’s violence against women is at epidemic proportions.”

Our culture is sending mixed messages about masculinity, encouraging men to find women to have sex with to impress other guys, but also that somehow men should respect women. This confusion about masculine expectations in our society provides the fertile ground necessary for sexual violence to continue.

For parents, this subject can be overwhelming. A helpful resource to empower your child against pornography is a book called Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen A. Jenson, MA and Gail Poyner, PhD.

Messages about masculinity are complex and far reaching. Stay tuned for Part 7, when we explore the relationship between masculine expectations and violence.

Dustin Ellis