One of the most famous depictions of Heracles, originally by Lysippos (marble, Roman copy called Hercules Farnese, 216 CE)
In Greek mythology, Heracles is synonymous with Apollonian masculinity.

Masculinity (manhood or manliness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles associated with boys and men. As a social construct, it is distinct from the definition of the male biological sex.[1][2] Standards of manliness or masculinity vary across different cultures and historical periods.[3] Both males and females can exhibit masculine traits and behavior.[4]

Traits traditionally viewed as masculine in Western society include courage, independence, violence,[5] and assertiveness.[6][7][8] Machismo is a form of masculinity that emphasizes power and is often associated with a disregard for consequences and responsibility.[9]


Masculine qualities and roles are considered typical of, appropriate for, and expected of boys and men. Similar to masculinity is virility (from the Latin vir, "man"). The concept of masculinity varies historically and culturally; although the dandy was seen as a 19th-century ideal of masculinity, he is considered effeminate by modern standards.[10]:1-3 Masculine norms, as described in Ronald F. Levant's Masculinity Reconstructed, are "avoidance of femininity; restricted emotions; sex disconnected from intimacy; pursuit of achievement and status; self-reliance; strength and aggression, and homophobia".[11][when?][where?] These norms reinforce gender roles by associating attributes and characteristics with one gender.[12]

The academic study of masculinity received increased attention during the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the number of courses on the subject in the United States rising from 30 to over 300.[13] This has sparked investigation of the intersection of masculinity with other axes of social discrimination and concepts from other fields, such as the social construction of gender difference[14] (prevalent in a number of philosophical and sociological theories).

Both males and females can exhibit masculine traits and behavior. Those exhibiting both masculine and feminine characteristics are considered androgynous, and feminist philosophers have argued that gender ambiguity may blur gender classification.[15][16]


Carpenter in a hard hat using a hand drill outdoors
A construction worker

In many cultures, displaying characteristics not typical of one's gender may be a social problem. In sociology, this labeling is known as gender assumptions and is part of socialization to meet the mores of a society. Non-standard behavior may be considered indicative of homosexuality, despite the fact that gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation are widely accepted as distinct concepts.[17][when?][where?] When sexuality is defined in terms of object choice (as in early sexology studies), male homosexuality is interpreted as effeminacy.[18] Social disapproval of excessive masculinity may be expressed as "machismo"[9] or by neologisms such as "testosterone poisoning".[19]

The relative importance of socialization and genetics in the development of masculinity is debated. Although social conditioning is believed to play a role, psychologists and psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung believed that aspects of "feminine" and "masculine" identity are subconsciously present in all human males.[a]

The historical development of gender roles is addressed by behavioural genetics, evolutionary psychology, human ecology, anthropology and sociology. All human cultures seem to encourage gender roles in literature, costume and song; examples may include the epics of Homer, the Hengist and Horsa tales and the normative commentaries of Confucius.[citation needed] More specialized treatments of masculinity may be found in the Bhagavad Gita and the bushidō of Hagakure.

Nature versus nurture

The sources of gender identity are debated. Some believe that masculinity is linked to the male body; in this view, masculinity is associated with male genitalia.[10]:3 Others have suggested that although masculinity may be influenced by biology, it is also a cultural construct. Proponents of this view argue that women can become men hormonally and physically,[10]:3 and many aspects of masculinity assumed to be natural are linguistically and culturally driven.[20] On the nurture side of the debate, it is argued that masculinity does not have a single source. Although the military has a vested interest in constructing and promoting a specific form of masculinity, it does not create it.[10]:17–21 Facial hair is linked to masculinity through language, in stories about boys becoming men when they begin to shave.[10]:30–31

In contrast to earlier perspectives of the nature versus nurture debate, contemporary social scientists suggest masculinity to stem from both nature and nurture, as both biological predispositions and social factors intersect to give rise to masculine gender identities.[21] Scholars suggest that innate differences between the sexes are compounded and/or exaggerated by the influences of social factors.[22][23][24]

Social construction of masculinity

Social scientists conceptualize masculinity (and femininity) as a performance.[25][26][27] Gender performances may not necessarily be intentional and people may not even be aware of the extent to which they are performing gender, as one outcome of lifelong gender socialization is the feeling that one's gender is "natural" or biologically-ordained.

The social construction of gender also conceptualizes gender as a continuum. Theorists suggest one is not simply masculine or feminine, but instead may display components of both masculinity and femininity to different degrees and in particular contexts.

Masculine performance varies over the life course, but also from one context to another. For instance, the sports world may elicit more traditionally normative masculinities in participants than would other settings.[28] Men who exhibit a tough and aggressive masculinity on the sports field may display a softer masculinity in familial contexts. Masculinities vary by social class as well. Studies suggest working class constructions of masculinity to be more normative than are those from middle class men and boys.[29][30] As these contexts and comparisons illustrate, theorists suggest a multiplicity of masculinities, not simply one single construction of masculinity.[31]

Hegemonic masculinity

Two men wrestling in a gymnasium, watched by a group of uninformed soldiers
Contests of physical skill and strength appear in some form in many cultures. Here, two U.S. Marines compete in a wrestling match.

Traditional avenues for men to gain honor were providing for their families and exercising leadership.[32] Raewyn Connell has labeled traditional male roles and privileges hegemonic masculinity, encouraged in men and discouraged in women: "Hegemonic masculinity can be defined as the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy, which guarantees the dominant position of men and the subordination of women".[33]:77 In addition to describing forceful articulations of violent masculine identities, hegemonic masculinity has also been used to describe implicit, indirect, or coercive forms of gendered socialisation, enacted through video games, fashion, humour, and so on.[34]

Precarious manhood

Researchers have argued that the "precariousness" of manhood contributes to traditionally-masculine behavior.[35] "Precarious" means that manhood is not inborn, but must be achieved. In many cultures, boys endure painful initiation rituals to become men. Manhood may also be lost, as when a man is derided for not "being a man". Researchers have found that men respond to threats to their manhood by engaging in stereotypically-masculine behaviors and beliefs, such as supporting hierarchy, espousing homophobic beliefs, supporting aggression and choosing physical tasks over intellectual ones.[36]

In 2014, Winegard and Geary wrote that the precariousness of manhood involves social status (prestige or dominance), and manhood may be more (or less) precarious due to the avenues men have for achieving status.[37] Men who identify with creative pursuits, such as poetry or painting, may not experience manhood as precarious but may respond to threats to their intelligence or creativity. However, men who identify with traditionally-masculine pursuits (such as football or the military) may see masculinity as precarious. According to Winegard, Winegard, and Geary, this is functional; poetry and painting do not require traditionally-masculine traits, and attacks on those traits should not induce anxiety.[dubious ] Football and the military require traditionally-masculine traits, such as pain tolerance, endurance, muscularity and courage, and attacks on those traits induce anxiety and may trigger retaliatory impulses and behavior. This suggests that nature-versus-nurture debates about masculinity may be simplistic. Although men evolved to pursue prestige and dominance (status), how they pursue status depends on their talents, traits and available possibilities. In modern societies, more avenues to status may exist than in traditional societies and this may mitigate the precariousness of manhood (or of traditional manhood); however, it will probably not mitigate the intensity of male-male competition.[citation needed]

In women

Although often ignored in discussions of masculinity, women can also express masculine traits and behaviors.[38][39] In Western culture, female masculinity has been codified into identities such as "tomboy" and "butch". Women are often "hypersexualized", meaning women are treated or depicted as sexual objects. Women are often times masculinized through the media and sporting events as well and focus more on a females physical characteristics using the media as a form of humor towards this masculine image. Female masculinity in athletics has been a continuous conflict because of the societal norms. Women who threaten these standards, such as those who participate in highly differentiated “masculine” sports are viewed to challenge the “boundaries of femininity”.[40] Although female masculinity is often associated with lesbianism, expressing masculinity is not necessarily related to a woman's sexuality. In feminist philosophy, female masculinity is often characterized as a type of gender performance which challenges traditional masculinity and male dominance.[41] Zachary A. Kramer argues that the discussion of masculinity should be opened up "to include constructions of masculinity that uniquely affect women."[42] Masculine women are often subject to social stigma and harassment, although the influence of the feminist movement has led to greater acceptance of women expressing masculinity in recent decades.[43] Women with sterotypically masculine traits are more likely to gain access to occupations than women with feminine traits.[44][non-primary source needed]


Silhouetted man drinking a glass of beer
A British soldier drinks a glass of beer after his return from Afghanistan. Fighting in wars and drinking alcohol are both traditionally masculine activities in many cultures.

Evidence points to the negative impact of hegemonic masculinity on men's health-related behavior, with American men making 134.5 million fewer physician visits per year than women. Men make 40.8 percent of all physician visits, including women's obstetric and gynecological visits. Twenty-five percent of men aged 45 to 60 do not have a personal physician, increasing their risk of death from heart disease. Men between 25 and 65 are four times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than women, and are more likely to be diagnosed with a terminal illness because of their reluctance to see a doctor. Reasons cited for not seeing a physician include fear, denial, embarrassment, a dislike of situations out of their control and the belief that visiting a doctor is not worth the time or cost.[45]

Studies of men in North America and Europe show that men who consume alcoholic drinks often do so in order to fulfill certain social expectations of manliness. While the causes of drinking and alcoholism are complex and varied, gender roles and social expectations have a strong influence encouraging men to drink.[46][47]

In 2004, Arran Stibbe published an analysis of a well-known men's-health magazine in 2000. According to Stibbe, although the magazine ostensibly focused on health it also promoted traditional masculine behaviors such as excessive consumption of convenience foods and meat, alcohol consumption and unsafe sex.[48]

Research on beer-commercial content by Lance Strate[49] yielded results relevant to a study of masculinity.[50] In beer commercials, masculine behavior (especially risk-taking) is encouraged. Commercials often focus on situations in which a man overcomes an obstacle in a group, working or playing hard (construction or farm workers or cowboys). Those involving play have central themes of mastery (of nature or each other), risk and adventure: fishing, camping, playing sports or socializing in bars. There is usually an element of danger and a focus on movement and speed (watching fast cars or driving fast). The bar is a setting for the measurement of masculinity in skills such as billiards, strength, and drinking ability.[49] Men engage in positive health practices, such as reducing fat intake and alcohol, to conform to masculine ideals.[51][clarification needed]

Other Languages
العربية: ذكورة
বাংলা: পুরুষত্ব
Bân-lâm-gú: Lâm-chú-sèng
български: Мъжество
català: Masculinitat
Cymraeg: Gwrywdod
Deutsch: Männlichkeit
español: Masculinidad
euskara: Maskulinitate
فارسی: نرینگی
français: Masculinité
한국어: 남성성
हिन्दी: मर्दानगी
Bahasa Indonesia: Maskulinitas
italiano: Mascolinità
עברית: גבריות
Basa Jawa: Maskulinitas
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಗಂಡಸುತನ
lingála: Bobáli
македонски: Мажественост
मराठी: पुरुषत्व
Nederlands: Mannelijkheid
नेपाल भाषा: मिजंपहः
日本語: 男らしさ
polski: Maskulinizm
português: Masculinidade
Soomaaliga: Rag
svenska: Maskulinitet
Tagalog: Maskulinidad
Türkçe: Erillik
українська: Маскулінність
Tiếng Việt: Nam tính
粵語: 男人味
中文: 男性气质