When we were kids, Disney taught us the male is indefinitely attracted to the female; it taught us women are in need of rescuing, women must be competed for, and women will love men despite the brutality they may express. Our childhood was laced with depictions of scary fathers dictating masculinity, whilst a male body which wasn’t muscular was shunned upon and unworthy of attraction. When we were older, we grew up watching mysterious vampire, Edward Cullen, sneakily eyeing Bella Swan under the cover of shadows as she sleeps unknowingly. In the dark of the night, as our screens flared, the appalling behaviour unintentionally embedded itself into our teenage hearts and heads, similar to the heterosexist foundations of our younger years.
As a generation incessantly exploring the grey distance often left unchecked between the parallels of demonic behaviour versus the adequate, toxic masculinity has reigned with cowardice across a spectrum of our variations.
The Entailments of Toxic Masculinity
What’s often left unexplored while terms such as ‘toxic masculinity’ waft about are entailments, coupled with the meticulous (albeit beauteous) nature of definitions; as such, it boasts of the heinous, traditional norms nestled in the bosom of culture and expressed by men. A deliverance of damage, directed at the societal environment, women, and, indubitably, the men projecting such behaviours themselves ensues, whilst, the male form often regards the unacceptable nature of these pernicious traits as a demonization of their ‘manly’ attributes.
Beginning with the Mythopoetic Movement credited with coining the stark polarities between ‘real’ and ‘toxic masculinity’, the former remains harmless whilst the latter romanticises notions of hostility. The social sciences have tirelessly continued to dedicate their efforts towards identifying toxic masculinity as a bi-product of the many nuances of conformity. Rivalry, independence, and supremacy seduce the typical male to display an adherence to sociological ‘gender roles’ which incessantly stigmatize, and in turn, constrict the sentiments of men and boys alike. Unsurprising to the masses, economic and political standards do little to combat the same in a patriarchal society; in actuality, the zenith of the issue lies amidst expressions of misogyny and homophobia as ‘alpha males’, expressing fawned over soliloquies of fury, obstinacy, and authority, birth a crippling regime of domestic and social violence, sexual assault, and aggression.
The Damage: Boys and Men
Where it concerns the depletion of physical and mental health, the ‘traditional masculinity ideology’ is excessively condemned by The American Psychological Association due to the varied, and endless, trepidations associated with it. Psychological dilemmas, notably stress, depression, substance abuse and inadequate social functioning render males who insist upon an exhibition of dominance, possession of emotional control, an obsession with the elevation of one’s social status, and a portrayal of violence to be prone to these tribulations.
Despite a noteworthy societal refusal to stand for the same, what’s often left unchecked are the ongoing tribulations slowly crippling men who are prone to a possession of personalities dripping with toxic masculinity; ‘playboy’ behavior, a stubborn sense of self-reliance, and chauvinism are inarguably showcased. The crux of the subject isn’t an attack on masculinity for masculinity is bereft of toxicity in, and by, itself. In fact, the accurate status of masculinity solemnly declares a prime singularity- men are fearful of its absence. Stemming from this phenomenon, toxic masculinity exists due to the perceived threats towards the masculine nature of men who, in the simplest of words, have a bad self-esteem. The juvenility of their actions, which arises from this inescapable suspicion, triggers tides of newspaper headlines across the globe with shared condolences; shootings, online trolling, rape, murder, gang violence, the election of men such as Donald Trump…our waters are murky.
Exploring the Female Attraction
Albeit the stigmatised behaviour, women are often drawn to such approaches for myriad reasons; this article patiently explores the tints of toxic masculinity, coupled with the female attraction to such unfit nuances. Interestingly, it is the more intellectual women who primarily do so; notable psychologist Perpetua Neo reasons as such, ‘High-performance women tend to be highly conscientious too. It means they work really hard for their relationship. So they're likely to just keep giving and giving and giving’. Moreover, it is without argument that she declares women who strive to get elsewhere in their lives similarly bestow parallels of dedication towards their relationships as well.
‘Generally, you will transfer this understanding without even thinking about it- that chances are if you work hard on your relationships, they're going to be good’, states Neo. ‘Add that together with empathy and it can be really difficult because you start to tax yourself with trying to understand why he is the way he is’. Breakup coach, Chelsea Leigh, further rewards our understanding by exploiting the female tendency to initially succumb to entering a relationship with such men; she does this by narrowing onto a woman’s propensity, and desire, to ‘fix’ men they are involved with. Predictably, ‘For someone who suffers from rescuer syndrome or savior complex, nothing engages their heart more than a person who is toxic and could use some...help’.
Although a desire to change the male toxicity of one’s partner may stem from one’s respective experience, the overall recognition of toxic masculinity fails some women generically due to the ideals of pop culture, cinematic norms, and perhaps a domestic environment initially bred. Though relationships of this kind are widely sought after in romantic comedies, the reality of their status lies in the precariousness of the dents they deliver, coupled with the growing addiction which mingles.
Cherlyn Chong, relationship coach, frighteningly, yet truthfully, deems it as such, ‘we become willing to sacrifice an entire lifetime for five minutes of exhilaration’. The science uplifting this declaration formulates in a manner best rationalized by the behavioral expert Dr. Helen Fisher; Fisher explores what she terms the ‘frustration-attraction’ phenomenon, innate with the understanding that romantic love is heightened by unpredictability rather than being stalled by it. Cortisol (the stress hormone) crowds the brain in times of negativity, whilst dopamine (the feel-good hormone) floods the mind in alternative settings of affection as ‘victims get emotionally hooked on their relationship like a drug’.
The resultant affect is an addiction to the rush of dopamine bestowed upon women for the ‘good behaviour’ that earned them affection from men who promote, and demonstrate, toxic masculinity. Typically, an endless cycle of cortisol (when one’s partner is acting toxic), accompanied by dopamine (when he is loving) dictates the relationship, shrouding the affiliation with aggression, emotional and physical abuse, insecurity, and a lack of faith.