Masculine psychology

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Masculine psychology refers to an archetypal gender-related psychology supposedly of male human identity. It is examined through the lenses of history, which have produced standard culture, especially as it relates to gender studies.[1] Gender differences are determined from a scientific and empirical approach, while the other approaches are theorized as they are aligned to the psychoanalytic tradition. Psychoanalytic approaches have cultivated concepts like masculinity and machismo because of biased analytic inclusions.

Western Masculine Psychology[edit]

Enlightenment of modern history became an influencing discipline during the Renaissance. Intellectual approaches of modern philosophy shaped cultural customs as thinkers became fixated with creating a world through law, artistic representation, western expansion, social structure, and ultimately control.[2]

The masculine psychology is the effect of gender differencing, which was closely governed resulting Europe's western political and social control. Conflict of social structures became evident in society as there were beliefs in liberty through common resistance, such as protest writing. Writers, artists, and liberalist alike rebelled from social structures through their forms of artistry.


Influence from a Western Religion[edit]

The original languages of several religions have gender-specific pronouns and verb conjugations. As language was constructed by man, references to God often use the masculine pronoun "He" and refer to God as masculine; social modernity enabled hegemonic language.

In many religions, including Judaism, Sikhism, and Islam, God has traditionally been referred to by using masculine pronouns. However, in the original Hebrew and Aramaic languages of the Old Testament, God is referred to by a variety of names, in both singular and plural forms, and so it is not clear that the use of a masculine pronoun necessarily conveys actual gender. For example, in Sikhism the use of masculine pronouns is due to grammatical conventions and does not signify actual gender. In Islam, similarly, God is generally depicted as having a male gender, though there may be debate as to God's gender. As there is no neutral gender in Arabic, God is referred to in the masculine form by default, and it is universally understood that God (Allah) is not a woman.

In Mainstream Christianity God is understood as a Trinity of three persons in one God, consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While in mainstream Christianity God is thought of in masculine terms, teachings generally state that God has no gender, except in his incarnation as Jesus Christ, due to the fact that He is a spiritual being. However, the names of Father and Son clearly imply masculinity, and the Gospel of John implies the masculinity of the Spirit by applying a masculine demonstrative pronoun to the grammatically neuter antecedent. Still, teachings regarding the gender and nature of God vary between Christian groups, and some clearly state that God is male. These include the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which explicitly describe God the Father as being male, corporeal, and separate in being from the Son, Jesus Christ. Unusually, Latter-day Saint teachings also indicate the existence of a Heavenly Mother, who is the wife of the Heavenly Father, and that together they are the spiritual parents of humankind. This reinforces the idea that God is analogous to our earthly fathers. However, these beliefs are not common among Christian groups, which generally see God as having both male and female attributes and therefore no need for a female counterpart.

In many polytheistic religions, there are both gods and goddesses clearly defined. This includes many pagan religions, such as those involving Greek mythology, Norse mythology, and Celtic mythology. This distinction also exists in other polytheisms. For example, Hinduism distinguishes between God and Goddess. There are three main male gods known as Tridev (Sanskrit:त्रिदेव) and their wives are worshiped as goddesses. In Hindu mythology, all the forces converge to form a female supreme power known as aadishakti (Sanskrit: आदिशक्ति.).

The western masculine psychology derived from religious social structures that created ideologies of masculinity (and femininity).

Ideologies of Manhood[edit]

Among artists and scientists during the Renaissance, it was the prevailing belief that the study of the male form was in itself a study of God. Michelangelo's David is based upon this artistic discipline, which is known as disegno. Under this discipline, sculpture is considered to be the finest form of art because it mimics divine creation.[3] Because Michelangelo adhered to the concepts of disegno, he worked under the premise that the image of David was already in the block of stone he was working on—in much the same way as the human soul is thought by some to be found within the physical body as concluded by psychoanalytic theory.

Masculine identities or concepts are developed differently across cultures and subcultures.[4] Because masculinity can take varied forms, forms of manliness can be changed and utilized at once. Masculine identities are not limited to the archetypal male species, and can be fluid in constructing a new identity outside of binary lenses.


The quest for control and understanding became the Britain's Victorian period, and the creation of laws to fit societal structure was later the Enlightenment period. Laws stood in place to dictate order.

Sodomy was a 1789 law that enforced masculinity in western culture, and specifically, sexual acts by men was deemed illegal. As this law was never repealed since, sodomy laws began to be used in a new way during the late 1960's - distinctly against people who identify as gay. As the gay rights movement began to make headway, and the social condemnation of being gay began to weaken, social conservatives invoked sodomy laws as a justification for discrimination.[5] The gradual liberalization of the Western sexuality, especially in Northern America, led government officials sodomy laws in most states. Several northern American states out-ruled sodomy in just 2003 and culture remains a continuity.[6]

Throughout the quest of control, literature was used to rebel against standard ideologies, for ambiguous forms of same-sex love had so significant during the Victorian culture; "homoaffectional" literature became, both, more explicit in its sexuality and much less common as time progressed. The lack of acknowledging sexual preferences outside of the binary social constructs are effects of an unchallenged masculine psychology.


Social standards of manliness or masculinity have been challenged as much as they have been asserted in Western culture. The study of masculine psychology has brought about the publication of many books, poems, and journals.

  • Robert Bly

Robert Bly inspired the mythopoetic men's movement with his 1990 book Iron John: A Book About Men[7] consisting of retellings of archetypal male myths and analysis of the Grimms' Fairy Tale "Iron John".

  • David Deida

David Deida, a noted author and spiritual practitioner, published The Way Of The Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire in 1997. In this book he argues "It is time to evolve beyond the (first-stage) macho jerk ideal, all spine and no heart. It is also time to evolve beyond the (second-stage) sensitive and caring wimp ideal, all heart and no spine. Heart and spine must be united in a single man, and then gone beyond in the fullest expression of love and consciousness possible, which requires a deep relaxation into the infinite openness of this present moment. And this takes a new kind of (third-stage) guts. This is the way of the superior man."[8] Literary critiques of David Deida include the fact that he encourages men to express their sexuality in a manner that still reflects the same attitudes.

  • Susan Faludi

Susan Faludi, a noted feminist author, published Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man in 1999. In this book she claims that in the 20th century men suffered from the breakdown of patriarchal structures.

  • Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette

Robert L. Moore and Douglas Gillette collaborated on a series of five books on male psychology and mythopoetic aspects of human development, including King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, and a book exploring each of these four archetypes. The book and its authors are considered important parts of the men's movement in the latter part of the 20th century.

  • Anne McClintock

The White Family of Man: Colonial Discourse and the Reinvention of Patriarchy (1994). "This text chronicles the dangerous liaisons between gender, race and class that shaped British imperialism and its bloody dismantling. Spanning the century between Victorian Britain and the recent struggle for power in South Africa, the book takes up the complex relationships between race, sexuality, and more.[9]

  • Eugene Monick

In his books Phallos: Sacred Image of the Masculine and Castration and Male Rage, Monick correlates male sexuality and spirituality, arguing that the "phallos" (erect penis) is something of an existential God-image for men. He also presents his thesis that there is a difference between masculinity and patriarchy. The author also argues that there is a deep need within men to participate in a fraternity with men and to have their maleness recognized by other men, but that our society often does not take this into account. The author claims that what usually results is that these needs become frustrated and manifest themselves in often anti-social behavior and activities, such as hazing rituals.

  • Dee Rees

Female Masculinity in Dee Rees's Pariah is viewed through many different facets as it explores identity and sexuality. This film offers multiple definitions of the monolithic black feminist that is often thought of in a singular aspect. Pariah goes against the concept of a binary heterosexist expression of sexuality, for it challenges the concepts of “masculinity” and “aggressiveness” in women. All women who choose this form of sexuality are not limited to one definition of the “third gender”. This film represents the attitudes of the black community towards the “third gender” by revealing that African Americans can offer complex identity formation, which validates humanism in a patriarchal society.

  • William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's works are politically influenced as the following plays comment on western patriarchal constructs such as family, monarch, nature, religion, law, and the Renaissance, respectively: Titus Andronicus (Family), Richard III (Monarchy), A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream (Nature), Hamlet (Religion), Measure for Measure (Law), Antony and Cleopatra (Renaissance).

  • Percy B. Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose literary career was marked with controversy due conflicting social agendas, is a figures of English romanticism (following the Renaissance).[10] The Keepsake (1828) reveals his ideas about religion, socialism, and free love, especially in his essay "On Love".

  • Justin Torres

We the Animals (2014) highlights character psychology, familial structure, the learned behavior of masculinity, and it encourages one to imagine a utopian space in which civil and human rights are not tied to a compliance with heteronormative lifestyles.[11][12]

The male fear of the feminine[edit]

The male fear of the feminine is a phenomenon that has been discussed since the 1930s. It was first introduced by the German psychoanalyst and critic of Freudian theory, Karen Horney (1932) in her paper titled "The Dread of Woman."[13] Erich Neumann (1954), a German-born Jungian analyst, dedicated one essay to the discussion, titled "The fear of the feminine" (Orig: Die Angst vor dem Weiblichen, 1959). Neumann regards "patriarchal normality as a form of fear of the feminine" (p. 261).[14]

A later contributor is Chris Blazina, a psychodynamic psychologist and professor based at Tennessee State University. Blazina considers that "the fear of the feminine helps define what is masculine" (1997).[15] In 1986, James O'Neil et al. theorized that the male fear of the feminine is a core aspect of the male psyche. He developed a 37-question psychometric test, a gender role conflict scale (GRCS), to measure the extent to which a man is in conflict with traditional masculine role values. This test is built upon the notion of the male fear of the feminine.[16]

In 2003, Werner Kierski, a London-based German-born psychotherapist and researcher, associated with humanistic psychology and transpersonal and existential psychotherapy designed the first empirical research into the male fear of the feminine[17] with the results published in 2007 and presented to the public at the 2007 annual conference of the American Men's Studies Association (AMSA) and at the 2007 research conference of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).[18]

According to the various sources, the male fear of the feminine is connected to influences from their mothers and to cultural norms that prescribe how men must behave in order to feel accepted as men.

When men experience vulnerable feelings and other feelings that are associated with women, men can become frightened. According to Kierski (2007), the fear of the feminine then acts in two ways: a) Like an internal monitor to ensure that men stay within the boundaries of what is regarded as masculine, i.e. being action orientated, self-reliant, guarded, and seemingly independent; b) if a man fails to experience this and feels out of control, vulnerable or dependent, the fear of the feminine can act like a defense, leading to splitting off, repressing, or projecting those feelings.[18]

Figure 1: Male fear of the feminine as an internal monitor and as a defense. Source: Werner Kierski.

Kierski's research claimed that men do acknowledge that male fear of the feminine can have a strong influence on both hetero- and homosexual men. The research has also indicated that there appears to be a link between fear of the feminine and men's negative views about counseling and psychotherapy. In addition, this research has identified four possible groups of experiences that lead to male fear of the feminine, which relate to internal and external triggers. These are: Experiencing vulnerability and uncertainty; women who are strong and competent; women who are angry or aggressive; women who are like their mothers.[18]


Constructions of race and sexuality in the western world caused particular expressions of homophobic racism and sexual violence. Defying traditional gender expectations became unacceptable and spectacles are labeled as “other” for disregarding [gender] norms.

Issues of homophobia and gay bashing are of relevance to the study of masculine psychology. Every year, men (such as Matthew Shepard) die as a result of gay bashing.[citation needed] The victims of gay bashing attacks are most often homosexual males, or those who display what are commonly perceived as effeminate behaviors or mannerisms which are, when seen in males, often associated with homosexuality. Self-identified heterosexual males are usually the perpetrators of gay bashing attacks.

Sigmund Freud presented the thesis that everyone is at some level bisexual, and Alfred Kinsey research results claimed that as many as 37% of American males had engaged in homosexual activity. French-Canadian psychologist Guy Corneau says that despite Kinsey's research results, attitudes toward homosexuality have remained hostile.

The author says it is puzzling that we live in what he considers a male-dominated society, and yet very little work has been done to understand the archetypal basis of masculinity. He suggests that this may be due to a societal assumption of male superiority, founded on the belief that one should not question that which is deemed to be right and superior.

See also: Gay panic defense and Violence § Psychology and sociology

See also[edit]

  • Analytical psychology
  • Animus
  • Cerne Abbas giant
  • Feminine psychology
  • Lad culture
  • Mancation
  • Machismo
  • Manosphere
  • Masculinity
  • Masculism
  • Men's liberation
  • Men's movement
  • Men's rights
  • Men's spaces
  • Men's studies
  • Metrosexual
  • Mythopoetic
  • Non-westernized concepts of male sexuality


  1. Smedley, Audrey (1998). ""Race" and the Construction of Human Identity". American Anthropologist. 100 (3): 690–702. doi:10.1525/aa.1998.100.3.690. JSTOR 682047.
  2. Kohn, Margaret; Reddy, Kavita (2017). Zalta, Edward N., ed. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 ed.). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Search this book on Logo.png
  3. "Culture Shock: Flashpoints: Visual Arts: Michelangelo's David". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  4. "Masculine Identities". Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  5. "Why Sodomy Laws Matter". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  6. Canaday, Margot (2008-09-16). "The Strange History of Sodomy Laws". AlterNet. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  7. Bly, Robert (1990). Iron John: A Book About Men. ISBN 978-0-201-51720-0. Search this book on Logo.png
  8. Deida, David (2004). The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire. ISBN 9781591792574. Search this book on Logo.png
  9. Imperial leather : race, gender, and sexuality in the colonial conquest in SearchWorks catalog. Routledge. 1994-02-06. ISBN 9780415908894. Retrieved 2018-04-08. Search this book on Logo.png
  10. Shelley, Percy Bysshe (1999-04-03). "Percy Bysshe Shelley". Percy Bysshe Shelley. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  11. "Justin Torres's We the Animals". Jet Fuel Review. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  12. Rohrleitner, Marion Christina (2017-01-24). "Refusing the Referendum: Queer Latino Masculinities and Utopian Citizenship in Justin Torres' We the Animals". European Journal of American Studies (in français). 11 (3). doi:10.4000/ejas.11856. ISSN 1991-9336.
  13. Horney, Karen (1932). "Observations on a specific difference in the dread felt by men and by women respectively for the opposite sex". The International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 13: 348–360.
    Reproduced in: Horney, Karen (1999), "The dread of woman: Observations on a specific difference in the dread felt by men and by women respectively for the opposite sex", in Grigg, Russell; Hecq, Dominique; Smith, Craig R., eds. (April 2015). Female sexuality: the early psychoanalytic controversies. London, England: Karnac. pp. 241–252. ISBN 9781782200222. Search this book on Logo.png
  14. Neumann, Erich (1994). The fear of the feminine and other essays on feminine psychology. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691034744. Search this book on Logo.png
    (First published in German as: die Angst vor dem Weiblichen, 1959. Zürich: Racher Verlag)
  15. Blazina, Chris (October 1997). "The fear of the feminine in the Western psyche and the masculine task of disidentification: their effect on the development of masculine gender role conflict". The Journal of Men's Studies. 6 (1): 55–68. doi:10.1177/106082659700600103. Pdf.
  16. O'Neil, James M.; Helms, Barbara J.; Gable, Robert K.; David, Laurence; Wrightsman, Lawrence S. (March 1986). "Gender-role conflict scale: College men's fear of femininity". Sex Roles. 14 (5–6): 335–350. doi:10.1007/BF00287583.
  17. Kierski, Werner (December 2002). "Female violence: can we therapists face up to it?" (PDF). Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal. 13 (10): 32–35. ISSN 1474-5372. Archived from the original on 2016-12-09.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Kierski, Werner (March–April 2007). "Men and the fear of the feminine". Self & Society. 34 (5): 27–33. doi:10.1080/03060497.2007.11083943.

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