Precarious manhood and displays of physical aggression

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2009 May;35(5):623-34. doi: 10.1177/0146167208331161. Epub 2009 Feb 6.


The results of three experiments demonstrate that physically aggressive displays are part of men's cultural script for restoring threatened gender status. In Studies 1 and 2, challenges to men's gender status elicited heightened physically aggressive displays, including punching a pad with greater force and selecting an aggressive boxing activity over a nonaggressive puzzle activity. Study 3 established that a public display of aggressive readiness reduced men's anxiety-related cognitions in the wake of a gender threat. This suggests that aggressive displays may function to downregulate negative affect when manhood has been threatened. The discussion considers past research on gender and physical aggression in light of the authors' thesis that manhood, relative to womanhood, is culturally defined as a precarious status that must be actively, even aggressively, defended.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Agonistic Behavior
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Arousal
  • Choice Behavior
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Social Dominance*
  • Social Values*
  • Stereotyping
  • Young Adult