By: Quique Autrey, MS, LPC Associate
Guys, it’s time to step out of the box! Which box, you ask? The box that society has placed us in for decades. Man box culture. A box that defines what it means to be a real man. We’re told to think outside the box in our early education, all the while expected to remain in this restrictive man box for the rest of our lives. Enough is enough! Man box culture is not good for us.
Studies show that trying to live inside the man box results in more violence, greater risk of suicide, increased drinking and poor mental health. The problem is not masculinity. The issue is not being a man. The real villain is man box culture. Man box culture presents a rigid formula for what it means to be a man and expects all men to conform. We need to stop blaming men for being men. Instead, we need to support the men in our lives by helping them to step out of the man box culture and step in to a healthy version of masculinity.
Healthy Masculinity vs Man Box Culture
Sexuality is a spectrum.
Sexuality is not rigid or easily defined. According to the spectrum model of sexuality, a man’s sexual identity exists along a spectrum of possibilities rather than an either/or binary. Man box culture sees sexuality as a hierarchy with being straight at the top.
Identifying as gay is seen as inferior. Countless teenage boys use the phrase, “you’re gay” as a way to communicate that a person is stupid or unpopular. This is not acceptable. A healthy masculinity has room for many expressions of sexuality, each valuable in their own right.
Assertive, not Aggressive.
Man box culture reinforces the stereotype that to be a real man is to be a strong, angry and forceful person. Real men are not weak and vulnerable. True men don’t give in to fear and they get what they want! This logic sadly results in countless men expressing their anger in violent and disruptive ways.
Instead of encouraging aggression, healthy masculinity promotes assertiveness. Assertiveness is the ability to express what you really want or need while still respecting the other person. An aggressive man gets his needs met by using his strength to overpower another person. An assertive man negotiates what he needs using reason and cooperation.
Emotions are OK.
One of the most popular stereotypes of man box culture is that real men do not show emotions. Boys don’t cry, we’re told from a young age. I can’t tell you how many times I was told as a young boy, “Suck it up kid. Don’t be a girl. Pick yourself up and get on with it!”
According to Mark Green, senior editor for the GoodMen Project, boys three to four years old are taught to push down naturally occurring emotions. The result? Boys lose connection with themselves and others. By not allowing ourselves to feel the full spectrum of human emotions, we set ourselves up for social isolation and a lack of empathy.
Healthy masculinity encourages men to feel all the emotions that make us human, including fear, sadness and jealousy. By making emotions ok, men have a greater chance of connecting with themselves and those around them.
Women are Equals.
Man box culture hurts women as well as men. According to the rules of the man box, women are inferior sex objects that can be used and manipulated. Everything from Netflix to pornography has trained men in the man box to reduce women to their bodies and to not see them as intelligent equals. With this mentality, sexual exploitation and horrendous violence become live options for countless men.
Healthy masculinity reminds men that women are their equals, not their sexual exploits. Connecting with women at a sexual, intellectual and even spiritual level can be much more rewarding than the power games encouraged by the man box culture.
Men’s Therapy Can Help You Develop A Healthy Masculinity
A lot of men today feel attacked for being a man. The problem is not masculinity per say. The problem is the unhealthy masculinity reinforced and promoted by man box culture. Are you tired of being isolated in the man box? Are you ready to work on some of the issues highlighted above? Unfortunately, there are very few spaces in our society to talk honestly about the dangers of man box culture.
One of the only places men can freely work on these realities is in therapy. Men’s therapy offers men an opportunity to work on their struggles with sexuality, aggression, repressed emotions and relationships with women in a nonjudgmental setting. A therapist is a trained professional who can help you navigate the unhealthy extremes of man box culture and help you develop the tools to flourish as a healthy man. The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch currently has a Men’s Therapy Group. Reach out for more information.
Begin Men’s Therapy in Katy, TX
If you are ready to grow into a healthy man, one of the therapists at The Center at Cinco Ranch can help! We provide men’s counseling as well as other services to people of all ages. To begin counseling in Katy, TX follow these three steps:
- Contact our office to set up an appointment or to get more information on Men’s therapy.
- Meet with one of our skilled therapists
- Find ways to cope and thrive in life
Other Therapy Services We Offer
Here at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch we offer counseling services for people of all ages including: women’s issues, couples counseling, treatment for anxiety, trauma counseling, counseling for kids, counseling for young adults, teen counseling, eating disorder treatment, depression treatment, family therapy, and group counseling. Our therapists strive to regularly post blogs with helpful information on a variety of mental health topics. To learn more about our therapists and our counseling services, please reach out to the Counseling Center today!