Alcohol & Toxic Masculinity: Where Men Go Wrong

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Breadwinner. Player. Warrior. Dickhead.

The Manly Effect

For those men that imagine themselves as manfully mannish, the words above may serve more as badges of honor rather than points of derision. It is a vision of manhood that implies success is about all the ass you can kick and all the ass you can get. It’s also a vision of masculinity that dooms most men to failure.

This image of hypermasculinity, and what it demands, is problematic: not just for women, children, other men, and anyone not conforming to “traditional” perceptions of gender, but for the individuals themselves. Hypermasculinity is often associated with violence, social dominance, anti-intellectualism, and aggressive, if not overwrought, sexuality – and alcohol abuse.

The Inconvenience of Emotion

Discussions of masculinity often focus on how it affects women, but the biggest victim may be men themselves. Beginning as children, men are discouraged – shamed even – from showing emotion. (Hard emotions, like anger, can actually be encouraged.) Expressing soft emotions, the argument goes, is feminine behavior. (Boys don’t cry.) Without socially acceptable outlets for expressing these emotions (sadness, grief, loneliness, fear) available to men, they can turn to drugs and alcohol. Studies show men to have much higher rates of alcohol use and abuse than women. Social drinking among men can be seen as a cultural symbol of manliness.

Because alcohol is at once so accessible and so acceptable as a way of managing emotions for men, it is particularly dangerous. To wit: The risk of suicide is eight times greater when alcohol is involved. Also, as heavy drinking can increase the likelihood of risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence and not wearing a seatbelt. This increases the risk for injury or death.

Even one session of heavy drinking, according to research, can reduce sufficiently inhibitions to make someone more likely to act on suicidal feelings. Drinkers are more prone to impulsive behavior. Add to this that alcohol is also known to deepen depression.

The Toxins of Symbolic Masculinity

The Breadwinner: If your identity is wrapped up in your ability to bring home the bacon, then you will live under a constant threat of losing your manliness. Your manliness, as it were, will be dependent on your financial situation which, in turn, is dependent on the whims and vagaries of an employer or the market. Your self-worth and self-image are entirely dependent on forces beyond your control. You live under an endless dread that it could all be taken away.

The Player: The myth that women are attracted to players is not all myth, apparently. On a genetic level, women are biologically predisposed to players. The player, it seems, will have the strongest sperm. Even experience won’t deter her from choosing the alpha jerk, the biological imperative is too strong. Being a player can also require a certain amount of moral and ethical compromise. Unless you’re completely upfront about your intentions at the onset being a player can demand dishonesty, emotional detachment, and, unless you’re a sociopath, guilt.

The Warrior: As a warrior you live under constant fear. Any moment of weakness imperils your status, and, the self. Again, your power can be stolen – someone else can take you from badass to bitch in a moment. It doesn’t even have to be dramatic: Any insult, slight, or a failure to show sufficient respect can drop you. Efforts to reestablish power can have consequences, and in more extreme cases, result in violence. Warriors often use alcohol for courage.

The Dickhead: Toxic masculinity can render men unwilling to view women as human beings. This can not only effect how the individual acts toward women himself but also allows bad behavior to go on even when witnessed by other men. It can also be an instigator of violence. The dickhead on the surface is appealing. He is assertive, self-confident, and seemingly in control. He can also be entitled, arrogant, selfish, and require lots of attention. Often, this projection of self-assurance is a compensation for a feeling of inadequacy and vulnerability. The lesson they learned from their past was that passivity only leads to feelings of jealously and irrelevancy.

All of the above categories can be invitations for alcohol and drug abuse.

How Toxic Masculinity Effects Men’s Drinking

For men, the legacy of toxic masculinity includes higher rates of suicide – men comprise 80% of all suicides – and incarceration – men make 93% of all prisoners. Men consume significantly larger amounts of alcohol, get more drunk more often, and have higher rates of alcohol dependency than women. Men also don’t live as long as women by an average of 10 years. This is because men will wait longer to acknowledge that they’re sick, wait longer to get help, and don’t cooperate as well in their treatment when they do get help as do women.

Added to this image of masculinity is binge drinking. Men concerned with maintaining classical masculine behavior patterns are also associated with a higher likelihood of binge or episodic drinking. Those men who feel a greater need to prove their masculinity, and especially those whose manliness is proven through promiscuity, are much more prone to excessive drinking. Of the six Americans who die every day from binge drinking, most are men. Strangely, according to the CDC most who die from binge drinking are not even dependent on alcohol. Fewer than one-third of deaths happen to alcoholics.

What is the answer?

Men need to not be afraid to ask for help. They need to learn not to run from or try to deny what they’re feeling. Masking emotions with drugs and alcohol not only don’t address the problem, it is dangerous and unhealthy. Men need to understand that there are more constructive forms of help available.

In short, men need to learn to change their culture.

If you or a loved one have an addiction to alcohol, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery within 30 days. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.

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