If, like me, you’ve spent the majority of your life wondering how many of the differences between men and women are inherent and how many are socially constructed—and if, like me, you still haven’t come to any definitive conclusions, but you have wised up to the fact that some of the most damaging ideologies rely on unquestioning acceptance of sexual division—then this headline probably makes you uncomfortable.
Any claim that women will “never understand” X, Y, and Z about being a man must come with the caveat that women, by nature of existing in a world built by and for men, still have a pretty good understanding of X, Y, and Z about being a man—at least a better understanding than most men have of X, Y, and Z about being a woman. The male experience has been all of our experience, in the sense that it has long been regarded as the most important one. The institutions in which we operate, and much of the art we consume, have been produced from or tailored to the male psyche.
Men have inherited more freedom than women. This is not a personal opinion. It is not up for debate. No Red Piller forum or
Of course, society’s power structures can mean relatively little to individuals’ lived experiences as they relate to fulfillment. In this Reddit post from a year ago, after someone posed the question “What aspects of a man’s life are most women unaware of?,” the personal wounds (many of which made me deeply sad and could be healed by smashing the patriarchy—just sayin’) among respondents were plenty.
Here’s what they had to say.
Men don’t have strong support networks and are encouraged to hide their feelings.
“I know it’s late and no one will read this,” DarkLorde117 begins, “but f*** it if two people learn then I’ll be happy. Guys have zero emotional support structure. Like, f***. Anytime I try to tell anyone I have real emotions or opinions I get shot down to the point where I don’t really feel safe talking to anyone anymore.”
“It’s easily the largest problem in my life,” he writes, “and from what I understand, [a] lot of guys have to deal with it
We have some pretty harmful, deeply embedded ideas about acceptable forms of masculinity in our culture, ones that often run counter to what it means to be human. This may explain why, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide among men is nearly four times as high as among women.
He says, though, that after those two days, he “hardly shed a tear.” He says that his friends and family have wondered how he was able to get over things so quickly and be fine on his own.
“I didn’t and I haven’t,” he writes. “It’s still the most excruciating thing to go home after work to a basically empty apartment. Not to mention when my other dog goes looking for him or sniffs around for him and wanders outside. S*** is extremely painful and no one really knows that I’m still on the verge of tears 90% of the time I start to think about him or see something that reminds me of him (virtually everything in my apartment).”
“Most women seem to have many friends that they could call on in a second to provide deep emotional support,” he writes. “No guy friend has ever put their arm around me and told me it’s going to be ok. I don’t know any man I could cry to or just be with if I’m feeling down and desperate.”
He says that, while men can go out for a drink and share advice, “It doesn’t seem the same as the emotional support I see many women have.” He sees women as having more of a safe space among their friends “to let yourself go,” which he considers “an incredible gift.”
“Also,” he adds, “if you put an eye tracking camera on the average dude and reviewed the footage of them walking down the street it would be a sea of breasts and butts. I barely know what my own main road looks like because every time I walk down it I’m looking at
Noted. But back to the emotional isolation.
Emotional isolation affects men deeply.
Niobe Way, Professor of Applied Psychology at New York University, has spent years studying boys, primarily straight-identifying American boys. She was interested in, she says, “the discrepancy between the stereotypes of boys and what boys actually sounded like.” She tells The New Yorker that, although boys express a desire for “friendships with other boys in which secrets are shared, trust is total, and they have the confidence that their friend will not betray them or laugh at them when they are feeling vulnerable,” that begins to change in late adolescence, when “boys begin to lose their closest male friendships, become more distrustful of their male peers, and in some cases, become less willing to be emotionally expressive.”
Why is this? Because, as Way says, “cultural pressures to become a ‘man’ are intensified during this period of growth” and “[i]n American culture, becoming a man is linked with being emotionally stoic, autonomous, and physically tough.”
The Reddit respondents seem to agree. “I feel many women are unaware of how common it is for men to experience depression and other psychological difficulties,” user
“Also,” he says, “as a 21 y/o guy, we gossip more than any girl knows. No one is safe when the gossip talk hits the table.”
Thanks for admitting that,
“I’ve been able to read some journals of boys who have committed suicide, and it’s a friendship story,” Way says in an interview with GQ. “They are looking for people who really understand them. And I’m not talking about kids who identify in different or unusual ways. I’m just talking about your typical boy who wants a friend, who he can be vulnerable with, who he can share his deep secrets with.”
Way realized that the age at which the boys in her study said they lost touch with their best friends coincided with the national data on suicide. “We raise our children in a culture that demeans relationships and emotions,” she tells GQ; she elaborates in her interview with The New Yorker that “emotional sensitivity and emotionally intimate friendships are given a sex (female) and a sexuality (gay).”
Given that “we remain in a culture that uses ‘gay,’ ‘girly,’ or simply ‘girl’ as a slander for boys and girls (e.g. ‘you are such a girl’),” it makes sense that those who seek to embody our culture’s masculine ideal would feel compelled to cut themselves off from their own emotions.
And, any nurturing gals out there reading this who now want to do some fixing, know that, despite your good intentions, you are probably not the answer. “These changes also occur
What these dudes likely need are close male friendships that encourage authenticity. Entering into romantic relationships before achieving a certain degree of self-awareness often only invites adherence to rigid, reductive gender roles and creates couples who don’t honestly know each other.
Men aren’t used to being romantically pursued and fear rejection.
Nevertheless, what some dudes crave—and can’t seem to find—are romantic relationships.
One guy in the Reddit thread laments the “constant [absence] of romance” experienced by many men. “I really think most women fail to
But it’s not “absolutely terrible,” he
“‘What, you don’t just go through your matches until you find someone super attractive that has common interests?’ they ask. ‘No,
“I don’t think some women realize how terrifying it can be for some men to approach them, for any reason,” user 5emi writes. “I have thought for awhile that I suffer from social anxiety, for
“But I don’t, I can’t,” he says. “I have had her as a friend on [social media] for several years, and the only time I have talked to her was when I thanked her for wishing me a happy birthday. You see, I am afraid to even talk to her, not because she scares me, but because I don’t want to say the wrong thing and scare her away, so I continue to do nothing.”
He says that “fearing, and stressing over rejection … makes me feel so small a man.”
Men don’t receive many compliments about their appearance.
“20 years passed before I was told by a woman other than my mother that I was handsome. If you think a guy is handsome TELL him,” instructs one man, whose account has now been deleted. “Chances are he hasn’t heard it in a long time.
User Mogbog997 writes, “3 months ago a girl I sort of know said she liked my new
Another writes, “2 years ago a female coworker I liked and I were getting lunch together. I was waiting for her in the lobby for her to come out for lunch, and when she passed me she said ‘Come on handsome, let’s go eat’. I still smile about that from time to time.”
Soon after, the thread kind of devolves into sarcastic jabs from other dudes who share almost-certainly-insincere accounts of how touched they still are by insignificant compliments from multiple years ago, but if they are earnest, they are sad
Men are often treated like predators.
Countless women know the feeling of being preyed upon. At work, on the streets, in our homes, at school, in Ubers and Lyfts, during our commutes, and pretty much anywhere else, we are hollered at, ogled, groped, and told by strangers—let’s be honest, men—how we should feel and what, often in explicit detail, we should do with our bodies.
Part of this behavior relies on the assumption that women are sexually vacant and must be coerced into physical action or awakened to their own desires by dudes. In this narrative, women are “pure,” primarily maternal creatures—morally superior foils to men, who are, by nature, sex-crazed and incapable of managing their impulses. (See: “Boys will be boys.”)
And though historically women have been regarded as inherently manipulative temptresses who are sexually dysfunctional or deviant (see: religious texts, and history in general), most of us are not accustomed to being outright feared for our capacity to commit bodily harm to others. Our lack of virility is both why we are preyed upon, and why we aren’t viewed as predators.
Men obviously have a different experience, one informed both by stereotypes about male sexuality and the reality that perpetrators of sexual violence are overwhelmingly male. The former contributes to the latter: one large UN study found, for example, that an associated risk factor among male assault perpetrators in Asia and the Pacific was “masculinities
One Reddit user, sta1994, says that “when I (a white guy) take my (black) nephews out to the park, I get looks from women that are the ‘He is a sexual predator’. I have had police come up to me twice because women thought I was there planning on stealing
“Another time, I was walking with my nephews and
Lemons224 works for the parks department and so is around a lot of playgrounds, which, of course, are full of children. “I make it a point not to talk to any of them if I don’t have to,” he writes. “Even when they come up to me and start talking I will usually only give curt answers until they just get bored and leave me alone because I am mortified that some tiger mom is
And another user, whose account has now been deleted, tells a story about frightening a woman by accident. “She was petite and glanced over her shoulder a few times,” he said. “I’m 6’7″ and fairly solid so felt really bad for freaking her out (didn’t blame her, considering what happens in the world). Turned around and went the other way.”
Men feel worthless if they don’t fit into a very rigid model of success.
“NO MATTER HOW MUCH WE TRY, NOTHING IS EVER GOOD ENOUGH,” FlameSpartan writes. “Bust a** at work, actively trying for a promotion? F*** you, you’re good where you are.
“Spend hundreds of dollars trying to start a relationship? F*** you, try harder.”
For some reason I imagine FlameSpartan wearing basketball shorts with a polo shirt, typing feverishly from his fraternity’s study room before heading to investment analysis class.
“Put a hundred hours into a sculpture because you enjoy art? F*** you, it ain’t
Indeed, “[d]espite the emergence of the metrosexual and an increase in stay-at-home dads,” Andrew Reiner writes in The New York Times, “tough-guy stereotypes die hard.”
Men (on Reddit) worry about their junk.
An interesting tangent in this thread expresses concern entirely for their family jewels, specifically the possibility of experiencing testicular torsion (which you should definitely google if you are not at work).
“It’s been like 5 years since I read [about testicular torsion] on here and I actually have a fear of happening to me,”
“I probably think about [testicular torsion] once a week,” TheLoneStarState writes. “The worst was the guy who woke up with it. I always think about how I’d be able to get to the ER or what’d I’d do to calm the pain. Damn
“Oh, I’m there with you about thinking [about testicular torsion] at least once a week, especially when I lay down and my nuts are all over and I’m like this is how it happens,”
“Also,” he writes, “I forgot to mention that I actually had to pay a visit to
But, rest assured—”long story short it was actually my back.”
It’s safe to say that this topic, in particular, is something women will probably never fully understand.
Some quotes have been shortened or edited.