Men and Loneliness
Loneliness kills. According to former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, isolation and weak social connections “are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.” Even when it’s not fatal, loneliness makes life a lot less pleasant. While loneliness cuts across all racial and socioeconomic lines, just about everyone feels lonely at some point, right?
One group in particular is disproportionately affected: men. As Henry David Thoreau wrote in his classic book, Walden, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” And a recent study by YouGov backs him up. In the study, 44 percent of males 18 plus said they feel lonely all the time (emphasis added)—far higher than the percentage of women who gave the same answer. And that doesn’t even take into account men’s well-documented habit of underreporting anything that might make us feel or give someone else the impression that men might be weak or defective. In the same study, men were 50 percent more likely than women (18 percent vs. 12 percent) to say they don’t have any close friends, and 33 percent more likely (32 percent vs. 24 percent) to say they don’t have a best friend. In fact, many men feel emotionally closer to their dogs than to other humans. In a recent study by psychologist Christopher Blazina and researcher Lori Kogan, 62 percent of male dog owners said that their relationship with their dog is “almost always” secure, while only 10 percent said the same about the relationship with the closest human in their life.
Adolescent Boys Also Suffer from Unrealistic Beauty Standards
Naomi Wolf’s 1991 book The Beauty Myth reported that efforts to be thin and pretty undermine women. But one of the biggest fictions about the beauty myth is that it’s solely female. Boys suffer from unrealistic beauty standards, too, and the problem starts early. In the tween years, as puberty begins and testosterone starts to surge, boys generally don’t notice much of anything happening to their bodies, the New York Times reported at the end of last year. At least nothing outwardly visible. Fair enough; it will take years for this hormone to transform them into men. What they do notice is the endless parade in front of them of perfect male bodies across screens and billboards and magazine pages, too: broad shoulders beneath chiseled jawlines; six-pack abs above bulging genitals hiding beneath tight shorts or underpants. And those who have viewed porn (that would be half of all boys finishing middle school, maybe more, depending upon the study you read) see extra-large examples of manliness. Compounding the issue is that scant attention is being paid to this pernicious assault on adolescent boys at a critical time in their development. Now health and wellness educators have a whole new area to turn their attention to this year and beyond.
Hooked on Gambling as Teens, Men Still Gambling in Their Twenties
Research shows that one in 10 boys 17-years- old bet over the Internet, despite it’s being illegal for anyone under 18. By the time they reach 20, more than a third are gambling online and this reaches 47 percent among 24-year-olds, according to research by Bristol University and reported in the UK’s Daily Mail. One in eight 11 to 16-year-olds follow gambling businesses on social media. The alarming findings lay bare the scale of the gambling epidemic among young men in Britain, which is fuelling soaring rates of addiction and mental health disorders. To obtain their findings, researchers quizzed more than 10,000 young people aged 17, 20, and 24 about their gambling habits.
Young Men on Sex, Masculinity, and #MeToo
What do boys think about sex, masculinity, and #MeToo? Peggy Orenstein, acclaimed for her 2016 book Girls & Sex, was initially resistant to write a companion book, about young males’ thoughts on consent, sexual violence, power, and intimacy, according to an interview she did recently with Fatherly. Then #MeToo happened, sparking urgent conversations about those topics and others. Orenstein soon changed her mind and the resulting book, Boys & Sex, is a deep dive into the complicated inner and outer worlds boys inhabit.
Interviewees, 16–22, responded to Orenstein’s questions about everything from “toxic” masculinity and the cultural shifts happening around them to consent and the complications that arise when young men want to interrupt “locker room talk.” It’s an upclose examination of what boys are thinking at a time when they are still being pushed to wear the mask of conventional masculinity. Along with the book’s nuanced look at the complexities of being a young man today, Orenstein also addresses what parents can do to help young men to become more emotionally present.
Much of what she uncovered is consistent with findings Voice Male has reported on over the years including boys’ answer to her question about the attributes of the “ideal guy.” Orenstein found that responses could be distilled down to “Sexual conquests, dominance, aggression, wealth, athleticism and emotional suppression, stoicism, never showing any feelings, don’t let people see you cry. That was still completely there—in the box that boys are put in.” To read the full interview, go to fatherly.com/love-money/relationships/teen-boys-sex-toxic-masculinity-me-too/.
Young Children See Males More Powerful Than Females
Researchers have found that children as young as four might see males as more powerful than females. In a study published in the journal Sex Roles, conducted by the French National Centre for Scientific Research, children associated power with masculinity. In some situations, the association between power and masculinity didn’t manifest in girls. The researchers wanted to know whether children aged three to six in France, Lebanon, and Norway attributed more power to masculine figures than feminine ones. One experiment featured showing the children a picture with two non-gendered individuals, with one of them in dominant physical posture and the other in subordinate posture. The children first had to guess which of the two was exerting power over the other. Then they had to assign a gender to each. The results revealed that from four years and up a large majority of children considered the dominant individual to be male. The power-masculinity association was observed in both boys and girls, and just as much in Lebanon as in France and Norway. Researchers noted there was no significant difference in three-year-old children but did not explain why.
Bullied Boys, Risky Sex
Adolescent boys who are victims of cyber bullying are more likely to exhibit adverse psychological problems, including depression and risky behaviors such as substance use, and unprotected intercourse with multiple partners. Researchers, including those from the Louisiana State University, found that all types of peer victimization are related to symptoms of depression for both females and males. Based on previous studies, the researchers said boys who are subject to cyber bullying pursue risky sexual behaviors more frequently than do girls, reflecting a culture of unhealthy masculinity. The study, “Peer Victimization, Depression and Sexual Risk Behaviors Among High School Youth in the United States: a gender-based approach,” was conducted by Youn Kyoung Kim, Mansoo Yu, Courtney Cronley and Miyoun Yang and published in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health. The study highlights the need to pay special attention to male victims, who may be reluctant to self-identify, and are therefore at greater risk of negative health outcomes.