What is Toxic Masculinity and How Might It Impact Sexual Functioning?

What is Toxic Masculinity and How Might It Impact Sexual Functioning?

“Toxic masculinity” is a term that has gained prominence in recent years as society engages in discussions around gender norms and their consequences. Rooted in traditional stereotypes of masculinity, toxic masculinity refers to a set of cultural norms and expectations that prescribe a narrow and harmful definition of manhood. Although further research is necessary to flesh out this concept and its ramifications, this article aims to delve into toxic masculinity and explore its potential impact on sexual functioning.

Understanding Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity encompasses a range of behaviors and attitudes that reinforce stereotypical notions of what it means to be a man. These may include traits such as suppressing (or pushing down) emotions, exhibiting aggression and dominance, and rejecting vulnerability. Experts argue that these expectations can be harmful not only to men themselves but also to their interpersonal relationships and overall well-being.

More specifically, toxic masculinity often discourages men from expressing emotions beyond anger or stoicism, leading to the repression of other important emotions such as sadness or vulnerability. This emotional suppression can manifest in various aspects of life, including intimate relationships and sexual experiences. In a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, researchers found that adherence to traditional masculine norms was associated with lower emotional expressiveness in relationships and poorer sexual communication.

Impact on Sexual Functioning

The influence of toxic masculinity on sexual functioning is multifaceted. One key aspect is the pressure on men to conform to a rigid and unrealistic standard of sexual performance. The expectation that men should always be sexually confident, assertive, and in control can create anxiety and performance-related stress. This pressure may lead to sexual dysfunction, including difficulties achieving or maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction) and/or reduced sexual satisfaction.

Moreover, the discouragement of emotional expression that comes with toxic masculinity may hinder the development of emotional intimacy in relationships, affecting overall sexual satisfaction. A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that men who adhered strongly to traditional gender roles reported lower levels of emotional intimacy in their relationships, which correlated with lower sexual satisfaction.

Toxic masculinity can also contribute to the perpetuation of sexual violence and coercion. The emphasis on dominance and control may lead to an inclination towards aggressive behavior in sexual encounters and a possible disregard for consent.

Breaking the Mold

Addressing the impact of toxic masculinity on sexual functioning requires a holistic approach. Encouraging open conversations about gender norms and fostering environments where men feel comfortable expressing a full range of emotions are crucial steps. Mental health support and education about healthy relationships can also help challenge and dismantle toxic masculinity.

Furthermore, promoting positive role models and representations of masculinity that embrace vulnerability and emotional expression is essential. Media, popular culture, and educational institutions can play vital roles in shaping societal perceptions, and efforts can be made to redefine and broaden the concept of masculinity.

Toxic masculinity’s impact on sexual functioning is a complex and nuanced issue that warrants careful consideration. By understanding the harmful effects of rigid gender norms on men’s emotional well-being and sexual experiences, society can work towards dismantling these damaging expectations. Open dialogue, education, and a cultural shift towards embracing a more inclusive and healthier definition of masculinity are pivotal in fostering positive change.


  • Hammer, J. H., Parent, M. C., & Spiker, D. A. (2018). The Impact of Gender Role Conflict and Traditional Masculinity Ideology on Men’s Attitudes and Behavior Related to Body Image and Eating Disorders. Journal of Social Psychology, 158(6), 703–716.

  • Mark, K. P., Jozkowski, K. N., & Willoughby, J. F. (2011). The Mediating Role of Sexual and Nonsexual Communication Between Relationship and Sexual Satisfaction in a Sample of College-Age Heterosexual Couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(4), 961–969.

  • Murnen, S. K., Wright, C., & Kaluzny, G. (2002). If “Boys Will Be Boys,” Then Girls Will Be Victims? A Meta-Analytic Review of the Research That Relates Masculine Ideology to Sexual Aggression. Sex Roles, 46(11-12), 359–375.

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