Funnily enough, I totally get this inclination even though I'm not a guy. When I'm told I'm wrong about something or my power is compromised in some way, my defenses go way up, and the rationalizations come out. That's exactly what researchers at the University of Washington found to be the case when they told the men in their study that they performed poorly in a strength test.
However, the researchers were not giving their subjects honest answers. They gave them false results to see what they'd do in reaction to being told they failed at a stereotypically masculine ability. The men who received these false results immediately compensated by exaggerating their number of sexual partners and athletic abilities. They even lied about how tall they really are — something that's much harder to fake.
So why do men feel the need to do this when they feel their masculinity is being compromised? Dr. Sapna Cheryan, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington, had some ideas. He told Daily Mail, "We know that being seen as masculine is very important for a lot of men. We discovered that the things that men were using to assert their masculinity were the very things that are used as signals of identity." The researchers found that when men's masculinity was threatened, they tended to pick stereotypically manly cars and hobbies on surveys to prove their virility.
They looked at 100 men who weren't told the exact purpose of the study. An interesting detail was that the researchers imparted to the men their falsely inferior results personally rather than showing them false results on paper. There's something about being confronted with your shortcomings face-to-face that likely upped how threatened they felt.
Sexual stereotypes have a strong hold on us, whether you're a man or a woman. Dr. Cheryan believes women feel the need to play into them just as much as men do, which is why they often veer away from the less stereotypically feminine careers.
It's also why unemployed men who rely on women to bring home the bacon are responsible for more acts of domestic violence, because their masculinity is being threatened all the time.
While I can understand where these urges to prove one's masculinity come from, they're not doing anyone any favors. Fortunately these stereotypical traits seem to have softened and changed somewhat, especially over the past 10 years with the development of male types like the metrosexual. However, as long as men feel the need to lie to keep up their masculine appearances, the world will continue to be overrun by dicks.
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