A Qualitative Analysis of Perceptions of Precarious Manhood in U.S. and Danish Men


Student author: Sarah DiMuccio

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Psychology of Men and Masculinity


Manhood and masculinity have been studied extensively in different academic disciplines and in a variety of contexts. Research shows that becoming (and being) a man in the United States is not an easy task, as manhood is a precarious status that must be actively and publicly achieved and maintained. Previous research has not, to our knowledge, asked men to explain their own perceptions of precariousness or contrasted modern, industrialized countries that differ on key cultural variables, such as egalitarianism. In the current study, we interviewed college-aged, heterosexual, Caucasian men (9 from the United States and 9 from Denmark). We asked how manhood is achieved, how it is maintained, if it can be lost, and the role of masculinity. Results showed similarities in the men’s understanding of manhood (e.g., U.S. and Danish men both talked about manhood in terms of acting like an adult and protecting others), but the 2 groups also differed in important ways. The U.S. men described the need to show manhood through athleticism (what the male body “does”) and the rejection of femininity whereas the Danish men described the physical embodiment of manhood (what the male body “is”) and the importance of having a feminine side. Furthermore, U.S. men contrasted manhood to womanhood whereas Danish men contrasted manhood to boyhood. Based on these conceptualizations, we argue that the Danish men viewed manhood as less precarious than the U.S. men did, and conclude that understandings of masculinity and the precariousness of manhood vary cross-culturally and are tied to broader sociocultural values.


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