The “boy box” and drug abuse

Man Love by Gerard
Man Love, a photo by Gerard on Flickr.

Yesterday I wrote about the first of two articles from the Fall 2002 Bulletin of the Society for the Study of Men and Masculinity (Division 51 of the American Psychological Association). It concerned using mindfulness training in therapy with men. Here is the second. “The Role of Masculinity in the Treatment of Chemically Dependent Men” by Sam Khorrami addresses the role of traditional masculinity in drug and alcohol abuse and the role of positive masculinity in recovery.

It is possible that masculinity as a social construction can shape
addictive belief systems, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
Indeed, two studies suggested that the most negative aspects
of the traditional masculine role (e.g., aggression, competition,
and lack of emotional expression) perpetuated steroid abuse
and dependence among male weightlifters

The author describes how the social construction of masculinity leads to a kind of “hyper-masculinity” whose trademarks include inexpressiveness and lack of emotion, except for anger, competitiveness, and engaging in dangerous or risky behavior (including excessive drinking). It’s not hard to imagine that, if a man has a genetic predisposition for addiction, drinking to suppress anger, having beer-drinking competitions, and proving his manhood by pounding beers could lead to serious problems!

“Reconstructing” masculinity becomes an important component in recovery in the article – including allowing vulnerability and questioning the default of anger.

About our society’s gender boxes, the author notes, “Unfortunately, men receive powerful messages that threaten and question their manhood should they not want to participate in this self-destructive process.” Think about that sentence for a minute. It’s saying we have created a definition for manhood that is by its nature negative and self-destructive. (I would say that there are positive aspects of the US construction of manhood as well, such as protector. But the balance definitely seems to be off in what gets emphasized and reinforced.)

I know so many fathers who find themselves torn between wanting a more constructive manhood for their sons, and wanting to protect their sons from the threat and crack down of society. Would realizing that by complying with the system, they’re raising their sons to be self-destructive provide more strength to resist?

This entry was posted in Masculinity, positive masculinity, The boy box and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The “boy box” and drug abuse

  1. Pingback: Manly Scrapbooking | Pink Is for Boys

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