From the reign of the Ancient Romans through to the reign of Spandau Ballet, there has been a huge issue within our culture.
It’s not often mentioned because a lot of people don’t see it as a problem. I do.
It’s plastered over the covers of fitness magazines, engraved into the mindsets of football hooligans, fuelled by lager and takeaway curry. It’s this: testosterone is the defining feature of being male, whoever and wherever you are. It dictates your actions in a startlingly large number of situations.
Masculinity and everything associated with it is surprisingly damaging to everyone. One result is that men are not permitted by traditional society to show weakness.
This could mean not being able to talk about something dominating and devouring your mind, for fear you might be branded a ‘wuss’, or ridiculed by your friends for trying to solve a problem. Even worse, you might try and open up to someone who simply ignores or dismisses the issue. God forbid, you cry, that is obviously the ultimate sign of an inherently weak person.
In ‘Lad culture’, you’re just told to shut up, have a pint, and get on with life as though nothing were wrong. This leads to real, important problems being brushed aside to the corners of your mind, where they fester and multiply like bacteria.
That way, you are far more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to dull your mental anguish, since you can’t talk to anyone without losing this perverse honour we hold so highly.
The need to seem ‘hard’ also often necessitates violence. Rather than apologising for knocking a drink from someone’s hand, we are encouraged by testosterone to square up to them, shout slander about their mother, and hit them in the jaw.
Running away from a fight for your own safety is also banned: you’re cowardly and not manly if you do that. Better ‘settle things like men’ (that is, punching each other’s lights out) than apologising like a pansy.
Part of the issue of masculinity is rooted in the language we use flippantly on a day-to-day basis. Phrases like “boys will be boys” are used to justify the bullish behaviour of young lads who tease peers, punch, kick, or disrespect authority. The idea that boys can get away with being violent because of their gender alone is entrenched from an early age – and let’s not forget that we don’t just allow it, we encourage it.
It’s important to remember that the alpha-male attitude affects more than just 50% of the population. Think about domestic abuse or rape (although they are not always perpetrated by males). If a man thinks that intimidation or violence is the best way to resolve problems, that might serve as justification for hurting a spouse. That encouragement has to stop.
I’m not calling for a ban on testosterone. Aside from being biologically impossible, it can sometimes be fun to get excited at a football game with your friends. But we need to think long and hard about the place of masculinity in our society. Lives depend on it.
-- Will Allsopp is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds