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How to Be a More Manly Man

7 ways to be more masculine in a feminized world

Broad shoulders, square jaw, large muscular hands, deep gruff voice; boy was she scary.

"You idiot!" she bellowed, the hairs bristling on her lower mandible. "You men are all the same! Weak, yellow-livered, pathetic!"

I don't know what offence her quaking husband had committed, but something (thankfully not her) struck me:

When did men stop knowing how to be manly? When did masculinity become a dirty word?

Now, I don't know what was going on within that particular relationship, of course, but the man's obvious fear of his woman got me to thinking. It used to be easy to be a man. Masculinity was seen as a force for good; a man could express his manliness in occupations that were only open to men.

There was a clear demarcation between feminine and masculine social roles. Now the social climate has changed. We are in danger of becoming ashamed of masculinity. And I think that's a problem.

The drive toward masculinity is not an attack on femininity

Before I get swamped by a torrent of feminist outrage, let me state that of course it's great that many women have more career opportunities and that there is still a long way to go. But part of this drive toward equality has encompassed a backhanded denial of the fact that there are real differences between the sexes. Women are not men and men are not women. And not all of these differences are culturally determined (1).

Take rough and tumble in schools. Research shows that less than 1% of play fighting degenerates into real fighting whilst teachers commonly over-exaggerate the threat at about 35% (2). Rough and tumble play, and the opportunity to learn how to compromise, play fair, and manage their own behaviour is thwarted so often by well-meaning adults who feel everyone should 'play nicely' all the time (3).

Many women talk about the merits of the 'nice guy', but most women are really more attracted to a man who can treat them well but also displays traits traditionally associated with a manly man.

What it means to be a man

We males have much higher levels of testosterone pumping around our systems, making us more naturally suited to risk taking, competitiveness, and physical activity. To deny masculine traits is to deny our birthright.

The 'new man' is supposed to be sensitive, caring, nurturing, and 'in touch with his feelings'. These are all attributes traditionally associated with being a woman. But men and women process emotions differently. It may be 'healthy' for a woman to discuss how she is feeling, but there is good research to show that men can pay a huge price in physical health by being too focussed on how they feel (4).

A man can be caring and nurturing, but not at the expense of his manliness. Typical masculine traits include:

  • Decisiveness.
  • Assertiveness.
  • Leadership.
  • Having strength of mind and body.
  • Stamina.
  • Nobility.
  • Determination.
  • Being protective of others.

It's not that these traits are exclusively male, just more typically so.

How do you feel manly in your life? Try these tips to ramp up your manliness.

1) Get down and dirty

Get physical! Whether it's paintballing, mountain biking, white-water rafting, wrestling, sky diving, or fishing. Do stuff that mimics 'hunting'. Physical activity in short bursts - such as sprints or hauling heavy weights (think reeling in that giant catch) - will raise testosterone levels.

Don't let anyone downplay or dismiss these interests. They can help you out in other areas of your life. You have masculine instincts and you need to keep them primed.

2) Hang out with just the boys sometimes

Just as many women like to get together for 'girl time', so too it's important for men to 'get back to nature' with the posse/hunting group and go on a trip or have a night out and make it exclusively male. This is, once in a while, very healthy.

Men are more typically interested in how things work, focussing on goals and activities. Rather than using conversation to bond or connect or discuss relationships, we like to convey information or ascertain and establish status. Most men aren't too great at long phone conversations that don't seem to have 'a point'. So a get together with the guys based around something such as a fishing trip or 'watching the game' often feels more natural than just 'getting together for a chat'.

3) Speak your mind sometimes

The prevailing 'politically correct' zeitgeist works as an emotional dictatorship in which we are not supposed to think or say this or that because "it's not right". I'm not advocating sexism or bigotry (a real man should be above that, anyway), but I am saying that a manly man will have his own thoughts as to what is wrong and right based not on some rule made up by self-righteous people, but on his own experiences.

If you never speak your mind, you'll always have a sense of diminished masculinity.

4) Be proud to be a man

There's a recent UK ad with the strap line: "So simple even a man can use it." Of course, part of being a real man is ignoring this kind of nonsense, rising above it. But at the risk of sounding paranoid, there has been a vilification of masculinity. Don't make apologies for having a male perspective or so-called 'manly interests'.

Take pride in what you do and what you are. Men are often blamed for being violent as compared to completely non-violent women. However, whilst the effects of male violence tend to be worse, the incidence of male-instigated violence to female-instigated violence within relationships is about the same (5).

The terrible idea that "all men are potential rapists and abusers" is just not true.
There is good and bad in both sexes (6).

Enjoy and respect your own masculinity.

5) Take it on the chin

To be a real man means being confident enough to take defeat on the chin and not pass the buck of blame unfairly. It means having grace under fire, being dignified, having pride but not boastfulness, not whining or winging. It is manly to be able to own up to your own part in the failure of something whilst being wide-sighted enough not to always blame yourself totally.

In the words of the great Rudyard Kipling:

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too..."

6) Know how to treat women

Knowing how to treat a woman with respect without allowing yourself to be manipulated or pushed around by them is also a mark of a man. Humiliating or debasing women isn't manly. Be protective, open doors, compliment, but also be real with them. Most women don't like men who are over-awed by them, too clingy or insecure. And for God's sake make sure you aren't more into your appearance than she is!

7) Take some risks

Men typically display more risk-prone behaviour. Has your life become completely risk adverse? If it has, then you will feel less masculine. It's dumb, not manly, to take stupid risks; but calculated risks will make you braver by forcing you to push through self-imposed unmanly comfort zones.

Feel the fear, but still do it - as long as it's intelligent. Start that business, ask that woman out, speak up when no one else is. At least you'll be more true to yourself and if you 'fail' (and remember all failure is relative), then because you're a real 'manly' man, you'll know how to take that failure too.

As for that browbeaten guy in the store? If you ask me, he needs to eat lots of red meat, join the Marines, and take an assertiveness!


  1. See Moir, A. and Moir, B. (1998) Why men don't iron: The real science of gender studies. Harper Collins.
  2. Conner, K. (1989) Aggression is in the eye of the beholder? Play and Culture, 2,213-217.
  3. Play fighting - and yes, even if that means playing with toy guns - is an important part of what it is to be a boy as there is no evidence that playing with guns as a child leads to an unhealthy interest in them later. Watson, M. and Peng Y. (1992) The relation between toy gun play and children's aggressive behaviour. Early Education and Development, 3,4,370-389.
  4. Boys and men show a generally lower emotional threshold than girls and women as far as blood pressure and immune function readings are concerned. So getting too in touch with his emotions may harm the man's health and instinctively knowing this may encourage him to 'stonewall' or 'enter the cave' until he can calm down enough to actively problem solve. See: Phillips, M. (1999) The Sex Change Society: Feminized Britain and the neutered male. Social Market foundation: London.
  5. Brinerhoff, L., Moffitt, T., Cassi, A., and Newman, D. (1997) Gender differences in partner violence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 1.
  6. A recent report on BBC 1 news on 1st October 2009 quoted research showing that 25% of sexual abuse of children is committed by women.
Published by Mark Tyrrell - in Personal Skills