Speaking Of Fragile Masculinity..

When she emerged from the meeting at which our embarrassing President threw a tantrum and demanded tax dollars for his wall, Nancy Pelosi issued a devastating analysis: 

 “It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing,” the California Democrat told members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee in a closed-door meeting after returning to the Capitol.

Whether she was aware of it or not, Pelosi’s observation is consistent with recent academic research. Scholars looking into characteristics of male Trump supporters found a strong correlation between what they dubbed “fragile” masculinity and a vote for Trump.

Writing in The Washington Post, the duo concludes that “Trump is not necessarily attracting male supporters who are as confidently masculine as the president presents himself to be. Instead, Trump appears to appeal more to men who are secretly insecure about their manhood. We call this the ‘fragile masculinity hypothesis.’”

The research team identified internet search topics commonly used by men insecure about their manhood: “erectile dysfunction,” “hair loss,” “how to get girls,” “penis enlargement,” “penis size,” “steroids,” “testosterone” and “Viagra.”

We found that support for Trump in the 2016 election was higher in areas that had more searches for topics such as “erectile dysfunction.” Moreover, this relationship persisted after accounting for demographic attributes in media markets, such as education levels and racial composition, as well as searches for topics unrelated to fragile masculinity, such as “breast augmentation” and “menopause.”

In contrast, fragile masculinity was not associated with support for Mitt Romney in 2012 or support for John McCain in 2008 — suggesting that the correlation of fragile masculinity and voting in presidential elections was distinctively stronger in 2016.

We live in an era when men who are less than secure in their masculinity–especially men who associate “manliness” with dominance and shows of strength–are feeling beleaguered. Women have poured into a workforce in which most jobs no longer require physical strength, diminishing the advantage such strength once gave them. Women are also, finally, entering American politics–and winning elections.

Even more terrifying, women are no longer “sucking it up” when their male colleagues sexually harass them, and a recent article in the New Yorker–triggered by the Kavanaugh hearings–considered the effects on men of women’s emerging defiance of the patriarchy.

Listening to Kavanaugh speak, I could tell within a few minutes that he had never been asked to account for himself—that despite a prestigious education he could not string together two coherent sentences of self-reflection. Confronted with Ford’s testimony, he had no story to tell; he couldn’t utter the phrase “This is how I’ve changed” or “This is what I’ve learned.” Instead he stripped the rhetoric of self-defense down to its most basic layer: I’m right, you’re wrong; she’s lying, I’m not; she remembers nothing, I remember everything. For his supporters, this apoplectic behavior under oath was not only persuasive; it opened up that vein of reflexive empathy that conservatives often reserve for white men in positions of power. The hearing, Trump said afterward, was something “nobody should have to go through,” a phrase repeated over and overin the conservative media, along with much outrage over the violation of Kavanaugh’s privacy and the sanctity of his family and marriage. Opinion polls taken after the hearings showed that many Republican voters saw him as a hero for fighting back—defending his honor against accusations that were devastating, whether or not they were true.

The problem for Trump, Kavanaugh and the legions of unhappy men prowling the Internet looking for a magic potion is that while they weren’t looking, society’s definition of manliness changed.

Men can no longer console themselves that they are “manly” by yelling more loudly, bullying the weak, or assaulting subordinate women. These days, in order to be considered manly, you need to be a mensch.

And let’s face it: Trump is the anti-mensch.


  1. I keep a handful of these insecure people on Facebook so I can follow their postings. I would agree with the studies above. In some circles, it’s called, “Egomaniacs with inferiority complexes.”

    From my observation, they also drive trucks and own guns. They don’t debate–they threaten. When I point out their posts are oozing with racism, their only defense is threatening to shoot me. I also noticed that our police departments are full of these white characters. Coincidence?

    We overcompensate for what we lack. The lack of self-awareness has been the undoing of Trump. He doesn’t learn from his mistakes so he doubles down on stupid.

    And speaking of Kavanaugh, the special judges assigned to rule on his ethics violations during the hearings, basically ruled that yes, the judge did really bad things, but lower court judges shouldn’t take action against Supreme Court justices.

    I honestly don’t know how anyone can take these people seriously. Shakespeare called the world a stage, but what takes place in the District of Columbia is a farce.

    Which reminds me, if we are truly a representative republic, what does it say about the United States of America? 😉

  2. The definition, and thus the meaning, of the word “masculine” continues to evolve in our society. Until there is some settlement on the term, the word mensch works for me.

  3. “‘fragile masculinity hypothesis.”

    This term has long been associated with men and their guns; the size and number determine their masculinity and thus, their believed level of masculinity and power. Maybe this is at least a partial explanation for the Republicans and their misguided support of the 2nd Amendment. The number of female conquests are notches on their gun belt…in their minds and the like-minded men who evidence “fragile masculinity”. Trump, Kavanaugh and Thomas are the leading members of that society today; their victims have spoken publicly and lost their legal battles but the November 6th election is a warning of things to come.

    In the words of Helen Reddy; “We Are Woman, Hear Us Roar, In Numbers Too Big To Ignore”!!!

  4. Reading this brought a smile to my face.

    The old white males who have dominated everyone and everything since the birth of this country are facing a battle that they cannot possibly win and it is driving them crazy. I love it!

    The odd thing is that there was no mention of religion in the article, or at least in the part that you wrote about. I am guessing the male evangelical trump supporters are at the top of the list for men who search the internet for male “enhancement” products.

  5. Ah yes, that explains Miller’s spray on hair. They are all a bunch of wusses trying to act tough.

  6. Also defining masculinity, especially for teenage boys, is their involvement in sports and we teenage girls who are honored with their attention become as important as the sports star as long as we retain their attention. My ex-husband was All City Football at Tech High School in 1952 and State Wrestling Champion the same year. I was finally recognized as a person of value. Local people will know how big Tech High School was; sits on 10 acres, I believe attendance in the mid-1950’s was around 5,000. Pictures of Principal Hanson H. Anderson made his face a familiar one to all students; he of course didn’t know us. Five years after leaving Tech, mother of three children, I drove downtown to shop at Sears. Walking in the back door I recognized Mr. Anderson coming out and spoke to him; he responded, “I don’t remember your name, young lady, but I know you married one of my football players.” It struck me as unbelievable at that time; today I recognize how ridiculous that male value system was and is.

    “fragile masculinity hypothesis” is a staple in our health care system and has escalated in recent years. Women not allowed access to birth control or abortions, for whatever religious reason this is allowed, while males have health care access to Viagra and erectile dysfunction supplies…including Medicare.

    A long ago quote by Scottish poet Dillys Lainge is coming more true in our world today; “Women receive the insults of men with tolerance, having been bitten in the nipple by their toothless gums.”

  7. I am an old (89) white male, Korean War veteran, retired high school teacher. I’m afraid to come here any more! 🙂 Irvin

  8. A recent sign of fragile masculinity, I think, is Trump’s new push for a $750 billion military budget. Nothing like buying more tanks we can’t use and planes we don’t need to bump up your testicular fortitude.

  9. I am forwarding this to an ex-FBI agent who fits the profile of fragile masculinity perfectly.

    Trump has been over-compensating for his fragilities (plural) his entire life. This psychological profile mentioned here is just one of several gremlins that poor bastard has to carry around in his tiny brain.

  10. I’m no Trump supporter nor do I fit any of the characterizations noted above. However, I am troubled by the broad generalizations this piece puts forth. I know several men who drive over-sized pickups, some of whom are gay. I know men who, like it or not, have a passion for guns. I don’t know, however, if any of them searched “erectile dysfunction” although considering our ages, I suspect they may have. I also know men who openly support this presidency and don’t drive pickups, shoot guns or worry about women in positions of power. Although I vehemently disagree with them, questioning their manhood because of that support would add to the ignorant dialog we hear from our political leaders day in and day out.

    Stereotypes always trouble me. Trump’s comment about Megyn Kelly was a disgusting generalization about women. His and other conservatives’ descriptions of immigrants are not only ugly but they’re wrong. I could go on about erroneous, stereotypical portrayals of African Americans, Asians, and so on but won’t bother because you all know to what I refer.

    In my opinion, stereotyping white males is just as wrong, is just as insulting, and more importantly, ignores the real reasons why many people other than white males voted for him. Let’s focus on those reasons and not worry about the size of their truck…or anything else for that matter.

  11. This maybe the most useless gathering statistical data of all time, if it has any validity at all. The presumption is the data is accurate, how exactly did these “Scholars” derive their data???

    This “Study” fits the Stereotype, conclusion some people want to hear, i.e., The President Agent Orange-Pastor Pence Cult is fueled by Viagra, or is it guns or bible thumping or all three.

    Now how does this fit in: >>
    Nationally, Clinton picked up 54 percent of women voters compared with Trump’s mere 42 percent. But Trump outperformed Clinton among white women, winning 53 percent of voters in that demographic. Drilling down further, he beat Clinton among white women without college degrees by 27 points. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/20/14061660/women-march-washington-vote-trump

    So White Woman voted for President Agent Orange over Clinton. Was this caused by Viagra??
    I guess we now know how to defeat President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence in 2020 – Ban Internet Searches of “erectile dysfunction,” “hair loss,” “how to get girls,” “penis enlargement,” “penis size,” “steroids,” “testosterone” and “Viagra.”

    Must have been those clever Russians at work again.

  12. crichardallen; get a grip on your masculinity, the issue today and those of us commenting on it are speaking to and about those who do fit the “broad generalizations”…as always. Just as we understand and admit not all Democrats are correct about everything, we understand and admit no one category is a “one-size-fits-all” for any group of people or organizations. Read Irvin’s comment to know how to interpret these comments on this particular issue.

    Not all white males fit this category just as all black males do not fit the stereotypical descriptions of their sexual prowess and “larger-than-life” male attribute. This is an open forum which welcomes all points of view; including your obvious view that this blog is stereotyping all males in general.

  13. Todd – Ditto. Tom didn’t really mean it when he wrote that “All men are created equal,” seeing as how black males and Indians did not get the vote and women are not men. He was following the Athenian model which excluded slaves and women from the vote, as they were somehow not sentient beings entitled to the democratic description of being governed by their consent.

    Things have changed since then and today women are rightfully “mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.” Sleaze such as Trump has called them to arms, among other wrongdoings. Muscle is not as important as it once was what with sophisticated machinery, robotics and AI on the loose; war itself is no longer an exclusive province of the male, and as soon as we have legislated equal pay for equal work, single payer healthcare, daycare subsidies and the like, women will finally begin to enjoy a new version of Tom’s dictum: “All people are created equal.”

    Some day (if we don’t destroy ourselves and/or our democracy during the interim) I think all of these past and current artificial distinctions between race, gender, creed etc. will be in our wake and we will finally enjoy real equality. Someday. Perhaps.

  14. Of all of Trump’s faults, and they are legion, this explanation of some of his incompetent decisions interests me least. It’s a big so what.

    Culturally though what’s going on with us is interesting. My family had an interesting discussion this weekend after a granddaughter in college made the statement that “we can all agree that the song “Baby it’s Cold Outside” is utterly sexist”.

    That surprised the folks in my generation who hadn’t thought that until my daughter-in-law in the generation in between explained how the younger generation steeped in the Me Too movement regarded it as an affront to no means no. We always regarded the lyrics as “flirty”.

    There you go. As important as mutual expressed conscent is as an essential mating requirement, it, now we understand, has changed the rules and rituals of romance I presume for the better as long as as they are mutually understood and practised.

    I also suppose that Trump’s entitlement from father Fred shielded him from the rituals of romance for any generation.

  15. I suspect there are a lot of entitled white males who are scared and angry that their power and culturally dominant positions are eroding away from under them. It should come as no surprise. Hundreds of years of religious and cultural accepted norms are being upended. To those who are scared of losing what little control they think they have, it is very threatening. The natural response is to fight back. DT is the classic role model for them. If their physical performance is diminishing with age and/or illness, they must feel even more powerless.
    In some ways, I feel sorry for them. They have no experience to fully mutual partnership, of freely sharing vulnerability and emotions. They view all of those things as weakness. It really is kind of sad.

  16. JD, we all like to credit our brains for many things that are really culture. We think that we decide our actions but so many are merely repetition of what we have observed in others like us over the years.

    Trump is no exception. He’s a barely competent thinker about anything and is flying on autopilot repeating behaviors that he has observed about others like himself like his father for instance.

    His crimes once they all get presented to him will actually surprise him. He thought that people like himself actually are entitled to behave like he does as long as they are wealthy enough to afford an army of lawyers.

  17. Doctor Kennedy

    Please, if this is not a Wikipedia error, to what election “victory” does it refer?
    This is from the Wikipedia result of a search for Ivanka Trump:

    “Trump and her husband made a pilgrimage to the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a popular prayer site, shortly before her father’s election victory.”

    Donald Trump had an “election victory”??

    I thought Trump lost the election to Hillary by nearly three million votes. How can this be parlayed into an “election victory”?

    Thanks for your comment about this,

  18. After his inauguration, the first book I read about Trump was “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” by 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts. Even early in his presidency their observations seemed to hold true. He appeared to be not a man but a melange of competing neuroses each struggling for first place. I don’t recall a discussion of masculinity or its fragility, but none of the writers had had an opportunity for personal observation. In a character analysis of a man as deeply and broadly flawed as the Donald, perhaps there is meta-flaw that subsumes the rest. Doubts about his masculinity (he said he was in love with Kim Jung Un and there’s something going on in his passion for Putin) may give rise to his narcissism and seem to me a valid area for exploring in greater depth this most fatally flawed of any American public figure.

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