Expanding masculinity

Silva Neves

Silva Neves

UKCP psychotherapist Silva Neves is a COSRT-accredited and UKCP-registered psychosexual and relationship psychotherapist. He’s a Pink Therapy Clinical Associate.

Many men are trapped in society’s ‘man box’, which hurts them and everyone around them. Let’s embrace talking about masculinity differently.

As a psychosexual and relationship psychotherapist I see many men who struggle with their mental health, their relationships, and their sex lives because of the constrictive notion of ‘masculinity’. It is not always within the awareness of people, but it does contribute to reductive ideas about how to live their lives and it hinders their well-being.

How it begins

Boys are typically socialised with strict gender roles from the beginning of their lives. Although it is slowly changing thanks to more gender discourse, the pervasive reductive masculinity ‘rules’ are still very much part of our society: ‘boys don’t cry’. It is perceived as ‘weak’ to express feelings other than happiness and anger.

Strict masculinity hurts men

The prohibition of being vulnerable and the unacceptability of ‘weakness’ (and the pressure to man-up) make men reluctant to talk about their difficult emotions to anyone, which creates poor mental health. Men account for three-quarters of suicide deaths in England and Wales according to the Office of National Statistics.

Men who are trapped in the ‘man box’ also tend to shame other men who are more comfortable with their masculinity, for example those who choose to be stay-at-home dads or those who enjoy pegging (being penetrated anally, which is often deemed as a gay practice or the feminisation of masculinity). It goes without saying that these views also encourage ideas of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

Strict masculinity hurts women

Men are often praised for being ‘great lovers’ and ‘conquering’ women, which leads to some distorted ideas about sexual entitlement towards women. Many women experience sexual assault by men (20% of women compared to 4% of men) according to the Charity Rape Crisis, because of society’s intrinsic misogyny fuelled by the distorted ideas of masculinity.

Unfortunately, some women also collude with the ‘man box’ by putting pressure on themselves to fit with those rules: going out of their ways to please men, enduring bad relationships because it is the woman’s role to make relationship work, etc.

Awareness and change

Those strict masculinity ‘rules’ are so embedded in our society that many people are not always aware they live by those rules. We can only change the way we live our lives when we gain better awareness. Psychotherapy is a non-judgmental space of self-reflection that can help expand the ideas surrounding masculinity. With the expansion of this awareness and thinking, men and women often report feeling more at peace, which is the sign of living more authentically, rather than by rules made by society that don’t fit them.

When men have better mental health, they can encourage other men to be kinder to themselves too. Everybody benefits from it and the world can be a more caring, inclusive place.

Psychotherapy can offer a safe space to explore your feelings, YOU CAN LOOK FOR AN ACCREDITED THERAPIST ON THE UKCP WEBSITE


  1.  ONS 2020 suicide rates in England and Wales

  2. Rape Crisis sexual violence statistics

You can also find support by contacting:

In an emergency, call: 999

NHS (England), call: 111

NHS Direct (Wales), call: 0845 46 47

The Samaritans 24 hour helpline, call: 116 123

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