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Precarious Manhood Manifests as Drive for Muscularity Among Men


Introduction: Precarious manhood theory posits that manhood is socially constructed and must be earned by acquiring masculine capital. Previous research has suggested that there may be a link between threatened masculinity and a higher drive for muscularity. The current study tested this hypothesis experimentally. Methods: Male undergraduate students (N = 395) were either told that they did poorly on a cognitive task explicitly tied to a masculinity norm (i.e., future earning potential) or they were not given any feedback. Results: Participants in the masculinity threat condition subsequently reported a higher drive for muscularity than did those in the control condition. Sexual orientation did not moderate this effect. Discussion: One of the ways in which men feel that they must earn masculine capital is by having a muscular body. Drive for muscularity is heightened in situations that prime threatened masculinity. The current findings imply practice implications for men struggling with negative body image.

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JM and DM conceptualized the study; all authors planned the study procedure; AM collected the data; JM and AM analyzed the data and wrote the first draft of the manuscript; DM edited the manuscript; all authors proofread the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jennifer S. Mills.

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The study received ethics approval from the Office of Research Ethics at York University. The authors confirm that they complied with ethical standards for research involving human participants, including informed consent.

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This study was approved by the Human Participants Review Committee at York University. It did not involve animals.

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As part of informed consent, participants consented to their data being disseminated in aggregate form only and de-identified. No case data are presented.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Mills, J.S., Manea, A. & McCreary, D.R. Precarious Manhood Manifests as Drive for Muscularity Among Men. Sex Roles 88, 547–555 (2023).

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