The Red Flags: 12 Big Signs Of Toxic Masculinity

Last updated on January 7th, 2024 at 06:04 pm

From aggression to emotional suppression, the signs of toxic masculinity are hidden in the thick cloak of masculinity. Here are the red flags.

For so long, these signs eluded society until it was busted and laid bare for everyone to see.

Masculinity is often associated with power, strength, courage, and leadership.

These are not bad on their own, but when a desperate man wields them, they become toxic.

Every man wanted to be strong, stoic, and emotionally unbreakable, even if it meant losing one of the legs or an eye, it doesn’t matter.

What mattered was to identify with masculinity and be called a real man.

But things have changed, and everyone seeks to have masculinity pruned of its harmful arm which has caused more harm than good.

So, what are the identifiable signs of toxic masculinity as it hides under masculinity itself?

In this post, we are going to take a deep look at the signs of toxic masculinity and how they can be spotted from a distance so one can be able to avoid them or nip them accordingly.

Table of Contents

Importance of Recognizing the Signs of Toxic Masculinity

A man marching on a woman - a sign of toxic masculinity

Toxic masculinity contributes to a culture of violence, sexism, and oppression which has negative impacts both on individual well-being and societal cohesion.

In recognizing the signs of toxic masculinity, individuals can begin to challenge and deconstruct these harmful gender norms.

Toxic masculinity can have a significant impact on the mental and physical health of individual men, as well as those around them.

Related: What is Healthy And Positive Masculinity?

For example, men who conform to traditional masculine gender roles are less likely to seek out mental well-being support, leading to a higher prevalence of depression and suicide.

Additionally, toxic masculinity promotes aggression and violence, resulting in higher rates of domestic abuse, assault, and homicide.

On a societal level, toxic masculinity perpetuates inequality and reinforces gender-based stereotypes, creating a culture where men dominate women and marginalized groups.

It provides a fertile ground for the spread of hateful ideologies and fuels discrimination and intolerance.

By recognizing the signs of toxic masculinity, individuals can work towards promoting healthy and equitable gender norms, contributing to a more just and inclusive society.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Women Prefer Beta Males As Partners

What Are The Signs Of Toxic Masculinity?

Toxic masculinity is a disease that is plaguing young men and below are the signs that identify toxic masculinity.

  • Suppression of emotions
  • Aggression
  • Objectification of women
  • Homophobia
  • Belittling others
  • Promiscuity
  • Risk-taking
  • Sexual aggression toward women
  • Avoiding domestic chores
  • Misogyny
  • Penchant for dominance
  • Aversion to vulnerability

Let’s explain them individually:

1. Suppression of Emotions as a Sign of Toxic Masculinity

Suppression of emotions is a sign of toxic masculinity as it perpetuates the belief that men should be stoic and unemotional.

Society often expects men to be strong and unaffected by their feelings, leading them to suppress emotions such as sadness, fear, or vulnerability.

This can have detrimental effects on their mental health, as it denies them the opportunity to process and express their emotions in a healthy way.

The pressure to suppress emotions also hinders meaningful connections and communication, creating barriers in relationships.

By challenging this expectation, we can promote emotional well-being and healthier expressions of masculinity.

Overcoming Suppression of Emotions

Tips to Overcome Emotional Suppression
To overcome the suppression of emotions in toxic masculinity, individuals must embrace and prioritize emotional literacy.

Acknowledging that vulnerability and expressing emotions is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength in oneself.

It may take time and effort to unlearn harmful societal norms, but seeking out counseling or support from peers, loved ones, or mental health professionals can greatly aid in the process.

Creating a safe and non-judgmental environment for oneself and others to express emotions is crucial in breaking down toxic masculinity.

2. Aggression as a Sign of Toxic Masculinity

One of the most disturbing manifestations of toxic masculinity is aggression.

Aggression is often seen as a sign of strength and dominance, especially among men.

However, this belief is deeply flawed and has led to destructive behaviours in personal relationships, the workplace, and even entire societies.

Studies and research have shown that men who exhibit violent tendencies or are prone to aggressive behaviours are more likely to have learned those attitudes in childhood or been influenced by societal norms that tolerate or even encourage such behaviours.

Toxic masculinity often leads to men feeling that they must prove their masculinity by being aggressive or dominating others.

This can manifest in a variety of ways, including physical violence, verbal abuse, and emotional manipulation.

Related: The Effects of Gender Stereotypes Through The Ages

Overcoming Aggression

Tips to Overcome Aggression
Overcoming aggression in toxic masculinity requires addressing the root causes of the behaviours.

Men and boys should be taught emotional regulation and communication skills and encouraged to express vulnerability and seek help when needed.

Educators, parents, and peers should challenge harmful gender stereotypes and promote healthy masculinity that embraces respect, empathy, and compassion.

It’s essential to create safe environments that encourage healthy relationships and discourage harmful behaviours such as bullying, harassment, and violence.

3. Objectification of Women

The objectification of women is a vicious cycle perpetuated by toxic masculinity.

As a sign of toxic masculinity, it is a patriarchal culture that reduces women to mere objects for the pleasure and entertainment of men.

This culture of misogyny has created a society where women are routinely dehumanized, commodified, and reduced to their body parts.

It is an insidious and pervasive problem that has damaging consequences for women’s mental and physical health.

Suggested: Beta Male Traits And Characteristics

It is perpetuated by the media, advertising, and entertainment industries, which portray women as sexual objects, available for male gratification.

This creates a distorted perception of women, one which sees them not as fully-formed individuals but as sexual beings, ripe for objectification.

Women who are objectified are often subjected to harassment, discrimination, and abuse.

They are reduced to their physical appearance and sexual availability, leading to a culture where women are seen as second-class citizens, inferior to men.

Overcoming Objectification of Women

Tips to Overcome Objectification of Women
To overcome the objectification of women in toxic masculinity, we need to start by addressing the root causes of the problem.

We can do this by promoting gender equality and challenging traditional gender roles, which often reinforce the idea that women are only valuable for their physical appearance.

We can also educate men on the harmful effects of objectification and encourage them to recognize and respect women as individuals, rather than as mere objects.

Additionally, we need to support women who speak out against objectification and hold individuals and institutions accountable for perpetuating toxic masculinity.

Ultimately, it will take a collective effort from all members of society to create a culture that values and respects women.

Related: The Benefits of Vulnerability in Men

4. Homophobia

A man suppressing his emotions - a sign of toxic masculinity

Homophobia is a pervasive issue that affects countless individuals and communities around the world.

It is defined as the fear or dislike of homosexual individuals and is often used as a means of perpetuating harmful stereotypes and discriminatory behavior.

However, many experts believe that homophobia is not only a form of discrimination, but it is also one of the signs of toxic masculinity.

Homophobia – or any form of discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals – can be viewed as an attempt to enforce toxic masculinity by punishing those who defy traditional gender roles.

One of the reasons why homophobia can be seen as a sign of toxic masculinity is because of the way it reinforces gender stereotypes.

For instance, men who are attracted to other men are often viewed as emasculated or weak because they do not conform to society’s expectations of male sexuality.

This creates a culture where traditional gender roles are seen as superior, and any deviation from these roles is punished through discrimination and prejudice.

Related: Sigma Male vs Alpha Male

Overcoming Homophobia

Tips to Overcome Homophobia
The first step in overcoming homophobia as one of the signs of toxic masculinity is to acknowledge that it exists in society and within oneself.

Education and open-mindedness can help challenge and overcome harmful attitudes and beliefs.

Encouraging and promoting a diverse and inclusive community, both in personal and professional settings, can help break down discriminatory barriers.

Additionally, actively listening and engaging with members of the LGBTQ+ community and their experiences can help foster empathy and understanding.

Lastly, holding oneself and others accountable for their actions and language can help create a safer and more accepting environment for all individuals.

Related: The Impact of Masculinity on Society

5. Belittling Others

Another sign of toxic masculinity is the tendency to belittle or put down others, particularly those who are perceived as weaker or less “masculine.”

Belittling others is a common tactic used by individuals who subscribe to toxic masculinity.

Rather than valuing and respecting the contributions of others, they attempt to elevate their own status by putting others down.

This behaviour can take many forms, from mocking someone’s appearance, intelligence, or skills, to using derogatory language or slurs.

The problem with belittling others is that it reinforces negative stereotypes and creates a culture of fear and intimidation.

When individuals feel like they have to constantly defend themselves against insults and criticisms, it can be incredibly damaging to their self-esteem and mental health.

This is especially true for individuals who are already marginalized or vulnerable, such as women, people of colour, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Some research have shown that victims of emotional abuse are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, as well as physical ailments like chronic pain and digestive problems.

Related: Negative Signs Of A Beta Male In Relationships

Overcoming “Belittling Others”

Tips to Overcoming the Belittling of Others
To overcome “belittling others” in toxic masculinity, it is essential to educate men and boys about gender equality and promote respectful communication.

Teaching empathy and encouraging emotional expression can also help prevent the negative effects of toxic masculinity, such as putting down others.

Moreover, promoting healthy relationships, highlighting positive male role models, and tackling harmful stereotypes can challenge the norm of toxic masculinity.

Simple steps like identifying problematic behaviours, confronting harmful comments, and educating oneself on the effects of toxic masculinity can go a long way in creating a safe and equitable society.

Related: Unpacking Fragile Masculinity in Today’s Society

6. Promiscuity

A man showing promiscuity as a sign of toxic masculinity

One aspect of toxic masculinity that has been discussed less often is promiscuity.

Promiscuity is often seen as a sign of masculinity, but it is far from being a trait that males should be proud of. In fact, promiscuity can be seen as one of the signs of toxic masculinity.

It is defined as engaging in sexual activities with multiple partners without any emotional attachment.

Men who exhibit toxic masculinity often feel the need to prove their manhood by expressing their dominance over women.

They use sex as a tool of power and control, often making their partners feel inferior and powerless.

Promiscuous behaviour is often associated with toxic masculinity because it reinforces the idea that men are entitled to women’s bodies.

Men who exhibit toxic masculinity do not want to be seen as weak or vulnerable, so they distance themselves from emotional attachments.

This leads to a lack of emotional connection with their partners and can create an unhealthy dynamic in their relationships.

Related: Real Social Dynamics (RSD): Men’s Coach And Their Controversy

Overcoming Promiscuity

Tips for Overcoming Promiscuity
Promiscuity is one of the signs of toxic masculinity as it reinforces the idea that men must constantly prove their masculinity through sexual conquests.

Overcoming this requires breaking down societal expectations surrounding male sexuality and addressing toxic ideas about masculinity. Men must learn to respect and value themselves and others beyond just their sexual prowess.

This can be achieved through education about healthy relationships, consent, and communication. It is important to challenge toxic beliefs about male sexuality and promote a positive, respectful attitude towards sex and relationships.

Related: What Is An Alpha Male?

7. Dangerous Risk-taking as a Sign of Toxic Masculinity

A young man taking risk at the edge of the mountain

Another sign of toxic masculinity is risk-taking. The myth of the risk-taking man has been around for centuries, from heroic explorers and adventurers to daring soldiers and maverick entrepreneurs.

This stereotype is often glamorized in the media and has become part of the masculine identity.

Men who take risks are often seen as adventurous, fearless, and macho. On the other hand, men who are cautious or conservative are often seen as cowardly or weak.

However, this stereotype can be dangerous as it can lead men to take risks that are not good for their own health or the safety of others.

Risk-taking can be adaptive or maladaptive.

  • Adaptive risk-taking is characterized by careful consideration of potential outcomes, proactive planning, and perseverance in the face of obstacles.
  • Maladaptive risk-taking, on the other hand, is characterized by impulsivity, a lack of concern for consequences, and a disregard for the safety and well-being of oneself and others.

Men who embrace toxic masculinity often engage in maladaptive risk-taking behavioural patterns that put themselves, others, and society at large at risk.

Overcoming Risk-taking

Tips to Overcome Dangerous Risk-taking
To overcome this, you must redefine and celebrate masculinity to include emotional intelligence, empathy, and vulnerability.

Educating men on the importance of balance and healthy expressions of masculinity is crucial.
We can challenge harmful beliefs and behaviours by encouraging communication, promoting self-reflection, and providing positive role models.

Ultimately, by promoting a more holistic understanding of masculinity, we can create a more inclusive and equitable society.

8. Sexual Aggression Towards Women

Sexual aggression towards women is a sign of toxic masculinity as it reflects a sense of entitlement and objectification.

It stems from the belief that men have the right to exert power and control over women’s bodies without their consent.

This behaviour perpetuates a culture of misogyny and reinforces harmful gender stereotypes. It disregards the autonomy and dignity of women, contributing to a climate of harassment and assault.

Creating a society that values equality and consent is essential for dismantling toxic masculinity.

This type of behaviour is harmful and disrespectful, and it can cause severe emotional trauma and long-term damage to a woman’s mental health.

Overcoming Sexual Aggression Towards Women

Tips to Overcome Sexual Aggression Towards Women
Overcoming this toxic behavior requires education, promoting consent and respect, challenging harmful attitudes, and holding individuals accountable for their actions.

This includes promoting healthy attitudes and behaviors towards women, challenging harmful gender stereotypes, and creating safe spaces for women to speak out against sexual aggression.

It also requires holding perpetrators accountable for their actions through legal and social consequences.

9. Avoiding Domestic Chores

A man avoiding house chores in a show of toxic masculinity

According to a survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), women worldwide spend twice as much time as men on unpaid care work, including household chores.

Avoiding domestic chores is one of the signs of toxic masculinity as it reinforces traditional gender roles and perpetuates inequality.

It stems from the belief that certain tasks are beneath men or solely the responsibility of women.

This behaviour not only burdens women with an unfair share of household work but also undermines their autonomy and contribution outside the home.

Avoiding domestic chores reflects a reluctance to engage in activities perceived as feminine, reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes.

Related: Why Vulnerability is Key for Alpha Males And Masculinity

Overcoming Avoidance of Domestic Chores

Overcoming Avoidance of Domestic Chores
Overcoming this toxic behaviour requires challenging societal expectations, promoting equal sharing of household responsibilities, and recognizing the value of domestic work in encouraging healthier relationships and dismantling toxic masculinity.

First, men must recognize that domestic work is not just women’s work but an essential part of maintaining a household. It is not a sign of weakness or femininity to engage in domestic chores but rather a sign of strength and responsibility.

Second, men can start by discussing domestic responsibilities with their partners and developing a plan that works for both of them. This may involve dividing tasks based on individual strengths and preferences or alternating responsibilities.

Third, men can challenge the gender stereotypes that lead to toxic masculinity by supporting women’s rights and advocating for gender equality in all areas of life, including the home.

Finally, men can seek out resources and support to help them overcome their reluctance to engage in domestic work.

This may include reading books or articles on the subject, attending workshops or counseling, or joining support groups for men.

10. Misogyny

Misogyny, or hatred and prejudice against women, is one of the signs of toxic masculinity.

Misogyny is a direct result of this toxic belief system, which views women as inferior and unworthy of respect.

Misogyny can manifest in many forms, including verbal abuse, sexual harassment, physical violence, and discrimination against women.

It is often fuelled by a sense of entitlement and a desire to maintain power and control over women.

This leads to a culture of violence and oppression against women, which has far-reaching consequences for individuals and society as a whole.

The impact of misogyny on society is significant. It creates an environment of fear and intimidation for women, limiting their opportunities and perpetuating gender inequalities.

It also reinforces harmful gender roles and perpetuates stereotypes that limit both men’s and women’s potential.

Additionally, it undermines efforts to promote gender equality and can lead to a culture of silence and complicity.

Overcoming Misogyny

Tips to Overcome Misogyny
To overcome misogyny as one of the signs of toxic masculinity, we must challenge and dismantle the underlying beliefs and attitudes that support it.

This involves promoting gender equality, challenging harmful gender stereotypes, and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Men must recognize the harm caused by misogyny and actively work to promote gender equality in all areas of life.

11. Penchant for Dominance

One of the most significant signs of toxic masculinity is a penchant for dominance, which can manifest in many ways.

A penchant for dominance is a common trait among individuals who subscribe to toxic masculinity.

This can manifest in many ways, from seeking control over others to using physical force to intimidate or harm others.

In some cases, a preference for dominance can even lead to abusive behaviour towards partners or family members.

The impact of a penchant for dominance on society is significant.

It perpetuates gender inequalities and reinforces harmful gender roles that limit both men’s and women’s potential.

It can also create an environment of fear and intimidation for those who are the targets of this behavior, which can lead to long-term emotional and psychological harm.

Overcoming Penchance for Dominance

Tips to Overcome Penchance for Dominance
To overcome a preference for dominance as a sign of toxic masculinity, we must challenge and dismantle the underlying beliefs and attitudes that support it.

This involves promoting gender equality, challenging harmful gender stereotypes, and holding individuals accountable for their actions.

One way to promote gender equality is to encourage healthy communication and empathy towards others. Men can learn to communicate their feelings and emotions without resorting to aggression or violence.

This can involve seeking support from counselors or participating in support groups for men to develop healthier ways of coping with stress and conflict.

Aversion to Vulnerability

One of the most significant signs of toxic masculinity is an aversion to vulnerability, which can manifest in many ways.

An aversion to vulnerability is a common trait among individuals who subscribe to toxic masculinity.

Men are often socialized to suppress their emotions, to avoid appearing weak or vulnerable.

This can lead to a range of negative behaviours, including aggression, emotional detachment, and an inability to connect with others on a deeper level.

The impact of an aversion to vulnerability on society is significant. It perpetuates gender inequalities and promotes harmful gender roles that hamper both men’s and women’s growth.

Overcoming Aversion to Vulnerability

Tips to Overcome Aversion to Vulnerability
To overcome an aversion to vulnerability as one of the signs of toxic masculinity, we must challenge and dismantle the underlying beliefs and attitudes that support it.

This involves promoting healthy communication, challenging harmful gender stereotypes, and creating safe spaces where men can pour their emotions without discrimination or fear of judgment.

One way to promote healthy communication is to encourage men to express their emotions in a safe and supportive environment.

This can involve seeking support from counselors or participating in support groups for men to develop healthier ways of coping with stress and conflict.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if a guy has toxic masculinity?

To identify toxic masculinity in a guy, look for signs like aggression, emotional suppression, objectification of women, homophobia, and a rigid adherence to traditional gender roles.

How does toxic masculinity develop?

Toxic masculinity develops through societal norms and expectations that enforce rigid gender roles, emphasizing dominance, aggression, and emotional suppression. It can also be influenced by upbringing, media, and peer pressure.

What are some signs of toxic masculinity?

Signs include aggression, emotional suppression, objectification of women, homophobia, rigid gender roles, and a disregard for consent.

Can toxic masculinity affect both men and women?

Yes, toxic masculinity affects both men and women as it perpetuates harmful behaviors, stereotypes, and inequalities in society.

How can we challenge toxic masculinity?

Challenging toxic masculinity involves promoting emotional expression, gender equality, consent education, dismantling stereotypes, and fostering healthy relationships based on respect and empathy.

Is toxic masculinity solely a male issue?

No, toxic masculinity is a societal issue that affects people of all genders. It is important to address and challenge these harmful behaviors collectively.

Final Thoughts

Toxic masculinity is a harmful belief system that perpetuates gender inequalities and promotes violence against women.

The ten red flags discussed in this article – including a need to dominate, an aversion to vulnerability, and a tendency to resort to aggression – are clear signs of toxic masculinity.

Recognizing these red flags is essential for creating a safer and more equitable society, and promoting healthy attitudes and behaviors towards men and women.

It is crucial that we challenge and dismantle toxic masculinity in all its forms, through education, awareness, and social change.

By doing so, we can create a world where all individuals can live free from violence, oppression, and harmful gender stereotypes.


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Pyo Merez (PsyD) is a distinguished adolescent and adult psychologist at the forefront of mental health advocacy.

With expertise in cognitive and developmental psychology, focusing on social relationships, cultural contexts, and individual differences, Pyo has dedicated his career to empowering adolescents and adults.

As a sought-after speaker and panelist, Pyo shares invaluable insights on issues affecting young people, contributing to a deeper understanding of mental health and well-being in today's society.