Professor Gad Saad: ‘Toxic Masculinity’ Theorists Are Pathologizing Manhood


In a Thursday column for Psychology Today, Professor Gad Saad argues that advocates of “toxic masculinity” theory are dangerously pathologizing manhood.

Professor Gad Saad of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, argued in a column published on Thursday that gender theorists in academia are foolishly demonizing masculinity.

Saad, who argues from an evolutionary psychology perspective, compared the human mating process to that of several animals. He mentioned that female rams mate with male rams that win a head-butting contest.

Female fiddler crabs and hens prefer males with extravagantly large claws and tails respectively.  Ewes (female rams) will mate with the ram that wins the brutal intrasexual head-butting context.  They reward targeted aggression by granting sexual access.  Needless to say, there are innumerable other examples of sexual selection that I might describe but I suspect that you get the general gist.  Are rams exhibiting toxic masculinity?  Are female fiddler crabs succumbing to antiquated notions of masculinity as promulgated by the crab patriarchy?

But aren’t humans much more than the animals they share this planet with? Of course, but Saad maintains that human beings are nevertheless constricted by their preprogrammed nature. ” In no culture ever studied have women repeatedly preferred to mate with pear-shaped low-status tepid men possessing high-pitched nasal voices. In no documented culture do women’s sexual fantasies revolve around granting sexual access to unemployed unambitious men who occupy the lowest stratum of the social hierarchy,” Saad wrote.

Saad wrote that the ideal man is both rugged and sensitive. To Saad, the truly masculine man is “desired by women and envied by men.”

The ideal man is rugged and sensitive; masculine and caring; aggressive in some pursuits and gentle in others.  Think of the male archetype in romance novels, which is a literary form almost exclusively read by women.  He is a tall prince and a neurosurgeon.  He is a risk-taker who wrestles alligators and subdues them on his six-pack abs, and yet is sensitive enough to be tamed by the love of a good woman.  This archetype is universally found in romance novels read by women in Egypt, Japan, and Bolivia precisely because it caters to women’s universal evolved sexual fantasies.  When engaging in sexual role-playing in the bedroom, few women ask that their male partners wear their Google C++ programmer uniform.  They ask for the fireman suit to make its presence.  James Bond, the epitome of “toxic masculinity,” does not cry at Taylor Swift concerts.  His archetype is desired by women and envied by men.

Perhaps “toxic masculinity” theorists’ biggest misstep is that they don’t understand that inappropriate displays of aggression reflect a male’s failure to properly socialize. Traditional masculinity in the West mirrors the “rugged yet sensitive” archetype that Saad described in his column. Sexually harassing conduct is a divergence from the model for the “masculine” male that has been depicted in in movies and television shows over the past several decades.

When you pull back the curtain, “toxic masculinity” is really nothing more than an ill-formed attack on the notion of gender as a fixed entity that remains static over time. To these theorists, gender is an infinitely moldable abstract and they want to be the ones to mold it into their own design.


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