General Question

core's avatar

What makes a man a man?

Asked by core (74points) November 14th, 2008

During the course of our lives, when we grow up, we are learning to play our roles of women and men. What is it that defines the idea of a man?

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32 Answers

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Whatever the individual decides defines him as one. Society places all too many “rules” on people, based on trivialities like age, gender, race, etc.

If as we grow older we learn to play our given roles, we should also, as we grow older, learn to throw away the script.

laureth's avatar

Testosterone, mostly.

I’m not just being sarcastic. All the things that testosterone makes a body do are the things that have become stereotypical “manly” things. Warfare, sex drive, pattern balding, narrow-focus thinking – all from testosterone.

Similarly, estrogen makes people emotional and nurturing. Genetic males who begin taking estrogen as part of a gender-change grow breasts and often become weepy and emotional. Likewise, genetic females on testosterone grow muscle, body and facial hair, and describe rage overtaking them sometimes.

Hormones are powerful things! And while everyone has both of these in varying amounts, they do seem to provide a biological basis for the social roles that have become fossilized in modern culture and nurtured into us from childhood.

qualitycontrol's avatar

yes, narrow-focus thinking, there NO women out there who are like this…

jholler's avatar

I’m not saying this is exclusive to males, but generally accepting personal responsibility for your actions, and being willing to sacrifice your own comfort, well-being, time, money, etc to provide for the health and/or safety of someone else are seen as hallmarks of a “real man”. Think the Boy Scout Law: Trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

adri027's avatar

scratching and adjusting their sack in public. Being able to pee whenever and wherever they please…I envy men.
(not the scratching and adjusting part)

Maverick's avatar

if memory serves, it was Beeman’s gum.

Mtl_zack's avatar

men can pee standing up.

jholler's avatar

so can women, it’s just messier.

AstroChuck's avatar

I always thought it was having a penis and testis.

locux's avatar

A man is defined by how many questions he can ask on fluther.

tonedef's avatar

@jholler, you forgot to add “heterosexual” to that list. To reiterate what DrasticDreamer said, I’d highly recommend you check out My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein. It’s a really thorough, though accessible, debunking of the idea of static genders and gender ideals. I think that everyone could benefit from giving it a read.

The idea that testosterone is the sole factor that defines manliness is insane. There are 2000 hormones in our bodies at any given time, and saying that one is responsible for creating two castes of people is super reductionist.

And @AstroChuck, I know that was probably meant to be tongue in cheek, but in case it wasn’t, that’s completely untrue.

wundayatta's avatar

A former assistant of mine is doing a study of African-American men who are former prisoners who have gone straight. She wants to know what helped them straighten up.

She has a hypothesis that they take on this new, different myth of masculinity that includes responsibility, and being an accepted member of the community. There is some notion she calls agency, which seems to be a period in time when you switch from thinking life is throwing you around, to believing you can exert some control over the course of your life.

Her theory also seems to think of violence differently (less acceptable). It understands that violence destroys communities, and a real man builds communities.

She hasn’t done the data gathering or analysis yet, so I don’t know if that will turn out to be the case. It all sounds reasonable to me.

critter1982's avatar

I’m no doctor or anything but I believe AstroChuck hit the nail on the head.

TaoSan's avatar

wussies are products of their environment, for real men, their environment is a product of them :)

(Just thought I’ll throw some Testo in GRIN :)

lynzeut's avatar

Their mustaches.

amurican's avatar

Anatomy and programming

loser's avatar

I think it’s more of an internal thing, having more to do with the brain than anything external. I mean, what if a guy gets into some sort of accident and gets his junk blown off, that wouldn’t mean he suddenly wasn’t a man anymore.

Siren's avatar

When I hear the phrase “that’s a real man!”, as in machismo, etc. the person is usually referring to something heroic, selfless, yes- responsible. I agree that responsibility is a significant trait that people define a person as being a “man”.

charliecompany34's avatar

what makes a man is his honor and loyalty to family. these dudes are hard to find actually.

a young son happens to run out into the street in the path of a moving car. the father runs after him, shoves the boy out the way and loses his life for his son. sounds stupid on the man’s part, but actually a man who gives his natural life for wife and family is the true color of a man. .

Maverick's avatar

Does nobody else remember those old Beeman’s gum commercials?

amurican's avatar

You must be beem’n

scamp's avatar

@Maverick Beeman’s gum? I remember that!

Zuma's avatar

In my view, there are three archetypal idioms of manhood: The Soldier, The Poet, and The King. By archetype, I mean a cluster of values and attitudes widely recognized as belonging together.

The Soldier is a young man’s vision of manhood. His masculinity is defined the presence (or absence) of the martial virtues—strength, toughness, bravery, courage, physical and mental competence, unflinching stoicism in the face of pain and adversity, indomitable persistence, honor, self-sacrifice, and a certain capacity for violence, cruelty and vengeful wrath. The ancient Greeks did not consider a man fully a man until he had killed in battle. In fact, those who had not done so were called androgynes, from which we get the word androgynous. His opposite is the Coward.

The King is a mature man’s vision of manhood. This, of course, embodies all the qualities of executive competence—sound judgment, intelligence, decisiveness, unsentimentality, a sense of justice, a sense of dignity, seriousness. It applies to men of senatorial age, who are expected to display a certain gravitas. His opposite is the Fool.

The Poet or Lover is a transitional vision of manhood, which is less public and defined by his ability to appreciate beauty and obtain meaning and pleasure from life. These are the qualities of a good husband—a good provider, a constant lover, a devoted friend, a loving parent. His opposite is the drug addict.

In this respect, being “a man” has to do with fulfilling certain broadly held cultural role expectations. This, in turn, tends to be decided by the sexual division of labor in any given culture.

Mizuki's avatar

A rock band called Boston did a song that will answer your question. “What does it take to be a Man” from the Third Stage Album.

I don’t see many real men in America, try a latin American country or Russia, Eastern Europe for examples.

@astro—tools don’t a carpenter make.

girlofscience's avatar

Haha, so many failed jokes on this thread. (As in, jokey answers that received no lurve.)

Strauss's avatar


“Does your stomach ever talk back to you (you eat too much, you eat too much, you eat too fast you eat too fast)? Get relief with Beeman’s Pepsin Gum. Beeman’s aids digestion”

Maverick's avatar

That might be a little before the ads I was referencing. ;)

Strauss's avatar

That would be ‘50’s or ‘60’s, when they could still make claims like that.

ShauneP82's avatar

Strength, honor, compassion, respect, integrity, patience…

Really the list goes on, but you can chalk it up to knowing the difference between good and evil and choosing to do good and to love even when somebody is undeserving. A real man protects those that need protecting.


Literally, having mature testicles, a penis, and a mature male brain. Muscular strength, a masculine physique, and a strong sex drive that separates him from a woman. Figuratively, being assertive without being rude or belligerent, showing strength of character without being vain——showing integrity and trust, being compassionate, and showing respect and kindness to his fellow man. To those who have children and are married, being faithful and being a sweet and loving father to his kids, without being a push-over. Exerting his authority in the family but at the same time respecting his wife and being loyal to her.

Aster's avatar

To me, it’s a man who doesn’t just have kids, he raises those kids to adulthood with love and authority instilling in them also a respect for authority and a healthy fear of God. He respects their mother which sure helps the kids to respect her. And he also does his part financially. Sort of what @MRSHINYSHOES said, above.

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