What makes men uncomfortable?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
September 08, 2023, 10:07 AM GMT+0

Almost half of men would be uncomfortable crying in front of male friends, or saying “I love you” to a male relative

Conceptions of masculinity and ways it is acceptable for men to relate and interact with one another have changed over the decades. But a new YouGov survey shows that many men are still reluctant to show emotion in front of, or make physical contact with, other men. Women, by contrast, are much less likely to be uncomfortable with the same scenarios.

For example, half of men (48%) say they would feel uncomfortable crying in front of male friends – only 18% of women feel the same way about their female friends.

Bodily contact on the beach is also a no-no for many men: 42% wouldn’t like putting sunscreen on a male friend’s back – only 10% of women would recoil at the thought of doing so for a female friend.

Many men are similarly reluctant to share a bed with a friend of the same gender (42%) – being twice as likely as women are to be uncomfortable sharing a bed with another woman (21%).

Fewer men are uncomfortable sharing a hug with a male friend (17%) although this is still high compared to women (5%).

When it comes to family, 45% would feel uncomfortable saying “I love you” to a male relative, compared to just 17% of women who wouldn’t like doing so with a female relative.

Having trouble proclaiming your love to a romantic partner is rare, however, with only 7% of women and 8% of men saying they would feel uncomfortable saying “I love you” to their partner.

More than four in ten men would be uncomfortable going to a gay bar (44%), with only one in five women (20%) saying the same.

Close to one in three men (31%) would be uncomfortable wearing pink, compared to 9% of women.

Flowers have traditionally been a gift for women, and this heritage may still bother some of the 26% of men who would be uncomfortable receiving a bouquet (only 5% of women say the same).

Strictly speaking, the activity polled that men are most uncomfortable with is being naked in a men’s changing room (49%) – although this proved to be a scenario that men are less worried about than women, of whom 67% said they wouldn’t like getting changed in female changing rooms.

Generational differences are not clear cut

While you might expect to see clear generational trends in the data, this does not prove to be the case.

There does seem to be a tendency for the oldest men to be more uncomfortable with the idea of wearing pink (42%), or the prospect of sharing a bed with a male friend (52%, although this might be due to age-related mobility concerns).

Men aged 65 and above are also the most likely to be uncomfortable going to a gay bar (59%), although the youngest men are also a notable outlier (50% of 18-24 year olds) compared to men in age groups in between (37-38% of 25-49 and 50-64 year olds).

This horseshoe effect is also evident when it comes to saying “I love you” to a male relative, with 51-52% of the oldest and youngest age groups are uncomfortable about, compared to 44% of 25-49 year olds and 39% of 50-64 year olds.

The youngest generation are very clearly the most uncomfortable getting naked in front of other men – 74% squirm at the prospect, compared to 53% of 25-49 year olds and 39-40 year olds.

Young men are likewise more uncomfortable crying in front of male friends (58%) than their elders (46-47%).

On other scenarios there is no obvious trend at all, with 21-29% of men of all age groups feeling uncomfortable about receiving flowers as a thank you gift, and 40-44% saying they same of applying sun cream to a male friend’s back.

See the full results here

Photo: Getty

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