Real Men Hold Their Liquor: How Toxic Masculinity Can Lead to Unsafe Drinking Behaviors

Last weekend, I found myself at a party where one of my guy friends was way too far into his alcohol consumption for the night.

By way too far, I mean picking up the hosts of the party (whom he had just met) off of the ground, and saying inappropriate remarks to other attendees.

Yes, he made a fool of himself, and yes, the next day he was more than embarrassed.

More interestingly, though, was that everyone at the party unanimously looked down upon him for being so drunk. I began wondering, if a girl was this drunk, would people have responded the same way as they did to my guy friend?

Let’s think about this: a young male drinking too much at a party. In reality, this isn’t a new idea. In fact, men are much more likely than women to binge drink. The CDC reports that they’re actually two times more likely to binge drink. But why?

We all know that there are biological reasons why men can drink more alcohol than women. In particular, women have less of the digestive enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol in the stomach. Because women have less of this enzyme, they absorb 30 percent more alcohol into their systems than men. So, we can expect men to be able to drink the same amount as a girl and not be as affected by it as the girl is.

Biologically, this makes sense. From this, however, there has become a social expectation that men can drink more, which has become tied to ideas on masculinity. Through these social constructs, there has become an expectation that men should be able to drink more and handle their alcohol.

So let’s consider my drunk friend again. A young male, at a party, way too drunk.

This was seen as socially unacceptable at the party, not only because he was drunk, but maybe also because he was a guy and men should be able to control themselves better.

This is the bias: that men, if they’re a real man, should be able to handle their liquor.

This idea that one’s masculinity is attached to how much he can drink actually reinforces heavy drinking, which has a plethora of negative consequences.

The CDC notes that men have consistently higher alcohol related injuries and deaths than women, and that, in fatal motor vehicle crashes, men are more likely than women to have been intoxicated. In addition, prolonged alcohol use can affect testicular function and hormones, as well as increase risky sexual practices that could lead to STI’s or pregnancy.

Alcohol abuse has some pretty intense consequences, most of which we would not voluntarily choose for ourselves or our friends. When it comes to binge drinking, men have statistically been shown to be more at risk to become abusers.

This could potentially be associated with the social stigma surrounding masculinity and alcohol consumption, which can influence a man’s decision making process when confronted with the opportunity to drink alcohol. Being aware of these societal pressures is an important step in combating the social constructs that may pressure men into consuming alcohol in unsafe ways. Look out for each other, and let’s help each other make the right decisions for ourselves.

❤ Ashley

Photo: Ove Topfer,


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