Something to Prove? Manhood Threats Increase Political Aggression Among Liberal Men

Sarah H. DiMuccio, Eric D. Knowles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Manhood is a precarious state that men seek to prove through the performance of masculine behaviors—including, at times, acts of aggression. Although correlational work has demonstrated a link between chronic masculine insecurity and political aggression (i.e., support for policies and candidates that communicate toughness and strength), experimental work on the topic is sparse. Existing studies also provide little insight into which men—liberal or conservative—are most likely to display increased political aggression after threats to their masculinity. The present work thus examines the effects of masculinity threat on liberal and conservative men’s tendency toward political aggression. We exposed liberal and conservative men to various masculinity threats, providing them with feminine feedback about their personality traits (Experiment 1), having them paint their nails (Experiment 2), and leading them to believe that they were physically weak (Experiment 3). Across experiments, and contrary to our initial expectations, threat increased liberal—but not conservative—men’s preference for a wide range of aggressive political policies and behaviors (e.g., the death penalty, bombing an enemy country). Integrative data analysis (IDA) reveals significant heterogeneity in the influence of different threats on liberal men’s political aggression, the most effective of which was intimations of physical weakness. A multiverse analysis suggests that these findings are robust across a range of reasonable data-treatment and modeling choices. Possible sources of liberal men’s heightened responsiveness to manhood threats are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-267
Number of pages28
JournalSex Roles
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Integrative data analysis (IDA)
  • Masculinity threat
  • Multiverse analysis
  • Political aggression
  • Political beliefs
  • Political ideology
  • Precarious manhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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