Women who are in a relationship with men and feel that their partner has a fragile masculinity are likely to change their behavior, a new study suggests. For instance, the more women perceive their partner’s sense of masculinity as fragile, the more likely they are to fake orgasms. Furthermore, the more women perceived their partner’s manhood as precarious, the more anxiety they felt and the more likely it is for couple communication to deteriorate.
Most studies on manhood focus on the men’s perspective — but in this new study, researchers wanted to look at things from women’s perspective for a change. Basically, the study analyzed how women seek to protect their partners’ sense of masculinity — sometimes, at their own expense.
Lead author Jessica Jordan of the University of South Florida told ZME Science that the idea for the study came quite intuitively.
“One of my colleagues, a collaborator on this study, first raised the idea of studying if men who are insecure in their masculinity are less likely to solicit sexual feedback from their female partners. I immediately thought, “It doesn’t matter if they do, women are not going to give honest feedback if they think their partner’s masculinity is easily threatened.” I talked about it with other women, who all immediately agreed. It seemed so intuitive, but to my knowledge, no one had ever investigated this before. So I decided to scientifically pursue that hypothesis.”
Jordan and colleagues found that women who perceive their partners’ manhood as fragile are more likely to censor themselves. In turn, this creates communication anxiety, reduces sexual satisfaction, and can lead to a communication breakdown.
“If a woman is concerned about inadvertently threatening her partner’s manhood, that could lead to a breakdown of communication,” Jordan explains.
The study consisted of three experiments. The first of the three collected data from 283 women, finding the link between fragile masculinity, anxiety, and poor communication. In turn, this was a good predictor of a lower rate of orgasms and sexual satisfaction.
A following study on 196 women found that when women felt their partner had a fragile manhood, they were less likely to provide honest sexual communication. A third study on 157 women found that women who made more money than their partners were twice as likely to fake orgasms.
It’s a sample size, but the findings are intriguing, especially since still a relatively underresearched area.
However, Jordan says we shouldn’t point the blame on either men or women, and this type of behavior is understandable, though problematic. If men are not made aware that their behavior is creating a problem for their partners, it is hard to address the core issue. Meanwhile, if women have been led to believe it’s their job to protect their partner’s masculinity, then it only makes sense for them to behave thusly.
Ultimately, this study is all about improving our understanding of how society (and consequently, couples) view manhood.
“I think the most significant finding is the confirmation that women are aware of how men and society views manhood and masculinity – as something that men have to work to maintain – and that women may sacrifice their own needs in order to help their partners maintain their manhood.”
Researchers suspect that this is a very common phenomenon and something that plenty of couples are dealing with.
“What I love most about doing this research is that every woman I speak to immediately gets it. I have never had a woman tell me she hasn’t experienced this anxiety. That tells me we’re really onto something and should keep pursing these questions.”
It’s also a study that has a very direct takeaway message for both men and women: focus on communication before anything else, Jordan concludes.
“I would advise couples to talk about needs early and often in a relationship – both sexual and none sexual –, even before you first have sex. This sets an expectation of communication, before there is any feedback to give.”
The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.