Friday, May 10, 2019

All Alone

I was reading an article on Slate that noted something that's been kicking around for about the past decade: That because of a general stigma against men being emotionally open, they tend to have few, if any, friends that they can really talk to about their feelings. The Slate article is effectively a follow-up to an article in Harper's Bazaar that says that many men have effectively become "emotional gold diggers," their investment in a toxic form of masculinity cutting them off from emotional supportive relationships other than their romantic partners, who eventually burn out from the emotion work that they're asked to do.

Stories on how modern (American) ideas of masculinity cut people off from emotionally supportive relationships with people in general and other men in particular are rife. And stories about the dire consequences are common. One story from Medium is pretty blunt about it:

Boys feel fierce love for their best friends → Add homophobia, the Man Box, etc. → Boys disassociate from loving best friends → Boys and men become emotionally isolated → Men enter the epidemic of loneliness → Men die.
And one thing that I noticed about the stories that I've read is that they tend to mention "research." But they tend to link to books on the topic, written by this or that author, rather than any scholarly research papers. Perhaps this is because itr's more or less assumed that the narrative is correct. I'd always presumed that there were just certain things that you didn't tell anyone other than a committed partner or spouse, and the idea that many heterosexual men are afraid to appear weak and/or homosexual is pretty much assumed in the culture.

But when I decided to perform a few Google searches looking for formal, peer-reviewed research on the topic, I didn't find anything. Now, this isn't to say that it's not out there. I'm not a particularly good web researcher, and it's entirely possible that the information I'm after is basically buried out there somewhere. But I was kind of surprised that there didn't seem to be anything that pointed to any formal studies on the topic, especially given the public health implications that many people have noted. Anecdotal evidence is all fine and good, but given that this topic has been around for several years, I'd expected more, especially given that the scientific community hasn't exactly shied away from studies that have effectively simply confirmed that water is wet.

It could be that this is a hard thing to study. I don't know, off the top of my head, how you'd structure something to demonstrate the destruction of love between male friends over time, and the lasting effects on their lives. Had I gone into Psychology as a profession, this would be the perfect time to invoke "If I want something done right, I should do it myself." I suspect that it would be fascinating.

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