What’s It Like To Be A Man In 2018?
Chatelaine asked 1,000 men between 25 and 65 about growing up, work, fatherhood, sex, mansplaining, loneliness, #MeToo and more.
In the wake of #MeToo, it’s clear that hard conversations about masculinity, vulnerability and inequality are long overdue — but that doesn’t make them any easier to have. (Read Rachel Giese’s essay on why we need to buck up and have them anyway.) For our 2018 survey, Chatelaine set out to spark a conversation about the state of masculinity by asking men to speak anonymously about things they’d never say in public. What are their greatest insecurities? What have they had to sacrifice to be a good parent? Do they believe sexual harassment is a real problem? To examine these and other questions, Chatelaine partnered with Abacus Data to survey 1,000 Canadian men from across the country. In addition, we invited dozens more — including a healthy masculinity expert, a talk radio host, the head of the Toronto Raptors, our #feminist Prime Minister, and Jane the Virgin star Justin Baldoni, who is possibly Hollywood’s woke-est celebrity — to elaborate on a few points. Here’s what we found.
Men & Manliness
WATCH: Who’s the manliest man you can think of?
Growing up, 57 percent of the men we surveyed believed that “being a man” meant being physically tough. What else played into the idea of what made a “real man?”
- Being the breadwinner48%
- Being fair31%
- Being kind29%
- Being heterosexual28%
- Being the boss22%
- Emotional intelligence22%
- Having a penis22%
- Having many sexual conquests9%
WATCH: Men on what they thought it meant to “be a man” when they were kids.
As adults, 64 percent now believe that being fair is a big part of what it means to be a man. What other qualities now define a “real man”?
- Being kind59%
- Emotional intelligence50%
- Being tough27%
- Being the breadwinner18%
- Having a penis16%
- Being the boss9%
- Having many sexual conquests4%
49 percent said their mother was their primary caregiver. That drops to 30 percent for respondents 25-29 years old, who were more likely to have parents split caregiving equally.
One third of men said they were encouraged to talk about their fears and emotions by both parents. Here’s what the rest said.
- Only my mom encouraged me to do this 13%
- My dad encouraged me, but not my mom 0%
- I was encouraged to do this, but only if absolutely necessary30%
- I was encouraged to tough things out instead 24%
“I remember when I was in Grade 12, and found out that my girlfriend had been cheating on me for the better part of the school year. All throughout the school day, I brushed it off like it was nothing, acted cool in front of my friends. I was one of the cool kids. I couldn’t let it bother me. When I got home, I lost it. I bawled my eyes out. I must have been crying in my room for an hour, until my mom came home, and I explained everything. She comforted me, talked trash about my ex, and made me hot chocolate. But after a little while, she said, ‘Okay, time to get up now. You are a man. Don’t let little things like this bother you.’ Those words stuck with me throughout my college years, and even now. Anytime I feel emotions welling up inside, I tell myself, ‘I’m a man. Don’t let it bother you.’ Men need to be able to cry too. They need to be able to tell someone that they cried, and have those feelings be validated, instead of feeling embarrassed.” — Scott, 25, Toronto
Men are most likely to feel guilty about their health and diet (46 percent). What else do they feel guilty about?
- My work11%
- My mother8%
- My father8%
- My relationship7%
- My kids7%
41 percent compare their bodies to other men. 23 percent in the 25-29 age group say they do this constantly.
“I have an eating disorder. To get proper treatment, I’ve filled out countless forms asking me about my period, my hips and breasts. I have gone into all-female-staffed clinics, sat with teenage girls and their mothers, and have been passed eating disorder pamphlets adorned with pastel flowers. These were all subtle signs that treatment is based on this idea that only women struggle with eating disorders. In each counselling clinic I go to, I am very aware that I am a male entering a ‘woman’s’ arena. On the other hand, one male doctor insinuated that if I just ate a burger and fries and washed it down with a cold beer, as men ought to do, then I wouldn’t have an eating disorder. It’s like I’m treated as one gender or the other, not me, a specific human being. But I never speak up and say that I think I’m getting gendered treatment. I don’t say that I feel out of place. Because, what do I know? I’m disordered. Starving myself. Can’t sleep. Keep myself away from social engagements for fear of having to eat a cookie. How can I possibly know I’m right when I feel this treatment process isn’t for me?” — Jamie, 35, teacher, Newfoundland
45 percent are insecure about their weight. 23 percent worry about hair loss. What other insecurities do they have?
- Job status23%
- Fashion sense13%
WATCH: Men talk about when they’ve felt most insecure about their appearance.
61 percent think society is too politically correct these days. That number climbs to 75 percent for 40-49 year olds.
“I work in comedy, and I hear a lot of female comedians ascribe their lack of success to society and sexism. That’s true; there’s definitely systemic stuff there. The thing I have to tip toe around is that some of these people aren’t funny. There are times when they’re complaining about their shows not selling because audiences can’t handle funny women. I want to tell them, ‘Also, you’re not that funny.’ It’s a terrible thing for a guy to say, but it’s true.” — Paul, 31, comedian and motion graphics producer, Vancouver
79 percent think men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. But only 18 percent would describe themselves as feminists.
WATCH: Would you call yourself a feminist?
37 percent think Justin Trudeau is a manlier man than Donald Trump. 12 percent called it a tie, and 33 percent think neither is “manly.”
Sex & Relationships
WATCH: Men talk about where they got the majority of their sexual education.
A whopping 49 percent said that, besides sex-ed class, they got the bulk of their sexual education from friends. Where else did they get it from?
- The internet and/or porn20%
- My siblings3%
- My mom11%
- My dad7%
Men between the ages of 25-29 were far more likely to have received their sexual education from porn (43 percent).
47 percent are mostly satisfied with the amount of sex they’re having. 40 percent want more. And 46 percent suspect others are having more sex than they are.
70 percent of respondents who are in relationships said they never fantasize about being single again.
“I’m single, and I’ve been on dating apps for a few years. I’m looking for a long-term relationship, and recently instated a rule that I won’t sleep with a girl for at least four or five dates. I like to wait and get to know people first. But it’s really hard to explain that to women without hurting their feelings. They look at me like I’m a weirdo, like they assume of course I want to sleep with them—I’m a guy—and that there’s something wrong with them if I don’t. When, really, I just like to go slow. I’ve actually ended up having sex when I don’t want to, so I don’t hurt their feelings. I really empathize with the female position now. I’d heard women say sometimes having sex is just easier than saying no. I get it.” — Adam, 35, technology consultant, Toronto
8 percent said they watch porn once a day. 27 percent say they don’t watch it at all. The rest said they log on:
- A few times a week23%
- Once a week14%
- About once a month13%
- A couple of times a year15%
WATCH: Men talk about what role, if any, they have in the #MeToo movement.
When women talk about the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, 25 percent of respondents said they feel “nothing.” How do the other 75 percent feel?
Among the “other” answers were: “Reminded that men need to call out other men when they are creeps.” “That most women are bringing it on themselves.” “Ambivalent. I see little evidence of sexual harassment everywhere.” “I feel bad for the ones who have actually had it happen to them, but also persecuted by those who just want attention.”+ READ MORE
“It’s impossible to talk about sexual assault with any nuance in this environment. But I’m a firm believer in the presumption of innocence. I totally understand why #ibelievewomen is a thing, because women have a crazy rough time in the courts, and with cops. But sometimes women (like everyone) lie. Or get it wrong. And maybe society should find a different way of testing allegations other than an adversarial system, but for now it’s what we’ve got and we can’t as a society sacrifice the presumption of innocence of accused men. Can I say this in mixed company? No. I have stayed quiet many times, or gotten tongue tied trying to make this argument without looking like a misogynist.” — Mike, 50, editor, Halifax
“I avoid weighing in on news about sexual assault unless it’s to agree with what’s being discussed. It doesn’t feel like I have much to offer, or that my opinion will be valued by women. Particularly because when I’ve heard about certain situations, there’s a little part of me that wonders, ‘How do you put yourself in that position?’ Logically and emotionally, I know that it’s never the victim’s fault. I know that. But, I dunno, there it is.” — Don, 43, digital media professional
WATCH: We asked more men to discuss how they feel when the topic of harassment comes up. Here’s what they said:
82 percent said they’d never pushed a woman to go farther sexually than she wanted to. 12 percent weren’t sure. 5 percent said they had.
“No one ever has the right to lay claim to a women’s bodies no matter what they wear, but a girlfriend of mine often tells me she dresses provocatively in hopes of attracting a man. She stacks her cleavage high and deliberately, then sets out on the town. This is perfectly fine and it’s a reasonable way to go about achieving her goal. The problem is, she acts like she is completely illiterate when it comes to what her clothing communicates to the public. She gets irate when it has the effect she intended. Guys she is not into risk having their heads ripped off. I’m not talking about creeps either. I am talking about decent men who approach her politely. It’s unfair and unreasonable. I can’t call her on it because she immediately gets icy and evokes a foggy, non-specific feminism I am loath to approach for fear of my life. More open, nuanced and safe conversations need to be had with young women and men about what they communicate with their fashion choices.” — Jamal, 31, documentary filmmaker, Vancouver island
18 percent said they have witnessed sexual harassment or assault. 13 percent weren’t sure. Those who had said it took place:
- At work32%
- On the street30%
- At a bar26%
- In a private home6%
54 percent said they intervened, or reported the incident. 46 percent did not.
72 percent say they’ve never cheated on their partner (and wouldn’t). 5 percent said they haven’t, but would if they could get away with it. What happened to the cheaters?
- I cheated and my partner doesn’t know. We’re still together 5%
- I cheated, my partner doesn’t know and we’re no longer together 6%
- I cheated, my partner knows and we worked through it 7%
- I cheated, my partner knows and it ended the relationship 5%
12 percent have had a partner terminate a pregnancy.
18 percent of men say they have very small social circles, with either one or no close male friends. 39 percent have two to three buddies in their close group. How many close female friends do they have?
- I have one16%
- I have 2 to 338%
- I have 4 to 515%
- I have more than 512%
34 percent often feel lonely. That number shoots up among 25-29 year olds to 45 percent.
“It can be very lonely to be a man. We isolate ourselves, we act like we’re good and we have all the answers. We don’t typically talk about the deep things — we’re more concerned about living up to the guy code. And that code is often about showing your allegiance to men over women, by talking about women as if they’re less than men: Bros before hoes. … If we can make male interactions about intimacy and accountability, rather than competition, we can start teaching each other to be better men.” — Jane the Virgin actor Justin Baldoni. Read more from his interview with Chatelaine’s Rachel Giese here.
42 percent aren’t especially comfortable – or comfortable at all – talking about their emotions with their male friends. 24 percent do it all the time, and 18 percent said they share, but their friends don’t share back.
Work & Home
WATCH: Men reflect on whether they’ve benefitted professionally from being a man.
42 percent of men said they are about where they thought they’d be in their career, at this point in their lives. 31 percent said they are lagging behind.
61 percent of respondents make more money than their partner (with 39 percent making “a lot more”). 18 percent make less.
25 percent say their career is more important than their partner’s. 13 percent say the reverse.
72 percent don’t think any less of a man who is out-earned by their female partner. The other 28 percent had some feelings:
- Men should really be the breadwinners 6%
- I’d think less of a man who makes less – but I wouldn’t admit it to him 5%
- I wouldn’t think less of him, but I wouldn’t want that to be me12%
- I want my partner to make more money than I do5%
13 percent think less of a man who takes prolonged paternity leave. 10 percent wish they had taken more of it themselves.
64 percent of working dad respondents said being a parent hasn’t impacted their career. 10 percent said it’s helped. Are they any downsides?
- I have less time for my career7%
- I’m seen as less ambitious when I have to leave at 5 p.m. 7%
- Being a parent has made me less ambitious9%
- It’s hurt my career, but nothing compared to how it’s hurt my partner’s9%
“Men can’t talk about family life as if might be equally taxing for them. It is nearly always assumed, even without evidence, that the female partner is doing vastly more — and the more a man attempts to demonstrate otherwise, the less plausible it’s seen to be. At school drop-off one morning, a female acquaintance explained that my daily breakfast preparation could not possibly require as much work as my wife puts in at dinner time. She did not bother to ask any of the typical details of either meal (we eat quite well in the morning) or cleanup (I do the majority), and as I began to argue that case, she turned and walked away. As a male friend said to me recently, ‘We do so much more than any generation of men before us, and yet nobody believes it.’” — Andrew, writer, 45, Toronto
8 percent prefer to work for a woman boss. 13 percent prefer to work for a man, and 79 percent have no preference.
14 percent find ambitious women hard to work with. What other feelings do ambitious women provoke?
- I find them inspiring38%
- I find them attractive25%
- I find them intimidating8%
- I find them irritating7%
- None of the above describe how I feel 33%
WATCH: Men talk about whether “mansplaining” is a real thing.
Generally speaking, men aren’t looking for a lot more credit in their domestic lives. Only 15 percent would like more credit for being helpful around the house. What else would they like more credit for?
- Being a good parent14%
- Being a good partner14%
- Being a good provider13%
- Being a good son10%
“When my kids were smaller, the nurturing roles between my wife and I were very gendered. I could look after feeding them and getting their snowsuits on, but if they fell down and hurt themselves, it would have to be my wife that was wiping the tears. I was like ‘I need to learn how to do this with them and they need to know they can come to me for this, too.’ My wife and I had a few animated conversations about it. My wife was saying ‘They just need somebody at that moment, it’s not about you or me.’ I was like ‘Yes but I want to make sure it’s not just you, I can give them that too.’ I didn’t say anything for the first 5 or 10 times. But I’d be standing on the outside looking in, thinking, this needs to be part of my parenting package.” — Bill, 45, community development worker
46 percent say they are responsible for the finances in their relationship. (15 percent leave it to their partner, and 38 percent split the task equally.) What else do men say they’re responsible for?
- My partner12%
- It’s equal51%
- My partner41%
- It’s equal34%
- My partner38%
- It’s equal47%
Keeping the relationship healthy
- My partner7%
- It’s equal80%
54 percent believe they have an emotionally close relationship with their kids (but this number drops to 44 percent, in the 50-65 age group.) How else do they characterize their relationship with their children?
- We bond through shared interests and activities46%
- We’re not as close as I’d like to be 31%
- I’m the disciplinarian16%
- I’m the bank machine11%