Sensitive Male

American culture commonly discourages males from expressing emotions associated with tenderness and vulnerability. The “sensitive male” is often thought a weakling, a sissy, or perhaps gay. Yet this stigmatizing of men's sensitivity developed only in the late nineteenth century, when middle-class men's fear of overcivilized softness and homosexuality prompted a new cultural emphasis on male toughness. A half century or so later, fuelled by feminism's questioning of traditional gender roles, there emerged a fresh appreciation of male sensitivity, though emphasis on emotional restraint remained widespread.

Before the late nineteenth century, men were free to express tender feelings––to women and to each other––with politicians as uninhibited as poets. “Accept all the tenderness I have,” wrote Massachusetts senator Daniel Webster in a letter to college friend James Hervey ...

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