No, A Man Crying Isn’t a Turn-Off
How are we still having this debate in the year 2022?
Men have been taught since the dawn of time to suppress their emotions and hide any signs of vulnerability, and while conversations about toxic masculinity have begun to destigmatize this in recent years, we still have a long way to go. The latest example of just how ingrained these unhealthy beliefs are? A viral Twitter thread that claims it’s unattractive when a man cries.
“While I don’t want men to completely avoid it, seeing a man cry does turn me off,” Twitter user @evelynharlow_ wrote. “I’m seeing the pendulum swing from ‘men shouldn’t cry’ to ‘a man crying has zero effect on his attractiveness’ and neither of these are true.”
The thread has been shared close to 10,000 times, with many people (rightly) disagreeing with her, but Harlow dug her heels in, insisting that there’s some sort of biological reason why seeing a man cry just doesn’t do it for her. “Women are biologically wired to cry more than men. I should be able to trust a male partner’s levelheadedness in joint decisions when I’m beside myself with grief, pregnant, in labour, sleep-deprived, sick, etc. This is very attractive in a male partner!”
“Conversely, if a male partner cries in a situation where I think I wouldn’t cry, I sense that he is not dependable in a crisis and I will be in charge of making decisions for both of us,” she added. “Since I have higher estrogen levels, this asks me to exert a tremendous amount of restraint.”
This is all, of course, completely asinine. The idea that men have to be “protectors” and women are simply hysterical, hormonal messes is rooted in harmful gender stereotypes. It’s also completely heteronormative; if women are “biologically wired to cry more” and need a stoic man to depend on in a crisis, how have countless lesbian couples managed to handle joint decisions? Beyond that, the idea that someone crying means they’re completely unhinged and incapable of maintaining a certain “levelheadedness” is completely devoid of nuance. There are different levels of crying — your eyes welling up, a single tear rolling down your cheek, or briefly getting choked up before composing yourself are not the same thing as uncontrollably sobbing or hyperventilating. Does crying while watching an extremely sad movie or being overcome with emotion when a loved one says something incredibly kind or touching to you mean you’re an unstable maniac? Do all of these scenarios render you suddenly incapable of making sound decisions? Absolutely not.
Many people responding to the thread pointed out that no one — man or woman — should be expected to look hot while they’re crying. This is an incredibly fair point; if your partner is crying, your immediate response should probably be empathy or concern, not arousal. But in the interest of counteracting this dangerous and wrong notion that crying somehow makes men less desirable to women, it must be said: a man crying can be incredibly attractive. (Seriously, has @evelynharlow_ seen Paul McCartney’s “And then there were two” moment in The Beatles: Get Back?) There’s something inherently appealing about a man who’s confident and secure enough in his own masculinity that he doesn’t feel pressure to conform to outdated ideas about who can and can’t display their emotions. Passion is attractive; who wants to date a robot? And of course, letting someone in and allowing them to see you at your most vulnerable can be an intimate bonding experience.
Eventually the thread’s author tried to modify her original claim, insisting that “there are MANY instances where I would EXPECT and APPRECIATE a display of grief in the form of TEARS and even SOBBING from a man” and adding that men should just try to keep it to themselves and “tend to the grief at an appropriate time, i.e. not a first date.” First of all, grief is hardly the only reason people cry, and limiting the times when it’s acceptable for men to cry to that scenario is harmful. No one needs to die for it to be okay for you to cry. Maybe you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, or maybe you just dropped your kid off at college for the first time; maybe you just won a championship or took home a big award and you’re feeling extremely proud and grateful, or perhaps you simply watched someone else’s emotional victory after years of rooting for them. A first date might not be the ideal setting for a good cry, sure, but that goes for all genders.
It’d be easy to dismiss this as a stupid, inconsequential Twitter thread, but it has real-world consequences. Crying is cathartic, and when we teach men to keep their emotions bottled up, they often come out in harmful, violent ways. As Joshua Bailey, program manager of youth development at the nonprofit Men Can Stop Rape, says, “We believe when young men are more in tune with who they are and able to express empathy and love toward not only women but also their male counterparts, they’re less likely to commit acts of violence. Once you understand empathy, you can understand the harmfulness of violence.”
So please, if you feel like you need to cry, go ahead and let loose. It’s not a “turn-off,” it doesn’t make you any less of a man, and it’s a hell of a lot healthier than keeping that stiff upper lip.
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