The experts say the best public health practices have collided with several of the social demands men in many cultures are pressured to follow to assert their masculinity: displaying strength instead of weakness, showing a willingness to take risks, hiding their fear, appearing to be in control.

Men’s resistance to showing weakness — and their tendency to take risks — was demonstrated by scientists long before Covid-19. Studies have shown men are less likely than women to wear seatbelts and helmets, or to get flu shots. They’re more likely to speed or drive drunk. They are less likely to seek out medical care…

“To admit you’re threatened is to appear weak, so you have to have this bravado,” said Peter Glick, a professor of social sciences at Lawrence University. If you wear a mask, he said, “the underlying message is: ‘I’m afraid of catching this disease.’”…

This is not a new problem for those who work in public health messaging. Stacey Hust, an associate professor of communication at Washington State University, said prevention campaigns around sexual assault often try to appeal to masculine ideals, making better behaviors “worthy of the alpha male.”