Mental Health Monday–Rough and Tumble

Michael Offutt asks:

Why do boys or men seem to like dark, grisly things?

Great question, Michael!

The reason guys like grisly things is multifactorial.


Testosterone (more predominant in men than in women) leads not only to a different body habitus (muscles, strength, facial hair, etc…I don’t need to go on, do I? 😉 ), but also influences brain development, including aggression (though aggression studies are inconclusive, meaning, some studies show increased aggression with increased testosterone and some studies show increased aggression with decreased testosterone. *sigh* It’s the way science is, sorry. *shrugs*).


Gender role theory states that boys and girls learn gender appropriate behavior from their family and culture. That means boys liking physical play and getting dirty and girls learning how to use their easy bake ovens is due to socialization. 

Interestingly, early adaptive strategies led to men being the hunter/gatherers (because of their stronger physique) and women being the child-rearers and food preparers.

Personal preference: 

Don’t forget, a person’s masculinity and femininity falls on a spectrum. Some women cane be, well, masculine and some men, ahem, can be feminine.

For example, I preferred car toys and trucks over dolls and dresses growing up, but I am, most decidedly, a woman. 😉

(This last dude is Eddie Izzard, by the way. Very funny comic…and EXECUTIVE Transvestite. 😉 )

Now, check out Sarah Fine’s The Strangest Situation and Lydia Kang’s The Word is My Oyster (Lydia’s got a VERY special post today!!!!!)


16 comments on “Mental Health Monday–Rough and Tumble

  1. Sarah says:

    It’s really interesting to watch kids on a playground; you can often observe this kind of thing in action. The boys are running around like crazy and the girls are chatting. HOWEVER, of course, there is an incredible amount of within-group variation, such that there are plenty of girls who like (and write) dark, grisly things (like me), and plenty of boys who prefer to avoid such things. I really like your point that masculinity/femininity aspects of identity fall on a continuum, just like so many other characteristics.

  2. Lynn Rush says:

    Oh yeah. I had Tonka trucks growing up. Sure, there were a few Barbie dolls lying around, but mostly I’d rather play with the trucks and make a mess. I liked this post today, very nice!! Have a super day.

  3. Yeah I was a Barbie fan, no climbing trees for me 🙂

  4. Ciara Knight says:

    My father hand-made a intricate three story doll house for me as a Christmas gift. He couldn’t believe all I wanted to do was play Star Wars action figures in it. 🙂

  5. Karen Lange says:

    Interesting stuff. Makes me think of how my daughter was just as comfortable playing Barbie as climbing trees with her brothers.

  6. Leigh Moore says:

    Ahh! Eddie Izzard! But do you have a flag? Great post, and you’re so right. Whether you’re girlie or boyish is all part of personality~ :o) ❤

  7. I don’t agree with the assumption behind the original question here. I’m not sure that the traditional gender assignment of rough and physical activities to boys has much relationship to the dark and grisly side of things. Girls and women have some pretty horrific stuff to endure in this world. I think it gives us an edge, at least as far as writing horror is concerned.

    That aside, it’s always great to have a picture of Eddie Izzard to look at.

  8. Linda Gray says:

    SO glad to see you point out the spectrum aspect. I, too, preferred cars, trucks, and even little plastic soldiers to plan and execute battles with when I was a child, but am most definitely female. And now I really don’t like graphic violence in novels/movies. Interestingly, I didn’t mind it at all when I was a teenager, and have heard other women say the same. Hmm.

  9. Kendall Grey says:

    Interesting that so many of us commenters liked “boy” toys when we grew up. I wonder if that says something about our own “take-chargeness.” I was (and still am) a total tomboy. I hate shopping, nail polish, massages, and the color pink. 🙂

  10. lexcade says:

    I’m with…well, most everyone else, especially Kendall. I abhor shopping, love football, and liked hot wheels more than Barbie… And I like dark and grisly things. But I also love dresses and scarves. Gotta keep it balanced, I guess…

  11. akossket says:

    OMG! I’m going to second Kendall above.
    I’m a total tomboy, hates shopping (unless it’s groceries because I have to eat), nail polish, make up, skirts, and the color PINK. *sigh*

  12. lenny says:

    hi dr laura! for me im pretty much all boy. i love sports even tho im not so good at them and i wrestle lots with my brothers. i love creepy crawly stuff and i collect hotwheels. but i gotta say one time my sister took me at that place where they do your feet and i got my toes painted but i didnt get a flower on my toe. ack! she did a frog on my toe! cool! my sister likes girly stuff but for sure she could beat me in wrestling. ha ha she likes sports lots. now im thinking its cool to just like stuff no matter if its sposed to be for boys or girls.
    …hugs (are those girly? ha ha) from lenny

  13. Yeah, I’m somewhere in between. Hate sports, except maybe archery or hiking. Hate shoes. Love pink. Guess I’ll be barefoot wearing a pink dress while shooting zombies in the head with my bow and arrow. :p

  14. Donna Hole says:

    This was fun to read. I like the girly-man poster 🙂

    Good question Michael.


  15. Very interesting. Thanks for blogging about this. I was definitely curious.

  16. aparnanairphotography says:

    I actually took some classes on evolutionary psychology in college. It was interesting but was somewhat along these lines – socialization, versus some of the inherent male vs. female characteristics. Interesting.

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