One of the central tenets of hegemonic masculinity is that a man should be strong, silent and self-contained: a man should not express his emotions openly, and should not share his emotions with other people or ask for help when experiencing emotional distress (Petersen 1998). This is one aspect of prescriptive definitions of masculinity that has been extensively explored from a range of perspective by psychologists and social theorists. For example, Lupton (1998) has explored the gendered nature of emotionality from a historical and sociocultural viewpoint, while Brody (1999) has explored much the same territory from a perspective which draws extensively on evidence from mainstream experimental psychology. Despite fundamental differences in epistemologies, both authors reach very similar conclusions. They draw on evidence to demonstrate that men express emotions, particularly negative internally focused emotions (for example grief) and positive externally focused emotions (for example tenderness) to a considerably lesser degree than do women. The evidence indicates strongly that this difference is culturally rather than biologically determined, and also shows that this relative lack of emotional expression is, in general, detrimental to physical and emotional well-being. Both writers, also, demonstrate that cultural stereotypes of gender differences in emotional expression do not always reflect reality, tending to exaggerate the extent of actual gender differences.
Lupton (1998) is one of several commentators to have described the social stereotype of the unemotional man, in contrast with the emotional woman, in some detail. Patriarchal cultures, she argues, position mastery over the emotions as a positive and valuable thing for men. Men who express their emotions openly are stigmatized as weak, effeminate and (possibly) homosexual. By contrast, women are expected to show less control over their emotions: for women, failure to express emotions is construed as evidence of un womanliness and a 'hard', unsympathetic nature.