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  • Hegemonic masculinity (Conell, 2005): a set of values, established by men in power that functions to include and exclude, and to organize society in gender unequal ways. It combines several features: a hierarchy of masculinities, differential access among men to power (over women and other men), and the interplay between men’s identity, men’s ideals, interactions, power, and patriarchy.
  • Heterosexism (Ingraham, 1996): ideology that promotes the conventionality of gender, heterosexuality, and the traditional family as the only way of being of people, discriminating and undervaluing all the other sexual orientations.


First, we must consider that gender is a social construction that, based on our sex, determines the behaviours, attitudes, values, expectations, etc., that are considered more typical of men (or masculine) or more typical of women (or feminine) (Whitehead et al., 2012). This binary construction, apart from leaving out other genders/identities (non-binary, queer, intersex people, etc.) has been settled on unequal basis in which “the masculine” or the characteristics that are considered proper to it have been more valued than those which are considered “feminine”.

For more information you can read the topic on gender identity.

This has not only had an impact on women but has also influenced and harmed all those men who do not conform to this stereotype of masculinity and the sexual minorities who do not subscribe these codes. This is because hegemonic masculinity is built around four main axes (Méndez, 2002):

  1. The patriarchal ideology which proposes that men are the ones who have the power and legitimize their dominion over the rest.
  2. Individualism, which establishes that the “ideal person” is one who is self-sufficient by herself, rational and capable of imposing her willingness.
  3. Exclusion/subordination of others, that is, of those who do not correspond to this idea of “masculinity”
  4. Heterosexism, which assumes that the “ideal sexual orientation” is heterosexuality and discriminates and criminalizes any other (like homo or bisexuality).

To sum up, this hegemonic masculinity is mainly built among equals by rejecting everything that is feminine and assuming patriarchy. It is built from denial towards women and any sexual minority.


But how do we learn all of this? How do you transmit this hegemonic masculinity? How do we take care of heteronormativity?

As we have said, children are socialized within a heteronormative culture in which, through our contact with others, with our environment (our family, at school, in high school, etc.), in the media, etc. We are gradually assuming and internalizing how we should be, how we should behave, reinforcing the gender binarism (femininity / masculinity) and rewarding attitudes that are considered typical of heterosexuality

The society, therefore, installs in us this type of culture through different channels and messages. For example, clothes for boys rarely have flowers, small animals, they are pink… in this way the children are integrating what clothes they should or should not wear. Or, for example, when we tell a boy that “crying is for girls” we are shaping his character by telling him that he should do or should not do, or how he should or should not behave. Or, when a girl wants to play soccer and dresses in a masculine way and her peers begin to refer to her as “tomboy,” they are conveying an idea of what is an acceptable behaviour and what is not for her gender.

This type of socialization that establishes which are the hegemonic practices and reinforces the normative expressions and orientations has a negative effect on the well-being and mental health of those who do not conform to them, such as children and adolescents who belong to sexual minorities (gays, lesbians, bisexual, queer, transsexual, intersex, etc.) (Flores, Abboud, & Barroso, 2019). In fact, studies have shown how some of these effects are: poorer academic performance, psychological distress, depression, low self-esteem and even substance abuse (Bauermeister et al., 2017).

In recent years, fortunately, there is an increasing awareness of the heteronormative system in which we live and, therefore, a lower adherence to it. This makes it more and more possible for people to express themselves freely and not have to follow the rigid codes already mentioned.

However, as parents, it is important to be aware of our own stereotypes and assumptions and maintain an open communication with our children in everything related to sex and sexuality which may help them to receive the specific information they need, to know that what they feel is not strange or rare or to help them face their sexual socialization and improve their  wellness (Flores & Barroso, 2017).


Imagine that you go with your daughter to a family reunion, when you arrive as soon as you greet each other everyone asks your 15-year-old daughter (Laura) if she has already had a boyfriend. You observe the face of discomfort and sadness of your daughter and comment “she is still young, she will have time to date many boys, do not overwhelm her”: When you return home, she is still downcast, and she practically does not speak. As you notice that something is not right you sit with her and ask her what happens. She confesses that she does not know if she is attracted to boys or girls, that she is not as the rest and if that there is something wrong with her because all her friends like boys and, at home, you always ask her about boyfriends. It would be advisable that, at this time, you apologize for your mistake, for assuming that he liked boys without having asked her and explain that there are many more people who like boys and girls, or only girls, or that, perhaps they are not attracted to anyone and that, there is nothing wrong with that.  After this, if you do not know what else you could do: try to search on the internet or social networks for LGBTQ+ referents so that your child does not feel that way, and see that she can have people of reference, or check if there is some LGBTQ+ group in your city/town.


As parents it is important that you consider several aspects:

  • You must try to give visibility and normality to different sexual identities as well as orientations. Without presupposing in any case that your child is cis (their sex corresponds to their gender) or heterosexual. It is therefore important to pay attention to your language, assumptions, questions (for example, instead of asking if they have a boyfriend/girlfriend, you should use neutral language such as “are you dating someone?”)
  • Try to make it easier for your children to dress as they see fit (without following gender mandates), to practice different hobbies, that is, to express themselves freely in any of the ways they choose to do so (and celebrate their courage if this questions the prevailing gender roles).
  • Be interested in their concerns and feelings and, if there are things you do not understand, ask them questions, or seek information, always with an open and respectful attitude.


Bauermeister, J., Connochie, D., Jadwin-Cakmak, L., & Meanley, S. (2017). Gender policing during childhood and the psychological well-being of young adult sexual minority men. American Journal of Men’s Health, 11(3), 693–701. doi:10.1177/ 1557988316680938

Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender & society, 19(6), 829-859.

Flores, D., Abboud, S., & Barroso, J. (2019) Hegemonic Masculinity During Parent-Child Sex Communication with Sexual Minority Male Adolescents. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 14(4), 417-439. DOI: 10.1080/15546128.2019.1626312

Flores, D., & Barroso, J. (2017). 21st century parent–child sex communication in the United States: A process review. The Journal of Sex Research, 54(4-5), 532-548.

Ingraham, C. (1994). The heterosexual imaginary: Feminist sociology and theories of genderSociological theory, 203-219.

Méndez, L. B. (2002). Masculinidad hegemónica e identidad masculina. Dossiers feministes, 7-35.

Whitehead, J. C., Thomas, J., Forkner, B., & LaMonica, D. (2012). Reluctant gatekeepers: ‘Trans-positive’ practitioners and the social construction of sex and gender. Journal of Gender Studies, 21(4), 387-400.

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