What Does Toxic Masculinity Have To Do With Mass Shootings?

Mass shootings are a gun problem. They’re also a toxic masculinity problem, and we can’t afford to forget that.

Mass shootings occur so often in the United States that they are no longer surprising. Endlessly horrifying and tragic, but not surprising. You can’t be surprised by something that occurs nine out of every ten days.

It would be like feeling shocked when it rains in Seattle or snows during a Michigan winter. Except unlike the weather, we can do something to prevent shootings. We just don’t.

There are plenty of reasons for our inaction. Gun manufacturers enjoy their increased sales after every shooting, and preventing shootings would not be profitable. Corrupt politicians rely on donations from people and organizations who love unrestricted access to guns, so they’d rather attack victims of mass shootings than the problem of mass shootings itself.

But mass shootings aren’t just the result of money and corruption. The problem is our culture, and we’re responsible for that.

We’re more comfortable believing in the myth of a good guy with a gun than we are discussing the reality of far too many angry, violent, toxic men with far too easy access to weapons that can kill 17 people in only six minutes and twenty seconds.

We have both a gun-loving culture and a culture that perpetuates toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is a harmful way of perceiving masculinity which uses sex and aggression as “the measuring sticks of manhood”. According to Ryan Douglass at the Huffington Post, ”toxic masculinity is built on two fundamental pillars: sexual conquest and violence—qualities men regale as manly and virtuous.”

The two ingredients invariably involved in mass shootings are guns and men, and that’s no coincidence. A culture which convinces men that real manhood is about power and violence can’t be surprised when entitled men who view themselves as victims lash out with easily available weapons.

This is how we ended up with Elliot Rodger, a man who believed so strongly that he was entitled to women’s bodies and affections that when he was denied them, the rage he felt at his self-perceived victimhood led him to murder six people.

This is also why there is an overwhelming connection between mass shootings and domestic violence, and just one more reason we need to take the latter far more seriously.

As Care2 writer s.e. smith pointed out, “The majority of mass shootings — those in which four or more people are killed — in America are actually cases of intimate partner violence, and in other types of shootings, perpetrators often had violent records.”

Almost 20 percent of mass shootings involve someone with a previous charge and/or conviction of domestic violence. And yet over and over again we hear mass shooters described as totally normal guys who didn’t show any indication that they might become a killer.

Maybe we need to stop seeing toxic masculinity as normal. Maybe we need to start seeing domestic violence as an indication.

Entitled, toxic men with guns kill people almost every day. We can’t sit back while children do all the work to fix this problem for the rest of us.

Image via Thinkstock.


Marie W
Marie W7 months ago

thanks for sharing

Megan S
Megan Sabout a year ago

stop.demonising.men. masculinity does not cause mass shootings - mental health problems do. true masculinity is about strength and responsibility, not blind aggression and resentment.

Carl R
Carl Rabout a year ago


One Heart i
One Heart incabout a year ago


Dot A
Dot Aabout a year ago

Great comments. Thoughtful comments. An important, most important topic for our times! - Girls are taught from the cradle, "Be a good little girl~" and the boys get, "Boys will be boys!" with a smile and a reminder 'don't cry!' for the males. If we study human conditioning over the last 10,000 years, it isn't such a puzzle to see how we got to this point. In the movie "300", the newborn boys were cast into a pit if their physical prowess were not obvious at birth. From there, those little people were trained to kill or be killed. Oh sure, I can see the logic. Our race to survive depended upon the ability to dominate those who wished to eliminate their enemies. Much of our society can see the remains of that mentality. I can see that if women are encouraged to become brutal, they'll do the same. Like others have mentioned, when women choose to be cruel they have they own methods, and they can be quite dangerous to others as well, thankfully, far less often. We need to educate ourselves toward resolutions. With the present day leadership, I don't see that happening,... sadly,....

Karen H
Karen Habout a year ago

We have to look at "toxic masculinity" and ask exactly what it is. Insecurity? Possibly. Fear? Possibly. The admonition that "you have to be a MAN". Probably. But do we explain what a "man" is to our children? They see warped versions in movies, on TV, and in video games. They see a POTUS who is cheered by other men for having had sex with a porn star. CSNY said it: "Teach your children well..."

Colin C
Colin Cabout a year ago

I thought that this was a good article

Eric Lees
Eric Leesabout a year ago

@Joan E
""Liberty' to kill others is not liberty for those who are killed and those who love and depend on those who were killed, whatever their gender, race or species."

Whom is attempting to make that argument? One person's rights end where another's starts. I have no right to restrict another's rights.

Janis K
Janis Kabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Teresa W
Teresa Wabout a year ago

Masculinity seems to be toxic by definition.