A man is a male human. The term man (irregular plural: men) is usually used for an adult, with the term boy being the usual term for a male child or adolescent (sometimes also applied to childish adult men). However, the term is also used for a human regardless of age or sex, sometimes even extended to more primitive humanoids than the present species Homo sapiens, as in apeman.
The English word man (from Proto-Germanic mannaz "man, person") and words derived from it can designate any or even all of the human race regardless of their gender or age. This is indeed the oldest usage of man in English. This derives from a Proto-Indo-European root *man- or mon- meaning "man". Cognates from outside the Germanic languages include Sanskrit Manu and Russian муж (mu) meaning "man" or "husband".
Age and terminology
Manhood is the period in a male's life after he has transitioned from boyhood, at least physically, during puberty. Many cultures have rites of passage to symbolize a man's coming of age, such as confirmation in some branches of Christianity, bar mitzvah in Judaism, or even just the celebration of the eighteenth or twenty-first birthday, as in most Western societies.
A boy is a male human child. For many, the word man implies a certain degree of maturity and responsibility that young men in particular often feel unprepared for; yet they may also feel too old to be called a boy. For this reason, many avoid using either man or boy to describe a young man and prefer colloquial terms such as bloke, lad, chap, fellow, guy or dude.
Biology and gender
Humans exhibit sexual dimorphism in many characteristics, many of which have no direct link to reproductive ability, however most of these characteristic do have a role in sexual attraction. Most expressions of sexual dimorphism in humans are found in height, weight, and body structure, though there are always examples that do not follow the overall pattern. For example, men tend to be taller than women, but there are many people of both sexes who are in the mid-height range for the species.
Some examples of male secondary sexual characteristics in humans, those acquired as boys become men or even later in life, are:
- deeper voice
- taller height
- facial hair or beard
- growth of pubic hair and hair under arms and on chest
- increased body size overall
- less subcutaneous fat
- increase in overall body hair
- coarser skin
- darker skin tone
- penis grows larger
- testicles grow larger and lower
- A higher level of androgenic hormones such as testosterone, leading to increased muscle mass
Human male genital area anatomy
The sex organs of a man are part of the reproductive system, consisting of the penis, testicles, vas deferens, and the prostate gland. The male reproductive system's function is to produce semen which carries sperm and thus genetic information that can unite with an egg within a woman. Since sperm that enters a woman's uterus and then fallopian tubes goes on to fertilize an egg which develops into a fetus or child, the male reproductive system plays no necessary role during the gestation. The concept of fatherhood and family exists in human societies. The study of male reproduction and associated organs is called andrology. Most, but not all, men have the karyotype 46/XY.
In general, men suffer from many of the same illnesses as women. However, there are some sex-related illnesses that occur only, or more frequently, in men. For example, autism and color blindness are more common in men than women. As well, some age-related disorders such as Alzheimer's disease appear to be more common among men, though whether this is due to a genuinely higher incidence or because men have lower life expectancies than women is uncertain.
Twenty percent of males, particularly in the U.S., the Philippines, and South Korea, as well as Jews and Muslims from all countries, have experienced circumcision, a process of altering the penis from its natural state by removing the foreskin.
Biological factors are not always sufficient determinants of whether a person considers themselves a man or is considered a man. Intersexed men may have physical features that are more common in women. In addition female-to-male transgender or transsexual individuals are often considered men psychologically as well as in the social and legal senses (varying by district and culture) but are born with female physiology.
In humans, the sex of an individual is generally determined at the time of fertilization by the genetic material carried in the sperm cell. If a sperm cell carrying an X chromosome fertilizes the egg, the offspring will typically be female (XX); if a sperm cell carrying a Y chromosome fertilizes the egg, the offspring will typically be male (XY). This is referred to as the XY sex-determination system and is typical of most mammals, but quite a few other sex-determination systems exist, including some that are non-genetic. The term primary sexual characteristics denotes the kind of gamete the gonad produces: The ovary produces egg cells in the female, and the testis produces sperm cells in the male. The term secondary sexual characteristics denotes all other sexual distinctions that play indirect roles in uniting sperm and eggs. Secondary sexual characteristics include everything from the specialized male and female features of the genital tract, to the brilliant plumage of male birds or facial hair of humans, to behavioral features such as courtship.
In mammals, the hormones that influence sexual differentiation and development are androgens (mainly testosterone), which stimulate later development of the ovary. In the sexually undifferentiated embryo, testosterone stimulates the development of the Wolffian ducts, the penis, and closure of the labioscrotal folds into the scrotum. Another significant hormone in sexual differeniation is the Anti-müllerian hormone, which inhibits development of the Müllerian ducts.
For males during puberty, testosterone, along with gonadotropins released by the pituitary gland, stimulates spermatogenesis, along with the full sexual distinction of a human male from a human female, while women are acted upon by estrogens and progesterones to produce their sexual distinction from the human male.
Enormous debate in Western societies has focused on perceived social, intellectual, or emotional differences between men and women. These differences are very difficult to quantify for both scientific and political reasons. Below are a few stereotypical claims sometimes made about men in relation to women:
- More aggressive than women. However, in interpersonal relationships, most research has found that men and women are equally aggressive. Men do tend to be more aggressive outside of the home.
- More courageous and adventuresome than women.
- More competitive but also more stubborn than women.
- More self-confident (even proud) and exhibit better leadership skills than women.
- More self-controlled and less emotional.
- More spacially intelligent than women, but less empathetic.
- More prone to abstract thinking than women.
Some of these differences have been supported by scientific research; others have not. For example, in interpersonal relationships, most research has found that men and women are equally aggressive.
Men do tend to be more aggressive outside of the home. It is especially difficult and contentious for science to separate the "innate" or biological differences from the learned or social differences. All should be considered broad generalizations; that is, at least a large minority of either gender would fit better with the other gender in any one of these aspects.
A number of the above stereotypes were not perceived in the same way as today (i.e., their applications to particular aspects and spheres of life, such as work vs. home) until the 19th century, beginning with industrialization.
In terms of outward appearance, few men in Western cultures wear cosmetics or clothing generally associated with female gender roles. (Doing so is generally stigmatized and viewed as cross-dressing.)
It is claimed men on average have a higher IQ than women of around five points.
Culture and gender roles
Well into prehistoric culture, men are believed to have assumed a variety of social and cultural roles which are likely similar across many groups of humans. In hunter-gatherer societies, men were often if not exclusively responsible for all large game killed, the capture and raising of most or all domesticated animals, the building of permanent shelters, the defense of villages, and other tasks where the male physique and strong spatial-cognition were most useful. Some anthropologists believe that it may have been men who led the Neolithic Revolution and became the first pre-historical ranchers, as a possible result of their intimate knowledge of animal life.
Throughout history, the roles of men have changed greatly. As societies have moved away from agriculture as a primary source of jobs, the emphasis on male physical ability has waned. Traditional gender roles for middle-class men typically involved jobs emphasizing moderate to hard manual labor (see Blue-collar worker), often with no hope for increase in wage or position. For poorer men among the working classes the need to support their families, especially during periods of industrial change and economic decline, forced them to stay in dangerous jobs working long arduous hours, often without retirement. Many industrialized countries have seen a shift to jobs which are less physically demanding, with a general reduction in the percentage of manual labor needed in the work force (see White-collar worker). The male goal in these circumstances is often of pursuing a quality education and securing a dependable, often office-environment, source of income.
The Men's Movement is in part a struggle for the recognition of equality of opportunity with women, and for equal rights irrespective of gender, even if special relations and conditions are willingly incurred under the form of partnership involved in marriage. The difficulties of obtaining this recognition are due to the habits and customs recent history has produced. Through a combination of economic changes and the efforts of the feminist movement in recent decades, men in some societies now compete with women for jobs that traditionally excluded women. Some larger corporations have instituted tracking systems to try to ensure that jobs are filled based on merit and not just on traditional gender selection. In some cases it is asserted that less-qualified women are hired in lieu of more-qualified men but as more women have gained the experience and education to compete for jobs traditionally held by men there is less support for claims of reverse discrimination and a higher likelihood of distress based on loss of privilege in what has become a more equal "playing field". Assumptions and expectations based on sex roles both benefit and harm men in Western society (as they do women, but in different ways) in the workplace as well as on the topics of education, violence, health care, politics, and fatherhood - to name a few. Research has identified anti-male sexism in some areas (a concept which much be distinguished and differentiated from the traditional anti-female sexism in its ubiquity and impact) which can result in what appear to be unfair advantages given to women.
- ^ The American Heritage Dictionary, Appendix I: Indo-European Roots. man-¹. Accessed 2007-04-21.
- ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4183166.stm
- Andrew Perchuk, Simon Watney, Bell Hooks, The Masculine Masquerade: Masculinity and Representation, MIT Press 1995
- Pierre Bourdieu, Masculine Domination, Paperback Edition, Stanford University Press 2001
- Robert W. Connell, Masculinities, Cambridge : Polity Press, 1995
- Warren Farrell, Myth of Male Power Berkley Trade, 1993 ISBN 0-425-18144-8
- Michael Kimmel (ed.), Robert W. Connell (ed.), Jeff Hearn (ed.), Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinities, Sage Publications 2004