The “Man Box” is the unspoken code of conduct that defines how a man is supposed to act. This code isn’t something men are verbally taught. There’s no secret club they join that teaches the code to them as a rite of passage into manhood. It’s more something they observe and feel.

When guys don’t conform to the set of expectations within the Man Box, they know immediately because they experience shame and ridicule; and many guys adjust their behaviors to avoid embarrassment. At that point, the Man Box becomes a restrictive trap that is difficult for them to escape. The Man Box says men should:


  • Be aggressive.
  • Demonstrate power – especially over women (sometimes this looks like abuse and sometimes it looks like protection).
  • Never express emotions – except for anger.
  • Be independent and never ask for help.
  • Always be right, don’t back down.
  • Be promiscuous.
  • Be strong.
  • Be athletic.
  • Be funny.
  • Be a leader.
  • Be ambitious.

This is a TED Talk about the power of the Man Box. It’s 11 minutes long and something everyone should see.