This Photo Is Raising a Debate About Toxic Masculinity

September 8th 2016

A photo of a father and son relaxing together is still stoking a debate about masculinity months after it was originally posted.

Facebook user Eric Owens posted photos of himself and his son resting side-by-side throughout the years. In every photo shown in the post, which has more than 24,000 likes and hundreds of shares, the son is under the father's arm.

Post by Eric Owens about his son. Facebook/Eric Owens - facebook.com

Some male social media users said they find an adult son being physically close to his father unnatural.

However, Twitter user @Pinkdot_COM tweeted that the adverse responses were "weird" and she shared screenshots of some of the most passionate comments.

One response said that the father and son in the picture were "the weirdest shit ever" and that "a man shouldn't be raising his son to be on him like that."

Comments about father/son photo. Twitter/@PINKdot_COM - twitter.com

Another man said that he couldn't recall a time after 9 years old where he had been "up under" his father.

Comments about a father son photo. Twitter/@PINKdot_COM - twitter.com

Another Facebook user commented that being physically close is acceptable for mothers and daughters but not for fathers and sons.

Comments about a father and son photo. Twitter/PINKdot_COM - twitter.com

This discomfort some men feel being physically close to other men could come from long held beliefs about masculinity and male behavior. ATTN: has previously written about toxic masculinity and the antiquated, gendered ideas of how men are supposed to act and behave.

Andrew Reiner, a cultural studies professor from Towson University, wrote about masculinity in The New York Times earlier this year. He wrote that men are taught to suppress and ignore softer displays of emotions that are associated with women. He recounted how one of his students showed a clip of a father telling his son not to try cry during a vaccination and encouraging to repeat the phrase, "I'm a man."

"Then, as his son becomes increasingly agitated: 'Don’t cry!… Aw, big boy! High five, high five! Say you’re a man: ‘I’m a man!’' The video ends with the whimpering toddler screwing up his face in anger and pounding his chest. 'I’m a man!' he barks through tears and gritted teeth. The home video was right on point, illustrating the takeaway for the course: how boys are taught, sometimes with the best of intentions, to mutate their emotional suffering into anger. "

This fear of physical affection between men appearing too feminine is also tied to a fear of appearing homosexual, according to Mark McCormack, a sociologist from Durham University.

“The social taboo against cuddling has been because for two men to get close was traditionally seen as ‘gay.' Men wanted to avoid being the target of homophobic abuse, so they would be macho to distance themselves from any perception of homosexuality,” McCormack told the Huffington Post in February.

However this trend is changing, at least in the United Kingdom. A study in the Journal of Men and Masculinities in 2014 found that 93 percent of British white college male athletes polled said they had cuddled with another straight man, according to the Post.

“But there is a generational effect here: Older men who grew up in the 1980s may still feel the need to present a very straight version of themselves, but more positive attitudes toward homosexuality in contemporary culture mean that younger men are simply less concerned about how other people view their behaviors," said McCormack to the Post.

RELATED: Ways We Reinforce Toxic Masculinity in Boys

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