Viral father and son picture sparks debate on ‘toxic masculinity’

Eric Owens didn’t realize he was going to spark a debate about masculinity when he posted a series of pictures with himself and his son.

The images of Owens with his young son under his arm are undeniably adorable, but where several people are upset is the image where his grown-up son is still tucked in under his arm. It seems many people don’t like the idea of the two men being that physically close to each other.

Several social media users reacted to the original post on Facebook saying that it was the “weirdest sh** ever” and that it was unacceptable for fathers and sons to be that physically close, though one user said that it was completely fine for mothers and daughters or aunts and nieces to cuddle.

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Apparently, the ban on cuddling only applies to men, and comments like these have sparked a debate on the “toxic masculinity” culture that frowns on men who express emotion or physical affection. The culture is steeped not only in gender roles but also in a fear of being seen as homosexual.

“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,” sociologist Mark McCormack told the Huffington Post in February.

“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.”