Type “Is it OK for guys to …” into Google and you discover a huge range of anxieties that trouble the modern young man. Is it OK to be skinny? Is it OK to not like sports? Is it OK to wear pink? The list goes on and on and it gives the lie to some widespread preconceptions about what it means to be a man.

Modern masculinity

Men don’t do themselves any favours by frequently living up to a caricature that creates the sort of toxic masculinity that gave us Harvey Weinstein and sparked the #MeToo campaign. He’s just the most high-profile recent example of the bullying and harassment that can result from being constrained in what Rik Strubel of Unilever-owned deodorant Axe (Lynx in the UK) described as the Man Box - “a set of stereotypical attributes that men are supposed to be: tough, stoic, don’t cry, violent when necessary”.

Speaking at Advertising Week Europe (London, March 2018), Strubel explained that Axe research had shown that young men living by tenets of the Man Box were twice as likely to bully and make unwelcome comments to women. They’re also more likely to be unhappy, to be violent, to fail to connect with other people. And, for his target demographic, “it’s not a way to get laid”.