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"Man up!" That's the gauntlet thrown down at the feet of men and boys every day. Of course, it's not always that explicit, but it's undeniable.

It's implicit in the look of disdain shot at a man who doesn't know the score of last night's game or the guy who orders a salad at lunch.

It was explicit in countless ads littering much of the recent political season. Chet Traylor, Rand Paul, Sharon Angle and Sarah Palin, all mockingly challenged their opponents - and others in their party -- to just "man up!"  Implicit or explicit, the message is the same - and crystal clear: if you don't man up you're a wimp, not worthy of your sex.

But what exactly does it mean to "man up?" Despite intense social pressure to just do it, the it remains surprisingly illusive. That's because masculinity - although not "in crisis," as recently reported by Newsweek - is in flux.

The fact is, research shows most men don't fit traditional definitions of masculinity.  Most men aren't wimps either. The vast majority lie somewhere in a murky middle-ground that is manhood today.


So masculinity gets challenged constantly - often publicly - when a man betrays emotion, backs down from a fight, orders light beer, or votes his political party. And it's often challenged by those who want to gain political or social advantage over men.

So men are compelled to constantly prove their manhood - even when it means risking the safety and well-being of themselves or others.   And because of the disconnect between what men actually experience in their lives and the social demands confronting them daily, most men mistakenly think they aren't as manly as other men or as manly as they should be.

So, guys, the next time you reach for salad instead of steak or you let someone cut you off on the freeway without risking a crash to prove a point, just relax. Relax knowing you're doing the right thing, for yourself and for others - and, that you're just as manly as most other men.

With a perspective, I'm Dr. Will Courtenay.