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Affective Construction of the Ideology of Machismo

In 1987, along with Donald Mosher, Tomkins published Scripting the macho man: Hypermasculine socialization and enculturation. He summarized this work in AIC III:267. It is a succinct example of how affects, specifically how we are socialized to experience affects, gives rise to a given ideological stance. It is excerpted and slightly reformatted here.


The heart of the macho script, as defined by Mosher, is:

  1. Entitlement to callous sex

  2. Violence as manly

  3. Danger as exciting


The ideological script of the macho man is socially inherited within a macho culture by virtue of being a male. It “exalts male dominance by assuming masculinity, virility and physicality to be the ideal essence of real men who are adversarial warriors competing for scarce resources (including women as chattel) in a dangerous world.” The ideology of machismo is a particular variant of normative ideology. To be scripted to be a “real man”—thereby to exaggerate the stereotypical qualities of masculinity—requires socialization that deferentially magnifies the “superior, manly” affects of anger, excitement, surprise, disgust and contempt, in contrast to the “inferior, feminine” affects of distress, fear, shame and relaxed enjoyment. There are at least seven socialization dynamics required to differentially magnify the masculine affects of a macho script:


  1. Unrelieved and unexpressed distress is intensified by the socializer until it is transformed into anger.

  2. Fear expression and fear avoidance are inhibited through parental dominance and contempt until habituation partially reduces them and activates excitement.

  3. Shame over residual distress and fear reverses polarity through counteraction into exciting manly pride over aggression and daring.

  4. Pride over aggressive and daring counteraction instigates disgust and contempt for shameful inferiors.

  5. Successful reversal of interpersonal control through angry and daring dominance activates excitement.

  6. Surprise becomes an interpersonal strategy to achieve dominance by evoking fear and uncertainty in others.

  7. Excitement becomes differentially magnified as a more acceptable affect than relaxed enjoyment, which becomes acceptable only during a victory celebration.


The macho script can and usually does change in time. Because of its emphasis on physicality it is a young man’s script. From adolescence to midlife, macho physicality reaches its zenith and slowly wanes. As his vigor declines, the demands of the script can become excessively burdensome, and he discovers that he is no longer invulnerable to the feminine affects of shame, distress, fear and enjoyment. His defensive script now turns to substance abuse. Under alcohol the lure of just nodding out becomes increasingly seductive.

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