The nuances of gender roles and identity are vast, but when we get down to the typical drunk driver (a GenX midwestern male), the stereotype begins to make sense. Western culture values “a man’s man” over a man who speaks on an emotional level, suppressing natural feelings. Consequently, that suppression easily leads to addiction and/or bad decisions with drinking and driving.
Men drink for social reasons; to decrease social anxiety and feel accepted by other men.
Recent research published in the Behaviour Research and Therapy journal came to the conclusion that there is “greater alcohol reward for male groups,” and so ultimately “identifies a mechanism that may support heavy drinking in male drinking contexts.” According to the University of Pittsburgh, women can just hang out with each other completely sober. Research also indicates that women may drink to excess in order to cope with stress, anxiety or depression. Men, however, need alcohol to “take the edge off,” socially; they are too scared to open up. The traditional gender norms men follow don’t allow for open displays of genuine affection so, according to the study, men fall back on getting drunk because getting drunk can “disinhibit and decrease the extent to which behaviors conform to social norms.”
Unfortunately, too much of that bonding leads those men to fit the criminal DUI stereotype, ending up with a conviction and an ignition interlock device at best, or a tragic outcome at worst.
While still a long way off, allowing people to freely express emotions could go a long way toward healthier personal relationships and fewer problems with drunk driving as a result. The reasons men drink allow us insight into the typical, GenX DUI driver. Perhaps we can even use that information to reduce the emotional reasons for drinking, and further reduce the devastation too much drinking can cause.