Research by Jennifer Bosson, Joseph Vandello (both psychology professors at the University of South Florida) and colleagues has tested the role of threatening men's masculinity in aggression.
According to these researchers, men's masculinity is something that is elusive (it must be earned) and tenuous (it must continually be proven). Put differently, men can easily lose their sense of masculinity and, in turn, when it is challenged, they respond to restore it. One prominent way males try to restore their masculinity is through aggression.
So how do these researchers challenge men's masculinity?
Some studies have had men complete a bogus test of "male knowledge." They are then either given positive or negative feedback (which would be the masculinity challenge) about how well they did. Other studies have had men tie either a rope, or braid her (the masculinity threat), while others have had them use feminine smelling hand lotion.
In response to these masculinity threatening tasks, men show heightened anxiety and thoughts of aggression. Interestingly, they also behave more aggressively, such as by choosing to hit a punching bag when given the option of that or a basketball task. Men who choose the punching task also punch harder and more often when their perceived masculinity is threatened. Further, such displays of aggression, when made public, have been found to reduce the anxiety men feel when doing these (perceived as) feminine tasks.