The culture wars took a new turn this week, as Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., attacked liberals for creating “idle men,” who watch pornography and play video games.

“The Left wants to define traditional masculinity as toxic. They want to define the traditional masculine virtues — things like courage and independence and assertiveness — as a danger to society,” Hawley said Sunday in a speech at the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando.

“Can we be surprised that after years of being told they are the problem, that their manhood is the problem, more and more men are withdrawing into the enclave of idleness and pornography and video games?” Hawley said.

Hawley, a possible frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, cited a report from the Wall Street Journal that found men less likely to pursue higher education than ever before and that if the current trend continues women will be twice as likely to own a college degree than men in a few years.

Hawley called for “a revival of strong and healthy manhood in America." 

“We need strong men to raise up sons and daughters after them...we need the kind of men who make republics possible," he said.

Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman pointed out on Tuesday that "the broader context here is that Hawley is appealing to a real discontent, particularly among conservative men." 

Hawley's comments have drawn renewed discussion about the impact of stressing men being masculine.

Experts say today’s men are challenging the harmful downsides of masculinity as the American Psychological Association found in 2018 pressuring boys to adopt “traditional masculinity” can result in substance abuse, higher suicide rates, and violence.

The APA also cited a 2011 study by Kristen Springer, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University, who found that men who have more traditional views on masculinity are half as likely to seek preventative healthcare than men who have more moderate views on masculinity

When men do seek help, clinicians need to be aware that aggression and other externalizing symptoms can mask internalizing problems, said Ronald Levant EdD, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Akron.

“From early childhood on, boys are encouraged to push down any emotion other than anger, which interrupts boys’ emotional development," Levant said.

Hawley's comments came as Republicans continue to court male voters ahead of elections Tuesday and in 2022. The Economist reported in July how male voters continue to stick with the Republican Party. In December 2020, FiveThirtyEight cited how a survey showed that 52% of men who identified as "completely masculine" supported the Trump administration's pandemic strategy -- a far higher number than other groups.

When the New York Times profiled Hawley in March, it noted that when Hawley was a student at Stanford University, "he hung a sepia-toned poster of a shirtless male model cradling a newborn."

Hawley, 41, is the second-youngest senator. He is a conservative evangelical Christian. He is married with three children. The Guardian noted how Hawley has a reputation for railing against the "cosmopolitan elite" and for his anti-abortion stance.