“You’re punching, mate”

With suicide being the single biggest killer of men aged under 45, perhaps it’s time to review the jokes we make and the language we use.

When did it become socially acceptable to tell someone to their face, “You’re not worthy”?

According to UrbanDictionary.com, a trusted academic source, “punching” or “punch’in” may be defined as “A bloke who’s girl friend is more attractive than himself would be “Punch’in above his weight”.

Note how the term specifically applies to males.

Imagine you were introduced to a couple, and you told the girl she was punching above her weight as her boyfriend is noticeably better looking than her. Unthinkable. Preposterous.


Limmy touches upon this in “The Feminist”, a short story in his book of “Daft Wee Stories”. Another trusted academic source.

I’m joking of course. But in this story, he raises an extremely valid and thought-provoking point:

For millennia women have been viewed as nothing more than sexual objects, whose sole purpose in life is to reproduce and satisfy the needs of men. Glorified for beauty and not brains, women need affirmation of physical attractiveness in order to feel validated. The hard truth is, this is still relevant nowadays in everyday attitudes towards women. That is why we would never dream of saying “you’re punching, mate” to a female.

But men? They’re different, they can take the banter! They don’t need to be reassured they are handsome to feel validated, because they were born with a penis. This automatically means they don’t need to work as hard as women must to earn respect.

But we are forgetting one crucial thing here: men are human too. With feelings. And those feelings can get hurt. In a world of toxic masculinity, it’s no secret how many men struggle to open up emotionally. They need to be seen as being able to take the banter.

It wasn’t until my friend, Barry, recently broke up with his girlfriend that I became aware of the mental repercussions of being constantly told, “you’re punching”. I will hold my hands up and admit to saying it myself on occasion throughout my life. It’s a flippant comment in everyday social discourse that many of us are guilty of saying.

With suicide being the single biggest killer of men aged under 45, perhaps it’s time to review the jokes we make and the language we use. Barry tells me how every time someone said it to him throughout his four-year relationship, it chipped away at his confidence more and more. Yet each time, he’d simply laugh and reply, “I know, mate.” Just taking the banter.

Now the relationship is over, Barry tells me he is left feeling worthless and insecure about his looks. He feels pressure to find a “better looking” girl than his ex, or face scrutiny from those who told him he was “punching” in the first place.

Looks are just one of the many components that make somebody attractive to another person, and Barry know this. He deems the pressure “ridiculous”, but the damage is done. The repercussions to his confidence cut deep and may take a while to heal.

If you tell someone they are not worthy enough times, they will start to believe it. Men feel insecure about their looks just as women do. Telling someone they are “punching” is not a compliment. Everyone is entitled to their opinions; some are just better kept to the self. You might not think it in the moment, but words carry weight. We ought to think before we speak, we never know what someone might be going through.

BTW Barry is a solid 10/10 and his DM’s are open.

Cover image from @gallusareaband

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