Odell Beckham Jr. hates water so much that the New York Giants wide receiver insists on getting his fluids intravenously, just to avoid muscle cramps. But he’s not alone. Many men refuse to drink water because it doesn’t feel masculine to do so. Of course, dehydrated men won’t admit this directly (and tend to make excuses, claiming that they don’t like the taste of water—which is essentially without flavor anyway) but experts claim many of men unconsciously mistake healthy choices for feminine ones. Water is a frequent victim.
“Some say they don’t like the taste of water but, when you dig deeper, you quickly learn there is a caustic tape playing in their mind that says, ‘real men don’t need water’,” psychologist John Moore told Fatherly. “There are some guys who have a superman complex who think they don’t need water because to be a real man means being able to do it all.”
“Not only is this belief system inaccurate, it’s also unhealthy.”
Even men who aren’t taking IVs to avoid water seem to dodge it with some pride. In 2015 Peter Filak, a former nurse turned porn actor turned YouTuber, claimed to have survived for several years without any liquids altogether. No word on how he’s doing, but his website and YouTube page are no longer active. And a number of self-described “hydro-haters” discussed their aversion to water with MEL Magazine. Among them, food blogger Chris Riley said “I’d rather quench my thirst with castor oil than have to take a sip of water.”
It’s also possible that men avoid drinking to water to show off their ability to tolerate discomfort. From muscle cramps to headaches, to dry skin and dizziness, dehydration provides plenty of discomfort for men who want to strut their pain resistant stuff.
Moore suspects, however, that the male aversion to water is tied to a similar phenomenon wherein men avoid vegetables, which are not seen as masculine. As with water, most men genuinely believe they don’t enjoy the taste of vegetables, but suspiciously make exceptions for “manly” vegetables, such as spinach (H/T Popeye) and sweet potatoes. “Sweet potatoes are becoming dude-friendly because they help to pack on muscle,” Moore says. “Ask any guy at the gym.”
If masculinity is the root of why some men won’t drink water, the solution is often as simple as reframing water with examples of manly men drinking it. In the military, for instance, men are expected to hydrate on a specific schedule, on command. Plus, properly hydrating can sometimes reduce men’s risk of erectile dysfunction, a condition that can feel more emasculating than any food or beverage. And, when everything else fails to get men to drink water, Moore appeals to their sense of vanity, because perpetual dehydration only fuels premature aging. “I’ll ask them ‘Do you want to be 30 and look 50?’,” he says.
“You’d be surprised how many of them come to the next session with a bottle of Evian.”