"I started stabbing myself repeatedly in the shoulder just to prove how much tougher I was than him..."Need an instant way to prove you're not a pussy, that you're good enough for a woman, or that you're really dedicated to whatever cause you're fighting for? Just injure yourself! Carve a symbol into your own chest, chop off a limb or two, or just punch yourself in the face to show that you can handle it! As the direct subtrope of Men Are Tough, this is one of The Oldest Ones in the Book, as well as a huge Truth in Television. Compare Self-Mutilation Demonstration, which is a more literal demonstration of resilience to show off one's regeneration powers, not just to look tough. Also compare with Primal Chest-Pound, where the character hits himself in the chest to show toughness and fierceness, but doesn't cause any real damage to himself. See also, but don't confuse with, Testosterone Poisoning. Goes hand-in-hand with Major Injury Underreaction and Men Don't Cry. Definitely related to Men Are the Expendable Gender. For badass injuries that are not self-inflicted, see Real Men Get Shot.
— Spoony, The Spoony Experiment
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Anime & Manga
- Luffy from One Piece stabbed himself in the face in order to prove to his hero that he was tough enough to be a pirate. He still has a scar under his left eye from that. The pirates mocked him for being stupid enough to wound himself for no reason.
- Zoro from the same series also near-disemboweled himself just to prove he was strong enough to fight wounded. Christ.
- Kongoh Bancho: Iai Bancho slashes his own eyes open so that he doesn't get distracted by his opponents' breasts. (Wouldn't a blindfold have been better?... maybe he was worried he'd take it off?)
- Double-subverted in YuYu Hakusho. When Sensui takes off his shirt after falling into the lake, the first thing the heroes notice about him are his scars that criss-cross his whole body. They assume at first that it was from all of the demons he had to fight when he was younger; however, it's revealed that he got all those scars training himself. Yusuke lampshades it in the dub:
- Yusuke: Awww, jeez, a masochist!
- Berserk. Griffith skinned his own shoulders with his fingers — just to make a point (something about free will). It may have had more to do with self-loathing, though. Guts does the same at various points when he seems particularly angry at himself.
- Naruto does this way early, when they're first leaving Konoha for the Wave Country on the mission-that-turned-out-to-be-A. Nobody's taking him seriously, because he's Naruto, so he stabs himself dramatically in the hand. It works. The fact that he heals ridiculously quickly comes to his teammates' attention in connection with this. Of course, Kakashi already knew that, and knew why...
- In Elfen Lied (the manga), doctor Nousou has at one point developed a way to control the violent silpelites via brain chips, and, when prompted by chief Kakuzawa, demonstrates their complete obedience by ordering one of them to stab herself in the arm. Kakuzawa's reaction? He pulls his gun and shoots himself in the hand, remarking disappointedly that pain is no guarantee for obedience.
- In the first issue of Star Wars: Jedi vs. Sith, an herbalist refuses to cure the poisoned and dying Darth Bane. He states that he is unafraid of death, and nor does he fear pain. To demonstrate, he dips his hand in the boiling cauldron in front of him, then pulls it back out (blistered and horribly scalded) without the slightest sign of pain.
- In X-Factor #70, when Wolverine is told to put out his cigar in the infirmary, he promptly swallows it. Dont try this if you're not Wolverine.
- It's a little bit this and also a rather twisted take on Clothes Make the Legend, but Superboy-Prime scratches the iconic S-shield into his own chest with his fingernails when he's imprisoned at the end of Infinite Crisis.
Films — Live-Action
- Predator. Just before fighting the title creature, Billy cuts two wounds in his chest with his knife.
- Fight Club: Joe/Jack/Tyler Durden takes this WAY too far. Extinguishing lit cigarettes against his own skin as a form of foreplay, burning himself with lye just so he can experience pain, and defeating a mobster by letting the mobster beat him to a bloody pulp.
- In Jarhead, the Marines mark the new guys who have shown themselves worthy...by branding them like cattle. They (pretend to) do this earlier, as standard hazing practice.
- Gary Busey's character Mr. Joshua in Lethal Weapon holds his hand in a lighter flame until it sizzles, as a demonstration of Badass Loyalty because his boss tells him to.
- In The World Is Not Enough, Renard holds a scalding hot rock - except he can't feel pain, so it doesn't matter to him. However, at the same time he tells of legends of fanatical monks who would hold those same rocks to prove their devotion.
- A Man Called Horse. Nothing says "I'm an Indian warrior despite being born an English gentleman" like hanging yourself from the ceiling by your skin. This is called body suspension in real life.
- In AVP: Alien vs. Predator, the predator uses acidic alien blood to scar himself as a victory ritual. Another predator scars the Final Girl this way. She barely even flinches despite the acid's telltale sizzle.
- In X-Men, when asked to put out his cigar, Wolverine looks around to find something to stub it out on, but doesn't find anything within reach, so he resorts to his own palm. It's not a case of machismo; his own regenerating skin was the only option at the moment (other than his boots, which is how non-mutant smokers usually put things out).
- Less flashy example in Lawrence of Arabia when Lawrence pinches out a burning match.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts. "
- Best Seller (1987). The hitman played by James Woods has a habit of burning himself with cigarettes. This tips off Brian Dennehy's character that he's the masked robber who tried to kill him back in '72, having seen the burn marks on his palm during the robbery.
- In Three To Tango, Matthew Perry's character has been Mistaken for Gay (it's actually his law partner who's gay, but a rambling public statement made by him was taken out of context), and he wonders why even people who know him believe it. And then he looks around him and realizes he's cooking hors d'oeuvres for his friends and wearing goofy animal oven mitts. So to prove his manliness, he decides to pull the hors d'oeuvres out of the oven with his bare hands. He of course burns his hands and Screams Like a Little Girl. His friend then walks in on him practicing more manly-sounding cries of pain.
- In Pet, Holly is kidnapped by her Stalker With a Crush Seth and locked in a cage. To prove that he cannot control her, she slams her own face into the bars until her face is bloody, and mocks his attempts to stop her from doing so.
- In the first Daughters of the Moon book, a girl tries to prove her devotion to the Dragon by carving his name into her chest. She is stopped before she gets past the first three letters. In later books, she still has the scars.
- Inheritance Cycle:
- Brisingr. The Trial of the Long Knives, in which a ruler and a challenger take turns slitting their arms to prove who is willing to endure more pain for the peoples' sake.
- There's also an earlier scene in the same book where people can only become high priests of a dark rite by lopping off one of their limbs. The head of their order has no arms, no legs, no tongue, no teeth...
- In The Baroque Cycle, various members of the True Companions of escaped galley slaves have been throwing their most valued possessions into the center of a circle to demonstrate their loyalty to the Plan. Otto van Hoek vows he'll cut his hand off if he ever gets taken by pirates again, and he chops off his pinky and throws it into the circle to prove how serious he is.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- The Burned Men clan's name come because they mutilate their own flesh with fire to sacrifice the body part when they come of age. (The other clans of wild men consider them crazy for it.) Most will sacrifice a finger or something similarly small. Those who remove something at the scale of a ear are considered brave and greatly respected. Timmett, son of Timmett, put out his eye, and even the other Burned Men have a sort of fearful reverence for him. He was made a war leader on the spot despite his youth.
- Strong Belwas allows all his opponents to cut him across the belly before killing them. He likes slapping his scarred belly and proclaiming that you can count the men he has killed by the number of cuts.
- Jean Valjean slits his wrists in Les Misérables just to prove how hardcore he really is. He also brands himself with a fire poker to prove that Thénardier's gang can't torture him for information.
- In H. Beam Piper's Four-Day Planet, Steve Ravick shows off how tough he is by putting out cigarettes in his palm. Subverted — It turns out that "Steve Ravick" is a false identity. His hands are covered with skin grafts to hide his prints; they have almost no tactile or pain sense.
- Parodied in Terry Jones's The Saga of Erik the Viking. A rival challenges Erik for leadership of the Viking band, and Erik challenges him to a series of tests of this nature. The rival wins every test, but in the process injures himself so badly and permanently that he'd be useless as a Viking leader.
- In the first book of the Coldfire Trilogy, the undead sorcerer Gerald Tarrant stands for several minutes in the presence of a glass phial containing a liquid known as the Fire (essentially Holy Napalm) without showing any visible effects before withdrawing. One of Damian's companions takes this to mean that it couldn't hurt him. Damian countered that the light of the fire was hurting Gerald, and could kill him if he was exposed to it long enough - but that Gerald was the kind of person who would take the pain without showing it right up until the moment he dropped dead just to prove a point. And that why he's so dangerous.
- Commander Sam Vimes, in the Discworld novel Jingo, intimidates Lord Rust, currently in command of Ankh-Morpork's army, by plucking a live coal out of a fire and holding it without flinching. Rust takes it and is burned. He leaves and doesn't bother Vimes further; as soon as the aristocrat's out of sight, Vimes demonstrates that he's Not So Stoic and goes to get the burn looked at. In a Shout-Out to Lawrence of Arabia, Vimes claims the trick is "not to care".
- In The Malloreon, all Angorak males (Murgos, Malloreons, and Thulls) slash themselves once across each cheek as a blood offering to Torak on reaching adulthood. Urgit, current king of the Murgos, has very faint scars, as he's not all that big into pain. (The same goes for women if they want to join the priesthood of Torak; one minor villain is a woman who took it a step further and carved a flame pattern out of those cuts.)
- In Wolf Hall there's a flashback to something that happened to Thomas Cromwell while he was in a company of soldiers in Italy. He and other soldiers caught a snake and were daring each other to hold it, risking getting bitten. He was the one who finally did—it bit him on three but he refused to let go until ten, which freaked the others out. Someone asks him when he's telling the story if he knew the snake was poisonous or not and he says that he didn't, and that was the point. He does admit it was a stupid thing to do, though.
- The Executioner. Subverted when a terrorist leader gets one of her underlings to hold his hand over the fire in a demonstration of his fanaticism. The injury to his hand gets the terrorist killed later on when he fumbles when reloading his weapon.
- Peter from Le Cœur a ses Raisons has a VERY bad case of this: because he's insecure about his manliness, he keeps trying to prove it but at the worst moments conceivable. He insists on leaving to fight a bear while the other characters are busy trying to rescue Criquette from an horrible death and could quite use his help... And he chooses to leave an hospital through the air corridors rather than the doors because it's not badass enough. The result: he spends almost ten episodes lost in the air corridors (this was the excuse used to explain his absence on the show).
- Jackass is built around this, though it's for comedy rather than straight machismo.
- The branding urn in Kung Fu: You have to carry it by pressing its branding ends between your forearms. This marks the arms with the tiger and dragon.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Master explains how all vampires are filled with mysterious fear and dread when they see a cross. He then grabs the cross in his hand, saying (as his hand sizzles) "Fear is in the mind. Like pain. It can be controlled."
- The Groosalugg sticks his hand into a flame without flinching at the start of his fight to the death with Angel.
- When Kate refuses to accept that vampires exist despite seeing Angel in Game Face, he seizes the cross around her neck and holds it despite the smoke rising from his palm.
- Angelus and William (not yet calling himself Spike) stuck their hands in sunlight during their first meeting.
- Vampire Hunter Holtz gives Justine an Impaled Palm for sassing him. After he pulls out the awl she punches him with her injured hand.
- Game of Thrones:
- Khal Drogo allows an opponent to cut him to show his badassery, before dodging every blow while methodically disarming himself and killing the man with his own blade. The cut gets infected, and he eventually dies as a result.
- Shae plays a game with Tyrion where they link arms and hold a candle to them. Tyrion gives up in a few seconds and asks her if she even feels pain.
- In his first appearance, Prince Oberyn of Dorne advances on a pair of Lannister goons, and casually swipes his hand over a candle, almost as an afterthought, establishing himself as a consummate badass and more than a bit of a daredevil.
- Klingon Bachelor parties in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Not to mention wedding nights. And the Palm Bloodletting at just about every ceremony. Hell, pretty much everything Klingon.
- Nausicaans also deserve a mention, as demonstrated when two of them are shown casually passing the time by throwing darts into each others' chests during another episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This is apparently the norm for their culture as, according to Brunt, most Nausicaan games involve pain.
- Invoked and subverted in Parks and Recreation, where Ron complains of a toothache, then casually tears it out of his mouth during a meeting as the rest look on in horror. He reveals to the camera that he actually had the tooth removed at the dentists the day before, and pretended to rip it out to intimidate them.
- In Breaking Bad, Tuco Salamaca puts out a cigarette on his tongue.
- A ten-year-old Bruce Wayne does this in Gotham by putting his hand over a lit candle. It's enough to make poor Alfred think that the boy is self-harming in his grief, but Bruce explains that he's testing his own endurance.
- Marilyn Manson seems to do this in some of his concert videos.
- You ever seen videos of Rammstein performing some of their songs? Example, when performing Sehnsucht, Till Lindemann (the singer) bashes his head with the microphone til he draws blood. In fact he kept a bag of fake blood hidden in his hair and beating it with the microphone broke it, making it look like Till was bleeding. The burn injuries however, are not intentional.
- Given its levels of Testosterone Poisoning, it should come as no surprise that this is present in Warhammer 40,000.
- In the Imperium, the Imperial Fists regularly use a meditation aid known as a Pain Glove, which does pretty much exactly what it sounds like it does.
- Outside it, Orks regularly try and get scars to show off; that the easiest way to do this is to pick fights isn't a major drawback, because the entire species are unhinged Blood Knights.
- In Rocket Age the initiation rituals to join the Cult of the Fanged Mother, a Venusian murder cult, involves both murder and extensive self mutilation. The women's path up the cult's ranks is far worse, involving even more self harm and psychological torment.
- The Intro to the Dante's Inferno 360 game. Dante sews a cross-shaped cloth that details all his sins onto his bare chest.
- Star Control II:
- The Slylandro (living gas bags who live in the atmosphere of a gas giant planet) mention that if they try to sink too low into their homeworld, the increased pressure can cause them to rupture. As a result, young Slylandro will sometimes dive as deep as they can without killing themselves, and regard the scars they get from such activities as marks of toughness (which are also popularly regarded as attractive to females).
- Parodied with the Thraddash. Their Culture Three encountered a problem when coming into power as the previous culture already epitomized extreme strength and endurance. To impress them, Culture Three soldiers would stand on a tall hill where everyone could see them and cut off one of their own limbs, and then wave it at their enemies. Surprisingly, it worked and Culture Two armies ran away without a fight. At war parades Culture Three heroes would roll around on the ground because they had no legs to walk on. Later cultures regard them as a bit of an Old Shame.
- Warcraft offers us a few examples with the rites of passage in some orcish clans:
- Members of the Shattered Hand clan mangle one of their hands (and replace it with a weapon) to honor their chieftain, Kargath Bladefist.
- The members of the Black Tooth Grin Clan in Warcraft II had to knock out one of their teeth as a rite of passage.
- And finally, members of the Lightning's Blade Clan had to stand on top of a mountain in a thunderstorm with their axes lifted, and survive being struck by lightning at least three times.
- In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, St Mannox cut off his own finger to underscore to a group of bandits that he would not be held for ransom. The finger bone was later turned into a powerful relic, solely through its inherent badassitude.
- In order to prove your devotion to the cause of the Assassins in Assassin's Creed, you have to hack off your own ring finger. This is why the Hidden Blade is designed to be unusable unless the ring finger is missing. Heavily lampshaded in the second game, where Leonardo modifies the Hidden Blade to be usable with the finger still on (and then briefly tries to talk Ezio into removing the finger anyway), and some of the Codex pages (written by Altair) mention that the Assassins eventually decided this was a stupid tradition. They still keep part of this tradition, however. An Assassin's initiation from Ezio's time onward involves branding the Assassin sigil onto the neophyte's ring finger with hot iron and having him perform the Leap of Faith immediately afterwards.
- Finch from Tales from the Borderlands is said to let people shoot him in the chest for fun, though he also charges them 40 bucks.
- Torgue weapons in Borderlands 2 invoke this, partially as an advertising strategy, partially because Mr. Torgue is a nutcase who sweats testosterone and blasting gelignite. Instead of designing sleek, curved, high-tech devices like Maliwan or Hyperion, or simple and lightly adorned guns like Tediore or Dahl, Torgue guns are deliberately built to be chunky and weigh a ton even without the clips of exploding bullets, just so you can prove you're tough enough to carry one. This mostly doesn't apply in-game, though - since all guns are "equal" (they all take up one inventory/equipment slot and can be wielded as long as you meet the level requirement), Gadgeteer Genius Gaige (18 years old, 5'3" and relatively fresh out of high school) can wield them as effectively as Axton (a 5'9" professional soldier).
- One Shrine quest in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild requires Link to stand on top of a roasting hot platform to prove to the "Goron Blood Brothers" that he is tough enough to earn a Shrine Orb.
- In the Justice League cartoon, Draaga burns an "S" on his chest to remind himself of his vendetta against Superman.
- In an episode of Cow and Chicken, Sargent Weenie Arms forces Chicken, Flem and Earl to shave with smooth rocks and chop trees down with their faces, among other things.
- The Manotaurs from Gravity Falls seem to love hurting themselves and each other.
- Stan Smith from American Dad!.
- The Salty Spitoon in the Spongebob Square Pants sometimes asks its patrons to prove their toughness in this manner. Apparently eating a bowl of nails for breakfast isn't enough to get in... unless eaten without any milk.
- An episode of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack centered on the idea that "real adventurers" sleep in the most uncomfortable places imaginable, like on rocks or in boxes, earning Flapjack all sorts of mockery for being a "cuddler" who always winds up sleeping on the whale Bubbie's tongue. It was actually K'nuckles who had to sleep that way and kept hiding it while moving Flapjack in his sleep so he could feel better about himself, which he admits in an Engineered Public Confession.
- A million fraternity/club/gang hazing rituals, a billion tribal "manhood ceremonies," and a trillion prison and military rituals.
- G. Gordon Liddy (of Watergate fame) would hold his hand in a candle flame until his flesh burned to prove his willpower.
- Of course, the tried and true method of self-flagellation. This is a subcategory of "Mortification of the flesh," a principle practiced by tens of religions.
- Crushing beer cans on your head.
- Tattooing/piercing/stretchers, especially when gang related. Temporary piercings apply even more, because you're subjecting yourself to pain with no permanent body decoration to show for it.
- During the Winter War one Finnish general had the habit of wandering about frozen battlefields with his shirt open. But then he was something of a Patton-esque Sociopathic Hero.
- George Carlin called some womens' insistence on natural (pain reliever-free) birth "childbirth machismo."
- The Thaipusam Festival, in which men spear themselves through the cheeks and get dragged down the street by meat hooks stuck into their backs. The underlying belief is "The more pain, the more 'god-induced merit.'"
- Apparently there's an Inuit custom/ordeal that involves two people telling their side of the story while slashing themselves with bone knives all the while.
- Two winners of the Darwin Award took this trope and combined it with Chainsaw Good: One chopped his leg off to demonstrate his devotion to a woman upon whom he had an unrequited crush. Another one-upped him by chopping off his own head.
- The Pain Olympics. Nothing more will be said about this.
- Overlapping with Video Games: some funny person made a console called PainStation. It was a Pong-style game operated holding two buttons with your left hand and operating the paddle with the right. The game can go to eleven points but not holding down the two buttons causes a meter to deplete which also determines if you lose. When the ball gets past your paddle and hits the popup hazards, you get an electric shock, have your hand warmed/burned or even have the hand whipped. Any place that has this game posts a lot of health advisories and disclaimers when using this game.
- One could argue that some varieties of exercise, diet and so on that are considered healthy have this component to them.
- Mountain climbing in the Himalayas. It's badass "sport" to be sure, but you got to wonder about who in their right mind would do this for fun.
- It may not even be for "fun". One of the first two men to climb to the summit of Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, was once asked why he underwent such a brutal, dangerous climb. His response of "It was there." is partially this trope and partially a real-life version of Bragging Rights Reward.
- As this Tropers friend said, most pleasant part of climbing in Himalaya is "this moment while returning, when you turn back towards he mountain and realise that you are no longer up there"
- And of course there was a certain Greek city that was known for making this into the most noticeable aspect of its way of life.
- Dueling scars, the result of academic fencing by upper class German university students of the 19th and 20th centuries, were seen as badges of honor and proof of courage. The custom of mensur duels continue to this day, though the wounds are downplayed, and it's said that several major German companies require a mensur background.
- The religious rituals of the ancient Mayan nobles involved piercing and cutting of various body parts, including tongues and penises.
- Harada Sanosuke of the Shinsengumi pierced his belly with a sword in an attempt at Seppuku just to prove that he was a real samurai. He survived this.
- During The Napoleonic Wars it was in some circles considered unmanly to use drinks or opium (the only "anesthetics" available) during surgery. This was, as you will note, a time when most military surgery consisted of amputation with a saw and cauterization with a branding iron. Gotta admit, in a weird way it is Crazy Awesome.
- Many members of Polar Bear swimming clubs participate in ice-swimming activities as a way to show off their endurance and willpower. Make no mistake: jumping into near-freezing water hurts.
- Older Than Feudalism: According to legend, when the Etruscan king Lars Porsena captured a Roman assasin, the assasin (Gaius Mucius) told him that three hundred Roman youths had sworn to assassinate him. Mucius then thrust his hand in a sacrificial flame, saying "Watch this so that you know how cheap the body is to men who have their eye on great glory." Porsena released Mucius and offered peace to Rome; Mucius earned the name "Scaevola" ("left-handed") for himself and his heirs.
- Some indigenous cultures around the world have practiced something called penile subincision, which is a form of genital cutting where a slit is made along the bottom of the penis. This serves as a rite of passage for pubescent males. (Think of it as a little like circumcision, but much more invasive.) Google pictures of it at your own risk.
- A Drink Order can imply this in different ways. For example, some folks consider drinking your whiskey neat to be manlier than having it with a mixer or with a splash of water (in contrast, many argue that a splash of water, preferably mineral water from the same water source used to make the whiskey, brings out the drink's flavor).