This cultural phenomenon is common in (but not specific to) Japan, the polar opposite being Sweet Tooth
From the very first time we partake in our mother's milk as infants, its soothing and sweet taste subconsciously indoctrinates us to associate sweetness with comfort, gentleness and the pleasant things in life. That's why sweetness is the favorite taste of children in general when they first graduate from infancy, before life experience allows them to gradually acquire new food preferences.
It is for the very same reasons above that sugar and sweetness are culturally coded as childish and feminine, as opposed to the "mature and masculine" flavors of saltiness, spiciness, bitterness and even sourness. Many a teenage boy (but not all of them) who wishes to be a man amongst men
are expected to indoctrinate himself to hate sweets, especially
openly scorning it in front of his macho friends, as a means to accentuate and emphasize his masculinity. Complementing this is the stereotype that women do like sweets in general and chocolate in particular, and the trope in which a heartbroken young woman drowns her sorrows
in ice cream
Woe betide the teenage boy who is caught liking sugar or (shock horror) caught having a banana ice cream sundae topped with a cherry; from that point onward, he is a socially dead pariah, no better than "those wretched Otaku
losers who hang out at Cosplay Cafes
Eventually, this self-brainwashing becomes ingrained into the subconscious, and many adult men (or the particularly macho Straw Feminist
) grow up to be physically repulsed by the very taste of sugar, syrup and honey.
Even in Japan, this is only partially Truth in Television
; many men openly like sweet foods and will happily eat them in public. It is, however, generally assumed that women like their sweet stuff sweeter and more elaborate.
In Western contexts, anyone possessing this trope is probably considered odd by society at large, because sugar does
taste pleasant. The obvious attempt to force an image of toughness and masculinity will be plain as day for everyone to see if the trope applies to a man, and insecurities and potential anorexia or bulimia if to a woman. The main exception in the West is in regard to alcoholic beverages: "real men" drink cordials and sweet liqueurs only occasionally if at all, avoid fruit mixes (except perhaps fresh lemon or lime, or "classic" mixes involving fresh fruit juice); no, a real man relishes in the harshness of his whisk(e)y/brandy/rum/vodka, the pininess of his gin, the nausea of his tequila, and the bitterness of his beer, and avoids sweet wine if he can help it. Less often, coffee and tea are seen as more masculine if unsweetened (or if too hot to taste). It may still be played straight for other foods in cases of Testosterone Poisoning
, however. (There is also an association of Testosterone Poisoning with food containing unnecessary or enhanced (i.e. the vinegar content of vindaloo) amounts of chilli pepper
, however, for reasons that should be obvious.)
Compare with Sweet Tooth
and Real Women Never Wear Dresses
Contrast with Real Men Wear Pink
See also Real Men Eat Meat
Has nothing to do with Hitler Ate Sugar
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Anime and Manga
- The Capturing God Keima Katsuragi in The World God Only Knows hates sweets in any form, though he tried to overcome it when eating Elsie's cake (for her own sake).
- This is not only used in FLCL but is in fact a major plot point to show Naota's immaturity, by the fact that he hates spicy and sour food. The series starts and ends with Naota saying "I don't like sour stuff." This also extends to Amarao who also loves all things sweet and hates spicy and sour foods, show casing to the audience his immaturity as well.
- At one point Amarao makes some kind of speech about how sugar gives you energy and it's natural to like sweet things. He's trying to sound deep, like his supposed immaturity is really some big conspiratorial secret, but...well, it's Amarao.
- Hardcore martial artist Saotome Ranma of Ranma ˝ is a subversion of this trope: He personally loves ice cream, but would not be caught dead saying he does, much less going to restaurants and ordering it. Fortunately, he is able to turn into a cute girl when he comes in contact with cold water. This "curse" allows him to openly and gleefully order chocolate sundaes with a cherry on top in public; heck, he even uses his cuteness to scam free ice cream off the young and impressionable clerks!!
- The main character in the moe Gender Bender manga Moonlight Fromage is turned from an Eroge-loving 15-year-old boy into an adorable 15-year-old girl and transported from modern Japan to an alternate Elizabethan Europe. His caretaker is an absolutely moe teenage Tsundere who tends to cook with a lot of sugar. He initially pretends to like her sweet-tasting creamy spaghetti, but after spending a month or so as a girl, eventually grows to actually like it.
- Ouran High School Host Club: Hunny tries to stop liking sweets in order to seem more manly, but it doesn't work. In contrast, his brother Yasuchika despises sweets.
- Intentionally invoked in Otomen - Asuka tries to order bitter, salty, and/or sour foods (for example, having his coffee black) in order to appear more manly. He actually does prefer sweets, though, and loves to bake cookies and pastries (although he tries to hide that too). His Masquerade is so strong that girls in his class naturally assume he wouldn't want to try their cookies. His tomboyish girlfriend Ryo on the other hand likes hot and spicy foods and will gleefully order them though she doesn't hate sweets either.
- Naruto's Sasuke hates sweets, which may be a result of growing up too fast (or trying too hard) after seeing his family murdered before his eyes. This didn't seem to be the case before the massacre.
- His Aloof Big Brother Itachi's hobby is listed in the data books as visiting sweet shops. Make of that what you will.
- Gen from Kekkaishi can't stand anything sweet. This makes him a foil to Yoshimori, who aspires to be a prodigious baker and bake a cake castle for Tokine.
- In Fruits Basket, when Kagura tries to present Kyo with chocolate for Valentine's Day, he makes a big deal of how he's too manly to like sugary food. Shigure then rags on him by saying that the truly manly thing to do would be to suck it up and eat the chocolate rather than break a girl's heart by rejecting her gift.
- Very averted by Hetalia's Turkey, a very manly-looking Boisterous Bruiser who adores sweets. Considering how Turkish cuisine gives a lot of importance to desserts and all kinds of pastries, it's a Justified Trope.
- Subverted in The Secret Agreement, where it seems like Kyuusei rejects all sweets because of this and is subtly teasing Yuuichi for being unmanly. It turns out he was being literal about not being able to eat sugar as it actually kills people from their clan, and Yuuichi is only abnormal because he doesn't react to it until later in life.
- Shou of Skip Beat! dislikes anything that's too sweet, but claims to the public that he'll eat anything. This causes trouble when Mimori makes lunch and includes an eggroll that's too sweet. He tries to discreetly throw away the sweet parts, but his childhood friend Kyouko (who knows he doesn't like sweets but is holding a grudge against him) silently pressures him to eat the whole thing since Mimori worked hard to make it. Unfortunately for Kyouko, this helps Shou figure out who she is.
- Invoked and subverted in Bleach: Ichigo Kurosaki, a tough Anti-Hero... actually adores chocolate.
- D.Gray-Man: Completely averted with Skinn Bolic, The Brute and "Wrath" of the villainous Noah family led by the the Millennium Earl, and the one with the Hair-Trigger Temper. He is utterly obsessed with sweets, earning the nickname "Sweet Tooth" by one of his family members. When he is was served a boiled egg during a family meeting with the Earl for dinner, he went into an Unstoppable Rage and proceeded to ruthlessly beat and tear apart one of the Akuma (who are unwilling Slave Mooks) who served him for not following his orders to make it sweet.
- In Satisfaction Guaranteed, one of Anything, Inc.'s clients is a baker, and Shima complains about having to meet him at his pastry shop, which is frequented by teenage girls. APP tells him to quit whining and deal with it. Interestingly, it's the baker's female love interest who really dislikes sweets. She didn't want to hurt his feelings by telling him, but fortunately, he had already figured it out by the time she came in to confess and had gotten around that obstacle by making her a chicken pot pie.
- Black Bird: Kyo hates sweets to the point that he almost becomes nauseous from a taste of ice cream, but he still forces himself to eat the cake that his girlfriend Misao made.
- Fatally invoked in a filler episode of Detective Conan, where the local male sweet-hater who doubles as a massive Jerk Ass is killed when his coffee is laced with poison, with the only avaliable antidote being placed in a cake's icing (which he wouldn't eat for obvious reasons). The killer also poisoned a half-eaten bar of chocolate and switched it with one that was given to the victim as Valentines gift by his girlfriend, in an attempt to frame said girlfriend since the murderer knew the victim would take a bite of his chocolatey "enemy" to please her.
- In Dragon Ball Z, while Goku and Vegeta are exploring the insides of Buu, Vegeta expresses disgust at the abundance of sweets and total absence of meat in Buu's stomach.
- We once see the Crane Hermit getting upset when his student interrupts him in the middle of eating an ice cream parfait. Although Crane is quite strong, the trope is likely being invoked to demonstrated how immature he is.
- From Anpanman, Currypanman, the toughest of the superhero characters, hates sweet foods. This becomes a bit awkward for him when he saves the day during Valentine's Day, leading the girls he saved to give him tons of chocolates he has no intent on eating.
- Subverted spectacularly in Toriko where the titular character who lives in a house made of sweets, him eating it is a recurring problem.
- Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle: In Outo, Kurogane complains about Fay "forcing me to eat that awful, sweet junk! In the morning!!"
- Syaoran, on the other hand, thought the food was delicious. And it should come as no surprise that Fay himself cheerfully averts this trope.
- The corollary was used in GJ-bu. Kyoro, who is hardly a "real man" but a defeatist Nice Guy that the girls found harmless, once stated he didn't care for "real coffee" because it was too bitter, and prefers the over-sweetened canned coffee instead. He was immediately called "little kid" by Mao.
- According to Bruce Fernstein's book Real Men Don't Eat Quiche, not only do Real Men stay away from quiche, they never eat desserts of any kind, if it can be avoided.
- In one of the books in The Baby-Sitters Club series when Nicky Pike and Buddy Barrett refuse to eat cookies after having been teased for attending a "girly" sewing class.
Live Action TV
- In How I Met Your Mother this is commented on in several episodes, with the cuddly (but archetypal good boyfriend) Marshall upset that he can't have pink drinks with fruit in them or go to brunch by himself, because they're considered 'girly'.
- Gunpei in Engine Sentai Go-onger, though he will try to eat Saki's cake.
- Matt Kennedy Gould from The Joe Schmo Show is disgusted by the taste of chocolate. One challenge forced him to lick chocolate off of a woman's body. He spent half of the challenge choking and gagging at the taste.
- In one scene in Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Inspector Chelmey professes to hate sweets with such fervor that even the sight of them makes him nauseous, demanding that the serving boy get rid of the tea-cakes he's brought out. This turns out to be a key hint in exposing him as Don Paolo in disguise, when Layton and Luke find a newspaper article which casually mentions that it's a widely-known fact that the famous Inspector Chelmey loves his wife's sweet potato fritters.
- Raven in Tales of Vesperia. Ironically, he admits in a skit he knows how to bake sweets and did so to impress girls.
- Subverted by Yuri from the same game, who has an immense sweet tooth (as evidenced by the fact that his favorite recipes are desserts) in addition to being an immense badass.
- Leon in Tales of Destiny asserts this mindset whenever around the immature Stahn. Leon's favorite food? Flan served to him by his maid.
- A lot of characters in Blaze Union have trouble eating candy and even some kinds of fruit because of how sweet they are, but this isn't limited to just the men—Medoute, Sleip, Eudy, Emilia, and Baretreenu hate sweets too. Comically, the loud and proud manliest man of the party is a Sweet Tooth.
- Completely averted by the very manly Maxima, who openly mentions his love of sweets. Not to mention, he needs sweets to funcion since he triples as a Cyborg, a Technopath and a Genius Sweet Tooth — he must use his brains in a regular basis, and since glucose is the "fuel" for the brains...
- Gaius in Fire Emblem Awakening is basically a big "screw you" to this trope. He loves sweets, he makes his own sweets, many of his dialogue pieces mention sweets (even his love confession, in the English version of the game), and not only he's unashamed of it, but he's never seen as unmanly due to this trope. (At most, people are concerned about his health.)
- The crowning example of Gaius' sweet tooth: Chrom manages to get him to join your team by offering him sweets!
- In The World Ends with You, how much a character likes a food affects how well its status effect works, with the characters helpfully reacting with a soundbite of their reaction. Beat, The Big Guy, resident Dumb Muscle, and easily the manliest of the playable characters, reacts with outright disgust when the player tries to give him things like crepes and ice cream, while the other boys tend to be fairly ambivalent on them.
- Subverted by Mister Torgue, who at first glance looks like the sort of Boisterous Bruiser Testosterone Poisoning victim who would be all about grilling nearly-rare steaks and little else. While he does have machines that dispense bacon, Mister Torgue himself appears to live on chocolate chip cookies.
- Tomoya of CLANNAD admits that he doesn't really like sweets at all, in contrast to most of the girls, and especially Mei. This suits his more manly, but also more pessimistic and depressed outlook compared to the brighter, happier views of his love interests and friends.
- Yuichi of Kanon openly expresses that he hates sweets, and is delighted to hear Akiko's "special jam" doesn't taste sweet... until he tastes the jam in question.
- Parodied in Higurashi: When They Cry, where Keiichi is able to blackmail a star pitcher into throwing the game to the Hinamizawa home team by threatening to out him as a closet Sweet Tooth.
- "Men's Pocky," which is coated in substantially less sweet dark chocolate, the stick itself being made slightly bitter with unsweetened cocoa powder.
- In the 1990s Coors Brewing Company released a clear alcopop beverage called Zima. It was marketed as a masculine alcoholic beverage for men who didn't like beer. The marketing did not work: most of the people who drank Zima were women in their 20s, and among men it became the butt of jokes as guys who drank it were portrayed as being girly men.
- The same song and dance is still being done with Zima's dozens of successors like Mike's Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice, except that despite the aggressive marketing to men (especially for Mike's) and consumption mostly by women, these have been more successful overall.