Narcissists in general, regardless of sex, will continuously manipulate to get what they want. They usually show certain symptoms pretty universally – grandiosity, an inflated sense of self-importance and they tend to feel “superior” to others around them, whether they say that out loud or not.
Since their feelings of superiority are typically “bloated” versions of the truth, most narcs – male and female – spend a lot of time focusing on reinforcing their fragile self-perceptions – and that leads to their various forms of manipulation.
I read about a study awhile back that offered a few key findings about the major differences between male and female narcs, and in my own experience, a lot of the findings were true.
So, to begin with, men will often use a lot of force, directly or indirectly, to sort of “assert” themselves and their superiority over others, while women who are narcissists will take a different form – usually a bit more of narcissistic injury or even seduction.
Some of the interesting findings included these key differences.
Male narcissists, but not female narcissists, will use a face-saving tactic called “self-handicapping.”
This is defined as “a course of action to protect or enhance one’s self-evaluation in the fae of an evaluation threat.”
In layman’s terms, that means that male narcs try to appear confident, but if they fear they will fail, they will “self-handicap” to avoid having to perform at all – they use this tactic to avoid feeling or seeming incompetent.
According to the study authors, this kind of manipulation is directly connected to a “failure in empathic responding by the mother, resulting in both males and females developing a deficient internalized structure of self. Strategies developed to compensate for it may take on different forms in the males and female.”
For example, the authors added, “mothers may be responding to boys as a significant other figure (e.g. husband), but to girls as an extension of self. As a result, each gender uses different psychological resources to cope with the same deficient internalized structure of self.”
Also from the study:
“Male narcissists tend to make excessive efforts to assert their superiority over others. This behavior, to explicitly dominate and otherwise behave in line with their self-interests, is socially acceptable for males in much of western society. However, such behavior by females would reap fewer benefits. They endeavor to achieve their narcissistic goals through more subtle, indirect, and affiliative means that conform with expectations of their sex role and the pressure of different social constraints.”
Other points of note:
- Female narcissists will use their bodies to get what they want, in many cases, and this includes their sexuality.
- Female narcissists are more likely to have an eating disorder than male narcisssists.
- Female narcs are more likely to have issues with getting older, especially when they use their bodies or sexuality to get what they want.
- Female narcissists are more likely to secure their supply sources at home by controlling her family directly and using guilt to help secure her control.
- Female narcissists tend to be less openly over-confident than male narcs, who get much of their over-inflated confidence from inside their own heads – but females are more likely to take secret pleasure in their own perceived superiority over others.
- Female narcissists are more likely to spend money frivolously while males are more likely to believe that money gives them power, control, status and related conditions. (Neither concerns himself/herself with shame or remorse, of course).
- While both female and male narcs are known to cheat, males are more likely to be serial adulterers. Females are more likely to idealize a guy and then emasculate him when they get him under their “spell.” In both cases, the more their partners give, the more they want and take from them – it’s an insatiable need for supply.
- Male narcs often see their kids as mostly a pain in the ass, as well as competition for the attention of their main forms of narcissistic supply (generally their wives and mothers), while females see the kids as an extension of themselves, even well into adulthood. So when the kid does good things, narc moms take credit – and when they do things that mom doesn’t like, a narc mom will take it very personally.
- Male narcissists are likely to treat other men as rivals or competition, while females are more likely to go nose-to-nose with other women in a more underhanded way (which often resembles “friendship” to the untrained eye).
While this list isn’t all-encompassing, it does offer you a general overview of both male and female narcissists and their various differences in behaviors.
What do you think? Have your experiences been similar? What would you add? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.