The twenty-first century is marked by the rise of new forms of authoritarianism, many of which are characterized by the 'paradox of restraint', in which reforms compliant with the rule of law are used to unshackle the ruler's arbitrary power. Despite a proliferation of scholarly studies on this topic, we still have limited understanding of how national-level authoritarian power reaches ordinary citizens in these contexts. This article identifies the performance of militarized masculinities as an understudied mechanism that does so. It offers two main contributions: first, it highlights how performances of militarized masculinities enact the paradox of restraint through gendered idioms, thereby magnifying the ambiguities of modern authoritarianism and diffusing them at a local level. Second, it recasts the conceptual utility of militarized masculinities, showing that the concept's inherent tensions between ordered discipline and unaccountable violence produce and project authoritarian power, giving militarized masculinities special potency as a mode of social discipline in these contexts. The article draws on feminist International Relations, employing grounded ethnographic research to illustrate how national-level power circulates locally. To do so, it first illustrates the relationship between the paradox of restraint and militarized masculinities using the cases of Putin's Russia and Duterte's Philippines. It then turns to an in-depth case study of a local dispute between soldiers and civilians in Museveni's Uganda to trace how gendered local encounters facilitate the transmission of national-level authoritarian power into the lives of ordinary people.