Pascoe, C.J. 2007. Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School.

Pascoe, C.J. 2007. Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

  1. Making Masculinity

Inability to protect women casts a ghost of emasculation, reclaiming women as augmenting masculinity. Heterosexuality as central to framing of masculinity. Masculinity through a process of muscularization; effeminate and high-voices are used to highlight emasculation, homophobia. Male femininity cast as humorous, where female masculinity as celebrated. “… masculinity is not a homogenous category that any boy possesses by virtue of being male. Rather, masculinity- as constituted and understood in the social world […] is a configuration of practices and discourses that different youths (boys and girls) may embody in different ways and to different degrees” (5) – masculinity as associated with, but not inherent to male bodies – a form of dominance often expressed through sexualized discourses. Boys claim masculinity in belittling each other with homophobic taunts, and assert selves through heterosexist discussions of girls and their bodies, as well as boys’ sexual exploits. Racialized component – African American boys more likely to be punished for same masculinized practices. Gendering processes happen at situational, interactional, and individual levels. Turn of the 20th century, fear of feminization in many institutions – great concern with differentiating men from women (Kimmel 1996). Adoption of gender role was necessary for ‘proper’ adulthood (Pleck 1987)– instrumental and expressive roles’ centrality to functional society (Parsons 1954). However, multiplicity of masculinities (Connell 1995) – often organized in hierarchical, competitive relationships and roles to each other – men enact and embody different masculinities based upon positions within social hierarchies. “Hegemonic masculinity, the type of gender practice that, in a given time and space, supports gender inequality is at the top of this hierarchy. Complicit masculinity describes men who benefit from this hegemonic masculinity but do not enact it; subordinated masculinity describes men who are oppressed by definitions of hegemonic masculinity, primarily gay man; marginalized masculinity describes men who may be positioned powerfully in terms of gender but not in terms of class or race” (7). These arrangements may not be the same cross-culturally. However, number of men who are actually hegemonically masculine are few, but all men to some extent benefit from definitions of masculinity that subordinate – called patriarchal dividend (Connell 1995). Despite the call for this theory to be fluid and contested, HM often used to reinforce typologies. “While these masculinities may be posited as ideal types, they are sometimes difficult to use analyitically without lapsing into a simplistic categorical analysis” (8). Masculinities as plural can overpress the ability to shift from masculinity to masculinity, and detract from the examination of the overall gender-power structure. Also, internal contradictions to HM – how can slim businessman and poor muscular gang member be both HM? Defining masculinity as the actions of what male bodies/men do reinforces issues with binary categories (Fausto-Sterling 1995). Sexuality isn’t just a label of sexual orientation, but a form of power regardless of sexual identity – “sexuality refers to sex acts and sexual indentities, but it also encompasses a range of meanings associated with these acts and identities” (10). Meanings may vary by class, location, gender identity (Mahay, Laumann, and Michaels 2005) – these may be more important than sexual acts themselves (Weeks 1996). “The logic of sexuality not only regulates intimate relations but also infuses social relations and social structures” (S. Epstein 1994; Warner 1993). Integration of queer theory into analysis may deconstruct the assumption that sexuality is something that is inherent within male bodies, but more as a set of public/private meanings. “Bodies are the vehicles through which we express gendered selves; they are also the matter through which social norms are made concrete” (12). Gender is the “activity of managing situated conduct in light of normative conceptions of attitudes and activities appropriate for one’s sex category” (West and Zimmerman 1991, 127 here 13) – where behavior expectations are pressed into presumed sex categories. Butler (1999) builds on W&Z, saying that gender is accomplished through “a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being” (43 here 14) – referencing norm consolidates and perpetuates norm. However, challenging norms of masculinity and femininity through inverting them may serve to reify these categories as given. Gender (here, masculinity) as a process (Belderman 1995) and a field of power articulation (Scott 1999). Gender as often a relational process, in tune with peer groups and parental influences. Methods – formal interviews of 50 students, informal interviews of countless staff, students, administrators. Recruitment methods and compensation. Length of interviews. Offers appendix on the gendered challenges of interviewing adolescents. Fag as “not necessarily a static identity that attaches permanently to a certain (gay) boy’s body; rather, it is a fluid identity that boys struggle to avoid, often by lobbing the insult at others” (22) – the racialization of fag in different groups, different meanings and saliences. Masculinity as affirmed through compulsive heterosexuality, sex talk – fag is offered when boys are weak, lacking mastery over bodies of self and others.

  1. Becoming Mr. Cougar: Institutionalizing Heterosexuality and Masculinity at River High

Heterosexuality as built into customs of teenage rites of passage – normalizing heterosexuality in elementary school. Heterosexuality as formed through “heterosexual matrix” (Butler 1995) – “the public ordering of masculinity and femininity through meanings and practices of sexuality” (27) – gender and sexuality interlinked through informal and formal institutional practices – thus, gender and sexuality cannot be looked at as separate from the other. Practices preventing or addressing sexuality were highly gendered – in dress code, sex education, in making references to cross-sex friendships, in offering examples to class concepts. Condoms, for example here act as “cultural objects” – “something that tells a story about the culture in which it is found” (Griswold 1994, here 34). Often staff would let homophobic or sexist comments slide – not as an expression of personal bias, but as a way to build rapport with students – despite reproducing –isms. Rituals as key to formation/continuation of society (Durkheim 1995; Turner 1966) – a means of establishing morality and values. “[…] rituals are symbolic, bodily performances that affirm in- and out-groups, the normal and the abnormal” (Light 2000, Quantz 1999), “reproducing dominant understands of race, gender, and class” (Foley 1990). School rituals don’t just reflect heteronormative gender difference, they actually affirm its values and centrality to social life” (40). Sexuality and discipline as policed in a racial way – presumptions of Black hypersexuality was reinforced through informal instructions and disciplinary actions that were not offered to other students, despite sexualized acts.

  1. Dude, You’re a Fag: Adolescent Male Homophobia

Homophobia as central to adolescent masculinity, often passed down by older boys. “Fag is not only an identity linked to homosexual boys but an identity that can temporarily adhere to heterosexual boys as well. The fag trope is also a racialized disciplinary mechanism […] becoming a fag has as much to do with failing at the masculine tasks of competence, heterosexual prowess, and strength or in any way revealing weakness or femininity as it does with a sexual identity” (53-54). Fag as incompetence, fag as immasculine. “Male homosexuality is not pathologized, but gay male effeminacy is. The lack of masculinity is the problem, not the sexual practice or orientation” (59). 1970’s erased homosexuality in the DSM, but Gender Identity Disorder in its wake – girls had to assert boy-identification; boys had to simply be interested in feminine activities. Practices of mocking performed effeminacy or same-sex desire, concreting the derogation of these behaviors and identities, participation in this to demonstrate and emphasize non-fagness. Perceived hypersexuality of blacks makes whiteness stand in for the fag spectre – where same behaviors often resulted in very different outcomes. Use of “cool pose” “unique, expressive, and conspicuous styles of demeanor, speech, gesture, clothing, hairstyle, walk, stance and handshake” (Majors 2001, 211 here 72) to demonstrate resistance to institutional racism – use of styles of femininity without risking fag label. Clothing and dancing (within this group) is not fagged, but used to define membership in cultural and racial groups (Perry 2002) – often in terms of a class status. (Resources for racialized masculinities – Bucholtz 1999; Connell 1995; J. Davis 1999; Ferguson 2000; Majors 2001; Price 1999; Ross 1998)

  1. Compulsive Heterosexuality: Masculinity and Dominance

Sex talks (particularly explicit sex talk about heterosexual interactions) within homosocial environments – not truly about sexual orientation, but centrality of “the ability to exercise mastery and dominance literally or figuratively over girls’ bodies” (Wood 1984, here 86). Will and dominance here augments boys’ subjectivity and autonomy, historically thought of as masculine (Jaggar 1983; Mackinnon 1982) – dominance as central to contemporary masculinity (Peirce 1995). Offers compulsive heterosexualityto build off of Rich (1986)’s compulsory heterosexuality – heterosexuality as a “political institution” (23) – as well as sexual desire, practice, and orientation. Gender inequality sustained through women’s heterosexual assertion of male physical, economic, and emotional access. Compulsive heterosexuality (Kimmel 1987) as gender performativity – repetitions of gender conventions and ritual – “an excitement felt as sexuality in a male supremacist culture which eroticizes male dominance and female submission” (Jeffreys 1998, 75 here 87). “Getting” girls as a function to demonstrate domination. Coercion (even while harmless) works to overcome girls’ resistance to male desire (Hird and Jackson 2001) – ‘predation’ of girls. Touch (particularly cross-sex) reinforces power, and hierarchy (Henley 1977), use of rape narratives or homosocial cross-sex threats of rape to demonstrate power and control over others’ bodies. Girls as having out-of-control bodies, whereas boys could work to control their own, as well as girls. Girls “bargain with patriarchy” to gain social power by submitting to sexist institutions and practices.

  1. Look at My Masculinity: Girls Who Act Like Boys

Girls that “gender maneuver” – moving in and out of masculine identifications (Schippers 2002) – “By engaging in public practices that students associated with masculinity (certain clothing styles, certain sexual practices, and interactional dominance), these girls called into question the easy association of masculinity with male bodies” (116). Gender resistance can, but does not always challenge sexism (Gagne and Tewksbury 1998). Female masculinity as something to be celebrated in youth (Halberstam 1998), but often disciplined in adolescence. “Eroticizing women’s same-sex relationships renders them harmless and nonthreatening to the gender order” (Rich 1986). Gender and sexual transgressions for girls often increase social status. Hip hop appropriation by women often is used to express agency and convey independence (Emerson 2002). “Ventriloquation” used by girls to engaged and adopt boys’ language and points of view (Brown 1998). Use of objects in place of masculinity, as replacement of phallus? Butler (1993) – doing gender differently can destabilize gender order and naturalness of masculinity and femininity’s association with particular bodies.

  1. Conclusion: Thinking about Schooling, Gender, and Sexuality

Race and gender meanings cannot often be understood if they are analyzed separately (Combahee River Collective 1981; Collins 1990; V. Smith 1994, Zinn and Dill 1996). “African American boys’ relationships with the fag discourse and compulsive heterosexuality reflected their positioning in American society as simultaneously hypersexual, dangerous men and utterly failed men (Ross 1998). Girls focus on boys’ sexual desire and practices, not their own (Tolman 2005). Political action, parody, and play – (a la Geertz’ deep play – construction of world) – performative gender transgression and gender play are not necessarily progressive acts – but may highlight or enhance boundaries of current gender order (Jackson 1996).

Appendix – adopting an ‘least-gendered’ identity – “a woman who possessed masculine cultural capital” (176) in a realm where gendering practices may shape interactions – participating in highlighting of masculine practices and interests to gain rapport and to ensure access. The lack of gendering of “outsider” status – (^other literature frequently feminizes or masculinizes outsiders). Girls, however, often used racialized understandings of gender to communicate femininity (or masculine femininity). Age differences can bring about unique issues (Baker 1983; Weber, Miracle, and Skehan 1994).

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