Wilkins, A.C. 2009. “Masculinity Dilemmas: Sexuality and Intimacy Talk among Christians and Goths.”

Wilkins, Amy C. 2009. “Masculinity Dilemmas: Sexuality and Intimacy Talk among Christians and Goths.” Signs 34(2): 343-368.

Subcultures as ways to navigate transitions between adolescence and adulthood – masculinity, however, in both groups, achieve similar things in Christian and goth groupings, by loosening expectations of masculinity – “by crafting masculinity projects out of available cultural resources” (343).

“Hegemonic masculinity, then, is a constellation of cultural ideas about “real men” that maintain men’s dominance over both women and other men. This cultural ideal creates among men a hierarchy of access to status, power, and esteem, since some men are better able to approximate it than others. No man, however, is able to fully embody it. Thus, the elusive ideal of hegemonic masculinity creates particular gender dilemmas for different boys and men as they struggle to create socially recognized masculinities” (343). Heterosexuality and stoicism as central (linked) components of HM – assumptions of particular gendered ways to be heterosexual. Subcultures become sites to create conditions where alternative heterosexual performances can be ‘staged’ – creation of new (collective) meanings of masculinity. Observation of plurality of masculinities, as well as patterns within them – yet, despite creating more flexible articulations of manhood, Wilkins says that they both fail to challenge gendered power hierarchies. Challenges to ‘real masculinity’ creates some cultural space for wider forms of masculine identity and action (Schippers 2002; see also Anderson 2005). Refers to Pascoe (2003) – where high-status boys could exhibit “feminine” characteristics, however, lower-status boys could not – claiming masculinity could be done by claiming high-status behaviors.


“Challenges to undesirable or restrictive dimensions of masculinity not only are compatible with continued male dominance but may even further it. In addition, the historical and contextual specificity of hegemonic masculinity gives men more latitude in their masculine negotiations than is commonly recognized” (346).


FRAME YOUR WHITENESS AND CLASSNESS IN THIS WAY: “But while there are no formal boundaries to participation in either group, both are overwhelmingly white and middle class, reflecting the general pattern of segregated associations common among white young people. Like most white people (see Bonilla-Silva 2003), the participants do not think of their projects in terms of race or class, even while participants are culled from class-stratified institutions (colleges and universities) and participation requires substantial economic expenditures (for clothes, going out, spring break trips, etc.)” (348).


Achieving masculinity in a cultural system that sees some subcultural practices as unmasculine. Harrassment or isolation as a penalty for not meeting cultural masculine criteria (Eder 1995): such as toughness, athleticism, social visibility, heterosexuality, power over others (Eder 1995; McGuffey and Rich 1999). Technological and academic skills of “geekiness” as providing long-term masculine resources (Cooper 2000), but may have immediate penalties toward masculinity.


Subcultural sites as a way to transform identities – taking instances of gender marginalization and transforming them into subcultural virtues (Schwalbe and Mason-Schrock 1996) – identities that are chosen, are used to claim identity, masculinity. Use of abstinence (lack of sex) to redirect onto other masculine practices, identities. Mullaney (2001) casts “identities based on ‘not doings’” as identities to be demonstrated – people must know that there isn’t an absence, but instead, a resistance to the not-done.


***See goth section for framing of sexuality (carnivalesque, encouraging of ‘freakery’) as a way for men to heterosexually benefit – transforming themselves into desirable forms, inversion of gendered sexual norms [girls are sexually aggressive, etc.- viewed by women as empowering, but is not viewed by men as disempowering]


Men’s bisexuality practices- the separation of sex acts from orientations and identities:

“By refusing to relinquish their identities as straight, despite bisexual behavior, goth men are able to maintain the privileges of heterosexuality and to maintain some distance from a potentially discrediting association with gay men. Further, as “completely straight” men, they can experience physical intimacy with other men within the safe confines of the goth scene without worrying about a relationship with another man that could spill over into their outside lives. They can thus avoid the social and political costs of either a gay identity or a relationship with another man. By sidestepping a flexible sexual identity, they also maintain clarity about their core selves; because they think about themselves as coherently straight, they will never have to do any narrative work to realign their stories with the dominant heterosexual script. In short, this strategy makes them hip without making them gay” (358).

“symbolic bisexuality”


Both groups utilize language that promotes their own morality, casting themselves as better or more desirable than other masculinities, reverting back to gender essentialism – earning status in ways that, despite outward equality in rules for all genders, benefit men more so than women.



Anderson, Eric. 2005. “Orthodox and Inclusive Masculinity: Competing Masculinities among Heterosexual Men in a Feminized Terrain.” Sociological Perspectives 48(3):337–55.

Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. 2003. Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Cooper, Marianne. 2000. “Being the ‘Go-to Guy’: Fatherhood, Masculinity, and the Organization of Work in Silicon Valley.” Qualitative Sociology 23(4):379– 405.

Eder, Donna. 1995. School Talk: Gender and Adolescent Culture. With Catherine Colleen Evans and Stephen Parker. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

McGuffey, C. Shawn, and B. Lindsay Rich. 1999. “Playing in the Gender Transgression Zone: Race, Class, and Hegemonic Masculinity in Middle Childhood.” Gender and Society 13(5):608–27.

Mullaney, Jamie. 2001. “Like a Virgin: Temptation, Resistance, and the Construction of Identities Based on ‘Not-Doings.’” Qualitative Sociology 24(1):3–24.

Pascoe, C. J. 2003. “Multiple Masculinities? Teenage Boys Talk about Jocks and Gender.” American Behavioral Scientist 46(10):1423–38.

Schippers, Mimi. 2002. Rockin’ Out of the Box: Gender Maneuvering in Alternative Hard Rock. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Schwalbe, Michael, and Douglas Mason-Schrock. 1996. “Identity Work as Group Process.” In Advances in Group Processes, vol. 13, ed. BarryMarkovsky,Michael J. Lovaglia, and Robin Simon, 113–47. Greenwich, CT: JAI.


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