Grazian, David. 2007. “The Girl Hunt: Urban Nightlife and the Performance of Masculinity as Collective Activity.” Symbolic Interaction 30(2): 221-243.
Historically, sexualized environments have been markers of downtown zones’ nightlife (see also Bernstein 2001; Chatterton and Hollands 2003; Chauncey 1994; Kenney 1993; Owen 2003) – where popular venues enforce sexualized dress norms, also encouraging flirtation/physical contact/courtship, as they are enhanced by attractive staff and the “promise” of sexualized interaction (between?) customers (Allison 1994; Lloyd 2005; Spradely and Mann 1975) – casting them as “direct sexual marketplaces” (here 221, possibly see also Laumann et al 2004) where customers seek potential sex partners – thus, a good place to observe process of “doing gender” a la W+Z.
Purpose: performance of male-initiated heterosexual flirtation as a tool to objectify women, and thus bolster personal performances of masculinity – moving sexual behaviors from an individual to a homosocial, group endeavor.
Masculinity as range of varied performances carried out through face-to-face interactions (Goffman 1959, 1977; W+Z 1987) – only appearing natural as we carry out institutional myths (learned through everyday interactions, thus marked as social reality). Masculinity socialized by a variety of actors to adhere to ideal cultural beliefs of manhood: “physically strong, powerful, independent, self-confident, efficacious, dominant, active, persistent, responsible, dependable, aggressive, courageous, and sexually potent” (222, see also Donaldson 1993; Messner 2002; Mishkind et al 1986) – sexualized through competition, emotional detachment, insatiable heterosexuality commonly/not exclusively displayed by the sexual objectification of women (Bird 1996), and firmed by competitive “scoring” (Messner 2002). As emerging adults (18-25 – kx^ strong demographic of festival-going men), young men display overlap of ideal traits along with emotional immaturity, insecure body image, and sexual insecurities present in late adolescence (Mishkind et al 1986).
“Whereas the ideological basis of girl hunting stresses vulnerability, weakness, and submissiveness as conventional markers of femininity, young women commonly challenge these stereotypes through articulating their own physical strength, emotional self-reliance, and quick wit during face-to-face encounters with men” (223, see also Duneier and Molotch 1999; Hollander 2002; Paules 1991; Snow et al 1991) – so why girl hunt, if chances of sexual success are so slim?
Girl hunting as homosocial activity – “Here, one’s male peers are the intended audience for competitive games of sexual reputation and peer status, public displays of situational dominance and rule transgression, and in-group rituals of solidarity and loyalty” (224) – as well as providing a psychological bolster to collectively soften the inherent rejections, despite the intended purpose of seeking romantic/sexual encounters – or act as witnesses/validators to success of “member,” viewing it as a shared victory.
Young people are likely to experiment (self-consciously) with public behavior styles (see Arnett 1994, 2000). “Girl watching” as collective form of sexual harassment (Quinn 2002).
Connell (1995), Messner (2002) – hegemonic masculinity is sustained through actions of minority, bolstered by silence and complicity of majority who benefit from the sexual objectification of men. Hegemonic masculinity is “to a significant degree constituted in men’s interactions with women” (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005:850). Dominant men earn social prestige within girl hunt as in other sexual contests (Wright 1995).
Idealization of abundant/variety of willing female sexual partners (Kimmel and Plante 2005), enhancing homosocial deployment of competitive sex talk – over real and imaginary sexual exploits (Bird 1996) — despite its creation of highly unrealistic sexual/gender expectations for men seeking in-group status, may temporarily mobilize/energize group members to act – “mobilizing masculinity” (Martin 2001). Homosocial encounters demand accountability between group members in their interactions with women, frequently increasing vigilance that polices compliance with hegemonic masculine ideals – even when men disagree with those expectations (Connell 1995; Demetriou 2001) – supporting HM through complicit masculinity (does not challenge HM, and thus receives patriarchal dividend) – under guise of loyalty/dependability, associated with masculinity (Martin and Hummer 1989; Mishkind et al 1986).
Participation in rituals of confidence-building, usually accompanied by affirmations of heterosexual prowess and masculine superiority, use of alcohol (“pre-gaming”) to build cohesion and confidence. Offers opportunity to learn/consume popular cultural texts, which are used to create cohesion, speech norms, etc. – constructing shared cultural frames that offer importance and meaning to girl hunt — enabled by “globally distributed mass media texts [… that] supply audiences with a familiar set of shared discursive strategies and symbolic resources that influence daily social behavior pertaining to gender and sexual expression at a more localized level” (231, see also Connell and Messerschmidt 2005; Swidler 2001).
The purpose of the girl hunt (as performance of normative masculinity) – “the collectivity of the endeavor allows peer group members to successfully enact traditional gender roles even when they ultimately fail at the sexual pursuit itself. Again, the performance of masculinity does not necessarily require success at picking up women, just so long as one participates in the endeavor enthusiastically in the company of men” (235).
Collins (1981): “the very foundations of the macrosocial world and its institutions can be reduced to the agglomeration of everyday face-to-face encounters conducted among humans over time” (here 236 – only reference Collins as see also cite). Repeated “generic processes” (such as identity work, boundary maintenance, etc.) “all contribute to the reproduction of inequality through frequent deployment in varied social contexts” (237, see also Schwalbe et al 2000).
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