This article was downloaded by: [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL]On: 08 November 2011, At: 00:30Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Culture, Health & Sexuality Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/tchs20 The cool, the bad, the ugly, and the powerful: identity struggles in schoolboy peer culture a Kaymarlin Govender a School of Psychology, Howard College, University of KwaZulu- Natal, Durban, South Africa Available online: 27 Jun 2011To cite this article: Kaymarlin Govender (2011): The cool, the bad, the ugly, and the powerful:identity struggles in schoolboy peer culture, Culture, Health & Sexuality, 13:8, 887-901To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2011.586436PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use: http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsThis article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representationthat the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of anyinstructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primarysources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings,demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
Culture, Health & Sexuality Vol. 13, No. 8, September 2011, 887–901 The cool, the bad, the ugly, and the powerful: identity struggles in schoolboy peer culture Kaymarlin Govender* School of Psychology, Howard College, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South AfricaDownloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 (Received 26 August 2010; ﬁnal version received 4 May 2011) Drawing upon a one-year-long ethnography of boys’ constructions of their gender and sexual identities in one South African high school, this paper seeks to empirically explore and theorise how 58 grade 10 and grade 11 working-class boys create and seek out spaces among their male peers from which to cultivate their masculinities through heterosexual discourses, including being ‘at risk’ of getting AIDS. In this study, boys’ daily struggles of trying to straddle the divide between hypersexual versus homosexual/effeminate versions of masculinity both subverted and reinforced hegemonic gender/sexual relations in the school context. Being caught up in this restrictive grip of heteronormativity meant that there were few spaces in male peer culture to resist hegemonic masculinity. The ‘responsible male/controlled’ position is indicative of one such space in which boys attempted to resist forms of hyper-sexuality. While this position cannot really be viewed as progressive, it nevertheless allowed boys to re-position themselves as moral agents through an assertion of control over their sexuality. Given the presence of these identity struggles, this paper, in general, suggests that interventions with boys need to cautiously explore these tensions/contradictions in identity making as opportunities to cultivate more gender sensitive and less violent discourses on masculinity. Keywords: masculinities; heterosexuality; schooling; AIDS; South Africa Introduction Numerous local and international researchers in the area of gender and identity have drawn attention to an apparent ‘crisis’1 in contemporary forms of masculinity, marked by uncertainties over social role and identity, sexuality, work and personal relationships – which often manifest in excessive violence in heterosexual relationships (Frosh, Phoenix, and Pattman 2002; Segal 1990; Wetherell and Edley 1998). If there is such a crisis, it presumably has roots in a range of social phenomena. Frosh, Phoenix and Pattman (2002) assert that these include the collapse of traditional men’s work, the growth of a technological culture that cannot be ‘passed on’ in any recognisable manner between generations, the rise of feminist consciousness among women (and men) and, more abstractly, challenges to the dominance of forms of rationality with which masculinity has been identiﬁed, at least in the West. In South Africa, the dramatic changes experienced since the advent of democracy have created the ideal context for this so called crisis. Representative markers of this crisis include the coming into power of a new Black leadership in government and the calling *Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ISSN 1369-1058 print/ISSN 1464-5351 online q 2011 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/13691058.2011.586436 http://www.informaworld.com
888 K. Govender into question of the privileged position of middle-class heterosexual white men, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, racialised conﬂicts in sport (rugby and cricket) and high levels of unemployment among young men (Morrell 1998). The crisis of masculinity has been further exacerbated by the adoption of the new Constitution, which fully legitimises the right-to-choice of sexual preference and the central place of women in society. The crisis in masculinity both reﬂects and contributes to the production of a parallel developmental crisis for boys engaged in the process of identity construction, in a context in which there are few clear models and in which the surrounding images of masculinity are complex and confused. This situation is also reﬂected in the way masculinities, particularly those of young heterosexual men, have been seen as problematic within SouthDownloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 African society (Shefer, Strebel, and Foster 2000; Wood and Jewkes 2001). In fact, Lindegger and Durrheim (2001) argue that in terms of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the social, cultural and historical construction of hegemonic2 masculinity has produced a distinctive pattern of hyper-sexual behaviours, including violence, sexual assault and rape and the pursuit of multiple sexual partners. Further, the public proﬁling of sex and sexuality has become a central feature of the post-apartheid landscape. Young men in South Africa are confronted with conﬂicting messages based on views of their parents, the church as well as ‘traditional’ culture and ideas of global youth culture, where, in the latter, sex is the object of public consumption which eroticises possession and accumulation as symbols of sexual prowess and libido (Dolby 2001). For young men in South Africa, global culture becomes the ground on which identities are negotiated. Aspirations to macho status (popular male) like an expensive car, ﬂashy designer clothing and multiple sexual partners have become signiﬁers of their sexual bravado (Selikow, Zulu, and Cedras 2002). In South Africa, while boys in different race communities may be on different trajectories in this modernising project, this is being increasingly mediated by a new shared world that takes on a particular expression in the school context. For these young men, schooling is associated with sexuality in rich and complicated ways (Epstein and Johnson 1998). Pascoe (2003, 1425) argues that peer groups within the school are ‘hierarchically ranked and infused with gender meaning’. Studies with working-class boys indicate that young men who fail to subscribe to these traditional forms of masculine identity are reprimanded and subjected to bullying, cruelty and social exclusion (Brozo, Walter, and Placker 2002; Reed 1999). They are often branded as homosexual and, as a result, feminised by being labelled as ‘fag’, ‘homo’, ‘sissy’ (Martino and Berrill 2003; Pascoe 2003). Further, Martino and Kehler (2006, 96) identiﬁed how ‘being cool’ is integral to maintaining the public face of successful heterosexual masculinity amongst one’s peers. Being cool is fulﬁlled through different means such as sport, aggressive or violent behaviour, heterosexual success, objectiﬁcation of women, the avoidance of feminine traits and behaviours and punishing others for deviating from the set standard of masculinity. Building on this literature, I conceptualise masculinities, in this study, as the institutional, relational and identity-related conceptions of selves operating within a gendered context. The idealised conception of the ‘real man’ pressures young boys to differentiate themselves from gay men, women and heterosexual success and failure. The considerable power invested in masculinity means that part of being a heterosexual success involves a continuous struggle to exercise power over women and other men. This paper is concerned with an examination of current-day constructions of schoolboy masculinities against the backdrop of the current socio-political landscape in post- apartheid South Africa. I describe my experiences with 58 working-class boys in order to
Culture, Health & Sexuality 889 explore and critique the various ways in which boys understood themselves and their relationships with their peers in the era of AIDS. More speciﬁcally, I attempt to demonstrate that hegemonic masculinity is not necessarily a monolithic and essentialist concept. Boys’ daily identity struggles, particularly in the presence of their male peers, produced a range of subject positions which could be characterised as simultaneously reinforcing and subverting prevailing hegemonies. While the need to enact ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ was overwhelming, I contend that the ‘sexually responsible/controlled position’, as evidenced in this study, holds some promise for less hyper-sexual versions of masculinity in our context.Downloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 Theoretical framework: discursive production of selves Wetherell and Edley’s research on masculinities (Edley 2001; Edley and Wetherell 1995) provides a signiﬁcant contribution to debates at the heart of feminism and discursive psychology. Wetherell and Edley’s discursive approach is based on a combination of ideas from feminism, post-structuralism and ethnomethodology. At the centre is a growing consensus that language lies at the heart of understanding men and masculinity, with many writers now insisting that hegemonic masculinity (and gender more generally) is something constructed in and through discourse.3 The brand of discursive psychology employed within this perspective unites a post- structuralist approach that builds on Foucauldian theory of discourse, power and the subject, with an interactionalist view that elaborates on conversation analysis and ethnomethodology (Wetherell and Edley 1998). Conversational analysis focuses on how human agents use language as building blocks of conversation (also referred to as ‘interpretive repertoires’, see Edley ) to do things such as blame, criticise or present themselves in particular ways in relation to lived ‘ideological dilemmas’ (Billig 1991). The post-structuralist perspective, which employs Foucauldian ideas, examines discourse, power and subjectivity. Here, analytical concepts like regimes, discursive practices and subject positions are used to highlight the ways in which individuals are inscribed through macro discourses, causing particular kinds of selves to appear. This discursive approach ‘de-centres’ the subject as the agent of meaning. Some ´ subject positions (Davies and Harre 1990) are more temporary or even ﬂeeting and always dependent upon the changing ﬂow of positions we negotiate within social interaction. Burr (1995) asserts that in the struggle to ‘deﬁne a situation’, many kinds of subject positions are drawn by participants from moment to moment and these may be offered, accepted, claimed or resisted by the participants. In this sense discursive practices are procedures-in- action enacted through which ‘men live/talk/do masculinity, which is intensely local (situated or realised) and global (dependent on broader conditions of intelligibility)’ (Wetherell and Edley 1998, 353). Methods Context and sample This paper was part of a larger study on boys’ experiences of heterosexuality in the school context. I collected data over a period of one year (2002 – 2003) in 10 peer group interviews with Indian and Black youth. In total, 58 boys participated in the study, with approximately 4– 5 learners per peer group. The participants in this study attended co- educational secondary schools in the working-class community of Phoenix (North West outskirts of the Durban Metro Region in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa). Phoenix is a
890 K. Govender former Indian township, where Gandhi founded a small ashram (Hindu temple) in 1904. The low-cost homes in the surrounding area had been built, in the apartheid days, for the Indian community. Indian and Black working-class families now live in this area. Black learners comprised approximately 25 –30% of the learner population at the two schools where I conducted this study. I purposely sampled older grade 11 boys because much of the empirical research suggests that identity issues of sexuality, gender and sexual practice are critical areas of self-formation during this period. The age range of boys in the sample was primarily between 17– 19 years. A review of research studies by Eaton, Flisher and Aaron (2003) in South Africa during the 1990s suggests that at least 50% of young people in South AfricaDownloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 are sexually active by age 16, and probably 80% by the age of 20. I accessed learners using snowball-sampling method. Babbie and Mouton (2003, 167) explain that ‘snowball’ refers ‘to the process of accumulation as each located participant suggests other participants. This sampling procedure allowed me to elicit greater participation from boys because they could be accessed in the comfort of their friendship groups which were usually grade-based mixed ‘race’ friendship groups. Privileging boy’s voices Establishing rapport with boys entailed interacting with them in their comfortable surroundings, away from the disciplinary gaze of the teacher. This involved spending considerable time during the break periods and sometimes after school talking to boys about themselves and their relationships with other learners. They were eager to talk in friendship groups, which were usually marked by boisterous performances. Discussions with boys were roughly structured according to an interview schedule with open-ended questions that related to experiences of sex, relationships with girls, views on sexual risk behaviours and HIV/AIDS. The length of the peer interviews varied between 45 minutes and 1 hour. The focus-group interview used in this study has particular merit in focusing on ‘the co-construction of meaning, [and] the dynamic negotiation of meaning in context’ (Wilkinson 1998, 112). My experience of the focus groups suggested that boys liked this better, mainly because they felt ‘freer’ and partly because they talked in very general terms about boy-girl relationships and sexual practice. Boys appeared more at ease, were funnier and were able to be free with their friends. Privileging the voices of boys as active subjects was a key working principle informing the research process. Rather than, for example, changing the subject if boys were sexist or homophobic, I tried to stick with their collectively produced and enacted accounts with different individuals contributing to common and clearly familiar stories about identities, relationships and experiences. During these sessions, I engaged more often in seeking clariﬁcation as well as challenging boys on issues as they built on each others’ contributions. Like Pattman (2007), I did not see the interviews as instruments for eliciting truths about boy’s experiences but as particular contexts (in this instance, the male peer space) where boys were performing, displaying and experiencing aspects of boyhood. Transcription4 and data analysis It is important to note that researching young people necessarily means reconstructing the identity of the researcher. As an adult, educated Indian man, I simultaneously experienced being a stranger as well as being familiar with this context. During the research process, I
Culture, Health & Sexuality 891 experienced a range of emotions. I was highly aware of feelings of friendship that I developed for some boys who ‘opened up’ to me and were keen to conﬁde in me. Sometimes, the feelings I had were contradictory, for example, when boys were open about homophobia, bullying and violence. My non-judgemental approach to boys meant that, in this brief space of time, some were supported and strengthened through their participation in this research but some were undermined by my responses to them. For example, when one boy told me about being teased as a nerd, I was very sympathetic and I felt angered towards the perpetrators. While I advocated anti-stigmatisation, I felt helpless to intervene in any way. These types of encounters with boys were very frustrating moments for me. Throughout the study, I used Edley’s (2001) method of discourse analysis. My ﬁrstDownloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 step in analysing the transcripts was, therefore, to read and re-read the focus group transcripts, making impressionistic notes. In this stage, I generated a wide range of interpretative repertoires. By looking at the different ways in which people can talk about boys, men and masculinity, one begins to understand the kinds of limitations that exist for construction of ‘self’ and ‘the other’. I then coded the transcripts for repertoires of the heterosexual male performer (e.g. ‘the cool boys’, ‘the bad boys’, ‘the ugly boys’ etc). I also coded for ‘self’ versus ‘the other’ ´ positions (Harre and Van Langenhove 1999), with the accorded speaking rights associated with a particular position. I also noted rhetorical strategies that were employed by participants to justify particular subject positions within opposing discourses and how these emerged as co-constructions in discussions. In my analysis, I cross referenced my material with other studies (Potter and Wetherell 1987) in order to locate my analysis within a larger theoretical framework. I found that this iterative process between theory and ﬁndings enabled me to develop a line of argument for how this study contributed to understandings of boyhood in this context. Findings: repertoires of the heterosexual male performer According to the ‘male sex drive’, men are socialised to compete, conquer and suppress emotional expression and feelings (Campbell, Mzaidume, and Williams 1998; Shefer, Strebel, and Foster 2000). The man initiates and controls heterosexual interactions and real sex is deﬁned as penetration, a behaviour characterised by active doing to another person (e.g. ‘making love’, ‘getting laid’, ‘fucking’). In the following sections I draw on some poignant discussions that I encountered with different friendship groups. Appropriating the heterosexual subject position: ‘the cool boys’ There was a strong agreement among the boys I interviewed that the ‘doing’ heterosexuality requires initiating and pursuing sexual opportunities with girls and older women. Strategies that boys commonly used to initiate interaction with girls included small talk, compliments and sometimes direct sexual invitations. Boys also talked about non-verbal cues such as eye-contact, smiling and touching. Three older Grade 11 boys – Daryl, Sham and Pregs – vividly relate their experiences of ‘talking up’ girls at house parties, a popular forum for sexual congress, when parents were away: Sham (17 years old): . . . we talk for a while, and I’ll tell her: ‘You have lovely eyes and a sweet voice’. And they fall for it. Daryl (18 years old): And sometimes, I can say: ‘Hey! Those legs are sexy’. I get a boner (others laugh). Interviewer: And then?
892 K. Govender Pregs (17 years old): Ja! I tune (talk) with them. Ja! They like the attention. Sham: Ja! They like that. [ ] Frosh, Phoenix and Pattman (2002) state that popular masculinity does require an insouciant sharp-wittedness that runs counter to ‘stupidity’ and this seems to be drawn out of the image of ‘being cool’. In another focus group, ﬁve Grade 11 boys in a mixed race group – John, Ravi, Mike and Bachan continue with the conversation about house parties. Below, John talks about how he seduced a girl at one of these parties. The erotic act is followed by a sexual phase where the girl implicitly consents to sex: Interviewer: [ ] And when is it most likely to happen? (reference to sexual encounter)Downloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 John (19 years old): At house parties, when you are alone. Interviewer: What happens? John: Ja! Once I saw this sexy one (girl). . . . gave her a couple of drinks. We (guys) put on blue movies to get us in the mood. Then I will massage her neck . . . get her in the mood. Interviewer: And then? John: I’m on! (sexually aroused). I’ll take her to the room to do it (sex). Mike (18 years old): Hey! (laughter) Then you’ll hit a luck! (all laugh). [ ] The desired purpose of the courtship game is sexual conquest for the male. For example, in the ensuing discussion, Ravi indicated that the boy will lead the girl to the upstairs bedroom. This was a common view among in the group: Interviewer: [ ] What do you think is going to happen? Ravi (19 years old): He is going to ﬁnger her. . . . then he’s going to have sex with her upstairs (upstairs bedroom). Bachan (18 years old): He’ll be thinking that he hit a luck . . . getting pussy (others laugh). [ ] Boys in the focus groups were not concerned about whether their heterosexual advances were successful, because hits and misses were regarded as part of the thrill. Boys were expected to follow every opportunity for sexual intimacy with a variety of girls because the sexual gamble costs them nothing. Dylan, with his Grade 11 friends, Puso and Roshan in another focus group enthusiastically elaborate in the following extracts: Interviewer: [ ] What would be the boy’s expectation? Dylan (17 years old): I’ll be enjoying it, that’s my luck. Interviewer: What do you mean? Dylan: It is for free, I will have sex without strings. No commitments. I can’t have curry and rice every day. Variety is nice. [ ] During these conversations, boys were very energetic and spontaneous; their representations of girls were highly erotic and their accounts were sexually explicit. A preoccupation with the female anatomy was a central aspect of the male gaze. Masculine bravado was a catalyst for sexual behaviour, with young men arguing that they need to live in the moment or they may as well be dead (Thorpe 2002). Boys also talked about themselves as rule-breakers. ‘Be(ing) faithful, and wise, and condomise(ing)’, a popular HIV-prevention slogan, were viewed as obstructive to their chances of getting sex. In the following extract, Puso and Roshan continue their conversation with me about how they seduce girls at house parties. Roshan now interjects: ‘Ja! I don’t really follow those rules because then you will end up with nothing’: Interviewer: [ ] So, how do you protect yourself from HIV? Puso (19 years old): Through abstaining. All respondents: Be faithful and wise and condomise (in chorus). Interviewer: Where have you learnt this from ? All Respondents: From T.V.
Culture, Health & Sexuality 893 Roshan (17 years old): Ja! (laughs). I don’t really follow those rules, because then you will end up with nothing and especially if you are put in that position (an opportunity to have sex). [ ] The logic of tata ma chance (‘take a chance’) is a popular phrase among youth and is derived from the South African National Lottery slogan (Selikow, Zulu, and Cedras 2002). Tata ma chance relates to engaging in risky behaviour such as crime, unsafe sexual behaviour and multiple relationships with the hope of ending up with something. This theme was dominant in boys’ heterosexual scripts. Selikow, Zulu, and Cedras (2002) suggest that such a risk-taking identity emerges from disillusioned working-class men who live for the present and have fatalistic notions regarding the unavoidability of death, so thatDownloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 protecting oneself against HIV infection is not a priority. Resisting the hyper-masculine subject position: ‘the bad boys’ When boys were challenged on heterosexism, some, in a sharp witted manoeuvre, distanced themselves from the the hyper-masculine subject position (Mosher and Sirkin 1984). At this point, boys were particularly invested in not coming across as being ‘bad’, which was constructed in terms of excessive heterosexual acts (e.g. having many women, committing violence against men and women). This resistant position can also be an effective way of being hegemonic. It allowed boys to also re-position themselves as moral agents through an assertion of control over their sexual urges, while also resorting to an othering rhetoric. In our conversation below, I probed the issue of heterosexism with ﬁve Grade 11 boys. As an enactment of this distancing position, the ‘player’, in the following extract, is denigrated for having numerous sexual partners. His preoccupation with sexual gratiﬁcation puts him at risk of HIV infection: Interviewer: [ ] So you mean that the “player” is risky? Rajesh (18 years old): Ja! they go out with many girls and they have sex with all of them. Paul (19 years old): -They’re just interested in sex, they don’t care who it is. And then they get AIDS. They deserve this Varga (1997) similarly notes that the desirability and acceptability of attaining isoka (Zulu word for ‘player’) status is seen in South Africa as a barrier to safe sexual health. In response to my challenge regarding the player as deserving of being at risk of contracting HIV, Rajesh and Anand are adamant: Interviewer: [ ] So, players deserve to get AIDS? Rajesh: Yes! They have sex with anyone, that’s the way they like it, and when they get AIDS, it’s too late to say: ‘Hey! Now I must change my ways.’ Anand (18 years old): - Ja! It is your choice, to get AIDS or not. [ ] In the group discussion, (non-)protection of the body can be seen as a matter of individual choice and also just punishment when one contracts HIV. This shift (from the inevitability of getting AIDS) reﬂects the increase in the dominance of individualism where ideological currents of AIDS prevention are infused with the notion of an autonomous self that is conﬁdent of his own judgment and responsible for his own actions (Joffe 1998). Hyper- masculinity is therefore conveniently projected onto an irrational ‘other’. In the next extract, I also probed the issue of the man’s ability to accept his girlfriend’s refusal to have sex. Siva rejects the irrational and overwhelming male sex drive discourse: Interviewer: [ ] And do you think that you guys will agree if your girlfriend refuses sex? Siva (17 years old): Ja! I can say ‘No!’ Sex doesn’t rule me. Brian (19 years old): Sometimes, but some boys want it so bad, they will do anything for
894 K. Govender 15 minutes of pleasure. Hey! These boys (in reference to gangsters) hear nothing. They just want sex. These are the bad ones! [ ] Siva asserts: ‘Sex doesn’t rule me’. Brian, in quick turn, also resorts to an othering strategy: ‘They (other boys) will do anything for . . . (sexual) pleasure’ In the extract below, the interviewer inquired as to what they (the interviewees) would do if the girl said ‘no’ to sex. Paul trivialises the woman’s response, but jokingly states that he will ‘ask again, when she’s OK’, implying that she will eventually come to her senses and agree to his request: Paul: [ ] (laughs). I’ll ask again, when she’s OK.Downloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 Rajesh: -I will leave her! Interviewer: Do you think that other guys will do the same thing? Rajesh: No! Some of the guys, if they hear, ‘No!’, they just want to fuck. ‘No!’ means ‘Yes!’ They, they just carry on because they are on. That’s not love. She’s stupid to think that. He’s a rapist . . . It’s bad what they do, they give all boys a bad name. They think they’re tough, if they dalla (interfere) with my chick (girl), I’ll fuck them up. Paul: . . . these guys think that they can do it to any girl, they’re out of control. [ ] Rajesh interjects: ‘I will ‘leave her’ if she refuses sex’. Threat of abandonment represents a ¨ form of coercive sex in which the speaker naıvely takes pride. Rajesh contrasts his actions in relation to ‘some of the guys’ who cannot control their sexual urges and ‘just carry on’. They are ‘rapists’. In this extract, the woman is also condemned for her complicity in his violence. Rajesh condemningly remarks: ‘That’s not love. She’s stupid to think that’. Holding the woman responsible means that the male is partly excused for his violent behaviour. This is the paradoxical situation in which women ﬁnd themselves in heterosexual relationships. In the latter part of the extract, Rajesh conspires to criticise those dimensions deemed ‘problematic’, although there is a play on the word ‘fuck’, ﬁrstly, in a sexually abusive sense, and later in a physically retaliatory sense.. But the woman is ‘fucked’ according to both versions of masculinity. In relation to the ‘hyper-masculine subject position’, she has to contend with the possibility of sexual violence and, in relation to ‘the responsible/controlled male subject position’, she is threatened with abandonment if she declines sex. The ‘responsible/controlled male subject position’ probably represents an attempt to fend off the ‘fragile’, ‘damaged’ or ‘hyper-masculine’ underside of boys that threatens to spoil their public persona. This position may also be a sedimentary effect of contemporary sexual health discourses (for example, the Lovelife 2001 campaign) that highlight the role of the young male as a modestly heterosexist agent. In the following section, boys in the focus groups, in a further twist of subjectivity, now seek to re-afﬁrm the masculine (heterosexual) identity through resisting ‘homophobic’ and ‘heterosexual failure’ subject positions. Resisting homophobic and heterosexual failure subject positions: ‘the ugly boys’ During our conversations, we talked about boys who were not regarded as being ‘real’ boys. Older boys usually ridiculed younger boys and sexually inexperienced boys by calling them ‘gay’, ‘mofﬁes’ or ‘nerds’. The ‘gay boys’ were seen as possessing the same characteristics that were denigrated in girls. Hence, homophobia was intertwined with misogyny. Within the text produced by the participants, a striking feature is talk focused on the penis, which serves as a privileged ‘sign’ of masculinity. Young men who were
Culture, Health & Sexuality 895 perceived to be virgins were seen to be unmasculine. An animated excerpt from my conversation with ﬁve Grade 11 boys – Joel, Dinesh, Preshan, Danny and Robbie – about boys’ sexual practices is presented below: Interviewer: . . . so, what do you think about the other boys? Joel (18 years old): It’s about big dicks (penises), and we can use it (pause) and they (reference to girls) like a big guy, big with muscles, and Dinesh (17 years old): -Ja! Sometimes you get these ous (boys), they talk about it all the time, like they do it every time (referring to sex). Interviewer: Which guys? Joel: The laaities (younger boys), they’re jumping (boasting) all the time.Downloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 Dinesh: Ja! They just talk like they do it, but they wouldn’t know what to do if they had it (a chance at sex). Joel: Small dicks (penises)! (others laugh). Interviewer: Why do you think they say: ‘They do it’? Preshan (19 years old): Because maybe they are too ashamed to tell us they are still virgins. Interviewer: Why? Preshan: They think we think they’re mofﬁes. Interviewer: Do you think that? Preshan: No! Not always, we laugh because they are just not having sex (others laugh). [ ] In this extract, one notices that ‘coming out’ as heterosexual is often a complex and contradictory process. Heterosexual performances, or being interested in the opposite sex, did not automatically signify ‘hegemonic’ masculinity. Renold (2000) asserts that it is only the boys who are identiﬁed as ‘older’, ‘tough’,’ sweet talkers’, ‘cool’ and ‘good- looking’ by their peers, who are seen to be most romantically desirable; the younger, less muscular or sexually inexperienced boys were more often positioned as ‘heterosexual failures’ and were subject to much teasing and ridicule. Danny and Robbie continue to talk about boys who are virgins or who do not have girlfriends and the consequent stigmatisation that these boys have to endure: Interviewer: [ ]What is this player? Danny (17 years old): They have many girlfriends. Interviewer: Do you worry about not having girlfriends? Danny: No! But when your friends have one, and they tell you things. Interviewer: How does it make you feel? Danny: Makes you feel bad. Robbie (18 years old): Like in the townships, we talk about these things. They say that if you don’t have a girlfriend, you don’t sleep with girls, you are still a virgin. They use names like mofﬁes.[ ] Edley and Wetherell (as cited in Gough and Edwards 1998, 417) point out that ‘anatomical features such as the penis . . . come to signify or stand for the sexes themselves’. A penis means masculinity or manhood and to a certain degree this is true, even when regarded in grandiose terms (‘big dicks’). Joel, in the earlier extract, states: ‘It’s about big dicks, and we can use it’, to fuck ‘and they (reference to girls) like a big guy, big with muscles’. Therefore, the penis may only prove signiﬁcant as a sign of masculinity if connected to its ‘legitimate’ deployment – heterosexual intercourse. This is further conﬁrmed by Bowleg et al. (2011), whose conversations with Black men emphatically revealed that Black men perceive themselves as being associated with physical strength and heterosexuality and that ‘a man wasn’t made for a man’ (550). The penis, and the physical (and biological) body of the male as a symbolic site of heterosexual power, is imputed in biological and sexological discourses (Holland, Ramazanoglu, and Scott 1990).
896 K. Govender There are a variety of practices involved in policing masculinity, including subtle homophobia, but also strategies for constructing non-hegemonic masculinities as ‘feminine’ (Mac an Ghaill 1994). Dinesh and Ravi, in the next extract, continue to talk about boys who do not have girlfriends. Dinesh responds to the interviewer’s question, ‘What about the guys who don’t have girlfriends?’, by remarking that they are ‘nerdy ous’ and are not very conﬁdent in their ability to converse with girls: He states: ‘They can’t talk. They are shy’. These ‘nerds’ were also seen to be jealous of the players: Interviewer: . . . and what about the guys who don’t have girlfriends? Dinesh: They can’t talk. They are shy. Interviewer: What do you mean?Downloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 Dinesh: Nerdy ous. Interviewer: What do you think those guys think about players? Dinesh: Hey! (laughs). They think that we are bastards. Interviewer: Why? Ravi: Because they can’t get one (girl) for themselves. [ ] In my conversations with boys the male-orientated permissive discourse was dominant. I also noted that some boys were not as vocal on these issues. It seemed that the pressure to conform to the hyper-masculine identity meant that there was little or no space in the discussions for the expression of alternative masculinities. Idealising the other: ‘the powerful boys’ In the focus groups, boys frequently talked about the taxi driver in their neighbourhood whom they positioned high up on the hierarchy of maleness. These boys who were close to completing school idealised taxi drivers for having ‘cool’ cars, wearing expensive clothes and jewellery and having many women. Boys in our conversations felt frustrated and frequently positioned themselves as failures because of their inability to accumulate these symbols of sexual prowess. The following discussions are selected extracts from my conversations with Josh, Alan, Kyle and Robbie, four Grade 11 boys. Kyle constructs the young male as being physically weaker than the potentially violent taxi driver: Kyle (19 years old): [ ] They (taxi drivers) are experienced, money, thick chains, muscles. They think that they have bigger penises. When boys interfere with their girls, they send for them to sort them out (hit them). These guys like to show themselves off as being tough. [ ] ‘The boy’ is clearly positioned as being physically weak and sexually emasculated. So the act of depersonalisation is a viable strategy for Kyle to ward off being positioned as ‘the weak boy’ in the presence of his peers, including myself, the interviewer. Connell (1995) argues that ‘hegemonic’ masculinity is important to the fantasy lives of many men and that men often position themselves in relation to it, even if they critique or subvert it (see, for example, Wetherell and Edley 1998). However, the taxi driver is not beyond reproach. Kyle, in an act of subversion, notes that the notion of hard masculinity is a ‘show off’, indicating that it is ‘performative’ rather than ‘authentic’. In the next extract, Kyle and Robbie continue the conversation and talk about young girls who ridicule them for being poor. The implication is that men can take care of women by providing for their material and sexual needs: Robbie: [ ]. Girls our age just treat us like we are fools. They go for your car, or even fashionable things. Girls also like bigger guys, like you. Interviewer: Why? Kyle: They say us smaller things do not know how to have sex, like the bigger guys.
Culture, Health & Sexuality 897 They just say that we are poor. You don’t have anything, because when you are going out, you have to buy her something. [ ] Robbie: I prefer older (women), because they are mature. They are real women! Here, Robbie is partly able to recover from a position of emasculation by invoking a split discourse. The older woman is presented as being authentic – she is more ‘mature’ – while the younger girls are more ﬁckle and, therefore, not ‘real women’. Interestingly, local research indicates that girls with ‘sugar daddies’ were perceived by males as ‘whores’ who hang around with men for the social status (Tillotson and Maharaj 2001).Downloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 Conclusion My conversations with boys go some way towards illustrating the overt ways in which boys ‘perform’ their heterosexuality as a need to conform to notions of being hegemonically masculine. One could argue that the utilisation of the young male-as- dis/empowered repertoire provided a powerful way for boys to reafﬁrm themselves as heterosexual performers in the all male space. It is not surprising to note that these self- exalting strategies occurred in a relatively secure space that has been noted to enable young boys to talk about heterosexual desires. However, such talk was also structured to afﬁrm manhood. The peer group discussions also revealed another way to claim this ‘hegemonic space’, that is, boys positioning themselves in relation to ‘the other’ (boys who were heterosexual failures). In this sense, the participants had to be careful about what they did or said for fear of being called gay, effeminate and so on, because their identities were policed and scrutinised for lack of conformity to the core notion of heterosexuality. In this sense, having a girlfriend was taken to be a public afﬁrmation of one’s heterosexuality and a performative signiﬁer of being ‘hegemonic’. The policing behaviour of boys in dealing with the pressures of ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ (Rich 1980) were evident in forms of heterosexualised harassment – the teasing and ridiculing of boys who did not have a ‘chick’ or a ‘cherry’ – and usually younger boys who were seen as being biologically inadequate. The latter was encapsulated in ridiculing statements such as: ‘they wouldn’t know what to do’ and ‘their dicks are too small’. These heterosexual failures were viewed as not being ‘cool’ and were generally seen to be socially inept. It would be fair to suggest that boys, in these discussions, were also complicit in supporting a masculinity hierarchy, while subverting it and also battling to claim it. In terms of the latter, this occurred through their idealisation of the taxi driver who was positioned higher up in the masculine hierarchy. Schoolboys internalised their heterosexual failure through positioning themselves as ‘males-in-lack’. In this regard, Wood and Jewkes (2001) argue that such male insecurities regarding access to women and/or an inability to control women, has strong connections to gender-based violence in South Africa. Another central ﬁnding in this study is that while the boys simultaneously afﬁrmed themselves as young heterosexual men, they were also wary of being regarded as being hyper-masculine. In the international literature, the ‘boys behaving badly’ syndrome is seen as part of a backlash against feminist that intends to re-assert male domination (Whannel 1999). In contemporary South Africa, Walker (2005) asserts that the political and constitutional change created the space for men to engage with their gender identities in ways which would not have been possible pre-1994. However, in my conversation with the boys, ‘the responsible/controlled position’ did not necessarily mean a reversion towards
898 K. Govender the position of gender egalitarianism, or what Morrell (2001) refers to as a truly ‘progressive’ stance. In producing a ‘critical’ discourse of the excessive forms of masculinity, boys in the group discussion appeared to be caught in the grip of a powerful masculine ideological dilemma (Billig 1991). It is as if they wanted to say: ‘I am not out- of-control, but I am heterosexual!’ A recomposed heterosexual masculinity – disciplined, respectable, yet capable of being tough – is, in ideological terms, placed in dominance over other men and women. While heterosexuality was a predominant force in structuring boys’ social identities, the recounting of boy’s experiences, in this study, intended to lay bare the assumption of a coherent, problem-free conspiracy among males that would neglect the range of differentDownloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 subject positions and (potential) conﬂicts between the participants in terms of competition for laughs and the boundaries of un/acceptable humour as well as possible tensions in terms of region, age and ‘race’(Gough and Edwards 1998). Issues related to the racialisation and ethnicisation of masculinities in this context is more fully addressed in Govender (2006). Given what we know about peer group dynamics, one could argue that boys’ accounts were situated performances and functional with the principal purpose of eliciting laughter rather than being authentic. That any talk is contingent upon time and place can hardly be denied, but reliance on this contextual account alone would be too convenient as it forgoes questions of responsibility on both the part of the researcher and the researched. In addition, as suggested above, male invested fantasies of hegemonic power relates to the broader context of masculinities feeling threatened in a contemporary South African society where women are becoming increasingly prominent in the ‘public’ domain, and thus, impinging on a traditionally male space. In general, the ﬁndings gleaned from this study suggest that boys’ performances are contradicted as they struggle to straddle the divide between hyper-sexuality and homosexuality/effeminacy. While these identity struggles may not be fully coherent, we should nevertheless cautiously explore these tensions/contradictions as opportunities to resist hyper-sexual versions of masculinities while cultivating identities that are less violent. The idea of masculinity as an achieved set of practices (Wetherell and Edley 1998), performative acts (Butler 1990) or ways of ‘enacting gender’, serves as a conceptual starting point. To advance advocacy around gender equality, successful peer education programmes might provide boys with the opportunity to critically reﬂect on the way in which the achievement of masculine identities is limited by polarised gender relations. Pattman (2007) asserts, at a more ‘reﬂexive’ level, that one needs to encourage boys, particularly in the male peer space, to become less invested in constructing themselves in opposition to other boys (and girls). Therefore, HIV/AIDS and sex/gender education approaches must explore, with boys, the various and contradictory ways in which they present themselves and how they talk about sexual desire and pleasure in sex in different spaces. Such a strategy is key to breaking the imposed silence around heterosexual dominance (whether self- or culturally imposed) in ‘hegemonic’ culture. It is only through embracing these tensions and uncertainties in identities can boys begin to understand the obstacles to change, a belief that such obstacles can be overcome and a vision of more progressive alternatives. Acknowledgements This work was supported by the South African Institute of Race Relations (grant number: ustelp/udw/0289/2004); and the Medical Research Council [grant number: 0598/2006].
Culture, Health & Sexuality 899 Notes 1. The term ‘crisis’ or ‘crisis tendencies’ stems from Marxism. This is meant to reﬂect fault lines in the social structure that will create opportunities for those who wish to transform current practice. 2. Hegemony is a central concept used in theorising masculinity. The term originates with the work of Gramsci (1971) and means the maintenance of social power by certain groups, through persuasion and consent. 3. Traditional social science makes a distinction between discourse and social practice. In discursive psychology, however, this is considered a false distinction (or dualism). The latter theorists argue that language is itself a form of practice. This approach locates hegemony within practices of identiﬁcation. 4. I have presented transcript extracts from interview sessions with the boys which were tape-Downloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 recorded with their permission. In the transcription process, I used the following conventions: [ ]: text omitted ...: inaudible material omitted (clariﬁcation): explanatory material -: speaker cuts in on another speaker .: pauses, short and usually to complete a sentence “ ”: reporting direct speech of another person Text Underlined: A statement, word or phrase was emphasised by the speaker References Babbie, E., and J. Moutonm. 2003. The practice of social research. South Africa: Oxford. Billig, M. 1991. Ideology and opinions: Studies in rhetorical psychology. London: Sage. Bowleg, L., M. Teti, J.S. Massie, A. Patel, D.J. Malebranche, and J.M. Tschann. 2011. ‘What does it take to be a man? What is a real man: Ideologies of masculinity and HIV sexual risk among black heterosexual men. Culture, Health & Sexuality 13, no. 5: 545– 59. Brozo, W.G., P. Walter, and T. Placker. 2002. ‘I know the difference between a real man and a TV man’: A critical exploration of violence and masculinity through literature in junior high school in the ‘hood’. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 45, no. 5: 530– 8. Burr, V. 1995. An introduction to social constructivism. London: Routledge. Butler, J. 1990. Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge. Campbell, C., Y. Mzaidume, and B. Williams. 1998. Gender as an obstacle to condom use. Agenda 39: 50 – 4. Connell, R.W. 1995. Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity Press. ´ Davies, B., and R. Harre. 1990. Positioning: The discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 20, no. 1: 43 – 64. Dolby, N.E. 2001. Constructing race: Youth, identity, and popular culture in South Africa. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. Eaton, L., A.J. Flisher, and L.E. Aaron. 2003. Unsafe sexual behaviour in South African youth. Social Science and Medicine 5: 149– 65. Edley, N. 2001. Analysing masculinities: Interpretive repertoires, ideological dilemmas and subject positions. In Discourse as data: A guide for analysis, ed. M. Wetherell, S. Taylor, and S.J. Yates, 189– 228. London: The Open University. Edley, N., and M. Wetherell. 1995. Men in perspective: Practice, power and identity. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf. Epstein, D., and R. Johnson. 1998. Schooling sexualities. Philadelphia, Buckingham: Open University Press. Frosh, S., A. Phoenix, and R. Pattman. 2002. Young masculinities. New York: Palgrave. Gough, B., and G. Edwards. 1998. The beer talking: Four lads, a carry out and the reproduction of masculinities. Sociological Review 46, no. 33: 409– 35. Govender, K. 2006. ‘It’s not us, they’re spreading AIDS’: Race, schoolboy masculinities and perception of personal risk in relation to HIV/AIDS among male youth in post-apartheid South
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Culture, Health & Sexuality 901 Wood, C., and R. Jewkes. 2001. ‘Dangerous’ love: Reﬂections on violence among Xhosa township youth. In Changing men in southern Africa, ed. R. Morrell, 317– 35. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: University of Natal Press. ´ ´ Resume ´ Cet article s’inspire d’une recherche ethnographique d’une duree d’un an sur la construction des ´ ´ ´ identites de genre et des identites sexuelles chez les garcons, dans une ecole secondaire en Afrique ¸ ` ` ´ ` du Sud. Il cherche a explorer et a theoriser, de maniere empirique, comment 58 garcons issus de la ¸ ` ` ´ classe ouvriere, en classes de seconde et de premiere, creent et sont en recherche d’espaces parmi ` ´ leurs pairs masculins, a partir desquels ils peuvent cultiver leur masculinite avec des discours ´´ ˆ ` ` ´ heterosexuels qui englobent la notion d’etre «a risque» vis-a-vis du sida. Dans cette etude, les effortsDownloaded by [UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL] at 00:30 08 November 2011 ` ´ quotidiens des garcons pour ne pas tomber dans le piege de la separation entre les perceptions de la ¸ ´ ´ ´ ´ ` masculinite fondees sur l’opposition entre «hypersexuel» et «homosexuel/effemine», ont a la fois ´ ´ ´ ´ ˆ ebranle et renforce les relations de genre/sexuelles dans le contexte scolaire. Dans cette etude, etre ` ` ´´ ´ pris a ce piege de l’heteronormativite restrictive a eu pour signiﬁcation une absence presque totale ´ ` ´ ´ ´ d’espaces dans la culture masculine des pairs, pour pouvoir resister a la virilite hegemonique. La ˆ ´ ´ position «d’homme responsable/controle» a indique l’existence de l’un de ces espaces au sein duquel ´ ´ les garcons tentaient de resister aux formes d’hypersexualite. Alors que cette position ne peut ¸ ´ ˆ ´ ´ ´ reellement etre consideree comme progressiste, elle a neanmoins permis aux garcons de se ¸ ` ˆ ´ ´ repositionner en tant qu’agents moraux, a travers l’afﬁrmation du controle de leur sexualite. Etant ´ ´ ` ` ´ ´ donne l’existence de ces conﬂits d’identite, cet article suggere, d’une maniere generale, que les ` interventions aupres des garcons doivent explorer ces tensions/contradictions que l’on rencontre ¸ ´ ´ dans la construction des identites, en tant qu’opportunites pour cultiver des discours moins violents ´ et plus sensibles aux questions de genre, en ce qui concerne la virilite, mais ceci, avec prudence. Resumen ´ ´ ˜ ´ ´ Basandonos en una etnografıa de un ano de duracion sobre como los chicos de una escuela de ´ ´ secundaria en Sudafrica construyen su identidades sexuales y de genero, en este artıculo ´ ´ pretendemos analizar empıricamente y teorizar el modo en que 58 chicos de clase trabajadora de los ˜ grados 10 y 11 crean y buscan espacios entre sus companeros para desarrollar sus masculinidades mediante discursos heterosexuales, incluyendo ‘correr el riesgo’ de contraer el sida. En este estudio, el esfuerzo diario de los chicos por intentar superar las diferencias entre las versiones de hipersexual ´ y homosexual/afeminado de la masculinidad, socava y refuerza las relaciones hegemonicas entre los ´ generos/sexos en el contexto de la escuela. Verse atrapados en este control restrictivo de ´ ´ heteronormatividad signiﬁcaba que habıa pocos espacios en la cultura coetanea masculina para ´ ´ resistirse a la masculinidad hegemonica. La posicion de hombre responsable y controlado da una idea de este espacio en el que los chicos intentaban resistirse a formas de hipersexualidad. Mientras ´ ´ que esta posicion no puede considerarse realmente como progresista, no obstante, permitıa que los ´ chicos pudiesen reorientarse como agentes morales mediante una autoaﬁrmacion del control sobre su ´ sexualidad. Dada la presencia de estas luchas de identidad, en general en este artıculo sugerimos que ´ en las intervenciones con chicos se deberıa analizar con cuidado estas tensiones o contradicciones en ´ la busqueda de su identidad para aprovechar la oportunidad de mantener discursos sobre la ´ ´ masculinidad que tengan mas en cuenta las cuestiones de genero y que sean menos violentos.