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Title: Young men's negotiation of hetero-masculinity within the contemporary UK
Author: Robson, Mary Elizabeth Marks
ISNI:       0000 0004 8509 018X
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis draws on feminist theory and critical men and masculinities scholarship to consider young men’s negotiations of hetero-masculinity in the contemporary UK. It utilises qualitative data from focus groups and one-to-one interviews with twenty-five predominantly white, heterosexually identified men between the ages of 18 and 24, exploring how young men understand and experience hetero-masculinity on subjective and relational levels. It examines how young men understand and experience gender and sexual norms, and to what extent, and in what ways, young men disrupt and challenge these. The thesis contextualises contemporary shifts of gender and sexuality in relation to wider gender equality and power, through analysis of, gender politics, (hetero)masculine subjectivities, sex and sexuality, which inform the empirical chapters of this thesis. With a focus on power and gender (in)equality, the thesis critically explores how contemporary transformations of masculinity, whilst superficially appearing to signify social change, may, on closer inspection, reveal how power and inequality are reworked and reframed in current times (Bridges and Pascoe, 2014). The thesis also seeks to address the absence of theoretical and empirical research on postfeminism (Gill, 2007; McRobbie, 2009; O’Neill, 2018) within the field of critical men and masculinities. The thesis points to a wealth of diverse and often conflicting understandings of gender and sexuality. Whilst gender equality was often favoured, binarised and essentialist understandings of gender endured, ultimately limiting the possibilities of social change as men and women were viewed as inherently different based on biological ‘fact’. Where feminism was supported, this was often confined to second-wave projects as more recent feminist politics, which emphasise gender fluidity and the diversification of gender identities, conflicting with essentialist understandings. Notions of ‘natural’ sex difference also paradoxically coalesced with significant reflexivity of gender and sexual norms and how these come to delineate gender and sexual performances and practices, though participants were often reticent to acknowledge that they were affected by these discourses. Moreover, some interviewees discursively distanced from normative masculinity, whilst simultaneously maintaining investments in traditional masculine identities. Participants articulated choreographing their gendered performances so as to signify ‘correct’ masculinity. This was closely related to affirming their heterosexuality and avoiding adopting traditionally feminine styles, which were seen to potentially signify same-sex desire. Gender and sexuality were, therefore, regularly conflated as gendered expressions were seen to indicate sexual preference. Despite a desire to transcend gender boundaries amongst many of the young men, gender policing and homophobia remained a prevalent feature in their lives as gender and sexuality were regarded heavily regulated spheres.
Supervisor: Elley, Sharon ; Hines, Sally Sponsor: ESCR
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available