Hyper Masculinity and Heteronormativity

Yolanda Lynn and Sara

Editor’s note: the following was written for an undergraduate seminar in Gender Studies

C.J. Pascoe, Chapter 17: “’Guys are just homophobic’: Rethinking Adolescent Homophobia and Heterosexuality” (yl)

  1. Pascoe wants to educate readers about hyper masculinity and hyper heterosexuality. He explains why young men in America feel the need to compulsively show that they are the ideal image of manly men that prefer to date women instead of men. He exposes how these practices, that seem silly and harmless, have actually led to dangerous and fatal outcomes. He wants readers to consider the amount of sexual harassment, murder and suicide that have resulted from the excessive need to be deemed as a straight, masculine man in America
  2. “Ninety percent of random school shootings have involved straight-identified boys who have been relentlessly humiliated with homophobic remarks” (Kimmel 2003, quoted in Pascoe163).

“Homophobic epithets such as fag have gender meanings and sexual meanings. The insult is levied against boys who are not masculine, even momentarily, and boys who identify (or are identified by others) as gay. This sets up a very complicated daily ordeal in which boys continually strive to avoid being subject to the epithet, but are simultaneously constantly vulnerable to it” (Pascoe 166).

“For contemporary American boys, the definition of masculinity entails displaying power, competence, a lack of emotions, heterosexuality and dominance,” says Kevin. For instance, to be masculine is to be “tough.” The ideal man is “strong” and he “can’t be too emotional,” adds Erik. Maleness does not confer masculinity upon a given boy. Rather, “…masculinity is the repeated signaling to self and others that one is powerful, competent, unemotional, heterosexual and dominant” (Pascoe 169).

  1. Pascoe uses statistics to support his claims regarding the sexual harassment and violence that stems from compulsive heterosexual behavior and ideology.

Sexual Harassment “The American Association of University Women (2001) documents that 83 percent of girls have been sexually harassed at school. These cursory statistics point to an educational experience in adolescence characterized in part by sexualized and gendered aggression directed from boys at other boys and at girls” (Pascoe 163).

Suicide “Similarly, Carl Joseph Walker Hoover, an 11-year-old middle school student in Massachusetts, suffered homophobic harassment from his classmates for performing well academically. He hung himself as a desperate response to the teasing” (Pascoe 164).

Murder Lawrence King, having been bullied relentlessly since third grade for his non-traditional gender presentation, was shot and killed by a fellow student in 2008 whom he had asked to be his Valentine” (Pascoe 164).

  1. (#8) Applying these concepts to real life, I have now figured out why men have such an alarming obsession with entitling themselves to women’s bodies. They do this because it helps them prove to other men that they are indeed straight which in return will save them from the “hardship” of being labeled gay

Chrys Ingraham, Chapter 55: “One is Not Born a Bride: How Weddings Regulate Heterosexuality” (sn)

1) Chrys Ingraham’s main point is to examine heteronormativity and its social arrangements. Specifically he examines romanticized heterosexuality and its regulation of gender and sexuality through the institution of marriage, ritual practices, and state domestic relations laws. The author introduces the idea of heterosexual imagery, and defines it as an imagined or illusory relationship between an individual and their social world.

2) Short passages are attached and highlighted.

● “The title of this chapter pays homage to French feminist Monique Wittig… she argues that the category of woman and all of the meaning attached to that category would not exist were it not necessary for the political regime of (patriarchal) heterosexuality” (Ingraham 514).

● “The imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.

“The ‘imaginary’ here does not mean ‘false’ or ‘pretend’ but, rather, an imagined or illusory relationship between an individual and their social world….this illusion is commonly known as Romance… (Ingraham 515).

● “Weddings, like many other rituals of heterosexual celebration such as anniversaries, showers, and Valentine’s day, become synonymous with heterosexuality and provide illusions of reality that conceal the operation of heterosexuality both historically and materially” (Ingraham 517).

● The staging of weddings in television shows, weekly reporting on weddings in the press, magazine reports on celebrity weddings, advertising, and popular adult and children’s movies with themes or weddings inserted, all work together to teach us how to think about weddings, marriage, heterosexuality, race, gender, and labor. (Ingraham 518).

3) The author uses examples from real-life institutionalized heteronormativity.

● Surveys and questionnaires ask respondents to check off their marital status as either married, divorced, separated, widowed, single, or, in some cases, never married (Ingraham 516).

● People find it difficult to share a commitment with someone without a state-sponsored license because of the benefits of legalized marriage, even when they have been in a relationship with someone for years! “Weddings work as a form of ideological control to signal membership in relations of ruling as well as to signify that the couple is normal, moral, productive, family-centered, upstanding citizens and, most importantly, appropriately gendered and sexual” (Ingraham 517).

4) Does the author incorporate race/ethnicity, class, sexuality, immigration status, religion, age, etc. as categories of analysis that shape gender experience?

● The author talks about the development and growth in America of a $35 billion-per-year wedding industry. Weddings are expensive and this presents a difficulty for people within lower classes in affording the “ideal white wedding.”

● “The heterosexual imaginary establishes those behaviors we ascribe to men and women- gender.” This creates the gendered roles we have in society. Example: who drives and who cooks, who pays for dates and initiates sex?