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The “Constant Arm Wrestle”: Young men’s construction of masculinities within a sexualised culture

Nodwell, Anita (2016) The “Constant Arm Wrestle”: Young men’s construction of masculinities within a sexualised culture. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Sexualised culture in contemporary Australian society is a subject of scholarly attention. The majority of existing research explores the impact of this culture upon girls and women. Meanwhile, relatively less is known about the impact on young men, specifically how they construct and manage their masculinities within this landscape. Male-groups are a key site for the construction and (re)production of masculinities and, therefore, form a critical milieu whereby gendered social approval and acceptance are both sought and sanctioned. In order to address this gap in the research, we conducted three 1.5 hour focus groups with eleven university undergraduate men, aged between 18 – 29 years old. A short music video montage and advertising images were used as stimulus to orient discussion towards the topic of sexualisation. Connell’s Hegemonic Masculinity Theory was employed to frame discussion and to contextualise findings and Discursive Analysis was used to examine how dominant or ‘hegemonic’ discourses shape young men’s talk. We examined the reasons young men engage in the practice of sexualisation and their ability to construct or challenge dominant discourses concerning the sexualisation of women. Analysis revealed three main discourses, each of which were complex, interrelated and often contradictory in nature; namely, The Malleable Man, The Hunter and The Deep Down Man. These discourses required continual negotiation by young men as a means of managing their masculinities and hierarchical positioning. Findings suggest future research should explore the impact of power relations amongst men upon the maintenance and proliferation of sexualised culture within society.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Supervisor(s): Monson, Olivia
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