Masculinity In a Nutshell…Are Times Changing?

After spending a quarter reading many articles and watching many documentaries, I thought it would be interesting to go back and look at the very first article we read titled “Theoretical Perspectives” by Steven Seidman. Specifically looking at the section titled “Feminism: the gender of sexuality”, the ideas of feminists such as Nancy Chodorow, Adrienne Rich, and Catherine MacKinnon and the relationships between males and females and how they became this way. The ideas of Nancy Chodorow specifically look at the origins of how males and females have gotten to be the way they are today. In The Reproduction of Mothering by Chodorow, she describes that for girls and boys, the mother is often the most loving between the two parents. There is an “extended and intense intimacy between mothers and daughters [resulting] in girls developing a syche that is relationship-oriented. Accordingly, girls tend to connect sex with intimacy and as a means of caring” (Seidman 6). In contrast, boys tend to break away from their mothers at a much earlier age, and come to spend much more time with their “achievement-oriented” (Seidman 7) fathers, hence them becoming more oriented with more characteristics that are described as “masculine”. Chodorow states, “boys’ sexuality tends to be more performance- and body-oriented” (Seidman 7). For this reason, a typical boy activity as a child is going out and playing football with his father, while girls stay inside and play with dolls, a much more “caring” activity than the competition of sports. Looking later in life, she states that, “boys can be intimate, but they will likely express sexual love in terms of the giving and receiving of erotic pleasure” (Seidman 7). For this reason, many females are attracted to boys on a much more emotional level, where boys are characterized to only thinking about sex.

In addition to Chodorow, feminists like Adrienne Rich and Catherine MacKinnon describe that these ideas, and describe further on male traits and their wish for dominance in relationships. MacKinnon views, “sexuality as a product of men’s power; sex is a means by which men control women” (Seidman 7). These simple ideologies are at the forefront of male domination and the male ego. She also describes how in relationships, all females are supposed to desire vaginal intercourse, especially in marriage because in a marriage relationship, the couple is supposed to one day aim at having children. This idea in itself is an example of compulsive heterosexuality, describing that everyone in the world assumes that both sexes, but especially women in this case, are heterosexuals and only desire heterosexual intercourse.




In looking at other assignments we’ve discussed in class, the idea of compulsive heterosexuality and male dominance is an idea that comes up a lot in C. J. Pascoe’s article titled “Guys are Just Homophobic”. Pascoe describes masculinity as “powerful, competent, unemotional, heterosexual, and dominant” (Pascoe 177). He says that men keep their “masculinity” through two ways: repudiation and confirmation. Repudiation is when men joke around with each other in ways that they believe to secure their masculinity, by making gay jokes and calling each other “fags”. Confirmation is when boys make deliberate acts of compulsive heterosexuality in public settings. Confirmation can be broken up into three parts of what males do to young females: getting girls, sex talk, and touching/flirting. In relation to the ideas in “Theoretical Perspectives”, in an effort to make their heterosexuality clear to all people males show their dominance over females, which is an example of engaging in compulsive heterosexuality. Also, Pascoe describes “engaging in compulsive heterosexuality also allows boys to display a lack of emotions by refusing to engaging the empathy that might mitigate against such a use of girls and their bodies” (Pascoe 181). For these reasons, being caring is considered to be a female trait, while the opposite, domination and power, are both seen as more masculine traits. Boys have to act like this to secure their masculinity and heterosexuality, because being called “gay” or “fag” is the worst insult a guy can give another guy at this age.




The idea of hegemonic masculinity and males being dominant over females more than just physical control comes to play in media frequently in our society. In many movies today, a test has been done to see if in any girl on girl conversation, the conversation never involves a male character. This test is called the Bechdel test, and it is surprising how many female characters don’t pass this, and how many movies have no girl on girl interactions that do not involve a male.



The movie Maleficent passed the Betchel test, but it also passed something even more interesting. A reverse test was done to see if there were two male characters who talked to each other about something other than a girl. This test was not passed, which was extremely interesting because it showed how much males are beginning to rely on females. In this movie, the females passed the test to talk about something other than a male, but the males did not pass the test to talk about something other than a female. This is an intense shift in betrayal because women may now be having the upper hand, rather than males always having dominance and society believing in the idea of hegemonic masculinity. This shows that times are changing, and hopefully the ideas of compulsive heterosexuality and hegemonic masculinity are changing too.

One thought on “Masculinity In a Nutshell…Are Times Changing?

  1. I agree with this- I think that this does show that times are changing, but not exactly for the same reasons; I do to necessarily think that compulsive heterosexuality and hegemonic masculinity are changing though. I think it has gotten to the point where heteronormativity is so ingrained society’s mind that it would take years for there to be a conscious change in perspective.


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