The Making of Men: Masculinities, Sexualities and Schooling

The Making of Men: Masculinities, Sexualities and Schooling

The Making of Men: Masculinities, Sexualities and Schooling

The Making of Men: Masculinities, Sexualities and Schooling


Mairtin Mac an Ghaill explores how boys learn to be men in schools while policing their own and others' sexuality. The text focuses on the students' confusions and contradictions in their gendered experiences; and upon how schools actively produce, through the official and hidden curriculum, a range of masculinities which young men come to inhabit. The author attempts to do full justice to the complex phenomenon of male heterosexual subjectivities and to the role of schooling in forming sexual identities.


it is the task of sociology and the other social sciences to [decon
struct] naturalism, and to determine how actions are given their
meaning and significance via social action.

(Hamilton 1986: 7)

I begin with a paradox. In English secondary schools, as elsewhere in the social world, masculine perspectives are pervasively dominant. However, until recently, masculinity has tended to be absent from mainstream educational research. It has been assumed to be unproblematic, with gender issues focusing on femininity and girls' schooling.

Unexpectedly, I have found the study of masculinity, sexuality and schooling theoretically very difficult to explore and emotionally highly challenging. In one secondary school that I taught in, a male student, after hearing that he had passed his exams, gave me a bunch of flowers in the school playground. Within a short period of time, the incident was common knowledge in the staffroom and the male teachers responded with heterosexist jokes. At the same time, the student got into a fight in defending himself against homophobic abuse. The headteacher asked me to report to his office, where he informed me that I had gone too far this time. I began to defend myself, claiming that I could not be held responsible for the fight. The headteacher interrupted me to ask what I was talking about. Suddenly, I realized the symbolic significance of our playground performance: the exchange of flowers between two males was institutionally more threatening than the physical violence of the male fight. The incident also had a racial dimension. In this school, the white dominant teacher perception of Muslim male students was that they were intrinsically more sexist than white males. These teachers were undoubtedly confused . . .

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