The following two chapters are concerned with historical change in representations of familial masculinity. In this chapter I shall argue that fatherhood has, from the late nineteenth century to the present day, been ‘modernised’ in law and that, in this process, it has in important respects been rendered ‘safe’. However, I wish to suggest that this reconstituted paternal masculinity remains bound up within discourses which both continue to construct fatherhood as involving specific claims to power and authority within the family (the focus of this chapter), and separate out this ‘safe’ paternal masculinity from other ‘dangerous’, extra-familial masculinities (the concern of Chapter 6). The ways in which the law has sought to incorporate hitherto extra-familial masculinities into the familial domain, at the same time as the institutional and ideological supports of the traditional patriarchal father have come under increasing attack, has led to a belief that modern paternal masculinity is itself in a state of ‘crisis’. This belief, I shall argue, is mistaken.
Aspects of both ‘dangerous’ and ‘familial’ masculinities have been constructed in law as signifying (and celebrating) certain attributes which the judicial gaze has designated as appropriately ‘masculine’ in different contexts. However, for all the law’s endeavours to bifurcate masculine subjectivities (through, I shall argue, resorting to the concept of a ‘family man’ in law who is, a priori, considered ‘safe’ and desirable), the dangerous and the familial share much more than is commonly acknowledged. At times that which is dangerous (for example men’s violence, certain transgressive sexual behaviour) filters through (or ‘leaks into’) the familial domain. In different contexts certain values which are traditionally culturally considered