Portrayals of Masculinity in "Guy Movies": Exploring Viewer-Character Dissonance

By Zeglin, Robert J. | The Journal of Men's Studies, March 2016 | Go to article overview

Portrayals of Masculinity in "Guy Movies": Exploring Viewer-Character Dissonance


Zeglin, Robert J., The Journal of Men's Studies


Human sexuality remains a consistent target of academic inquiry. Just as consistent, though, is the challenge of researching sexuality in whole. Much of this challenge is due to general confusion over the definition of sexuality (Dailey, 1981; Gochros, 1972, 1974; Goettsch, 1989; Schur, 1988; Van Sevenant, 2005). Still, even if an agreeable definition could be ascertained, human sexuality still presents a challenge for researchers because of its variability (Spinelli, 2013; Virk, 2012; Weeks, 2002, 2009). Because of this, sexuality research has alternatively focused on sexuality's constituent parts and their interactions. Dailey (1981) described these as (a) sensuality, (b) intimacy, (c) sexualization, (d) reproduction, and (e) sexual identity.

The last component, sexual identity, is comprised of four sub-parts: (a) sex, (b) gender identity, (c) sexual orientation, and (d) gender expression. Sex refers to the biological and physiological status of an individual's body. This can include being male, female, intersex, transsexual, and more. Gender identity is the gender with which an individual identifies. This is largely an internal and intrapersonal process and can include man, woman, genderqueer, nongender, and others. Sexual orientation is the description of to whom an individual is attracted in a sexual and/or romantic way. This can include heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, androphile, asexual, pansexual, and more. Finally, gender expression is the outward display of gender. This can include butch, femme, gender neutral, feminine, and masculine. These four components of sexual identity are independent of each other; one does not predict any of the others (Killermann, 2013, n.d.; Shively & de Ceceo, 1977, 1993).

Sexual identity, including gender expression (e.g., masculinity), may be considered a fundamental component of one's sexuality because of its variability, political implications, connection with economic systems, and/or relationship with power and social capital (Connell, 1987; D'Emilio, 2001; Shively & de Ceceo, 1977, 1993; World Health Organization, 2002; Zeglin & Mitchell, 2014). This being so, its role as the foundation of sexuality may be responsible for its imminence. Imminence, as described by Beauvoir (1949/2011), is the systemic preclusion from evolution and growth. Spinelli (2013) and Rubin (1984) allude to this imminence in discussions of the popular cultural belief in sexual rigidity and fixedness. Gender identity suffers this fate of imminence because of its performativity (Butler, 1990). Butler (1990) suggests that one cannot help but express gender through "an incessant and repeated action of some sort" (p. 112), whether one wants to or not. This promotes gender expression, because of its visibility, to the position of salience. That is, everything one does is judged to be an expression of gender; behaviors are simultaneously gendering and gendered.

Masculinity is one possible presentation, or what Butler (1990) might call performance, of gender expression (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005; Killermann, 2013, n.d.; Scruton, 2001; Shively & de Ceceo, 1977, 1993). It remains difficult to define but is generally considered the typical enactment of behaviors, beliefs, values, feelings, and cognitions of male identity (e.g., Hergenrather, Zeglin, Ruda, Hoare, & Rhodes, 2014; Knight et al., 2012; Rothgerber, 2013; Seibert, & Gruenfeld, 1992). Masculinity and sexuality scholars have frequently used two conceptualizations to frame the discussion of masculinity. The first, essentialism, posits that there are basic and fundamental qualities of masculinity. That is, there are consistent and pervasive properties that define masculinity. Most often, these essential qualities are tethered to biological predispositions (DeLamater & Hyde, 1998; Haslam, Rothschild, & Ernst, 2000; Pratten, 2012; Rangel & Keller, 2011; Wester & Vogel, 2012). Gagnon and Simon (2005), however, warns to "beware the biological: It claims too much" (p. …

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