The Declining Significance of Homophobia: How Teenage Boys Are Redefining Masculinity and Heterosexuality

By Butler, Allister | The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, July 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Declining Significance of Homophobia: How Teenage Boys Are Redefining Masculinity and Heterosexuality


Butler, Allister, The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE


The Declining Significance of Homophobia: How Teenage Boys are Redefining Masculinity and Heterosexuality. By Mark McCormack. Oxford University Press. 166pp, Pounds 32.50. ISBN 9780199778249. Published 19 April 2012

The term "groundbreaking research" is often bestowed too lightly, but it is richly deserved in the case of this book. Mark McCormack offers a pioneering and remarkably inspiring account of the declining significance of homophobia, and how teenage boys are redefining masculinity and heterosexuality (and homosexuality). It allows the reader to enter into a new way of thinking about and understanding the nuances of homosexual and heterosexual peer relationships in a secondary education context, and it begins to dispel the common belief that the majority of secondary schools (in the UK, the US and elsewhere) are rife with multiple levels of oppression, social exclusion, marginalisation and homophobic manifestations. Although it may still be the case in many secondary schools around the world, this piece of research encourages us to start asking and framing our empirical studies in a more open-minded way, without the a priori assumption that "all high schools are inculcated within a homophobic framework".

McCormack's new paradigm of framing our understanding about adolescent sexuality and pro-gay attitudes must be commended. But more importantly, the young people (gay and straight alike) who participated in this study merit the greatest accolades. They gave voice, in a profound and most articulate manner, to the fact that secondary school students have taken it upon themselves to alter their attitudes and disposition towards homosexuality, homophobia and heteronormativity. This is without doubt one of the strengths of the book - it provides us with an ethnographic prism into these changed realities as heterosexual and homosexual peers begin to develop a modern and contemporary understanding of and respect for each other. McCormack has captured this brave new world with conviction, resilience, honesty and a healthy dose of humour.

In reading the book it is pos-sible to see how these burgeoning relationships have begun to change. …

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