Masculinities in the Middle: Policing of Masculinity, and the Central and Marginal Roles of Adolescent Boys in Adult Martial Art Groups

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The present study explores recent changes in performances of masculinity in the West, through an exploration of the status of adolescent boys participating in mostly adult martial arts groups. Drawing on a qualitative methodology of ethnographic participation and in-depth interviews, I argue that adolescent boys simultaneously occupy positions of centrality and marginality. Hierarchies of age and seniority place the boys as inferior, to both men and women. But at the same time, adolescent boys occupy the center in at least three aspects: their status as “becoming men”; their potential to demonstrate the method’s effectiveness; and the social inclusiveness of the group. These findings demonstrate how supposedly progressive changes in performances of masculinity may lead to the fortification, rather than relaxation, of gender policing.

Maor is with the Gender Studies Program, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er Sheva, Israel; and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Address author correspondence to Maya Maor at mayyamaor@gmail.com.
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