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Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities

Ken Corbett
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Familiar and expected gender patterns help us to understand boys but often constrict our understanding of any given boy. Writing in a wonderfully robust and engaging voice, Ken Corbett argues for a new psychology of masculinity, one that is not strictly dependent on normative expectation. As he writes in his introduction, "no two boys, no two boyhoods are the same." InBoy HoodsCorbett seeks to release boys from the grip of expectation as Mary Pipher did for girls inReviving Ophelia.

    Corbett grounds his understanding of masculinity in his clinical practice and in a dynamic reading of feminist and queer theories. New social ideals are being articulated. New possibilities for recognition are in play. How is a boy made between the body, the family, and the culture? Does a boy grow by identifying with his father, or by separating from his mother? Can we continue to presume that masculinity is made at home? Corbett uses case studies to defy stereotypes, depicting masculinity as various and complex. He examines the roles that parental and cultural anxiety play in development, and he argues for a more nuanced approach to cross-gendered fantasy and experience, one that does not mistake social consensus for well-being. Corbett challenges us at last to a fresh consideration of gender, with profound implications for understanding all boys.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15494-8
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    THE ROOM IN WHICH I WRITE OVERLOOKS A PARK, OR rather the blocklong cement slab that passes for a park in New York City. This play space is divided in two by a chain-link fence, and further divided into two full basketball courts, three half-court basketball courts, and one miniature baseball diamond. A painted circle serves as the pitcher’s mound, painted squares the bases. The sounds of the games often provide background to my writing: the ping of aluminum baseball bats (so distinct from the thwack of the wooden bats of my boyhood), the start-and-stop rhythm of dribbling, the smack...

  5. PART I Boys, Masculinity, and the Family

    • CHAPTER ONE Little Hans: Masculinity Foretold
      (pp. 19-51)

      LITTLE HANS HOLDS PRIDE OF PLACE IN THE PSYCHOanalytic canon, not only as the first psychoanalytic child but also as the first psychoanalytic boy. Within the pages of hisAnalysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy, Sigmund Freud in 1909 elaborated and embodied his theory of boyhood and masculinity. It is a theory that continues to stand as the canonical psychological narrative of masculinity: we have known a boy to be a boy through his phallic preoccupations and castration fears, enacted alongside and through his desire for his mother and his rivalry with his father, which in time resolve...

    • CHAPTER TWO Nontraditional Family Reverie: Masculinity Unfolds
      (pp. 52-84)

      “WHERE DID I COME FROM?” HAS NEVER BEEN AN EASY question to ask or to answer. Setting aside the existential uncertainty this question provokes, it often places children and parents alike in the manifold grip of wish, anxiety, and defense. This knot of anxieties has been drawn even tighter with the proliferation of nontraditional families, including lesbian and gay families, multiparent families, and single-parent families: How to speak to children about the ways in which their conception and/or their parents’ sexual union differs from traditional family narratives about procreation and parental sexuality? How to introduce and negotiate a child’s growing...

  6. PART II Boys, Masculinity, and Gender’s Divide

    • CHAPTER THREE Boyhood Femininity: Masculine Presuppositions and the Anxiety of Regulation
      (pp. 87-119)

      DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF WHAT WAS TO BECOME a six-year analysis, Jesse, then twenty-two, described his experience as a feminine boy as follows: “There was this sense of otherness. You know, not being the norm, not the normal boy. But I don’t know, I feel like civilization has robbed me of the words to describe this.” Following on Jesse’s sentiment, I turn in this chapter to boys who struggle to lay claim to cross-gendered experiences that are at odds with what is considered normal masculinity; boys who regularly feel unnamed or without claim to the gender name they desire,...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Trans States: Feminine Boys and the Therapeutic Scene of Address
      (pp. 120-170)

      OVER THE PAST FIFTEEN YEARS, I HAVE REGULARLY met with parents of feminine boys, sometimes on their own, sometimes in conjunction with seeing their son. Usually, these parents find their way to me when their son has been diagnosed with gender identity disorder—a psychiatric diagnosis, based largely on the persistent belief that one is the gender other than his or her sex. By and large, these parents find the diagnosis disorienting, disturbing, and humiliating; more than one parent has referred to it as an “accusation.”

      Frequently these parents have gone online or to the library and have read about...

  7. PART III Boys, Masculinity, and Phallic Narcissism

    • CHAPTER FIVE Faggot = Loser: Phallic Narcissism as Defense
      (pp. 173-207)

      FAGGOTHAS BECOME THE ALL-PURPOSE PUTDOWN. “When we grew up everything was a faggot,” a young man tells the playwright Marc Wolf inAnother American Asking and Telling.¹ Or as Ben, a high school student explains when asked by the social scientist C. J. Pascoe what prompts someone to call another person a “fag”: “Literally, anything. Like you were trying to turn a wrench the wrong way: ‘Dude, you’re a fag.’”²

      Faggot = anything. Faggot = everything. The ubiquity offaggotredoubles its meanings, and at the same time diminishes its meanings, or at the very least blunts them through...

    • CHAPTER SIX Fantastic Phallicism: Recognition, Relation, and Phallic Narcissism
      (pp. 208-234)

      IN THE TIME-HONORED TRADITION OF GENDER stereotypes, I begin this chapter with a man in a car, me in my car, to be precise. It is summer, and I am driving to the beach. The top is down. My seven-year-old nephew Alex is in the back seat, his blond hair wild in the wind. Eminem raps from the stereo speakers, and Alex is shouting, “Uncle Kenny, turn it up, turn it up!” I gladly comply.

      The wind, the heat, the beat, Eminem raps about losing oneself in music, and in the moment of music. In his cocky syncopation he tells...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 235-248)
  9. References
    (pp. 249-264)
  10. Index
    (pp. 265-276)