Boys Bonding: same-sex friendship, the unconscious and heterosexual masculinities

Redman, Peter; Epstein, Debbie; Kehily, Mary Jane and Mac an Ghaill, Mairtin (2002). Boys Bonding: same-sex friendship, the unconscious and heterosexual masculinities. Discourse, 23(2) pp. 179–191.



This article aims to explore some of the ways in which the cultural meanings and practices of gender, sexuality and relationships intersect with and are reworked in the same-sex friendships of children aged nine to eleven. Using material from an ethnographic study, it focuses on two boys, Ben and Karl, who identified themselves as best friends. The article argues that, while the boys clearly knew, positioned themselves in and deployed heterosexual discourse, their relationship to this was complex. In particular, they appeared to use it to distance themselves from the feminine and to build their friendship as a pleasurable, intimate and exciting space. The article uses psychoanalytic arguments to explore this material, tentatively suggesting that the boys' access to the cultural practice of 'best friendship' mobilised identifications that both reinforced conventional versions of heterosexual masculinity and questioned these. In particular, the article suggests that the boys' friendship may have involved 'over-inclusive' gender identifications - ones that indicate the existence of boyhood masculinities that are more capacious and flexible than those hegemonic in teenage and adolescent cultures.

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