British Journal of Criminology,  Vol. 37 No. 3 Summer 1997, ps. 401-418


The gendered stereotypes of 'fearless male/fearful female' are not supported by the reality of complex and multiple identities and the shifting meanings of fear and fearlessness which are brought to and evolve from these identities. Referring to evidence from the author's own research, childhood and adolescence are put forward as crucial stages in identity development where one can begin to unpack the processes by which gendered meanings of fear and fearlessness become fixed. This paper argues that the image of the 'fearless' male, from childhood onwards, is not a helpful one. The benefits to the male sex from taking on a 'fearless' persona, alongside its negative social implications, are discussed with reference to hegemonic masculinity. Class and race are put forward as significant variables in the development of hegemonic masculinity's emotionally inarticulate persona and racism are highlighted as one of the ugliest expressions of exaggerated masculinity. The above are placed and developed within the theoretical context of the 'hegemonic masculine biography'.


Masculinities, Fear of Crime and Fearlessness




The central concern of this paper is boys' emotional illiteracy which damages them as individuals, as a group and as part of society .It triggers a form of masculine bravado or fearlessness which can, in turn, display itself as reactive aggression against the self (the denial of one's own vulnerability) and others in the display of verbally and physically aggressive acts. Working with theoretical and everyday developments of adolescent masculinity formation can begin to highlight this field of study as an important arena for investigation. This is particularly the case for criminology, which is centrally concerned with the aftermath of taking on a negative masculine identity; that is, criminology focuses on exaggerated masculinities in the form of anti-social and criminal activities by adolescent and adult males.


Criminology's focus on the negative outcomes of exaggerated masculinities (street crime, white-collar crime, racism etc.) needs to be developed theoretically beyond an examination of these outcomes. Research should look into the processes and events surrounding the individual male's transition into the potentially criminal and 'fearless' persona. While various theories from anomie, subcultural studies and psychoanalysis have offered explanations for criminal and anti-social behaviour, the processes by which boys can become criminal men demand contextualization within what it is to become and be male in its various guises; that is, in the context of the individual's class, race, age and sexuality (to name but a few). Examination of 'growing up male' through research on childhood, adolescence and masculinities can present criminology with a solid base from which well-established and reworked 'facts' (e.g. most crime is committed by males) can be readdressed and reinterpreted. This paper attempts to connect these elements, which are often regarded as disparate elements, to present a discussion on 'masculinities, fear of crime and fearlessness'.


Focusing on a few key writers, the paper will present a theoretical appraisal of the most useful roads to understanding the development of apparent male fearlessness in adolescence; the proviso being that boys can and do experience crime and danger as anything on a continuum from fearful to fearless. This continuum of experience stems from everyday social interactions which, in turn, are shaped by internal meanings which the individual attaches to these events; meanings which are not only to be interpreted on the level of what we say and do, but must be understood alongside what is left unsaid and the wider discourse of power relations. Hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 1987), as a dominant reading of the dynamics of male power relations, will form the foundation of the paper in the context of multiple masculine identities.


A central focus of the paper is the author's research on the socialization of adolescents' gendered fear of crime. Though inadvertent, since the research was primarily concerned with the development of girls' fear, it serves to highlight the neglected arena of boys' fear, which is progressively downplayed as normative adult identities are adopted (Goodey 1996). In recognition of this, the paper will incorporate a few findings on boys' fear and fearlessness from the author's research which have sparked this current interest. The findings will be discussed in the context of theoretical developments stemming from hegemonic masculinity to the author's own (tentative) adaptation of these theoretical insights in the form of the 'hegemonic masculine biography' (see below). Finally, the paper will suggest avenues for future research which should set forward more concrete responses to some of the ideas forwarded here.


Towards the 'Hegemonic Masculine Biography' as Theoretical Framework


The process by which boys learn to adopt the 'fearless facade' of exaggerated masculinity needs contextualizing within what I will refer to here as the 'hegemonic masculine biography'. This term needs explanation within the context of definitions of masculinity/femininity and the theory of hegemonic masculinity .A basic understanding of these theoretical ideas will present a framework from which the author's findings can be more usefully read.


What it is to be 'a man' or become 'a man' is something which is often reduced to that which is not female or feminine. One can turn to definitions which present quintessential differences between what it is to be male and female and offer a standard by which the individual can be judged as appropriately masculine or feminine. Those of us who are able to meet the criteria of the 'norm' are few and far between. The problem with attempts to define what it is to be 'male' is that definitions are not always useful or helpful while they tend to fall into the trap of essentialism; that is, understanding of 'maleness' often assumes the existence of inner distinctive qualities that are not feminine, without the articulation of what these qualities are beyond mere outward appearances. For example, the popular understanding of 'maleness' is still constricted within the idea that 'boys don't cry' (Sparks 1996) without any real interpretation of this stereotype and its accuracy. Nonnative definitions present limited social constructions of masculinity which cannot cope with the reality of a multiplicity of masculinities and the influence of an individual's personality on what it is to be male.


For the purposes of this paper, masculinity, as experienced by the individual, is best understood as being anywhere on a continuum from what is traditionally perceived as feminine or masculine. The fearful or fearless experience of crime and danger while, by definition, at different ends of a continuum of fear, can no longer be viewed as gendered experience. In turn, each individual's many experiences of fear and fearlessness shift back and forth along the fear continuum according to meta discourses in the lifecourse such as ageing and parenthood which are part of the individual's personal biography. In other words, the old man re-enters the 'fearful' stage of early childhood (Pain 1995) and the man as father can become acutely conscious of his child's vulnerability and his own vulnerability within the social construct of his role as male 'protector' (Valentine 1997). Similarly, the individual's fear level is influenced by his circumstantial feelings of vulnerability which are affected by a range of factors such as being alone or in a group (safety in numbers; Anderson et at. 1994) or whether it is dark or light outside (fear of the dark alleyway: Painter 1991). On top of these diverse and shifting influences upon the individual's experiences of fear are the relatively 'fixed' categories of sex, race, class and sexuality.


Opening up the diversity of individual experiences across the hour, the day and the lifecourse (Hockey and James 1993) is extremely useful when attempting to understand what the differential 'masculine' experience of fear and fearlessness is. However, interpreting what it is to become a 'fearless' man at the level of the individual fails to come to terms with the underlying social structures which inform the individual experience. Presented in nonnative or essentialist terms, ideas on gender and masculinity are removed from the complexity of relations acting between, within and upon these categories. An understanding of patriarchy can enlighten interpretation of gendered experience and oppression, but, as Connell states (1995: 76), 'To understand gender, then, we must constantly go beyond gender.' In other words, masculinity cannot be viewed only in opposition to femininity, but must be understood also in relation to other signifiers of oppression; namely class, race, age and sexuality.


Hegemonic masculinity presents just such a hierarchy of oppression in reference to how western, white, middle-class, heterosexual and 'thirty-something' masculinity is placed at the top of this hierarchy of privileged masculinities. In a somewhat idealistic reading (reminiscent of subcultural studies: Hall and Jefferson 1976) working-class masculinity , ethnic minority masculinity and homosexuality are viewed as marginalized or subordinated by hegemonic masculinity in relation to the dominant masculinity And, while few men practice at the top of a hegemonic masculine pile, the majority of men reap the benefits of this system in relation to the overall subordination of women. As feminism (Dobash and Dobash 1979; Kelly 1988) has taught us, the action of some men, as rapists and wife-beaters, has kept the majority of women 'in their place' for fear of becoming the victim of male aggression. Similarly, hegemonic masculinity has kept the majority of men 'in their place' for fear of the repercussions that might ensue from having been defined as 'feminine'. Hegemonic masculinity teaches boys to be careful about expressing feelings of vulnerability (i.e. to whom and when; that is, if they feel able to or indeed are aware of such feelings in the first place).


In presenting a hierarchy of masculinities, hegemonic masculinity is in danger of being interpreted as a bounded catalogue of masculinities which fit neatly on top of one another. The beauty of social groups is that they defy any such categorization. One cannot think in terms of 'the working class' or 'the Afro-Caribbean' in the case of British society .Rather, one should be thinking of the interplay of masculinities with their intra-class and intra-ethnic variations which generate complex identities. Nowhere is this complexity of categorization more readily illustrated than in studies of school students. Mac an Ghaill's (1994) school research illustrates this point superbly as he refers to the diverse range of feelings and experiences of boys from similar socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. Using multi-layered and shifting categories of masculinities can push understanding beyond the essentialist assumptions of what it is to be 'a man' and, in doing so, one can begin to unpack masculine experiences of fear. While the author's own research findings are limited to white, working-class adolescents in one place and at one time, the hierarchical posturings within this group emerge as complex and diverse and, therefore, ripe for assessment in the context of hegemonic masculinity theory .

When adopting hegemonic masculinity as a useful theoretical base from which research findings on masculinities can be interpreted, other theories must also be acknowledged as providing potential sources for understanding the processes by which boys become men. Elements of sex role theory and psychoanalysis can be very useful in providing a diverse range of understandings on what it is to become male or female. However, it is the underlying theme of children's unproblematic transition into their appropriate gender roles as presented by sex role theory (Parsons and Bales 1956) and classical psychoanalysis, which has been critiqued for its concern with construction of the gender archetype. These theories' concerns with the processes of conforming to one's gender have largely been surmounted by critical analysis of gender 'identity' construction which more usefully recognizes the complex and frequently difficult transition the child has towards expected adult norms.


While sex role theory and (particularly) psychoanalysis can also be criticized for their neglect of the influence of social power structures on the individual, so hegemonic masculinity can be accused of presenting a monolithic interpretation of power relations (Horrocks 1994). Perhaps the most useful approach to be undertaken in any study of masculinities, fear of crime and fearlessness, is one which combines elements of the most 'useful' of these theories (such as Adler's (1927) 'masculine protest'-see footnote 2), while remaining conscious of the negative aspects of each. However, I would support the underlying incorporation of hegemonic masculinity theory into the above theories, as it presents a critique of current masculinity in relation to questions of social justice. In comparison, and as a reaction to its distortion of much of the feminist and social justice debate, I am hesitant to take the 'men's movement' on board in any constructive discussion of masculinities.


In consideration of what it is to be 'male' within the power dynamics of hegemonic masculinity, theoretical interpretation has to turn to what it is to become male. The 'hegemonic masculine biography', as an idea, posits the period of late childhood/early adolescence as crucial towards an understanding of fear/fearlessness development. The 'hegemonic masculine biography' demands detailed insight into the individual's experiences and everyday interactions with regard to their stated, understated or unstated meanings as stages for the enactment or expression of potential fear scenarios. The biography would speak for the individual but would be positioned in the wider context of lifecourse concerns and the demands of hegemonic masculinity .Internal and external meanings of the fear/fearlessness continuum could be encapsulated in the detail of the focused biography with the recognition that the individual is influenced by social structures which, in turn, are shaped by the individual. As a research tool, the biography could go some way towards an integrative examination of public, private and internal influences upon masculine identity development (the possibility for incorporating insights from the traditionally unhappy bedfellows of social science research and psychoanalysis is an agenda which the 'hegemonic masculine biography' could examine).


'Biography' is primarily useful because it accommodates lifecourse changes. While the ideal biography would follow an individual's development throughout their life, the biography as a social science research tool is not (normally) afforded this luxury. Researchers must usually be content with brief glimpses into boys' lives over a few weeks/months; this can also be combined with insights into boys' brief life histories (to date). The diverse masculine biography is effectively constructed with the cross-referencing of findings from boys of different age, class and race as they progress through the significant years of adolescence. There is no one collective masculine biography to speak of but, rather, a series of biographies. What research can look for are shared experiences of fear and fearlessness which can begin to divulge the meaning of what it is to become a 'fearless' male during the period of late childhood/early adolescence. Biography also describes the diverse experiences and meanings of masculine fear/fearlessness within micro (through to) macro arenas of change; that is, from the individual's daily encounters to the fluid meanings assigned these encounters in social history.


In other words, the young adolescent male may avoid confrontation with a rowdy group of his peers by crossing the road; this (micro) action will be assigned meaning in the context of the boy's own personal biography of risk avoidance and fear assessment, while the group can consciously and subconsciously interpret his action in relation to the influence their own masculine status and action has as a group and as individuals who make up the group. Important to this interpretation of events is the relevance of the following (among other things): whether those involved in such an encounter already have a shared biography of experience (i.e. whether they are strangers or acquaintances); the significance this encounter and the accumulation of ones like it will hold overtime for the individual, the group and the individuals who make up the group; and the (macro) impact such experiences will have on the biographies of people who experience such events second hand (i.e. witnesses, friends). The multiple and complex layers of interpretation one can place on such events, with regard to their significance in relation to the development of individual 'hegemonic masculine biographies' under the shared umbrella of hegemonic masculinity, are too numerous to speculate upon here. In-depth interpretation of individual experiences necessitates 'real' life examples which the current study does not possess. At this stage of developing the theoretical relevance of the 'hegemonic masculine biography' to fear and fearlessness, one can only acknowledge that the meanings attached to boys' experiences and emotions are both relationally hierarchical and shifting with time.


Translating the above into a practical assessment of hegemonic masculinity's ascendance into adolescent 'fearlessness' is a difficult task. Mac an Ghaill's work on masculinities, sexuality and schooling notes the fluidity of masculine/feminine meanings as reflections of individual and institutional discourses. 'There was a certain contextual fluidity in the construction of ascribed meanings that mediated the institutional signifiers of what it means to be masculine or feminine within the school and across other sites' (1994: 93). One could add that the shifting status of masculine meanings is something which the white, privileged boy can afford; for example, he can support the black footballer and, occasionally, he can feign the effeminacy of the homosexual for the sake of peer group amusement. Similarly, the black or Asian boy can adopt the norms of the dominant, white culture, but he tends only to practice his racial and ethnic diversity if it is currently favoured by the dominant culture's normative masculinity; e.g. black rap music. To step outside the realms of acceptable masculinity is to endanger oneself as an atypical male. However, the extent to which the individual boy is constrained to adopt his appropriate masculinity (and the extent to which his brand of masculinity proves useful to him with regard to other males and females) is open to discussion.


With this theoretical framework in mind, the paper can turn to some findings from the author's research which begin to highlight the extent and complexity of young male fear and fearlessness during childhood and early adolescence.


Boys' Fear of Crime and Fearlessness - Inserting the 'Hegemonic Masculine Biography'


My own work on children's gendered fear of public place crime, while focusing on girls, provides a wealth of empirical research on the subject of boys' fear and fearlessness. The research took place in a north of England school on an edge-of-town state housing scheme and incorporated the use of focused single sex discussion sessions and a questionnaire survey of 663 children. The school has a homogeneous population of white, working class II to 16-year-olds, whose area, while not having the worst reputation in the city, does possess a 'bad name'. However, the school and the estate were not selected on the basis of a reputation or a crime rate, but were chosen because the school was accessible and the local population presented a sample base from which to examine the variable 'gender', free from class or ethnic variance. While the absence of class and ethnic variation in the fear 'equation' can be readily critiqued (see below), one can use the research findings as a base from which to develop future empirical and theoretical research initiatives on the subject of childhood fear, gender and masculinities in relation to multiple class/race experiences.


Turning to a version of the classic victimization survey question: 'Have you been worried or has something made you feel "on edge" when outside?', the research questionnaire revealed (unsurprisingly in light of research findings from numerous victim surveys such as the British Crime Survey, the Islington Crime Survey, the Edinburgh Crime Survey, the US National Crime Survey and specifically surveys on children by Anderson et al. 1994 and Hartless et al. 1994) that more girls (72 per cent) than boys (46 per cent)4 were worried when outside in public places. The interesting point here is not the obvious finding that more girls revealed fear than boys, but that boys revealed fear at all. With a breakdown of the results by age, one is able to see that atage II more boys (72 per cent) were worried outside than girls (57 per cent). However, from age 12, girls' fear outstripped boys' and, for both sexes, fear declined with age.


Taking statistical findings at face value is a dangerous research exercise and, with respect to the above findings, can obscure what respondents really think and do. A researcher's attention can easily be drawn to the unimportant as a reflection of what was not asked in the questions rather than what was. Consequently, the above can simply reveal the obvious or it can make us ask why boys' fear is higher than girls' fear at age 11 and, that being the case, why boys' fear dramatically tails off, in comparison with girls' fear, through adolescence. Again, these may seem like obvious responses to the above, but the central question, 'Why aren't boys and young men more afraid of crime?', needs asking; particularly when one considers their high risk of becoming a victim of assault.


Reflecting on this question and turning to extracts from discussions held with boys, evidence can be drawn from the research which begins to piece together the multiple and complex influences upon boys' expression of fear and fearlessness as a reflection of their gender, age, ethnicity and class. The degree to which this process is shaped by the respondents' collective upbringing in a white, working class, northern community is open to discussion. The 'collective' biography of hegemonic masculinity can be viewed as a meta-narrative for explaining gendered structures of power (much like patriarchy) which, in turn, can be broken down into its component parts (class, race, age, sexuality etc.) for a more focused reading of group experiences of what it is to be male and to become male in a certain place at a certain time. However, the 'hegemonic masculine biography' is a more useful tool when attempting to explain and make connections between discourses of masculine power and powerlessness in relation to individual experience over time .The following quotes offer a glimpse of what it is to become 'a man , for each member of this particular group of boys:


Do you think there's any age when you will feel less scared or worried?

Late teens.

When I'm adult.

14. ..

What I mean is like physically when I'm an adult.

[Boys aged 12-13]

When do you think you might feel safer?

[asked after a discussion on intra-male aggression and bullying]

I'd say 17 'cos I think if someone's just like left school they know they wanna think they're a man. [Boy aged 15-16]


These quotes reveal the 'hegemonic masculine biography' as boys perceive it; or, at least, in terms of what boys will articulate to the researcher during an interview session. It is a biography in which becoming an adult means becoming less fearful or, rather, showing less fear (note the use of the word 'think' in the second quote). This process is clearly defined in terms of age, which can either denote the physical transition to adulthood and increased strength or the social transition into the non-childlike state of school-leaver. What is interesting here is the relative 'sameness' of the response themes by the younger and older boys. However, what this actually 'says' is somewhat harder to interpret, beyond the collective meanings attached by society and adolescent boys to attaining adulthood, that is (among other things) age and strength.


Each boy gives a separate response to the questions posed, with the age and signifier with which one becomes a man variously defined. With each different response the boys are working out their own particular experience and relationship to becoming 'a man' (their own particular hegemonic masculine biography), in relation to the responses of the rest of the group, which are often modified on hearing what someone else has to say. This dialogue is a necessary tool for learning and adaptation to 'adulthood', but cannot be simplistically viewed as a constraining process by which boys must be beholden to their peers; rather the process can also be seen as a rite of passage which is enthusiastically undertaken. As the following discussion quote illustrates, boys are very aware of the demands on their masculinity in relation to girls and the uptake of a certain machismo. However, even in the discussion's transcribed form, one is able to decipher the enthusiasm with which these boys concede to their 'fate' (Willis 1977) of 'becoming male'.


I think they're [girls] right.

[in respect of being told that the girls accuse them of affecting a macho image]

You've got to give the woman some self-assurance haven't you? I mean, if somebody's walking behind you, you don't go 'Oh!-there's somebody coming!' You don't run off do you. You gotta stand there. You try and create an image.

Stand your ground.

[Boys aged 15-16]


The anonymity of the questionnaire was frequently able to reveal the pervasiveness of boys' fear beyond the constraints of peer group discussions (above), where the need for a show of masculine bravado frequently emerged. In contrast to the requirement to become 'a man' (age 17) and with the needs (real or imagined) of girls to consider, the questionnaire found that roughly three-quarters of girls and boys could admit that 'drunks' and 'druggies' worried them when out and about, while 48 per cent of boys and 28 per cent of girls specified 'older boys' as a similar category for concern. However, the startling three-quarters figure for 'drunks' and 'druggies' needs contextualizing by the recognition that these groups pose the atypical threat or 'folk devil' as a source of fear. It is hardly surprising that so many respondents, both girls and boys, felt able to declare their fear of the 'bogeyman'. What is more interesting, when comparing the dialogue of masculine bravado in the majority of discussion sessions with the findings of the questionnaire, is the fact that boys declared a greater fear of 'older boys' than did girls through the medium of the questionnaire and that this fear remained skewed in favour of boys' greater fear levels at all ages. However, as with all the questionnaire's categories of people, 'things' and occasions to be afraid, the numbers expressing fear, anxiety or concern declined for both sexes with age. The fact that both girls and boys experience an overall decline in levels of fear with increased age could be posited as a form of shared biographical journey as one enters adulthood. While the evidence here indicates that this decline is most definitely a gendered experience, the degree to which this apparent 'fearlessness' is shaped by the respondents' class and race can only be guessed at in relation to the experiences of other groups (for example; white, middle class adolescents or Afro-Caribbean, working class adolescents).


In consideration of the questionnaire's findings on boys' high levels of fear of 'older boys', one has to contextualize the adolescent male, particularly when hanging around in a group in public places, as frequently construed in the popular imagination as a milder form of 'folk devil' than the street drunk or druggie. To be labelled 'folk devil' the adolescent male usually has to be noted as causing an affray, while the drunk or druggie just has to 'be' .For boys to admit to feelings of fear towards an' ordinary' group (that is, other boys) would seem to indicate the damaging extent of intra-male adolescent threat posed by older boy to younger boy. Perhaps what the above does reveal is the pervasiveness of bullying among boys in adolescence, with older boys (the oldest being young men) employing their superior strength. In an attempt to relate hegemonic masculine theory to the research findings, one can only speculate that what seems to be on display here is the lived reality of hegemonic masculinity which is operating at an intra-sex and intra-class level; the determinates of hegemony being age and strength among this group of boys who share a class, race and community background. At the individual level, the number of confrontational and aggressive encounters a boy has while growing up will shape his own experience and understanding of crime and fear in the context of his own personal 'hegemonic masculine biography'.


If any category of male is to be placed at the bottom of hegemonic masculinity's hierarchy, it is the boy. One could argue that the 'western child' comes above the 'developing world man' in the world's social order (although the man still has the advantage of superior strength-the weapon similarly threatened and used against women in the patriarchal order); however, in relation to the current research, this is not a central consideration. What has to be considered is the relative position of white, working class boys vis-a-vis the rest of white dominated society. While these boys do not suffer the marginalization of ethnic minority boys, they are on the lowest rung in terms of their class. Becoming men will advantage these boys, to some extent, over their youthful selves, but this has to be put in the context of the economic and social position they find themselves in now and will find themselves in in the foreseeable future. 'What future?' is the opportune question here, as it encapsulates the world of the unemployment queue and life on a 'dead-end' estate for the majority of the boys in this research (CampbeIl 1993: youth in the 1990s, and particularly working class male youth, is relatively undervalued or redundant in economic and consumerist terms when compared with the 'golden age' of youth in the 1960s). The adolescent males in my research had yet to (if at all) attain the status of 'valued masculinity'. With this in mind, the dominant expression of male fearlessness which these boys tended to adopt for potentially threatening situations or people (except 'older boys') can be interpreted (once again) on a number of levels.


At its extreme, 'fearlessness' can be expressed as physical aggression among working-class boys in their attempt to assert their masculinity .In comparison, middle-class boys, while also having to take on the masculine criteria of fearlessness, are able to and tend to project their masculine hegemony through different channels, such as academic success, and, therefore, are able to avoid the arena of physical aggression to which working-class boys can be reduced (Willis 1977). 'Crimes in the street' also pose an opening for the expression of working-class masculinity (Jefferson 1994), as a reflection of having to prove one's fearlessness as a man ('crime of the suites' being a middle-class privilege: Box 1983); however, one can argue that property crime (in general) primarily occurs because of economic necessity. Commenting on class constraints upon masculinity development, Messerschmidt (1994: 82) states: 'Young men situationally accomplish public forms of masculinity in response to their socially structured circumstances; indeed, varieties of youth crime serve as a suitable resource for doing masculinity when other resources are unavailable.' When Messerschmidt comments on 'socially structured circumstances', it must be remembered that the individual's experience of 'becoming male' within this framework is not (necessarily) a constricting and negative process.


The personal and group damage which results in having to become 'a man' or 'doing masculinity' when limited alternatives are available has a significant social impact in terms of crime and aI1\i-social behaviour. But, 'opposition masculinities' as Messerschmidt (1993) calls the above, or 'protest masculinity' against 'the feminine', as discussed by Adler (1927), have their advantages in informing and shaping the boys' place in relation to other subordinated masculinities, girls and women. Being seen to be 'fearless' (not admitting that you are scared when you find yourself walking home followed by a group of'lads') is not a negative undertaking in terms of hegemonic masculinity .Sattel ( 1992) argues that male inexpressiveness is of no cultural value on its own but is essential to the assumption of male power. Emotional inarticulateness, Sattel suggests, is not simply the product of biology or socialization, but is the intentional manipulation of situations where threats to the male position occur. In other words, adolescent boys can actively decide not to offer their feelings of fear and vulnerability to each other (and their mothers, girlfriends etc.), in order to retain some semblance of control and power in relation to others. The fearlessness displayed by the boys in my research can be viewed as their necessary tool against being labelled a 'girl', a 'sissy', or a 'poof’.


Girls' feminine identity comes to identify them as the potential victims of crimes which are perceived as specific to them (sexual assault and rape), while boys learn to adopt a sense of fearlessness or machismo (alongside their growing physical strength) in the development of their masculine identity. It is not necessarily the case that fear in certain places regarding certain people's potential actions does reduce with age, rather it could be the case that the individual simply accepts and essentially 'hides' fear. Boys' fear is effectively internalized with age, as a form of coping strategy against the rigorous onset of the hegemonic masculine demands of adulthood.


One can postulate that a sense of vulnerability and (hence) fear is heightened during early adolescence as physical strength, particularly for boys, is not available yet. Also, one might add, adolescents have not accumulated the practical coping strategies against fear and danger which (some) adults are afforded; for example, the luxury of travelling by car instead of walking. By age 15-16 the adolescents in my research, with particular regard to their socio-economic background (white and working class), are young adults who have gained a degree of self-assurance which, it can be suggested, is reflected in their declining levels of fear. However, while their fear has declined this does not equate with their vulnerability to and risk of victimization.


Older boys from the research (however) did occasionally let their fears be known during discussion sessions, though admitting any sense of vulnerability is most often accomplished as a form of joking banter within all male groups. In comparison, girls' revelations of feeling afraid are not (in general) couched in easy to swallow terms for the rest of the group. However, having said this, I do not want to reduce the research findings to a polarized depiction of gendered behaviour, with girls as 'the fearful' and boys as 'the fearless'. As the following quote illustrates, girls can have their own form of aggressive reaction to crime and fear of crime which (here) is legitimated in this particular girl's biography of having lived on the research's (notorious) estate for the duration of her life; a fact which can hold true for the majority of the research's interviewees.


Crime does not worry me! I don't care about who breaks the law and who doesn't. It doesn't bother me one little bit. I suppose I have got used to it by now as I have lived on [the estate] 15 years.

[Girl aged 15]


In comparison, the following quotes from boys aged 15 and 16 appear to both confirm and confront the 'fearless' stereotype of the late adolescent male.


I wouldn't go round there [estate with a bad reputation in the city] 'cos of drugs and that.

It's too bad [above estate]. It's like people walk round just start on you for now't. Say like you're walking past someone, they'll Say like 'You come here, did you just call me a name?' Something like that. [Boys aged 15-16]

I'd go anywhere [on their estate]. I'd go through all of them [places on map] though I don't like 'em. I'd go allover the place.

I'd go anywhere.

[Boys aged 15-16]


This confirmation and confrontation of 'fearlessness' is accomplished within the frame (as with the girl above) of legitimationcos of drugs and that' and the peer group banter of storytelling 'say you're like walking past someone'. It is the 'tough' language (at least to the boys' ears) of the second quote which more readily suggests that any admittance of fear is a complex process of negotiation for late adolescent boys in a peer group setting. Only the phrase 'though I don't like 'em' alerts the reader to the suggestion that these boys are living and playing up to the part of becoming or, in their particular cases, practically being an adult male in the context of white, working-class masculinity aged 15 and 16.


In the above extracts hegemonic masculinity reduces to the 'pecking order' or the internal hierarchy of the discussion group. That is, dominant characters who do not readily admit feelings of fear tend to dictate the form of the group discussion. Boys admit to and yet do not admit to feelings of vulnerability which they rapidly cover up behind them or which are swallowed up by the collective group ethos of exaggerated masculinity .It would appear that the individual's 'hegemonic masculine biography' is only briefly glimpsed in the course of the group discussion, through storytelling and general banter which legitimates the individual's particular experiences. The collective group biography and the exaggerated masculine biography of white, working-class masculinity tend to subsume individual difference in the setting of these discussion groups (one could add that displays of exaggerated masculinity are particularly important for older boys when faced with a young, female researcher; after all, hegemonic masculinity does not allow for full-blown displays of vulnerability in front of girls and women). Having recognized that individuality is partially subsumed to a form of exaggerated masculinity, one has to return to the acknowledgement (see earlier paragraphs and footnote 2) that masculinity, while limiting and somewhat compulsory, is also socially advantageous.


Returning to the questionnaire and examining responses to a hypothetical crime report in the local newspaper-'Crime Wave Sweeps Estate'-one might hope to see an insight into male feelings of concern or vulnerability away from the setting of the group discussion. However, when stating how they would respond to the headline, 17 per cent of boys (and 4 per cent of girls) said they wouldn't care. While boys' fear for their own safety was much lower than girls' fear for their own safety by age 15-16 (36 per cent of boys and 62 per cent of girls), this should not detract from the knowledge that a significant number of older boys were fearful. Further evidence of the extent and character of boys' fear/fearlessness can be found in the responses to the questionnaire question, 'Why would you not like to visit the place you have chosen?' (this attempted to decipher reasons for not visiting locally known (at least to young people) 'no go' places). Boys specified the following as their 'top three' reasons for not wishing to go to a specified place: 'It's too far away', 'Might get attacked' and 'Prefer to stay at home' (in comparison, girls' reasons were: 'Might get attacked', 'It's dark on the way there' and 'It's too far away'). The responses 'It's too far away' and 'Prefer to stay at home' could indicate, on one level, apathy, laziness and a non-committal disregard for the place in question, but, on another level, they could also indicate a diversionary response which allows a person to stay away from certain places and potentially threatening situations. Similarly, the response 'It's dark on the way there', does not necessarily indicate that people are afraid of the dark. Fear of the dark is one of the earliest fears we can possess, but its meaning is debatable. People tend to say 'I'm afraid of the dark' when it could be what, or rather who, could be in the dark that arouses fear; in turn, this level of analysis has to be acknowledged as limited.


If anything, the above illustrates the difficult and dangerous process of interpreting people's responses as given.6 However, in reference to the response 'Might get attacked' one can be assured (to some degree) that this is indicative of people's fear, inasmuch as this is all they are able and willing to reveal within the confines of a structured questionnaire. The only thing one is unable to judge is the extent and nature of the assault they are referring to. When examining the gender and age breakdown to this response one is able to perceive the familiar reduction in girls' and boys' fear with age (a pattern to emerge throughout my research) with boys' fear remaining consistently lower than that of girls'; at age II 55 per cent of boys and 68 per cent of girls specified fear of attack which reduced to 21 per cent of boys and 48 per cent of girls age 16.


Although boys' expression of fear (except for fear of 'older boys') does not tend to exceed girls' expression of fear at all ages, one cannot ignore the very high levels of fear revealed by younger boys. Aware of their position in the hegemonic masculine order, particularly with regard to their strength, younger boys do not (as yet) feel as constrained by the need to talk like 'a man' as their older counterparts do. The following quotes illustrate the nature of younger boys' fear towards potential dangers and crime in and around the estate where they live:


This area is generally OK. But it really scares you if you find a syringe on the ground where you're playing. Another thing where we don't like going are the underpasses because sometimes gangs of kids hang round there smoking [sic].

[Boy aged 12, back of questionnaire]

Near where I live I often get scared when I look across the main road to the dike [large drainage channel running through estate] and see older boys there because in the last few months there has been people at the dike with air rifles shooting at the buses and the drivers [sic].

[Boy aged 12, back of questionnaire]

That's when it gets scary though. When you're by yourself.

I mean you know these things won't happen [assault] all the time. You know it's not going to happen every time you walk past someone, but it's a possibility i'n it. It's always there in your mind.

[Boys aged 12-13]


As with the older boys, their personal experiences of crime and fear are placed in their individual biographies of having found things ('syringes'), seen things ('older boys') or imagined things ('in your mind') which have scared them. In turn, all these 'things' are well-established signifiers of threat which both boys and girls must learn to negotiate (often with great difficulty) within their socially assigned gender roles as they grow older.


It is the point at which boys no longer feel able to express their vulnerability and fear that is of most interest when examining the development of hegemonic masculine identity in relation to criminology. This 'point' or process of boys' masculine identification, however, is extremely difficult to identify in both real and theoretical terms as it is dynamic and, as yet, not widely researched. The abstraction and the contextualization of the individual's 'hegemonic masculine biography' within the wider theoretical framework of hegemonic masculinity is a difficult task. This is particularly the case in relation to the above research findings which have been extracted from a research undertaking whose remit was to discover the processes by which heightened gendered fear of crime evolves in girls. Ideally, documentation and theorization on what it is boys actually 'do, say and say about what they do' in relation to crime, fear of crime and fearlessness, needs to be placed within a dedicated research framework. The question of how and how completely masculinity constrains boys' expression of fear and their behaviour is one which can only be partially responded to by the above research findings.


Recent and Future Research on Male Fear of Crime and Fearlessness


Recent research on crime and masculinities has approached the subject of male fear in relation to men's victimization (Stanko 1990; Stanko and Hobden 1993; Newburn and Stanko 1995 ), but this interest is relatively 'new' and has to battle against the mainstream criminological interest in men and adolescent boys (primarily) as delinquents and offenders and the mainstream victimological interest in women and children (primarily) as victims. Newburn and Stanko (1995) present a solid critique of victimology's failure to incorporate work on men's victimization and hence, one can propose, victimology's neglect of male fear (for exceptions see Shapland et al. 1985; Maguire and Corbett 1987; King 1992). Newburn and Stanko (1995) suggest that male victimization is largely under-researched because of the belief that men are unwilling to admit to their vulnerability and, in respect of this, research on male fear continues to be sidelined. Similarly, when men do reveal experiences of victimization and fear, these are often supplanted by attention to women's experiences. One can readily understand the research focus on women in light of their heightened and pervasive experience of victimization and fear. However, to ignore the male experience is to deny an insight into male vulnerability and, correspondingly, excludes an innovative appraisal of men as 'aggressors'. The two, victim and offender, fearful and fearless, are not mutually exclusive; the one informs the other. Rather than focus on adulthood, research should look at that period which is central to the formation of the individual's social and sexual identity; childhood and, specifically, adolescence. This will turn the concerns of mainstream criminology on their heads with the introduction of two bases for the theoretical development of research on fear of crime: first, research on male fear and, secondly, research on the construction of male 'fearlessness' through the development of normative masculinity in childhood.


It is not enough to advocate the incorporation of childhood studies into research on masculinities, victimization and fear of crime without the contextualization of research in 'terms of race and class. Future research on developmental male 'fearlessness' particularly needs to address the question of race, masculinity and racism as one of the most oppressive and damaging forms of hegemonic masculinity .An argument Can be made that racism is a form of masculinity. As Newburn and Stanko (1994: 164) say: 'The small literature which addresses racist violence often neglects to articulate how being male is part of the way racist violence works.'7 The extremes of intra-male powerplays can be expressed by those near the bottom of the male hierarchy in ugly displays of violent racism (and homophobia) against those at the very bottom. Hewitt's (1986) research on adolescents and young men in two multi-racial, working-class, London communities notes that racism is far more prevalent among boys than girls (the research concentrated on boys because they formed what Hewitt perceived as the problem) and suggests that unfamiliarity between races breeds racial prejudice. Building on Hewitt's ideas, I would concur that alongside the familiarity or 'contact hypothesis' (Hewitt 1986: 1) there is also the absence of male racist powerplay among white boys in communities where they are significantly outnumbered by black youth. The logistics of trying to assert your brand of masculinity when you are an ethnic minority (either white or black) is a dangerous game.


The history of ethnic minority oppression and racism, particularly against Afro-Caribbeans and African-Americans, can lead the male members of these groups to adopt an exaggerated form of emotional inexpressiveness (which, stylistically, can be very expressive) in their attempt to assert their masculinity from below. This emotional inexpressiveness can match or surpass that displayed by white, working-class boys and men. Majors and Billson (1992) and Taylor Gibbs and Merighi (1994) describe and discuss what they respectively call the 'compulsive masculine alternative/cool pose' and the 'pseudo masculine/exaggerated masculine' among black, male youth. The cultures of masculinity these writers variously detail can be described as adopting a form of defensive or coping strategy to counter their feelings of marginality and the overt and covert racism which others display towards them. The pressures not to show vulnerability and fear, I would speculate, are learnt by ethnic minority boys from a young age. My speculation is supported by Walker et al.'s (1988) research on ethnic minority males and the criminal justice system which found that 30 per cent of black, 33 per cent of Asian and 36 per cent of white boys aged 10-16 'worried about bullying or teasing' (1988: 125) and 94 per cent of black, 78 per cent of Asian and 72 per cent of white males aged 16-20 felt 'very or fairly safe' when walking alone in their area after dark ( 1988: 116). As Majors and Billson state: 'Presenting to the world an emotionless, fearless, and aloof front counters the low sense of inner control, lack of inner strength, absence of stability, damaged pride, shattered confidence and fragile social competence that come from living on the edge of society' (1992: 8).


Research on the institutionalization of hegemonic masculinity in childhood must be prepared to address the question of racism (and homophobia) against the background of wider class and (of course) female-centred oppression. Connell (1995: 238-9) suggests the development of a multicultura1/gender-inclusive curriculum in schools to invert the hegemonic dominance of the old curriculum. Mac an Ghaill ( 1994) suggests similar initiatives and emphasizes the need to incorporate white youth in anti-racist programmes (Cohen 1986). Through initial reference to white boys' own experiences of conflict and danger, school programmes can begin to develop an understanding of what it is to be white and male, from which point understanding of different races, their experiences and racism can be integrated. Alternatively, school programmes can approach issues from the perspective of bullied and oppressed minorities so that hegemonic masculinity is immediately confronted and challenged. The London-based charity 'Kidscape' currently produces a wide range of leaflets, videos and books for schools on the subject of bullying and racism: such initiatives are ripe for including specific work on racism and what it is to become 'a ~an'. White youth needs to be informed of its own potential for a positive identity beyond the rhetoric of New Right extremes. Ethnic minority youth (and girls) needs positive feedback that its own ways

of doing and thinking are valued.


If anything, the above suggestions can be readily accused of two things; idealistic ambition and harmful essentialism-the latter because of the suggestion that the complexity of masculinity can be reduced to the dichotomy of 'bad white masculinity' versus 'other masculinities'. One cannot deny the racism of Asian on white or black on white but, I would argue, this has to be understood with regard to the history of race and racism and the adoption of negative hegemonic masculine standards (such as aggression) as the reactive actions of oppressed minorities. To combat racism between boys, school programmes should focus on masculinity's shared meanings of vulnerability beyond the brutality of verbal and physical aggression towards those who are different and who do not fit normative expectations. Fundamentally, the myth of normative masculinity needs to be shattered so that boys, as both the future actors and potential victims of the masculine ideal, can rest with the knowledge that 'boys can and do cry'. Here the 'hegemonic masculine biography' becomes a practical tool for relating shared experiences of fear and vulnerability in the face of other men's aggression and crime.


Concluding Comments


The central question asked by Mac an Ghaill's book (1994) The Making of Men, is how does the fragile male identity come to be represented as a stable, unitary category with fixed meanings. This 'stable' identity has traditionally fallen into western society's stereotype of the strong, rational and sometimes aggressive man. Male aggression forms a pillar of criminological investigation and the 'problem' identified by this paper in relation to the socially constructed idea that male aggression also means that 'boys don't cry' or, at least, they shouldn't be seen to. As a teacher from Mac an Ghaill's research (1994: 38) says: 'the tough boys develop their own macho script of cynicism to hide their feelings and so you end up with another generation of emotionally disabled men.' Connecting the formation of male identity around the image of the 'strong, silent type'

of popular imagery (Sparks 1996) and everyday interaction, and problematizing this in relation to emotional disablement or damage, research can begin to unpack the gendered and multiple meanings of identity as they relate to crime, fear and fearlessness in the context of the individual and group experience of the 'hegemonic masculine biography'.


In his interviews with boys, Mac an Ghaill's (1994) research found two themes repeatedly referred to: first, that there was no safe space in which boys felt they could talk about their feelings of vulnerability and, secondly, boys suffered from the absence of an emotional language for expression of such feelings. Herein lies the problem of the hegemonic masculine ideal. Progress will truly have been achieved when boys can relate the courage demanded by 'turning the other cheek' in situations where aggression, or at least its appearance, are normally demanded of them. Boys become tomorrow's adults and for this reason, if no other, they should become the centre of future attempts to restructure the hegemonic masculine ideal. Horrocks (1994: 14) criticises Connell's challenge in Gender and Power ( 1987: 278-9) that every society could abolish' patriarchy, sexism and sexual oppression. In response to this I would suggest that, although Connell may appear somewhat idealistic, at least his challenge is one worth taking up if crime and aggression are to be contested at their roots as the problems of hegemonic masculinity.


One can combine the best of theoretical insights into masculinity (such as that offered by Mac an Ghaill 1994; Messerschmidt 1993; Connell 1995) with one of Connell's concluding statements from his book Masculinities, in which he says ( 1995: 243) 'I think a fresh politics of masculinity will develop in new arenas: for instance, the politics of the curriculum, work around AlDS/HIV and anti-racist politics. Taking two of Connell' s 'for instances', the school curriculum and racism, this paper has provided some pointers, through its research findings and theoretical development, towards these 'new arenas' in the hope that Connell's statement (1995: 238) that 'there is surprisingly little discussion of the role of education in the transformation of masculinity' can soon be challenged within the theoretical framework of the 'hegemonic masculine biography'.




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