James W. Messerschmidt's Becoming Real Men '

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Miranda Short Dr. Taylor Sociology 2210 7 October 2014 Article Critique: Becoming “Real Men” James W. Messerschmidt’s Becoming “Real Men” studies the challenges of adolescent masculinity and its relationship with sexual violence. Messerschmidt accounts two life histories of contrasting adolescent boys, Sam and John, who struggle with male agency and in turn resort to sexual violence in order to cope with their uncertain masculinity. Sam comes from a family of two working parents with substantial family cohesiveness and stability. His father was an assertive, authoritative figure whose approval concerned Sam greatly. Although his father was clearly the head of the household and sought obedience from his family, Sam was only disciplined verbally.…show more content…
Like Sam, John modeled masculinity based off of his father figure. John was also inadequately sized and shaped, hindering his masculinity, but he was supposed to use physical violence to solve interpersonal problems. Consequently, John turned to raping a younger boy in order to take control of the reigns of masculinity. His view of sexual violence was not actually interpreted as violence because it was a norm in his home. He also believed homosexual dominance was characteristic of being a man based off homosexual violence from his stepfather. Eventually, he learned from his classmates that homosexuality was “wrong” and turned to female sexual assault in order to feel powerful. Like Sam, John felt entitled to this sex because he was a…show more content…
Both are branches of the positivist perspective, which focuses on the cause of deviant behavior. The former claims that deviant behavior is learned through one’s interactions with others. John and Sam exhibit traits of differential reinforcement, a branch of the social learning theory. Differential reinforcement is the idea that people adhere to deviant behaviors due to operant conditioning. In other words, rewards and consequences influence the desire or lack thereof to repeat deviant behaviors. This idea correlates with the repeated sexual offenses committed by John and Sam, who must continue to commit assault in order to mask their self-doubts. These self-doubts about masculinity are perpetuated by the loss of power outside the realms of assault. The latter theory focuses on building status as an illegitimate means of accumulating success. Status frustration is characteristic of middle and working class adolescent boys who want to achieve success. In the cases of Sam and John, success is amounted to masculinity. They are stuck in the strain of status frustration because they only feel their highs when there is dominance over their victims, but feel worse when returning to school where they cannot confess their achieved

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