Sociology 363: Sociology of Men and Masculinity

"The central problem of every society is to define appropriate roles for the men." -- Margaret Mead

Course Description:

A conscious evaluation and critical analysis of: the social and personal meanings of "masculinity;" problems and conflicts associated with creating and negotiating male identities; variations in male experience by social class, race/ethnicity, age and sexual orientation; 3 semester hours.


SOC101, SOC301, WST100, or WST300

Required Books:

Michael Kimmel and Michael Messner: Men's Lives (5th edition, 2000)

Course Requirements:

  • 3 exams: February 15, March 29, May 8 (final exam is from 2:40-4:30)
  • 3 short papers (3 page maximum, double spaced)
  • 1 book report (3 page maximum, double spaced)
  • Submit at least two of your papers or book reports before March 9.
  • Class attendance and participation


Each exam=10%; Each paper & book report=15%; Attendance/participation=10%


The three non-cumulative tests will cover assigned readings and material presented in class. Check class web page for guides to assigned reading.

Make-up Exams:

Students who miss exams will be accommodated if they bring to the instructor's office hours a physician's note describing their medical inability to take the exam on its scheduled day and time.


A different paper topic is assigned for each week's main topic. You may turn in more than three papers and will receive only the three best grades. Write the papers as short essays with an opening topic sentence, logical arguments backed by evidence, and a clear conclusion. Draw on concepts and theories from the week's assigned reading. Edit for spelling and grammar errors. For technical writing problems, consult experts at the Writing Center (LL302).

Book Reports:

The syllabus lists recommended books with more detailed examinations of each week's main topics. If you want to report on other books than those listed, submit a request in writing and get the instructor's approval (give author, title, publisher, year; briefly explain the sociological relevance of the book to a particular week's class topics). Reports should discuss the book's main contributions toward studies of men and masculinity, and the way that the book's themes relate to the major topics in assigned class readings. Book reports have the same deadlines as the papers for the week they are listed. We'll have a sign-up in advance for these reports.


The deadline for an unrestricted withdrawal from the class is February 9th. The restricted withdrawal deadline is March 30th.


Attendance will be taken at each class session.


Your participation is vital and multi-faceted, including:

  • completing reading assignments prior to the dates listed below;
  • constructively engaging in individual, small and large group activities,
  • contributing intellectually to general class discussions

Class Web Page:

Bookmark the course web-page at for supplemental information about Internet links, additional readings, study guides for exams and assigned readings, the course syllabus and other class information.


If you need disability accommodations, or will miss a test or a due date because of a religious holiday, see or call the instructor in the first two weeks of the semester during office hours. This information is confidential.

Academic Tolerance:

Universities exist to safeguard ideas, consider the merits of diverse perspectives, and explore the views of others as fully as our own. Disagreements with the instructor and other students are welcome, but must be expressed respectfully.

Academic Integrity:

Cheating on exams or assignments is a serious offense, with penalties that may include a course grade of E, or university expulsion.

Course Schedule of Topics, Reading Assignments, and Paper Topics


Topics &[Chapters in Men's Lives]

Paper Topics:

Book Report Options:

1/16, 1/18

Why study masculinity?

[Introduction, CH 1, 5,12]

Use the concepts in Michael Kaufman's article (Chapter 1) to analyze the sources and consequences of men's violence as portrayed in one of the following movies: Affliction, Stand By Me, Raging Bull, Fight Club. Due on January 30.

  1. Michael Kimmel, Manhood in America: a cultural history, 1996.
  2. Steven Cohan, Masked men: masculinity and the movies of the fifties, 1997.

1/23, 1/25

Theoretical perspectives on masculinity

[CH 2,3,4,6,25]

Option I: Are there distinctive forms of Latino, Asian, or African-American masculinity that differ from "white" masculinity, or are these just stereotypes? Construct your essay using concepts from the assigned readings. Due on February 6.

Option II: What is the relationship between masculinity and colonialism as portrayed in the film The Mission(Jeremy Irons, Robert DeNiro)? Due on February 6.

  1. Mitchell Duneier, Slim's table: race, respectability, and masculinity, 1992.
  2. E. Anthony Rotundo, American manhood: transformations in masculinity from the revolution to the modern era, 1993.

1/30, 2/1

Socialization: Boys will be...?

[CH 7, 9, 10, 12, 13]

As in those described by the readings in elementary schools, what are the "gender transgression zones" in college environments? Do you agree that their function is to reinforce systems of patriarchy? Due February 13.

  1. Ann A. Ferguson, Bad boys: Public schools in the making of black masculinity. 2000
  2. William Pollack, Real boys, 1998.
  3. Franklin Abbott, Boyhood, Growing up male: A multi-cultural anthology.1998

2/6, 2/8

Initiation into manhood

[CH 14, 15]

Competitive sports, the military, and fraternities have been analyzed as initiation rites for men. In what other ways, perhaps less structured, does the initiation of adolescents into "manhood" take place in contemporary U.S. culture? To find out, ask five men between 25 and 35 about the specific experiences that were most important in their initiation process, and press them to go beyond sports, war and frats. Report findings and conclusions. Due February 20.

  1. Bernard Lefkowitz, Our guys: the Glen Ridge rape and the secret life of the perfect suburb, 1996
  1. James W. Messerschmidt, Nine Lives: Adolescent masculinities, the body, and violence. 2000.

2/13, 2/15

Masculinity & sports

[CH 8, 17]

Test #1 on 2/15

Open topic. Develop a topic of your choice that addresses connections between sports and masculinity. Search the "Sport Discuss" database (accessed through the "Indexes" option of the ASU Library web site []) and attach a bibliography of the articles and books you consulted. Due February 27

  1. Michael A. Messner & Donald F. Sabo, Sex, violence & power in sports: rethinking masculinity,1994.
  2. Laurel R. Davis, The swimsuit issue and sport: hegemonic masculinity in Sports Illustrated,1997.
  1. Bissinger, H. G. Friday night lights : a town, a team, and a dream. 1990.

2/20, 2/22

Male friendships

[CH 33, 34, 49]

Option I: Describe the key ways that white heterosexual mens' friendships tend to differ from those of women, and from those of gay men. Due March 6.

Option II: Examine the tensions and sources of strength within friendships among gay men as portrayed in either the film Longtime Companion or Peter's Friends. Due March 6.

  1. Peter M. Nardi, (ed.) Men's friendships, 1992.
  2. Peter M. Nardi, Gay men's friendships: Invincible communities, 1999.

2/27, 3/1

Workplace identities for men

[CH 19, 20, 21, 23]

Option I: Conduct library research on the status of men in a traditionally female occupation (nurse, school teacher, child care worker, librarian). Discuss why men choose this job, and whether they feel--and actually are--disadvantaged in doing "women's work." Consult Christine L. Williams' Still a man's world: men who do "women's work." Due March 20.

Option II: Extend the concepts from Jennifer Pierce's article to analyze the dynamics among the coworkers portrayed in the film Glengary Glen Ross. Due March 20.

  1. Carol Chetkovich, Real heat: gender and race in the urban fire service,1997.
  2. David Collinson, Managing the shopfloor: subjectivity, masculinity, and workplace culture 1992.
  3. James Woods, The Corporate closet: The professional lives of gay men in America, 1993.

3/6, 3/8

Men and their bodies [CH 24, 26, 27, 28, 48]

Option I: Analyze the new societal difficulties and challenges to their male identities faced by the disabled men in one of the following films: Born on the Fourth of July, Coming Home, Waterdance. Due March 27.

Option II: What are the strongest arguments for and against the view that gender identity and gender development are biologically determined? Due March 27.

  1. Alan M. Klein, Little big men: bodybuilding subculture and gender construction, 1993

3/20, 3/22

Men with women: intimacy & power

[CH 31, 32, 39]

Interview separately both members of a female-male couple who have been together at least a year about their relationship. To what degree do they each perceive what Rubin describes as an "approach-avoidance" dance, and an intellectual-emotional split? What is the role of these dynamics in their relationship? How does each partner deal with these issues? Due April 3.

  1. Ronald F. Levant, Masculinity reconstructed, 1995.

3/27, 3/29

Sexual violence and pornography

[CH 16, 18, 22, 35]

Test #2 on 3/29

Attend a campus or a community workshop/program on men's violence toward women (domestic violence, sexual assault prevention, etc.). How has it changed your perceptions of the scope, sources, and solutions to these problems? Due April 10.

  1. Philip W. Cook, Abused men: The hidden side of domestic violence, 1997.
  2. Ricardo Carrillo & Jerry Tello, Family violence and men of color: healing the wounded male spirit, 1998.
  3. Lee H. Bowker (ed.) Masculinities and violence. 1998.

4/3, 4/5

Male sexualities

[CH 30, 36, 37, 38, 40, 47]

Analyze the content of "personal ads" in a newspaper or newsweekly (e.g. New Times) by contrasting how men and women describe both themselves and their desired mates in the "Women Looking for Men" and "Men Looking for Women" sections (at least 25 of each type of ad). Sort the descriptors into categories, summarize in a table, and analyze how the gender differences reflect socially constructed sexual identities. Due April 12.

  1. Kevin White, First sexual revolution: the emergence of male heterosexuality in modern America, 1993.
  2. Ray Gonzalez (editor), Muy macho: Latino men confront their manhood, 1996.

4/10, 4/12

Male homo-sexualities

[CH 11, 29, 41, 42, 50]

In what ways and to what degree do gay men from racial and ethnic minorities face different challenges in formulating a male identity than majority gay men in the U.S.? Due April 19.

  1. Paul Monette, Becoming a man: half a life story, 1992.
  2. Ritch C. Savin-Williams, And then I became gay, 1998.
  3. John Loughery, The other side of silence: men's lives and gay identities, 1998.
  1. Peter Nardi, Gay Masculinities, 1999.

4/17, 4/19

Family men

[CH 43, 44, 45, 46]

Option I: Based on the concepts and insights from this week's readings, write a letter to your current or future or imaginary son with your definition of successful fathering and your advice on how to achieve it. Due April 24.

Option II: Conduct library research on how conceptions of fatherhood have changed over time and how they are linked to ideas about masculinity and gender roles. Due April 24.

  1. Scott Coltrane, Family man: fatherhood, housework and gender equity, 1996.
  2. Ralph LaRossa, The modernization of fatherhood, 1997.

4/24, 4/26

Men's movements

[CH 51, 52, 53, 54]

Book reports for this week's books are due on May 1.

  1. Michael Schwalbe, Unlocking the iron cage, 1996.
  2. Michael Messner, The politics of masculinities,1997.


Catch up day


Final Exam

May 8 , from 2:40-4:30