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Sexualities, desire and ‘lifestyle’: masculinity constructs in three Greek men’s lifestyle magazines

Alexandra Polyzou

a.polyzou@lancaster.ac.uk

Department of Linguistics and English Language

Lancaster University

Lancaster, U.K.1

Paper presented at the Workshop ‘Language and Sexuality: (Through and) Beyond Gender’

Department of Social Anthropology and History

University of the Aegean

Mytilene, Greece

Saturday 7 June 2008

Abstract

Unlike other forms of oppression and/or inequality, a large part of gender inequality is hegemonically constructed and maintained through the construction and ‘management’ of desire and emotional investment/cathexis (Hollway, 1984; Connell, 1987: 115; 1995: 74). And, as gender in common perception is seen as grounded on biological sex, carrying ‘biological difference in domains in which it is completely irrelevant’ (Eckert and McConnell-Ginet, 2003: 10), similarly the construction of sexuality, desire and sexual identity involve sexualising objects and traits associated with conceptualisations of ‘masculinities’ and ‘femininities’, which may be irrelevant to the body or any sexual act, in a metonymic, ‘fetishistic’ way (Connell, 1987: 115). Thus, any kind of gender difference is normatively constructed as a source of heterosexual attraction (Eckert, 1989: 253-254), often leading to the stereotyping of gay men as excessively ‘feminine’ and lesbians as excessively ‘masculine’.

In my study I am concerned with lifestyle magazines as a fruitful site of research on the interplay of language, gender and sexuality, as they are not only explicitly gendered (clearly divided in ‘men’s’ and ‘women’s’ by the discourse communities producing and using them), but also heavily drawing on and re-producing constructs of sexuality as one of the basic elements of gender. Among other functions, these magazines include an indirectly prescriptive, didactic element, offering suggestions about ‘how to live your life’, most strongly manifested in texts providing advice to the readers (among other things, on ‘how to conduct your sex life’).

From my broader research project, aiming at studying gender ideologies as underlying and surfacing in Greek men’s and women’s lifestyle magazines, I am here focussing on three sample texts, one from each of the three magazines constituting the men’s magazines corpus (Status, Nitro and Playboy). I am looking at gendered cognitive models and beliefs, as elements of social cognition, and consequently ideologies (van Dijk, 1998), and how (and why) they surface in the texts in more or less (in)direct ways as assertions, advice/commands, presuppositions and presupposed assumptions (cf. Chilton’s distinction of presupposition vs. presumption, 2004: 64).

1 Research funded by the Greek State Scholarship Foundation (Ίδρυμα Κρατικών Υποτροφιών).

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