“Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School”–schooling, gender and sexuality

Pascoe, C.J. “Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School”, University of California Press, 2007.

Schooling, Gender and Sexuality

Amos Lassen

As a professional educator (on the university level now but I paid my dues as a high school teacher), I first heard about this book and was very interested in reading it. Published by the University of California Press, this book is a serious look at our gay teenagers. The title seems, to me at least, a bit playful for such a serious subject but be that as it may, the book, “Dude, You’re a Fag” has a lot of information in it that is original and valuable. As it looks at both gender studies and masculinity, it is a readable way to learn about the problems of the soon to be members of the gay community.

Now that we are older, we realize how difficult it was to deal with masculinity ad gender issues when we were young. It was different back then when I was growing up and discovering my sexuality. We had no role models, we had no organization and most of us felt that we were the only ones. C.J. Pascoe spent eighteen months in the field in a high school that is racially diverse. Her conclusions on the nature of teen masculinity and sexuality are presented here.

It is known that it is the high school that helps us gain a sense of gender identity—in fact it is the place where we, in many cases, become aware of who and what we are. We also know that high schools are places where rumors and slurs are passed out at the speed of light. It is interesting how anyone can gain gender identification in high school when teens today are humiliated so easily. Fears and anxiety also come into play in the high school of today. It is troubling to consider that boys become boys because they are abased and abashed into a masculine identity. What causes masculinity to take hold is peer pressure—we want to be like the crown so publicly we behave like everyone else—or so we did. As Bob Dylan sang, “the times they are a-changing”.

A book like this should be on every student’s and teacher’s reading list. It is so important that we know about and understand the construction of gender and sexuality. We must not assume that because of age and experience, that schoolboys cannot discuss class, gender and ethnicity. Not only can but they do.

Pescoe looks at homophobia as well and her research s so lucid that it invites us to think about the identity of gender formation, gender practices and gender equality (or lack thereof). In using the scientific method to approach her subject, Pescoe gives us a great deal of background information a well as a hands on approach for learning how to deal with the issues. Kids are not hiding their sexuality as we did—they are open and proud—such a change from my school days. The naiveté of youth is wonderful even though it may not always be practical. To see kids today embrace their sexuality at such young ages reflects ho0w far we have come as a community. That does not mean that they youth of today are less troubled when they discover their sexual selves. They just approach the situation differently.

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