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Male emotionality: ‘boys don’t cry’ versus ‘it’s good to talk’

McQueen, Fiona



In this article male affect within intimate relationships is examined as a product of the tension between two competing discourses: ‘it’s good to talk’ versus ‘boys don’t cry’. Central to this tension is how men perform ‘manliness’ within intimate relationships, a space where there is pressure to perform affect and emotionally participate. Using in depth interview data (N=16) from Scotland, I examine how far and in what ways emotions can be boundary breaking within performances of masculinity. It appears that men are drawn to being emotionally open, but find this difficult. A pervasive sense of vulnerability rooted in their identification of affect with ‘weakness’ underpins their difficulties. Accounts of reflexivity around affective moments within intimate contexts highlight the complex ways cultural discourses are negotiated. Through recognising affect as socially constructed in interaction, this paper considers how men manage their emotional lives and perform emotion work while navigating the boundaries between traditional, hegemonic performances of masculinity and more emotionally expressive ways of being manly. The concluding discussion examines how these arguments connect with debates in critical studies of masculinities and processes of social change.


McQueen, F. (2017). Male emotionality: ‘boys don’t cry’ versus ‘it’s good to talk’. NORMA - Nordisk tidsskrift for maskulinitetsstudier, 12(3-4), 205-219.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 9, 2017
Online Publication Date Jun 12, 2017
Publication Date Oct 2, 2017
Deposit Date May 25, 2017
Publicly Available Date Dec 13, 2018
Journal Norma-Nordisk Tidsskrift for Maskulinitetsstudier
Print ISSN 1890-2138
Electronic ISSN 1890-2146
Publisher Universitetsforlaget
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 3-4
Pages 205-219
Keywords gender, masculinity, emotion, couple relationships, social change
Public URL


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