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Gender, Heterosexuality, and Youth Violence


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2: Theory and Method Chapter 3: Assaultive Violence Chapter 4: Sexual Violence Chapter 5: Nonviolence Chapter 6: Conclusion Notes References Index

About the Author

James W. Messerschmidt is professor of sociology and chair of the criminology department at the University of Southern Maine, where he also teaches in the women's and gender studies program. He is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Masculinities and Crime and Criminology.


Messerschmidt's timely and thoughtful book relies on life history methods to illuminate patterns that lead boys and girls to become physically or sexually violent or to behave in deliberately nonviolent ways. The book is organized around physical violence, sexual violence, and nonviolence and features a case-study boy and girl for each chapter. Well grounded in feminist criminology, the use of the voices of young men and women makes the theory come alive. In addition to the interesting relationships that Messerschmidt (Univ. of Southern Maine) explores (e.g., the relationship between household and school, gender, adherence to traditional gender role ideologies), he focuses on bullying, especially bullying that "punishes" gender nonconformity. In light of the attention being paid to bullying, this book provides the after story, in addition to suicide, of which everyone is aware: bullying, especially when it is not interrupted by parental support, leads to physical and sexual violence being perpetrated by the victim of the bullying. Summing Up: Highly recommended. * CHOICE *
Most research on youth and crime emphasize the categorical differences among various violent crimes. In his unsparing yet sympathetic analysis, James Messerschmidt lays out a continuum of youth violence that embraces everything from schoolyard bullying to sexual assault. By focusing on commonalities, while remaining sensitive to important differences, Messerschmidt reframes the issue, and thus sets a new agenda for social scientists and criminologists for decades to come. -- Michael Kimmel, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, Stony Brook University
Sexuality has been largely closeted in criminological theory until now. In this book, Messerschmidt centers sexuality and hetero-normativity in theorizing boys' and girls' use of assaultive and sexual violence. These six life histories of adolescent male and female offenders reveal the interwoven social constructions of gender, sexuality, bodies, and context in life paths that produce repeated violent or sexual offenses. The findings underline the inadequacy of gender analyses alone. Sexuality and the body must be brought into the picture and Messerschmidt leads the way. -- Nancy Jurik, Arizona State University
Where questions about crime meet with questions about gender, power, youth and social change, James Messerschmidt is one of our most creative researchers. In this new book, with closely observed case studies of young people's lives, he takes us inside the dilemmas of making masculinity and femininity, with growing bodies that are often far from the plastic-doll norms of mass culture. He shows us how violence and sexual abuse may arise in both expected and unexpected ways. For anyone concerned with youth crime, with gender justice, or with the epidemic of bullying in schools, this book will be of great value. -- Raewyn Connell, University of Sydney; author of Gender: In World Perspective and Masculinities
Messerschmidt's comparisons between boys and girls are an important addition to current gender scholarship, which overwhelmingly examines either boys and men, or girls and women. The first two chapters of the book offer an overview of the fields of gender, sexuality, and criminology that will be invaluable for those unfamiliar with the fields. * American Journal of Sociology *
[T]his book adds to this body of literature by introducing the unique point of view of boys and girls who engage in 'reactive bullying' (61)-when the victim of bullying engages in his/her own aggressive and violent behavior in reaction to this victimization. * Qualitative Sociology *
Messerschmidt's study is strongly grounded in sociology and criminology and he builds his current study on the foundations of previous relevant studies in these fields. In the stories of the four violent offenders, Messerschmidt makes a strong case for how the notions of hegemonic masculinity, which include dominance, physical strength and active heterosexuality, clearly influenced each young person's choices to engage in acts of violence. He also provided a helpful analysis of how body size and gender expression subjected these participants to bullying and harassment in their schools and neighborhoods, which then was a primary motivator for them to act out in other ways to demonstrate their masculinity through dominating others physically and sexually. . . .[this book] is carefully researched, well written [and] compelling. * Men and Masculinities *

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