Put those dirty rumors to bed: a discourse analysis of masculinity and femininity in Maxim magazine

Kveta Santina Rose
Educational Studies, UBC
October, 2007
 

Abstract

Whereas a great deal of attention has been paid to how femininity is constructed in magazines read by teen girls, little research has focused on how femininity and masculinity are constructed in magazines read by teen boys. Since in North America there is not a general interest magazine marketed specifically to teen boys, if teen boys are interested in reading articles that address topics such as relationships, romance, and sex, they must choose from one of the general interest magazines marketed to men. Using poststructuralism and critical discourse analysis, I analyse discourses of masculinity and femininity in the advice columns of Maxim magazine, the most popular men’s general interest magazine among teen boys in the United States.
My analysis documents that femininity and masculinity are predominantly associated with being sexually active. However, femininity is also associated with being faceless, without identity, and having little knowledge of one’s own body. Conversely, masculinity is associated with having a natural intuition regarding a woman’s body and sexual desires, a natural predisposition to objectifying women and engaging in pornography, and having little concern for practicing safe sex. Additionally, I argue that there is a great deal of irony in Maxim which relies on subtly promoting entrenched stereotypes of men and women which may or may not be taken seriously by teen boy readers. I conclude that girl zines attest to the use of critical media education as an avenue through which girls and boys can explore alternate modes of masculinity and femininity and argue that there is a need to involve boys in further research that focuses on representations of masculinity and femininity in popular media texts.
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