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School of Applied Social Sciences

SASS Staff

Publication details for Dr Mark McCormack

McCormack, M. (2011). The declining significance of homohysteria for male students in three sixth forms in the south of England. British Educational Research Journal 37(2): 337-353.

Author(s) from Durham


English schools have traditionally been institutions with high levels of homophobia. This is attributed to the need that heterosexual boys have to maintain a heteromasculine identity. However, by drawing on 44 in-depth interviews and 12 months of participant observation across three sixth forms, I detail the ways in which homophobia holds little cultural sway with the heterosexual male students in these settings. Here, the majority of students intellectualise pro-gay attitudes, maintain friendships with openly gay students and are physically tactile with each other. Homophobic discourse is rarely heard and it is even stigmatised in two of the settings. Homosexually-themed language that I call ‘gay discourse’ replaces it. This discourse maintains socio-negative effect, but it is also used by openly gay students to bond with their heterosexual peers. Accordingly, this research shows that cultural homophobia maintains less significance than has been documented in previous studies.