Learning to Be Affected: Masculinities, Music and Social Embodiment

by Sam de Boise
University of York

Sociological Research Online, 19 (2) 11

Received: 14 Mar 2013     Accepted: 1 Dec 2013    Published: 31 May 2014


Connell's concept of hegemonic masculinity remains a pervasive influence in critical studies on men and masculinities (CSMM). However as Connell and Messerschmidt note, one of the key drawbacks of the approach is that it lacks an adequate theory of 'social embodiment'. Subsequent authors have explored how masculinities entail bodily control and regulation but this often reproduces the Cartesian divide between mind and body that CSMM is highly critical of. On the other hand, poststructuralist critiques often see the body as entirely constructed through discourse, undermining the problem of gendered, embodied experience. This article suggests that literature on affect is a means of moving between these two approaches in order to see masculinities as corporeally experienced through power relations, but ultimately not entirely reducible to them. Drawing on 6 life history case studies from a larger research project, the article demonstrates how 'learning to be affected' by music is an embodied process which relies fundamentally on learning physiological experience through social interaction. This highlights the potential for both re-producing and transforming gendered performances and offers a new theoretical framework for conceptualising masculinities in the field of CSMM.

Keywords: Masculinities, Gender, Hegemonic Masculinity, Social Embodiment, Music, Affect


1.1 In critical studies on men and masculinities (CSMM), much of the work adopts an ethical commitment to understanding competing constructions of masculinity as a means of challenging gendered inequalities. Research in this area still tends towards Connell's (Carrigan, Connell and Lee 1985; Connell 1983; 1995) notion of 'hegemonic masculinity' as a framework for theorising gendered power relations. Central to this argument are both issues of embodiment, as the outward expression of a still-pervasive Cartesian rationale, and the performance of masculinities (plural) as shaped by social and cultural factors which are historically mutable. This is sociologically important in that Connell's multi-dimensional approach suggests that the societal power that some men enjoy is achieved both at the expense of other men as well as women and that gender is not psychologically 'fixed'.

1.2 However, as Connell and Messerschmidt (2005: 851) identify, the concept of hegemonic masculinity encounters problems in adequately theorising 'social embodiment', in particular because it lacks an adequate conception of how men orient toward change (Seidler 2007) and, I would suggest, how masculinities operate 'through' as well as 'on' the body. The focus on embodiment in Connell's initial approach, often implicitly suggests that cognition assumes priority over emotions, which reinforces rather than reinterprets the dichotomy between mind and body that has historically guaranteed some men's systemic privilege. Crucially, the idea of a 'disembodied bounded self' rather than relationality as central to embodiment is where this divide becomes most apparent.

1.3 Drawing on a combination of Latour's (2004) concept of 'acquiring a body through experience' and critical feminist work on affect (Ahmed 2010b; Sedgwick 2003), this article outlines how masculinities are constructed through embodiment but also how discourses come to be affectively experienced. In exploring men's embodied reactions as co-constituted by the social (see Hardt 2007), rather than setting up an a priori gendered subject, it is argued that the durability of gendered discourse can be accounted for, whilst noting spaces for transformation in how certain bodies become affected over time. Crucially I note that using approaches on affect to theorise masculinities retains some of Connell's fundamental insights about the relationality of gender and power, whilst foregrounding the importance of embodiment as shifting, but ultimately central to this relationality.

1.4 The article draws on data from six life-history case studies, as part of a larger doctoral research project, documenting what men's experience of music as affective contributes to an understanding of masculinities, gender, power and embodiment. Beginning with a brief discussion of what hegemonic masculinity is and why it fails to capture some of the complexities outlined above, the article then outlines what approaches utilising affect can add to the particular problem of overcoming the mind/body dualism. It moves on to explain why music has been chosen to explore these issues, before outlining why a life-history approach was adopted. It then documents three key themes which emerged from the empirical data. Firstly, 'learning to be affected' by music and 'acquiring a body' through social experience (Latour 2004) demonstrates how embodiment and therefore gendered performance is structured through interactional reciprocity. Secondly, in learning to be disaffected by 'other' music the article shows how discourses around 'othered' bodies, associated with rap and R 'n' B especially, are essential to producing affective reactions by which my interviewees relationally situated themselves. This retains Connell's fundamental insight around masculinities as constructed in opposition to 'othered' bodies. Finally, the article demonstrates how learning to be affected differently as a result of experience accommodates potential transformations of practice as a means of resisting overly-deterministic conceptions of gendered inequality.

Hegemonic Masculinity

2.1 Connell's (Carrigan, Connell and Lee 1985; Connell 1987, 1995) work has been influential in developing the field of inquiry into 'masculinity' as a form of social control and privilege. Her use of the Gramscian concept of hegemony, applied through the lens of hegemonic masculinity, has been discussed at length and widely utilised (Beasley 2008; Connell and Messerschmidt 2005; Donaldson 1993; Emslie, Ridge, Ziebland and Hunt 2006; Hearn 2004; Hearn, Nordberg, Andersson, Balkmar et al. 2012; Messerschmidt 1993; Messerschmidt 2012; Renold 2001). The phrase 'hegemonic masculinity' continues to dominate discussion as to how exactly 'masculinity' reproduces patterns of inequality not only between men and women, but also between groups of men by intersections particularly of class, race, ethnicity and sexuality. 2.2Connell (1995: 77) defines hegemonic masculinity as:
The configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women.

2.3 Hegemonic masculinity can be conceived of as a 'historic bloc' (Howson 2006), reliant on the interplay between culture, institutional privilege and everyday practice. This 'currently accepted answer', or 'ideal', premised largely on white, middle-class, heterosexual male bodies, is constructed in opposition to femininity and in relation to other subject positions; namely marginal ('non-white' and working class) and subordinated (homosexual) masculinities. The arrangement of a vertically organised gender hierarchy, in this schema, is supported by cultural representations of masculinities.

2.4 In line with these representations, gender power relations become literally inscribed on male bodies through identification with cultural 'bearers' of masculinity (p.77) and engagement in particular forms of 'bodily reflexive' practice (p.59-63). These include physical displays of strength, the performative exercise of bodily 'control', increased muscularity, as well as regulating overt, external displays of 'feminised' emotion in line with Cartesian subjectivity (p.186). Because such representations are pervasive (on TV, in magazines and in music and in art for example), and become physically embodied in the routine of everyday practice, they enable gender relations to appear natural (see also Butler 1998a; 2008). These performances, because they are unconsciously reproduced and reinforced on a daily basis, help men secure access to economic, political and social privilege by tacit consent, and are therefore rendered invisible.

2.5 In short, gendered identities, according to the concept of hegemonic masculinity, are not ideologically neutral or natural and masculinities are multiple and culturally contingent. The significance of this approach is that it recognises asymmetrical power relations inherent in psychological 'role' theory accounts, in that societies often privilege those traits linked to a certain version of 'masculinity' (Demetriou 2001: 338). It also emphasises how configurations of gender are relational (Connell 1995: 75) and subject to change as a means of ensuring privilege. This suggests that gender is not fixed over time and therefore inequalities which persist on the basis of presumed transhistorical, socialised, gender differences are themselves open to contestation.

The Question of Embodiment

3.1 One of the key critiques of hegemonic masculinity is that, as Connell and Messerschmidt (2005: 851) note, the concept lacks an adequate theory of 'social embodiment'. They stress that it is:
… important not only that masculinities be understood as embodied but also that the interweaving of embodiment and social context be addressed (2005: 851).

3.2 More precisely, despite the idea of gender as culturally variable, there is a lack of understanding as to how masculinities, as embodied experiences shaped by social circumstance, are reworked (Demetriou 2001: 348) as well as reproduced; this is precisely the ethical commitment of CSMM. Central to this question is how the materiality of the body is treated given that Connell has tended to separate material and discursive power relations (Beasley 2012). Connell's work seems to suggest that power is actively possessed (ibid.) and hierarchically imposed in a vertically linear fashion. This denies agency, on both the part of those who do and do not utilise hegemonic configurations, to do anything but reproduce unequal power relations.

3.3 Connell has also often illustrated how male bodies are gendered to naturalise masculinity but not how the 'male body' is, itself, an artefact of these power relations (Beasley 2012; Petersen 1998). She often employs the sex / gender dichotomy (see Rubin 1975) rather than questioning the idea of fundamentally mutable categories of sexual difference (Laqueur 1992; 2012), suggesting that whilst gender is constructed, the male body is presocial. As Butler (2008: 17) has noted in her critique of de Beauvoir's vital insights, 'natural' sex has historically been framed within a 'masculinist signifying economy' which marks out the male body as fundamentally distinct from categories of thought. In this way, focusing on performances of the 'male body', rather than experiences of gendered embodiment, re-introduces the same regulatory framework which places limitations on transformations in gender relations (2008: 10). Connell does implicate embodiment in the study of masculinities; this is crucially how the concept of hegemonic masculinity developed. In her model, however, the focus has often been on how the male body is 'worked on' in order to become a visible indicator of hegemonic configurations (Connell 1995: 61). This is something she explores most apparently through sport, relating aesthetic presentation to an individual's attempts to attempts to construct their body in adherence to culturally discursive representations and ideals. As already outlined above, the idea of inscribing meanings on the body in line with these 'ideals' is central to the ideological role that culture plays in her concept of hegemonic masculinity. The body therefore is seen as a blank slate on which meaning is socially inscribed.

3.4 This view, in accord with a Cartesian conception of action (Seidler 2007), privileges a 'rational' disciplining of the body, suggesting that men treat their bodies as something to be manipulated by their disembodied minds. To argue that men perceive corporeality in this way, however, means that many of the insecurities, anxieties and fears that lead to a desire to 'work on' the body, through the body, are underplayed as well as the fact that these anxieties are acquired only through constantly shifting social experience. In adopting the stance that men enact masculinities as a form of power in the training of bodily comportment, the discursive fallacy of a separation between mind and body is therefore unwittingly reinforced. It is necessary, then, to explore how men's bodies act as 'repositories of social experience' (Illouz 2007: 100) in themselves, to expose a ludicrous Cartesian 'ideal'.

Affect and Embodiment

4.1 As Bourdieu (2001: 52) has suggested, what is commonly called courage, understood as the suppression of 'natural' physiological impulses, by men, often comes 'from the fear of losing the respect or admiration of the group, of 'losing face' in front of one's 'mates' and being relegated to the typically female category of 'wimps', 'girlies', 'fairies' etc'. It is motivated, in other words, by the very affective experiences of embodiment that the Cartesian ideal strives to restrict. What this suggests is that emotions and feelings, as embodied experiences, are central to the operation of masculinities as frameworks of power, not counterposed to them (see Galasinski 2004; Petersen 2004; Shamir and Travis 2002). It is therefore necessary to interrogate how men experience discourses about bodies through their bodies.

4.2 Clough and Halley (2007) argue that there has been an 'affective turn' in recent years, noting increasing amounts of research which look at the interplay of the body, emotions and society (Hardt 2007: iv). Drawing inspiration largely from feminist and queer-inspired perspectives (Ahmed 2004, 2010b; Grosz 2004; Probyn 2004a, 2004b; Sedgwick 2003; Sedgwick and Frank 1995), theories which incorporate affect into discussions of emotion conceptualise the subject as 'embodied, located and relational' (Koivunen 2010: 8), often exploring how unequal systemic power inequalities are sustained through corporeal practice. Other approaches however have focussed more on how the body itself only comes into being through affective micro and non-human interaction (Henriques 2010; Latour 2004), observing how experience of an 'individual' body cannot be extricated from its environment. These approaches, then, unlike Connell's, do not give ontological priority to bodies, as existing outside of experience. Crucially, this means that gendered, bodily experiences themselves are relational because bodies are themselves in a constant state of 'becoming' (see Coleman 2008).

4.3 The idea of an 'affective turn', fallaciously, implies a singular, definitive approach (Koivunen 2010: 9). However whilst the above perspectives have different epistemological positions, what they share in common is a commitment to collapsing distinct polarities between biological/social, mind/body and subject/object (Liljeström 2010: 1); this is important to avoid the Cartesian trap of privileging the mind and the body as distinct entities or the subject as 'cut off' from others. Affects can therefore be understood as physiological, embodied experiences which are structured by, but also help to structure, social action (Clough and Halley 2007; Sedgwick 2003; Sedgwick and Frank 1995; Tomkins 1962).

4.4 Literature emphasising affects may also be thought of as different from previous sociological approaches to emotions (Gorton 2007: 334) because they do not separate 'rational' from 'emotional' action (see for example Hochschild 1979; 1983; 1990). This is also different from work which attempts to quantify emotions as a proxy for physiological reactions, which occur due to differentially gendered patterns of socialisation (see for example Brody 1993; Brody and Hall 2010; Fischer and Manstead 2000). These perspectives tend toward a view implicit in Connell's approach; that emotions are things which happen 'to the body', rather than through the constant interplay of bodies. Whilst emotions have been theorised as discursive and linguistic constructs as well as 'biological' processes (Fischer 1993; Hearn 1987, 1993; Petersen 2004), affects, in contrast, may be 'virtually infinite' in their causes and consequences (Sedgwick 2003: 105-106). As such, unlike emotion labels, affective experience is not always amenable to immediate linguistic identification and appraisal. Affects do not register themselves purely through language (Probyn 2005: 11), thus affects do not operate as discursive markers of symbolic privilege in quite the same way as emotion labels.

4.5 In this respect, in adopting an approach that focuses on affect there is also not the same presumption of a universal orientation toward a 'positive' emotion as the maximisation of 'positive' affects. The cultural construct of what should constitute happiness - as a positive emotion - for example, may be affectively painful because it places restrictions on the ways in which we are allowed to be happy (Ahmed 2010a, 2010b). In this way, questioning why affects, such as those associated with shame, are experienced in certain situations and by certain people, can be transformative (Coleman 2012; Probyn 2004a, 2004b; Sedgwick 2003; Sedgwick and Frank 1995) because they question the very limits of why some choices and actions, over others, produce painful affective responses. This can lead to new experientially positive social outcomes, even if something is affectively painful. In this way, then, theories of affect therefore do not privilege simplistic or deterministic conceptions of action (Tomkins 1962: 108).

4.6 Finally, whilst critical approaches look at how affect is discursively constructed, unlike many poststructural approaches however, affect does offer 'a complex view of causality because the affects belong simultaneously to both sides of the causal relationship' (Hardt 2007: ix). This is an important observation in relation to critiques of Connell's treatment of embodiment. Postructuralist accounts, in relation to masculinities, have emphasised that male bodies themselves are a product of discourse (Beasley 2008, 2012; Petersen 1998). However there is perhaps a tendency toward, on one extreme, suggesting the complete performative malleability of gender and the inability to step 'outside' unequal discursive power regimes, on the other (Sedgwick 2003: 10-13) which almost erases bodily experience from a discussion of embodiment.

4.7 This is why literature on affect offers more nuanced ways of exploring issues of masculinities and social embodiment, than approaches which stress a 'rational' disciplining of the body. Rather than suggesting a de facto adherence to discourses of rationality as a prerequisite to the performance of masculinities, theories of affect, by contrast, intertwine biography, history and materiality in a way that is neither biologically reductive nor sociologically deterministic (see McNay 2004). This allows for a theoretical 'dissolution of the boundaries between self and other, inside and outside' (Blackman 2008: 24), proving a fundamental challenge to both critiques of Cartesianism, premised on a bounded Cartesian self (Koivunen 2010: 11), yet also a challenge to the 'disembodiment' of postructuralist critiques of the body (Henriques 2010: 60). Such an approach properly foregrounds how discourse is experientially embodied and how the materiality of 'other' bodies is vital to the construction of gendered experience.

Music, Masculinities and Affect

5.1 Sociological approaches to music have commonly looked at how it functions as a means of symbolic exclusion and identity formation (Bennett 1999, 2002; Bourdieu 1984, 1993; Hebdige 1979; Thornton 1995). With regards to gender, musical knowledge may act as a means of deploying social capital in interaction and women are often informally excluded from certain spaces on the basis of a lack of 'expertise' (Clawson 1999; Donze 2010; Straw 1997). Certain genres are also deemed as less or more 'authentic' based on how they intersect with discursively gendered constructs. The distinction between rock and pop, for example, is frequently invoked in order to highlight how ideas around 'authenticity', affirmed in the positive, are often related to rock as 'masculine' counterposed with pop as a 'feminine' genre (Coates 1997; Davies 2001; Frith and McRobbie 1978; Leonard 2007; Railton 2001). This suggests crucially that, as Ahmed (2010b) has noted, affective responses are a means of stratifying inequality.

5.2 However, apparent in many of these accounts is a tendency to reduce music's value purely to its socially reproductive function (Frith 2002: 251). This ignores how aesthetic merit is mediated through experience, as well as how the plurality of readings around cultural scripts (Medovoi 1992) and genres are negotiated relationally. The way in which music is heard and the significance it takes on is also dependent time, space and place (Wood, Duffy and Smith 2007) and, as demonstrated later, affective responses to music do not remain static over time, therefore listening practices must be examined in specific contexts.

5.3 The idea that music exists to naturalise inequality and is 'passively' consumed, much like in Connell's account of culture as a driver of social reproduction, ignores its potential for destabilising established ways of thinking about gender. On the other hand, accounts which have looked at the performance of gender in music in order to highlight how it can be used to queer 'normal' gender (Auslander 2006; Brill 2008; Halberstam 2007; Peters 2010), often accord too much agency to musical style. By looking at consumption patterns as capricious rather than exploring how music is listened to and why, these approaches undermine the durability of affective responses to certain types of music, based on its relationship to broader social inequalities.

5.4 Music is 'arguably the cultural material par excellence of emotion' (Denora 2000: 46). The way in which it affects us, as embodied subjects, is therefore both a social as well as an individual enterprise; not wholly reducible to structuring constraints, nor able to escape them. The fact that it produces physiological 'chills' (Panksepp 1995) and is often listened to precisely to encourage a plurality of different emotional, affective experiences (DeNora 2003a), therefore presents an important methodological and theoretical framework to explore the question of masculinities and social embodiment. Firstly, it is actively enjoyed because it is, historically, overtly linked to emotional, affective experience. This observation is at odds with the 'masculinity-as-emotional-repression' position and challenges the notion that masculinities are necessarily based on the disavowal of emotional and affective experience. As feminist musicologists have pointed out, music has had a long, complex relationship with male bodies precisely because of this (see Biddle and Gibson 2009; Jarman-Ivens 2007; McClary 1991; Whitely 1997).

5.5 Secondly, the idea that affective responses to music are both social and individual presents a case for exploring the 'indeterminateness' of affect as shaped by, but not reducible to, structuring social relations. Physical sensations of embodiment through sonic textures blur discrete boundaries between individual and society, therefore as Henriques (2010: 59) states of music: 'affect is transmitted in the way wave dynamics are propagated through a particular medium - which may be corporeal, or material, or sociocultural'.

5.6 Thirdly, music is a pragmatic means of getting males to talk about their experience of emotions or being affected, without making emotional or affective experience the explicit focus. As approaches to masculinities and emotions have highlighted, the idea that men are 'emotionally inarticulate' has led to the incorrect claim that masculinities are predicated on the disavowal of intensely embodied experiences (Berger, Levant, McMillan, Kelleher et al. 2005; Bottamini and Ste-Marie 2006); this is a problematic assertion and one that rests on the idea that emotional articulation is irrevocably tied to 'femininity' (Fischer 1993). Music, unlike Connell's example of sport, is often overtly concerned with working 'through' as well as 'on' the body, thus it provides a vital way of understanding the performance of masculinities as embodied, affective practices. With this in mind, this article therefore now turns to the particular method used to illustrate the above argument.


6.1 The project employed a two-stage, mixed methods approach consisting of a quantitative online survey, followed by a series of life-history case studies. Firstly the survey was conducted in order to look for broader trends in music use. Drawing inspiration from critical realist approaches, looking for underlying structures (Kemp and Holmwood 2003) rather than positivist conceptions of universal laws, the purpose of this was to establish three things: the most common reasons for how respondents used music; whether these were patterned by demographic factors; and how music use connected with emotional and affective experience. Qualitative methods undoubtedly allow for greater in-depth, hermeneutic exploration than quantitative methods (Mason 2002; Seidman 2006); this is important when studying how people interpret affective and emotional experience. Nevertheless, given that the topics of interest (music, masculinity and affect) could be applicable to a sizable chunk of the global population, it was necessary to avoid simply picking men randomly and asking them to discuss their experience of music. The online survey therefore also allowed the generation of large amounts of data before any decisions were made regarding the qualitative sampling strategy. This means that it tried to counter the often arbitrary grounds on which qualitative sampling decisions are made (Johnson, Onwuegbuzie and Turner 2007; Onwuegbuzie and Leech 2007), as well as arguably providing more reliable responses (see Chang and Krosnick 2009; DiNitto, Busch-Armendariz, Bender, Woo et al. 2008) with which to frame discussion at the qualitative stage.

6.2 The purpose of the quantitative stage was therefore inductive (Blaikie 2010: 84), whereas the qualitative stage's purpose was more to 'to describe and understand social life in terms of social actors' meanings and motives' (ibid.). The advantage of using mixed-methods in this way was to bring together some of the 'differing strengths and nonoverlapping weaknesses of quantitative methods … with those of qualitative methods' (Creswell and Plano Clark 2007: 62), allowing a pragmatic, reflexive approach toward qualitative sampling decisions (Onwuegbuzie and Leech 2005).

6.3 The survey was emailed to a variety of organisations in order to purposively ensure a demographically diverse range of male respondents. These included 138 football clubs; 277 university central admin departments; 87 University societies (LGBTQ, Asian, Afro-Caribbean and international); 103 post-16 colleges ; 428 local council HR departments; 4 central government departments; 10 large multinational organisation HR departments; 6 regional online music forums; 3 national LGBT organisations; 55 music magazines; snowballed via Facebook groups, pages and societies. Due to cost constraints, an online survey was chosen in order to increase the chances of a robust sample size. Concerted efforts were made to generate data from those who identified with a diverse range of social groups and using online reporting tools allowed monitoring which specific groups were numerically underrepresented.

6.4 Online surveys invariably restrict access to certain populations and generate larger numbers of others (DiNitto, Busch-Armendariz, Bender et al. 2008). However, in addition to the strengths outlined above, they also speed up coding, reduce manual data entry error and arguably produce better quality data than other quantitative research methods (see Vehovar and Lozar Manfreda 2008). What an online survey also allowed primarily, was the benefit of anonymity in discussing potentially 'difficult' topics and for respondents to think about their answers without being pressured into providing an immediate response. It was therefore a practical means of avoiding the problems of interviewing men about potentially 'emotional' experiences face-to-face.

6.5 The finale sample included 361 respondents, all identifying as male, distributed across six age groups ranging from 16-65. 45.2% were students, 47.8% were from tertiary sector / 'middle class' professions, 80% identified as white British and 83.7% identified as heterosexual. Because the survey relied on non-probability sampling, this makes any claim to full-representation impossible. However, given the complexity of intersectionality in shaping gender (Crenshaw 1989, 1991), the centrality of white, heterosexual middle class men for Connell's theorising around embodiment and hegemonic masculinity, as well as arguments illustrating the mutability of gender (1999; Butler 2008), the study made no claim to positivist, 'universal' explanations of masculinities.

6.6 The survey contained a mix of open-ended and fixed-response questions and was divided into six sections. These included: demographic questions; reasons for listening to music; emotions connected to music; where and with whom respondents listened to music with; when music had been particularly important; and reasons for disliking music. Open-response items deliberately preceded fixed-choice items on the same topic in order to reduce potential bias to respondents' answers. These open-responses were analysed in Nvivo 9 in order to look at the most commonly used words and associated phrases at each. This meant firstly running word frequency queries in order to quantify data and codeframes were subsequently developed using these. Each response was automatically coded using SPSS Text Analytics for Surveys, before a post facto manual check was conducted in order to make sure that responses had not been taken out of context. Multinomial logistic regression was then run on the quantified open-ended data and all the other categorical variables, in order to see which the most important variables were in accounting for difference in response.

6.7 Based on this, statistically significant differences in listening practices emerged more around age than demographics of sexuality, occupation or musical education. This was particularly around 'negative' emotion labels in relation to music preference (anger, aggression, sadness, depression) and specific events that respondents connected to music. As a result I wanted to look at people from different age groups in order to frame how music intersected with their life at that particular point, but also get them to reflect on how music's current role had changed over the course of their lives, in order to explore affective malleability. A life history approach was therefore chosen in order to explore changes in individual biographies over time (Bertaux 1981: 6-7; Coles and Knowles 2001), whilst locating these biographies within some of the broader themes that emerged from the survey data. In this way, life histories are not only useful as detailed expositions of particular individuals, but also as a useful tool for connecting 'abstract' social trends to 'concrete' personal experiences (Ferrarotti 1981: 21).

6.8 Six case studies (one from each age group) were selected from the sample on the grounds of their typicality of response in relation to the statistical trends, but also based on the richness and uniqueness of the narratives they provided in their open-ended, survey responses. For example a few of the respondents gave very specific, detailed answers around how music had been particularly important with regards to deaths or tragic events in their families or lengthy explanations about music they particularly liked/disliked. Respondents' open-ended answers in relation to their favourite music, music they actively disliked, how their choices in both these cases made them feel and when music had been significant/important were used to structure discussion in the life-history sessions. Data were transcribed into Nvivo 9 and thematic codes, around the three subheadings outlined below, were developed. These were based around identification of bodily experience; value judgments around music; and the interaction of music and environment.

6.9 Rob (19), originally from the Northeast of England, was a gay student living in Scotland in his second year of a psychology degree. Joel (24) had recently finished a degree at a Christian university, after a reconversion to Christianity at the age of 19, and had decided to work as a missionary for his church. Tom (28), also originally from the Northeast, worked for a publishing company in Yorkshire, having recently finished a Masters in translation. Dave (39), originally from the Northwest of England was an engineer working in the Midlands. Ian (50) was a lecturer at a university in the East of England and John (65) was a retired librarian living in the South of England. All respondents identified as white British and were educated (or were being educated) to a degree level.

6.10 As noted above, previous research suggests that many men may have difficulties in articulating particular types of personal experience face-to-face. This is something which may have been compounded by the fact that I am read as a male given that, historically, admissions of emotional vulnerability have been interpreted as signs of personal weakness for some men (Seidler 2006a); something potentially amplified in homosocial interaction. At points, when discussing intensely personal experiences, some interviewees talked whilst averting their gaze, looking down or shifting uncomfortably. However, acknowledging this possibility prior to the research was a particular reason for focussing mainly on judgments and experience relating to music. Because the discussion was framed around answers respondents had already provided, discussing personal experience in relation to a seemingly external topic - music listening - I feel allowed respondents to be more comfortable in talking about these experiences.

Learning to be Affected

7.1 Latour (2004: 205) illustrates that 'to have a body is to learn to be affected'. He discusses specifically how actors working in the perfume industry train their bodies to become sensitive to variations of smell, outlining how the process is both physiological and social; one is inextricable from the other. We 'acquire a body' through experience of difference, thus the body does not prefigure the social but, instead, the two are co-constitutive of each other. He notes particularly that affective response through articulations 'may easily proliferate without ceasing to register differences. On the contrary, the more contrasts you add, the more differences and mediations you become sensible to' (Latour 2004: 211). Therefore in 'learning to become affected' we come to understand ourselves through our bodies, making value judgments on what we like and how we should act in relation to others through the exposure to difference.

7.2 In all of the case studies, deriving affective pleasure from sensory stimuli often relied on interpersonal relationships. For example, for Tom, the ability to physically hear certain parts of songs and to enjoy certain musicological components came from learning to recognise bass lines from a friend:

TOM (28): . . . I used to live with a bass player … whatever music we were listening to, or if we were in a pub or at a gig or whatever, he used to be pointing out, how important the bass line was or the different bass lines and then after a while, I did appreciate that for the next couple of years, I was appreciating songs with more interesting bass lines.

7.3 Learning to physically register sounds therefore requires exposure to social influences in order to take pleasure from them. The 'transmission' of affect here, therefore, flows both through the stylistic features of the music – the frequency of the bass – but also through the interaction between two embodied subjects (for more on frequency, flow and affect see Henriques 2010). Again, in opposition to Connell's notions of a 'rational' disciplining of the body, there is little sense here in distinguishing personal enjoyment from the process of learning to take enjoyment from music through others. Emotions (experiencing pleasure) and cognition (choosing to experience pleasure) also cannot be thought of as separate or one preceding another because they are co-dependent.

7.4 For Dave, listening to Pink Floyd records with friends, combined with an adolescent experience of LSD, taught him how to appreciate 'cerebral' music;

DAVE (39): . . . it's a really kind of cerebral album. I just enjoy it and I like to listen to it . . . the same way as you might like a Rioja over a Merlot . . . The Wall is just proper out there isn't it? You know, you kind of get carried along by it and it would influence your [LSD] trip (emphasis added).
The metaphor of the physical sensation of taste, combined with the social experience of music and the physiological experience of drug taking, is therefore important in looking at how music functions as more than simply a 'badge to guide cognition' (Frith 1981; North, Hargreaves and O'Neill 2000) and how it becomes affectively connected to feeling memory. The experience becomes embodied through and therefore helps to reproduce social lives.

7.5 Respondents, either by explicit or implicit admission, noted the way in which music affected them had been shaped by friends' tastes. Homosociality featured prominently in how tastes were shaped and respondents often described the first time they actively started looking for music themselves, occurring between the ages of 11-15 in each case study. This was mainly through exposure to same age peer groups at secondary schools and a pressure to fit in with other people's tastes, as well as developing an awareness of 'chart' music:

JOEL (24): I think it used to be far more sociable for me, listening to music was always done with friends. So I guess that's why it was about the scene, because I'd only want to hang around with people who wanted to listen to my sort of music or, I had to listen to whatever sort of music my friends were listening to because when I was a skater boy and I used to go skating a lot it, we'd just have music playing all the time. So I guess that informed what sort of stuff I listened to.

7.6 The importance of homosociality for young males has been documented implicitly and explicitly in relation to both gender (Medovoi 2005; Thomson 1999; Willis 1977) and music (Cohen 1972b; Donze 2010; Laughey 2006; Medovoi 1992; Straw 1997). As demonstrated by these brief quotes, music's homosocial function is consistent with the argument that masculinities are corroborated through same-sex group interaction (Flood 2008; Robertson 2003; Schact 1996; Thomson 1999). However experiencing the embodied pleasure of 'learning' taste becomes inseparable from gendered cultural practice. Respondents acquired the ability to register certain affective responses only through their relationship to others.

Learning to be Disaffected

8.1 If learning 'to become affected' requires a registering of difference this means the possibility of being physically exposed to those considered to be 'like us' in order to register those we consider to be 'unlike us'. Whilst Latour's analogy of the perfume industry holds with regards to non-human interaction, what his thesis often lacks are questions of how power relations shape the ways in which differences between bodies come to be constructed. Given that, as already noted, cultural judgments around music are linked to particular social groups we also need to account for how certain musical aesthetics are accorded sensory value through their links to the social. Therefore in learning to be affected, we also need to consider how we learn to be disaffected; what are the sources for 'negative' affective responses?

8.2 As Bourdieu (1984: 56) has argued, inequalities are structured through the social differentiation of taste which 'when they have to be justified … are asserted purely negatively by the refusal of other tastes'. Thus 'taste' as a sensory judgment involves a fundamentally social appraisal which implicates the social construction of 'difference'. To make certain aesthetic judgments around music tastes are therefore bound up with dynamics of class, race, ethnicity and gender. Symbolic practices of choice (which involve being affected positively or negatively, or anticipating being affected, by a song or genre) therefore may feed into broader structural inequalities (Ahmed 2010b).

8.3 Taking just one example, relevant to Connell's ideas around the relationality of masculinities, it was notable that the music respondents disliked were often those which were bound up with discursive 'othering'. For example, and in line with the quantitative data, rap and R'n'B were commonly cited as music respondents would choose to avoid listening to;

DAVE: I find [R'n'B] very pretentious for a start … it's all kind of false . . . it can be quite demeaning to women at times too. I just find it all a bit kind of lame . . . it's kind of a male orientated sound. I find it a bit smarmy and I guess kind of not like my character.
IAN (50): I grew up on a lot of black music . . . but what it seems to me now is that it's become the commercial sound, that pop R'n'B thing and, I find I don't like the kind of sexual aspects of it . . . Also I don't like the way it seems to be increasing, and now I've got kids, positioned towards them.
ROB (19): I guess it's just the whole idea of rap … brings up ideas of, this is probably very stereotypical, but it just reminds me of that sort of American sort of gangster. I just don't like listening to it, partly because I guess what it stands for . . . a lot of the lyrics . . . [have] some relation to drugs or some relation to sex…It gives me no emotion or makes me feel any emotion or anything. . . well it does make me feel emotion, it makes me feel irritated and annoyed [laughs].

8.4 Distancing from these styles was due to disliking music, deemed 'overtly sexualised' or too concerned with aggressive sexuality. Ian's comments are interesting then in that he deems current R'n'B to be 'overly' sexualised in comparison to the 'black music' he grew up listening to, yet the same debates have been ongoing historically about R'n'B's sexually connotative aesthetic (Arnett 2002). The moral panics that surrounded jazz, blues and rock 'n' roll have also been applied to rap and hip hop (Weitzer and Kubrin 2009; Yousman 2003) and certainly the above genres happened to be styles of music that have been connected aesthetically to primality, historically associated with the black male body (Forth 2008; Petersen 1998; Segal 1993; Witkin 2000). There is an explicit disavowal of music which is perceived to be misogynistic, concerned with sex (as opposed to love) and macho (concerned with being a 'gangster'). Thus where the aesthetic is incongruous with respondents' conceptions of self – as Dave says: 'not like my character' - there is the generation of 'negative' affects based on a conception of a lack of sincerity, emotion or appropriate subject matter.

8.5 In this way cultural tastes are constructed through the embodied, affective performance, which invokes hostility against, as well as attachment to certain practices, values and attitudes. Masculinities then are frequently experienced in opposition to the idea of other masculinities rather than specific individuals (Connell 1995; Demetriou 2001). As Rob points out, his views are based on generalisations or stereotypes of rap music as he doesn't listen to rap, because he knows he will not like it. As Weitzer and Kubrin (2009) demonstrate, this is a frequent problem for studies which claim that rap specifically is misogynistic, because they often start from the a priori assumption that rap is already misogynistic. It is interesting to see, then, that in the absence of concrete examples, discursive constructs around certain historical discourses of 'black culture' and masculinity were invoked.

8.6 Rob also clearly counters his initial claim that it doesn't 'give him any emotion', instead changing his response to 'it makes me feel irritated and annoyed; this is how inequality works through the body. As Ahmed (2010b) notes, the anticipation of being affected negatively by certain things means that we orient our concept of pleasure toward some objects and away from others. Often an object does not make us happy because it is intrinsically good; it becomes good because it is already assumed that it will make us happy (p.27-29). The desire to 'be happy' is however already prefiltered, as an end in itself, as desirable (p.7), closing off the potential of coming to desire something else through the possibility of not simply seeking pleasure. Learning to be disaffected in this way becomes a means of perpetuating symbolic dimensions of exclusion through affective experience.

8.7 The idea of acquiring a body through experience, through the registering of difference, allows the possibility of retaining Connell's fundamental insight; that masculinities are constructed in relation to different 'others', whether real or imagined. However utilising more critical approaches to affect allows a greater discursive focus on how these differences are constructed as a series of historical processes (Forth 2008; Petersen 1998), proposing that power is not simply possessed and exercised by one group over another. The perception of difference then, relies on seemingly congruent, discursively constructed social judgments, which are able to affectively impact on us, as well as the interplay between bodies with their own affective behaviours; otherwise called 'transmission' or 'contagion' (Blackman 2008; Henriques 2010).

Learning to be Affected Differently

9.1 So far, this suggests the kind of 'passive' social reproduction model of cultural taste that Connell outlines; our tastes are shaped by certain others and we reject tastes associated with 'other' others. However, as already argued, what affect adds to these initial insights is a certain 'indeterminateness' to embodiment. Affective intensity inevitably diminishes over time (Sedgwick 2003: 36-38) and as Frith (2002) and DeNora (2003a) have demonstrated, music listening is a dynamic process whereby the context will influence how music is heard and thus how it is affectively experienced. Changing circumstances therefore meant that the way in which music was used and came to affect respondents, changed as well. Music's affective value was not simply determined by its relationship to immediate or imagined social groups but by the context in which it was experienced.

9.2 This was particularly relevant to the concept of nostalgic music listening. Whilst respondents may have connected certain music with various types of affective experience initially, this intensity and the original reasons for using the music in a certain way changed over time. Nostalgic use of music therefore came to affectively connect music and memory in very different ways over a lengthy period:

TOM: I dislike pretty much all forms of dance music now but … I still have a bit of nostalgia for trancey, late 90's trance music, if I hear that on the radio I'll be like 'oh yeah' have a little chuckle to myself but still turn it off.

IAN: it's a kind of two way process, it's that, all that kind of music… It's the most important thing to me. It really is the stuff that has shifted me through the years and like I say, I can map out developments and feelings and changes in my life, with music, I can very closely identify that so the two things to talk about shaping my identity, it's one and the same thing.

9.3 Nostalgic music listening is concerned with a 'new' experience of an 'old' cultural good and in this way is often a processing of reliving and reinventing experience. The affective response often therefore changed as music came to take on a different meaning, which was invariably shaped by life-stage (see Hodkinson 2011). This means that the way in which we learn to be affected is always open to change and our preferences for certain images, sounds, tastes or representations are therefore open to revision and renegotiation; even if this is not always consciously acknowledged. In line with Coleman's 2008) work, the body and therefore social action, in this way, should be conceived of as an affective state of 'becoming' rather than a finished project. Again, the interplay of bodies, memories and affects becomes crucial to overcoming the idea of a bounded 'masculine' or male self who exercises bodily 'restraint'.

9.4 The ending of 'romantic' relationships – particularly affectively painful periods – provides another interesting case for looking at changing affectivities. The reasons for connecting certain tracks to events was often an initial discourse of emotional management, in line with Cartesian critiques of emotional eradication (Seidler 1994). However, latterly the significance of the music often changed, either taking on a pleasure of remembrance or becoming divorced from the original context:

TOM: I don't know if it was a breakup but there was an album that I associated with kind of, not quite being in love but relationships and being about a specific girl or whatever and how I felt about her…which was quite sombre and emotional music… [it] kind of fitted the sad, emotional state…I think if I listened to that now, I don't know if that would have the same kind of, specific link with that time.
ROB: I heard it and I liked it but now it has more meaning because once again, it was the person I was with at the time. Now when I listen to it, it just makes me think of good, like, good times, or it makes me laugh…even now when I listen to it I almost feel the kind of awkwardness from when [starts laughing] from when I look back on what happened, but I also think about the time that we did spend together
DAVE: …when I had an 'unpleasant time' breaking up with a girl a few years ago…Put Funeral on, play it loud yeah? Always made me feel better…I don't continue to associate it still with that one memory, although it was useful back then in that way. Arcade Fire is definitely on the general jukebox for selection as required, not for any particular situation you know?

9.5 Finally, affective intensity was also linked to the very corporeal experience of aging. The waning importance of certain types of music is also therefore indicative of how affective intensity was heavily mediated through physical embodiment. This means that attachment to some affective practices will always be subject to change because aging is an undeniably, material phenomenon. In reference to dance music, for example, Dave and Tom both believed that their tastes had changed as a direct result of having less energy due to age, both in the experience of listening to the music in social contexts (clubs for example) and for personal pleasure:

DAVE: …in the last few years I've really got less and less into dance music, probably from about 5 years ago … not having the youthful energy of wanting to dance all night is probably changing my taste in music
ME: What is it specifically that you don't like about hardcore dance music?
TOM: … I think the energy levels required to take it. You can't just listen to it, you can't just have it on and be passive with it . . . You're dancing, the music's there to facilitate that, which is great if that's what you want to do but I think I'd rather…appreciate the music in itself now

9.6 The affective pleasure derived from the corporeal experience of certain types of music clearly changed for both Dave and Tom as they got older. The desire Tom expresses to be more 'passive' with listening particularly highlights that it was the embodied as well as social experience of music which changes with age. Again, social relations, inscribed on the body, are dependent on affective experience for which the very materiality bodily experience was vital.

9.7 John neatly summarises why his music tastes changed by referring similarly to 'natural' processes:

JOHN (65): I think change is the natural state and stasis has to be explained. I don't think you need to explain change, it just happens, that's life … Why would you want to keep listening to the same thing? How can you? I mean I do like to revisit Bob Dylan songs, but sometimes it's ten years between, it's a long time and then you can really hear it differently again.
The idea here of being affected differently – even by the same music - demonstrates the malleability of affects as opposed to theories of drives (Tomkins 1962: 108) or deterministic ideas of 'passive' gendered socialisation. It also indicates how the social embodiment of gendered practices is subject to change and affectivities shift over time.

9.8 This therefore indicates that if affects are responsible for shaping social action, they accommodate the possibility of different types of social action. Whilst the judgments made in relation to the music above appear to be influenced by discourses around masculinity and sexuality, they are not solely determined by these discourses. Thus, group practices which help to legitimate broader structural inequalities may be subject to constant revision as well as reproduction. This undermines the idea of a psychological or constructivist fixity to gender and a challenge to the seeming stability of 'sexed' bodies. Again, this is one of Connell's crucially important insights; that gender relations are subject to change. As she states: 'when conditions for the defence of patriarchy change, the bases of dominance of a particular masculinity are eroded … Hegemony then, is a historically mobile relation' (Connell 1995: 77 emphasis added). The difference in the approach offered here is that rather than a largely objectivist account of social change 'from above', affects allow us to situate the everyday (re)construction of the body as a constantly reciprocal process. Social change may not necessarily be quick or intentional but in reflecting on the ways in which we are affected, nor does it have to be purely accidental


10.1 What literature on affect adds to the 'problem of embodiment' inherent in the concept of hegemonic masculinity, is that it does not counterpose the mind with the body in understanding how men perform masculinities. Vitally, an affective framework suggests that emotions and material, embodied experience of masculinities are necessary, rather than antithetical to the structural reproduction of gendered systems of power, but also that these bodies are themselves contingent. With regards to theorising masculinities, Latour's treatment of affect challenges the Cartesian-subject-model of bodily 'control', allowing for a more nuanced conception of 'social embodiment', noting how the body becomes acquired through experience; it does not prefigure social life and is therefore open to change.

10.2 However Sedgwick's and Ahmed's important insights allow for a discussion of the material, embodied experience of gender power relations, mediated through discursive frameworks, in order to suggest the ways in which affects may be reproductive as well as transformative. In this way, tying together issues of embodiment with learning to be affected by unequal distribution of power in discursive texts, this enables us to begin to theorise the relationship between masculinities as structures of power, discursive constructs and lived, gendered experiences. Through such an approach, I suggest, it is possible to reconcile Connell's initial insights around relationality with more postructuralist critiques, offering a view of embodiment which accommodates experience of living through a discursively gendered body. This recognises the potential for and limits to the transformation of gendered inequalities whilst still retaining the core ideas of relationality and power at the heart of theorising masculinities. This hints at resolving issue of 'social embodiment' in a reformulation of hegemonic masculinity in order to rescue its theoretical insights from the problem of disembodied embodiment.


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