The Declining Significance of Homophobia: How Teenage Boys are Redefining Masculinity and Heterosexuality

Mark McCormack*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Research has traditionally shown high schools to be hostile environments for gay youth. Boys have used homophobia to prove their own masculinity and distance themselves from homosexuality. While this has been a consistent finding for over three decades, The Declining Significance of Homophobia tells a different story. Drawing on fieldwork and interviews of teenage boys in three British high schools, Dr. Mark McCormack shows how heterosexual male students' attitudes toward their gay peers have dramatically improved. Heterosexual male students are proud of their pro-gay attitudes and friendship with openly gay students. Indeed, homosexuality is not an important variable in determining a boys' popularity. However, The Declining Significance of Homophobia goes beyond documenting this important shift. It also examines how decreased homophobia results in the expansion of gendered behaviors available to teenage boys. Dr. McCormack shows that in these British schools, heterosexual boys are able to develop meaningful and loving friendships. Furthermore, their friendships span across different groups of boys, so that jocks can befriend those more concerned with their school work. These boys have replaced peer violence, misogyny and homophobia with hugging and emotional intimacy. Free from the constant threat of social marginalization, boys are able to speak about once-feminized activities without censure. Incisive and accessible, The Declining Significance of Homophobia is essential reading for all those interested in the damage that homophobia brings to both gay and straight youth. Whether teacher, parent, student or academic, you will find this research to be remarkably uplifting. The sophisticated analysis and accessible language make this a truly insightful examination of the changing nature of teenage masculinity.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages224
ISBN (Electronic)9780199933051
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2012 by Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Boys
  • Homophobia
  • Inclusion
  • Masculinity
  • School
  • Sexuality
  • gender
  • social change


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