Gender, Heterosexuality, and Youth Violence

The Struggle for Recognition

By (author) James W. Messerschmidt

Publication date:

15 March 2012

Length of book:

218 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442213708

In Gender, Heterosexuality, and Youth Violence, James W. Messerschmidt unravels some of the mysteries of teenage violence. Written by one of the most respected scholars on the subject of gendered crime, this book provides a fascinating account of the connections among adolescent masculinities and femininities, bullying in schools, the body, heterosexuality, and violence and nonviolence.

After an introduction that lays out key concepts, including a revised structured action theory, Messerschmidt shares six compelling life-histories of white working-class boys and girls who have all been victims of severe forms of bullying at school. The book is unique in its comparative approach between violent and nonviolent youth, between boys and girls as offenders and non-offenders, between assaultive and sexual violence, and among a variety of masculinities and femininities. It also addresses how heterosexuality is related to sex, gender, and certain forms of violence or non-violence.

The penetrating life histories are partially drawn from Messerschmid’s previous books Nine Lives and Flesh and Blood, as well as several completely new life-history interviews. The book’s cutting-edge conceptualization of these life histories provides novel insight into the vexing question of youth violence.
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.