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The Normal Foreskin

Puberty, Adolescence, and Growing Up

Jonathan A. Allan

Abstract

Puberty marks a time of significant transition in the life of a boy as he progresses toward adulthood—and a time of confusion and concern. Many questions are likely thought or asked by the boy as he approaches and lives with puberty. Sex education is taught formally and informally, in the home, on the schoolyard, in the media. Over the twentieth and into the twenty-first century, publishers have produced numerous books about puberty and its experience for young readers. In this article, I consider a specific debate that unfolds in these books, namely, circumcision. To these ends, I define the circumcision debate, briefly consider the genre of puberty books, and analyze the circumcision debate in these books. While these books recognize a circumcision debate, they ultimately frame the circumcised penis or intact penis as equally viable and normal.

Open access

Challenging Dominant Representations of Marginalized Boys and Men in Critical Studies on Men and Masculinities

Steven Roberts and Karla Elliott

Abstract

Raewyn Connell famously theorized hegemonic masculinity, explaining its dominance over femininity and “subordinated” and “marginalized” masculinities. Attending to representations of the latter, we argue that “men in the margin” are commonly wrongly and/or simplistically depicted as regressive and violent in response to their marginalization. Focusing on representations of working-class boys and men, we illustrate the stereotypical treatment of “men in the margin” more broadly, making clear that this goes against Connell's treatment of such men. Conversely, privileged boys and men are commonly held up by critical studies on men and masculinities scholars as paragons of progressive change. The characterization of boys and men in the margin as regressive and patriarchal impedes the ability to address problems like violence, misogyny, and homophobia and overlooks the possibilities for transformation that emerge among marginalized communities.

Open access

A Social Negotiation of Hope

Male West African Youth, ‘Waithood’ and the Pursuit of Social Becoming through Football

Christian Ungruhe and James Esson

ABSTRACT

This article examines the present-day perception among boys and young men in West Africa that migration through football offers a way of achieving social standing and improving their life chances. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among footballers in urban southern Ghana between 2010 and 2016, we argue that young people’s efforts to make it abroad and “become a somebody” through football is not merely an individual fantasy; it is rather a social negotiation of hope to overcome widespread social immobility in the region. It is this collective practice among a large cohort of young males—realistic or not—which qualifies conceptualizations of youth transitions such as waithood that dominate academic understanding of African youth today.