Adolescent masculinity in the 1980s was marked by the need to distance oneself from the specter of “the fag.” In this homohysteric culture, compulsory heterosexuality and high rates of anti-gay sentiment necessitated that adolescent boys distance themselves from anything associated with femininity. It was this zeitgeist that brought Connell’s hegemonic masculinity theory to the vanguard of masculine studies. However, homohysteria has diminished among adolescents today. Accordingly, in this article, I foreground research extracts from multiple ethnographies on groups of 16-year-old adolescent boys in order to contextualize the repeated and consistent data I find throughout both the United States and the United Kingdom. In explaining how the diminishment of homohysteria promotes a “One-Direction” culture of inclusive and highly feminized masculinities, I suggest that new social theories are required.
There is a strong relationship between the cultural practices of competitive, organized youth sport and compulsory physical education. The hyper-masculine, violent, and homophobic culture traditionally found within boys segregated sporting spaces is mirrored when youth are compelled to participate in physical education. However, cultural homophobia is on rapid decline in Western countries. Recent research shows high school and university sport to be an increasingly inclusive environment for openly gay male youth. I explore this cultural shift among high school (sixth form) physical education students in England. Using three months of ethnography, and conducting 17 in-depth interviews with 16-18 year old ostensibly heterosexual boys, I show an absence of homophobia and homophobic discourse, the abatement of violence, the absence of a jock-ocratic school culture, and the emotional support of male friends. Thus, I show that while the structure of sport education has remained the same, the hyper-masculine culture surrounding it has changed.