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"They won't let us play unless you're going out with one of them": Girls, boys and Butler's 'Heterosexual Matrix' in the primary years

Renold, Emma ORCID: 2006. "They won't let us play unless you're going out with one of them": Girls, boys and Butler's 'Heterosexual Matrix' in the primary years. British Journal of Sociology of Education 27 (4) , pp. 489-509. 10.1080/01425690600803111

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Judith Butler’s conceptualisation of how gender is routinely spoken through a hegemonic heterosexual matrix has been pivotal for many social scientists researching within and beyond educational settings for exposing the ways in which children’s normative gender identities (‘intelligible genders’) are inextricably tied to dominant notions of heterosexuality. In dialogue with a growing body of research queering children’s gendered and sexualised childhoods, this paper addresses how being a ‘normal’ girl or boy involves investing in and actively pursuing hegemonic heterosexual identities and relations (from sexual bullying to relationship cultures). Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork into the sexualisation of gender and the gendering of sexuality in children’s identity‐work in their final year of primary school, I explore the ways in which a ubiquitous heterosexual matrix regulates boy–girl intimacies, from play and friendships to physical proximity. I also highlight the diverse and fluid ways in which children deploy discourses of (hetero)romance and sexual innocence in their role as ‘girlfriends’ and ‘boyfriends’, and how particular gendered subject positions (e.g. tomboy) offer an escape route from coercive and frequently compulsory heterosexual positionings. The paper concludes by highlighting how queer analyses of children’s gendered and sexual cultures and identity‐work needs to further scrutinise how discourses of generation (e.g. early or middle childhood) intersect with discourses of gender and sexuality.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
Publisher: Routledge
ISSN: 0142-5692
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2022 09:27

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