Tonka trucks, Barbie dolls, and quotas: The social construction of masculinity in the sexuality education classroom

Elinor M Scully, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation explores the social construction of masculinity within two 10th grade coeducational sexuality education classes in a private day school on the East Coast of the United States. Drawing on the theoretical work examining the social construction of masculinity and schooling, the study explores how styles of masculinity are constructed within the two dominant peer groups in the school, athletes and students who participate in theater, and how these styles of masculinity enter the classroom and affect the dynamics therein. The research utilizes teacher research and ethnographic methods, including participant observation in social settings outside of the classroom, participant observation within the classroom, interviews, and document analysis. The results of the ethnographic case study illuminate how styles of masculinity in these two dominant peer groups and within the classroom are constructed in relation to four central themes: relationships, gender and sexuality norms, boundaries, and performance. Within the classroom the styles of masculinity, constructed within athletics and theater, find expression and are expanded through the content and activities of the course. In addition, students' private thoughts, obtained through written work and interviews, help to clarify these styles of masculinity and illuminate some of the ways boys negotiate these constructions personally. Ultimately, the classroom was a place where these two styles of masculinity found voice and shaped the nature of student participation in the course. Implications for the field of sexuality education are explored, including curriculum development, pedagogical approaches, and teacher training.

Subject Area

Secondary education|Health education|Gender

Recommended Citation

Scully, Elinor M, "Tonka trucks, Barbie dolls, and quotas: The social construction of masculinity in the sexuality education classroom" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3260988.