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Unleashing Manhood in the Cage

Masculinity and Mixed Martial Arts

Christian A. Vaccaro and Melissa L. Swauger

Unleashing Manhood in the Cage: Masculinity and Mixed Martial Arts addresses the question “Why do mixed martial arts participants endure grueling workouts and suffer through injury, with little or no pay, just to compete?” The answer is because the participants enjoy a form of idolization from their supporters, each other, and culture more generally, which is linked to masculinity. In fact, MMA organizers, from the very beginning, purposefully created elements of the sport that are linked to dominant narratives about manhood. In this context, men don thin open-fingered gloves, lock themselves in a caged enclosure, and slug it out in a fight with few rules to see who comes out on top. This all occurs while “ring girls” in high-heels and skin-tight shirts and shorts stride around outside the cage holding signs and peddling t-shirts. The sum of these elements is the creation of a type of a publicly accessible and consumable form of masculinity. The sport of mixed martial arts is a rich and intriguing space where the construction of gender can be explored through a sociological and ethnographic lens. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 140Size: 6 1/4 x 9 3/8
978-1-4985-2376-9 • Hardback • November 2015 • $75.00 • (£49.95)
978-1-4985-2378-3 • Paperback • July 2017 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
978-1-4985-2377-6 • eBook • November 2015 • $71.00 • (£47.95)
Christian A. Vaccaro is assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Melissa L. Swauger is associate professor of sociology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Foreword, by Robert Heasley
Chapter One: "Bitches Get Stitches"
Chapter Two: "More Testosterone than a Herd of Water Buffalo"
Chapter Three: "I am in Invincible Mode"
Chapter Four: "It’s Every Heterosexual Guy’s Dream"
Chapter Five: "Lean Back On It Until It Breaks"
Chapter Six: "She’s My Property and Always Will Be"
Chapter Seven: "Biology Is Not Destiny"
Absolutely compelling, and just a little bit disturbing, Unleashing Manhood invites the reader into the shadowy world of Mixed Martial Arts. Vaccaro & Swauger’s deep understanding of the participants, the practices, and the industry itself paints a clear picture of what outsiders tend to view as a violent and vicious sport, and the relationship between emotion, identity, masculinity, and violence. A must read for any person concerned with the state of masculinity today.
Kathryn J. Lively, Dartmouth College

Unleashing Manhood in the Cage demonstrates how the culture of mixed martial arts depends on crafting mixed masculinities. Is it a safe sport or a dangerous fight? Practiced by professional athletes or untamed brutes? Vaccaro and Swauger’s nuanced analysis shows how the hypermasculinity emerging in this specific arena is continuous with common enactments of masculinities, e.g. projecting bodily invincibility requires maintaining emotional invisibility, and to gain from pain is a common masculine imperative. A valuable synthesis of studies of sports and masculinities.
Harry Brod, University of Northern Iowa