J.E. Sumerau is an award-winning researcher, novelist, and professor in sociology as well as the director of applied sociology at the University of Tampa. Her research focuses on the intersections of sexualities, gender, health, and religion in relation to systemic patterns of violence and inequality. As the author of over 70 works to date, her work has appeared in countless academic journals, edited volumes, and as monographs from multiple academic presses. She is also the co-editor of the academic blog site www.writewhereithurts.net. For more information on her work, please visit www.jsumerau.comor follow her on Twitter @JSumerau.
In Violent Manhood J. E. Sumerau provides a critical and updated look into what it means to be a man in the United States. Through interviews with young, white, straight, cisgender, middle- and upper-class, college men, she provides a disturbing look into how manhood remains closely linked to violence. Sumerau provides strong evidence that if the goal is violence reduction, society must focus on why violence is a key component for defining and achieving manhood.
This is a book that ought to be widely read and taught. In Violent Manhood, Sumerau's study of the relationship between masculinity and violence is timely and deeply important. Speaking with young collegiate men, Violent Manhood, offers new perspectives on how young men make sense of this relationship alongside enduring forms of inequality. Sumerau's approach is equal parts compassionate and critical, helping us to understand how men learn to be violent and how violence figures into how they learn to be men. Addressing an impressive collection of issues related to violence, Violent Manhood is engagingly written, carefully argued, and presented with care and critique.
Sumerau weaves sociological theory, empirical findings, and pointed interviews and anecdotes to bring her core arguments to life. Simultaneously comprehensible and complex, this book shines in its integration of social psychological theory on gender and identity, criminological perspectives on violence, and a deep yet succinct understanding of the meaning of manhood—as good, as white, as sexual, and as potentially violent by definition.
By centering the justifications, excuses, and perspectives of those located most closely to the hegemonic ideal—white, cisgender, heterosexual men from the middle- to upper-class—Sumerau adds depth to quantitative renderings of masculinity and violence that may drop the jaw of even seasoned gender and crime scholars.
In particular, I am struck by the normalness with which the participants deny the existence of sexual and domestic violence and their selective framing of “real violence” as the acts of “other” types of men (e.g., poor men) from whom they must protect women and girls. How they navigate the tension between accepting that to be a man is to be dominant and aggressive, and that (“real”) violence is a serious social problem, seems to land them in a place of apathy, where gender roles and dynamics are “just the way things are” due to either biology or divine creation.
The dismissal of their need to confront violence in themselves and in society provides a window into the indifference and selective silence (particularly around “women’s” issues) that perpetuates some of the most pressing social problems of the day. Sumerau digs to the root of violence for those who identify as men, and for those who bear the brunt of the consequences of its enactment (e.g., women, LGBTQ+ individuals). I strongly recommend this text to researchers and instructors in the areas of gender and violence, masculinities, and beyond.