Social Dominance

“What if the girl doesn’t want to date you? Girls have a say too.”

“No they don’t. White boys can date white girls. There’s plenty of’em. They can even date black girls. But mixed girls are for me.” (C.J Pascoe: Dude, You’re a fag)

C.J. Pascoe indicated the hidden curriculum at River High is that sexual harassment and sexual roles are reinforced even in school environments. The hidden curriculum of males as sexually aggressive and females as submissive are played out in these schools while boys and girls who deviate from these roles are met with harassment and violence with little consequence in extreme cases.

Timothy Moore wrote: “A sex-role concept is a set of shared expectations that people hold about the characteristics suitable for individuals on the basis of their gender. The notion of these roles being shared implies that most people endorse the expected behaviors as appropriate for men and for women”. The girls at River High are to expect sexual harassments from the boys while the educators turn a blind eye; at the same time the boys are socialized to believe that girls were only there to enhance their masculinity to each other because that is just the way it is.

In the case of River High, the Tammy and Jay interplay in Dude, You’re a Fag indicated that Jay’s sexual harassment of Tammy was acceptable, even to Tammy who developed a way to deal with these types of behaviors by walking away. Darnell’s comment above about girls have no say in who they date indicated his belief that girls are property that belong to heterosexual masculine males. The flirtatious physical interaction Pascoe observed, such as the Darnell and Christina’s fake wrestling match, the Shane and Cathy interplay of physical altercation, the Monte and Reggie headlock and the Malcolm and Cameron’s weight room incidents at River High often resulted in the male students forcing the female students into submission using physical violence are interpreted as a form of masculinity. Where are the teacher during these interplay? Pascoe indicated the teachers rarely take notice of these incidents despite being present when these play altercations or social dominance acts take place. Even if they do, they are probably thinking that if the female students didn’t like the outcome, she shouldn’t have started or took part in the even in the first place. The chances are the teachers would have probably dismissed the undeserved and unprovoked sexual harassments as play interaction between the male and female students anyways. After all, isn’t this a natural form of play between animal-animal and even human-animal play behaviors?

In a blog, Dario Maestripieri Ph.D. explained that social dominance exists as play to prevent injuries and it did not evolve to benefit the species but to benefit the dominant individual to “get what he wants”. The dominant play discussed by Dario can be applied to the girls at River High as they squeal, give in, laugh it off or walk away, giving into to the boy’s harassing acts without any intervention from adults. While Dario admitted himself that subordination sucks, he also indicated that problems can also be resolved by compromises. If subordination sucks and compromises can be reached, then why do we tolerate the dominance play between boys and girls in school or anywhere else?

The dominant boys at River High are the heterosexual masculine boys while the girls and homosexual effeminate boys are negatively sanctioned if they do not play according to their patriarchal scripted sexual roles. To the educators at River High, all they see is the popular boys asserting dominance over others though “harmless play” demeaning others to raise their social status, blind to the fact that it gives rise to sexual harassment and physical violence problems because no one has filed a formal complaint. They probably attribute those actions to unruly behaviors of youths. Pascoe mentioned dominance multiple times in the early chapters of the book, indicating the boys assert dominance and control over the girls and even each other over sexual harassment, violence and teasing through the use of the epithet “fag” in order to bolster their social status over the rest. The patriarchal social construction is that dominant males are successful and that asserting dominance will attract females and success. In other words, these deliberate behaviors used “play” in order to earn peers approval, at the expense of others and they are rewarded by the social status within the school without any repercussion from the educators. In a larger scale this harmless dominance play could give rise in oppression, prejudices and racisms.


Additional readings:

Dominance vs. Unruly behaviors

Social Dominance Theory: Its Agenda and Method

Reassessing Male Aggression and Dominance

Sexism, Strength and Dominance: Masculinity in Disney


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