“That Whole Macho Male Persona Thing”: The Role of Insults in Young Australian Male Friendships

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Same-sex friendship can increase an individual’s health, happiness, and sense of social connectedness. To date, few studies have explored young men’s accounts of their friendships and the communication strategies within close male friendships. The present qualitative study explored the ways in which 7 young, White, heterosexual, working/middle-class men from rural Victoria construct their understanding of their friendships and the discursive strategies used to signify meaning, specifically the role of insults, in close male friendships. Drawing on tools from discursive theory, thematic analysis of the data demonstrated that discursive strategies including insults, silences, and direct interrogation were used to signify closeness, gratefulness, concern, and masculinity and dominance. These discursive strategies are informed by hegemonic representations of masculinity, which the young men negotiate within everyday interactions with close male friends. The findings further support past research that suggests that in the absence of explicit verbal expression of closeness, male friendships can be intimate and psychosocially significant. It is suggested that health promotion in men should focus on informal spaces where men can enjoy each other’s company. By exploring the breadth of communication styles and strategies of men, we are better equipped to understand men’s needs.

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