The tyranny of the male preserve

Christopher Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Within this paper I draw on short vignettes and quotes taken from a two-year ethnographic study of boxing to think through the continuing academic merit of the notion of the male preserve. This is an important task due to evidence of shifts in social patterns of gender that have developed since the idea was first proposed in the 1970s. In aligning theoretical contributions from Lefebvre and Butler to discussions of the male preserve, we are able to add nuance to our understanding of how such social spaces are engrained with and produced by the lingering grasp of patriarchal narratives. In particular, by situating the male preserve within shifting social processes, whereby certain men’s power is increasingly undermined, I highlight the production of space within which narratives connecting men to violence, aggression and physical power can be consumed, performed and reified in a relatively unrestricted form. This specific case study contributes to gender theory as an illustration of a way in which we might explore and understand social enclaves where certain people are able to lay claim to space and power. As such, I argue that the notion of the male preserve is still a useful conceptual, theoretical and political device especially when considered as produced by the tyranny of gender power through the dramatic representation and reification of behaviours symbolically linked to patriarchal narrations of manhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-333
Number of pages22
JournalGender & Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2016


  • gender
  • power
  • men
  • bodies
  • space
  • boxing
  • materiality
  • reification
  • ethnography


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