Singleness, Marriage, and the Construction of Heterosexual Masculinities: Australian Men Teaching English in Japan

Roslyn Appleby


Abstract

This article reports on a study of Australian men and their accounts of living and working in Japan as English language teachers. In this site, recent research has explored Japanese discourses of desire for the West, Western men, and English language learning. These patterns of desire have afforded white Western men a privileged personal and professional status in Japan, and enabled access to employment opportunities as teachers of English language. At the same time, white Western men working as English language teachers face the challenge of negotiating competing discourses that threaten their social status. In particular, their employment in a lowly-regarded profession and a reputation for sexual promiscuity potentially position Western male language teachers as the ‘white trash’ of Asia. My analysis of interview data focuses on the ways in which the men negotiate these discourses, and construct ‘respectable’ Western heterosexual masculinities by mobilising a binary distinction between singleness and marriage. Marriage to a Japanese spouse is presented as a bulwark against alignment with problematic discourses that threaten the status of white masculinity: it is associated with fidelity and maturity, and with integration into Japanese social, linguistic and professional communities. However, the articulation of marital status also reinforces a marginalised position for teachers who do not conform to heteronormative expectations.

Keywords

heterosexuality; heteronormativity; masculinity; singleness; marriage; Japan

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