Sporting Masculinities in Prison

  • Hannah Baumer
  • Rosie Meek
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology book series (PSIPP)


Sport plays a key role within discourses of masculinity in Western contemporary culture. Throughout mainstream prison research, the male offender is recognised (or perhaps unrecognised) as the non-gendered offender. However, contemporary researchers are beginning to acknowledge the omission of their predecessors to treat the gender of male subjects as problematic (Morgan, 1986; Newton, 1994). Nonetheless, this explicit recognition remains relatively unusual in academia, as within the prison walls there still exists an apparent silence around gender and masculinity (Sabo, 2000). Johnsen’s ethnographic study of sport, masculinities and power relations in a Norwegian prison revealed that few male prisoners view themselves as gendered men or have a “conscious relationship to the concept of masculinity” (Johnsen 2001, p. 108), instead appearing more at ease discussing femininity and their gender in relation to women (Johnsen 2001). So, although research is now serving to objectify male prisoners as gendered subjects, for the most part male prisoners seem to be subjectively unaware of their gender, except perhaps, in the context of sport. When referring to young offenders (aged 15–21 years old), it is also important to consider that adolescent boys may experience masculinity in a somewhat different manner to adults, particularly in British society where masculinities of young men are often presented as being problematic (Frosh, 2001). The criminality of young offenders suggests that their experience of masculinities has been more negative than most, leading them to construct a masculinity which conflicts with social norms and laws. Although there is limited research which focuses on the role of sport in debates of masculinity in prison, this chapter will consider literature on sporting masculinities across the community and the prison estate where possible, in the context of both adult prisoners and young offenders, making inferences where research does not exist.


Sport Physical activity Exercise Prison Well-being 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah Baumer
    • 1
  • Rosie Meek
    • 1
  1. 1.Royal Holloway, University of LondonEghamUK

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