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Dogfighting: Symbolic Expression and Validation of Masculinity*

Rhonda D. Evans, DeAnn Kalich (Gauthier), and Craig J. Forsyth are on the faculty at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Their areas of research intersect in the sociology of deviance, criminology, and gender issues. Evans (Criminal Justice), Kalich (Anthropology) and Forsyth (Sociology) have collaborated on numerous studies of gender and deviance investigating a wide range of activities, such as prison relationships, crack cultures, and underage drinking. Their interest in subcultural normative systems has produced insightful analyses of unusual lifestyles such as rodeo groupies and the study of dogfighting reprinted here. The authors examine dogfighting as a symbolic expression of the subculture of white masculinity in the southern United States, particularly for the working class. The fighting dogs, mostly Pit Bull Terriers, are reflections of their owners and thus the instruments of the owners' prowess. Dogs are expected to fight bravely (like a man), penalties are levied on dogs who behave cowardly (like a "cur"), and dogs who refuse to fight are quickly killed, allowing the owner to regain some of the status lost because of the dog's poor performance. Thus, the sport of dogfighting provides validation of masculinity lor some Southern working-class men. The confirmation of what it means to be a man and the expectations for appropriate masculine behavior are themes that run throughout many observations of the human deployment of animals in blood sport.

This study examines the issue of masculinity in dogfighting. Dogfighting is an illegal gaming sport centered in the Southern United States. The data for this study were obtained via ethnographic fieldwork over a period of rwo years. Interviews were conducted with 31 dogmen,

approximately 90% of whom were white males. In addition the authors attended 14 dogfights and numerous pre-fight meetings. We argue that specific elements of this sport represent symbolic attempts at attaining and maintaining honor and status, which, in the (predominantly white,

* Reproduced from Rhonda Evans, DeAnn K. Gauthier, and Craig]. Forsyth (1998) "Dogfighting: Symbolic Expression and Validation of Masculinity." Sex Roles 39(11-12): 82)-832, © 1998 Plenum PublishingCorporationfSpringer, with permission from Springer Science and Business Media.


male, working-class) dogfighting subculture, are equated with masculine identity. We further argue that pursuit of symbolic masculinity through dogfighting is more important to working-class men, who possess fewer alternative avenues for achieving status than do middle-class or professional men. The implications of this research for the larger culture of masculinity in the United States are also explored.

In all societies, manhood means more than simply being born male. Manhood is a status that must be achieved through socially constructed means. Gilmore (1990, 17) states that

(rue manhood is a precious and elusive status beyond mere maleness, a hortatory image that men and boys aspire to and that their culture demands of them as a measure of belonging.

If manhood is seen as precious in all cultures one would expect this status to be even more precious in patriarchal systems where the concept of manhood embodies privilege and power. The United States is a prime example of such a culture. In particular, the Southern region of the U.S., where recent empirical research suggests gender roles have a more marked tendency toward traditionalism and patriarchy (Hurlbert and Bankston, 1998), offers the ideal context in which to study aspirations toward, and expression~ of, masculinity.

Traditional qualities of masculinity in the United States include a focus on action: assertiveness, aggressiveness, strength, and competitiveness (O'Neill, 1982; Hantover, 1978). Many of these traits which are considered characteristic of the ideal man are also characteristics of the ideal American who is expected to strive for success. These traits are associated with the traditional roles of men as breadwinner and provider (Craib, 1987), though when these traits were first being defined as "manly" in the latter part of the nineteenth century, they often were perceived as virtuous regardless of their relationship to such utilitarian gender role behaviors. Action, especially in the form of dangerous or daring competitions, was viewed as' an end in itself,

synonymous with manhood. Previous ideals of manliness had emphasized reserve over passion, and inaction over action. But as Rotundo (1993, 239) argues, the new masculine values came to be integrated with the old through the venue of competitive athletics:

The significance of sport went beyond its growing popularity as a pastime; it was also important as a cultural phenomenon. This dimension was what gave athletics its special significance for the redefinition of manhood at the turn of the century.

Among other claims, spans came to be seen as a source of manhood; in particular, they were viewed as providing training in the fighting virtues, and as a means for building manly character. Indeed, competition itself became a masculine obsession, extending from contests directly between men (as in opposing football or baseball teams) to contests in which animals represented men (as in horseracing and cockfighting). Of course, neither category of contests was new to nineteenth-century men (Fischer, 1989; Enquist and Leimar, 1990); rather, it was the meaning and importance of these contests which changed.

Likewise, Gibson (1994) argues convincingly that the recent surge of interest in paramilitary culture is, in part, the result of males continuing to create social arenas in which they can express and validate masculine identity. They accomplish this through imaginary battles (such as The National Survival Game, or paintball, as it has come to be known) that obscure the boundary between counterfeit and genuine violence by allowing men to physically "attack" other men without risking real injury to themselves or their opponent. These special contexts allow men, in the safety of the game 'environment, to validate their masculine identities while remaining only on the periphery of actual violence. Such arenas are important in building solidarity between men, united against a common "enemy." We argue here that the modern-day dogfight provides a symbolic battlefield for accomplishing the same.


Most research on masculinity and sport has studied mainstream activities, while other sports, which lie outside of the dominant culture, have been ignored. The sport of dogfighting, which is illegal in all 50 states, continues to be the sport of choice for thousands of American men (predominately Southerners) most of whom are otherwise law-abiding citizens, yet researchers who study masculinity and sport have neglected to investigate this potentially rich data source. The current study seeks to explore the sport of dogfighting as a symbolic arena for developing, expressing, and validating masculinity.

Dogfighting can be defined as the act of baiting two dogs against one another for entertainment or gain. It involves placing two dogs into a pit to fight until one either quits or dies. In addition to the dogs, there are two handlers and a referee in the pit, watched by numerous spectators, who begin betting on the outcome once the fight begins. This phenomenon originated in the seventeenth century to test dogs who would perform as protectors of human life and property (jones, 1988). Although dogfighting originally arose to serve a vital function, it quickly progressed from utility to entertainment. In its early years, dogfighting served as entertainment for all sectors of society and could not yet be defined as a sport by which men gained status (Matz, 1984).

The transformation of dogfighting from entertainment to sport coincided with. industrialization. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries dogfighting came to be defined as an exclusive male sport in which individual men can earn status within the dogfighting subculture, through the accomplishments of their dogs. Today, a subculture exists (predominantly among the Southern, white, working class) which is dedicated to the continued survival of the sport of dogfighting. The sport is now highly organized, and elaborate rules have been constructed which reflect and reinforce the traditional masculine characteristics' of

l ,f


competitiveness, aggression, strength, toughness, and courage.

Because the defining characteristics of and opportunities for expressing masculinity in the U.S. vary between subcultures (Hantover, 1978), one important context for understanding masculine ideals in this study is the subculture of honor which exists among Southern (and predominantly white) males. As Cohen et al. (1996, 946) argue, the Southern propensity for violence is tied directly to a culture of honor, " ... in which affronts are met with violent retribution." Males in the South are expected to act in this manner in order to maintain their status as men (McWhiney, 1988; Wyatt-Brown, 1982). Fischer (1989, 690) elaborates: "Honor in this society [means] pride of manhood in masculine courage, physical strength, and warrior virtue." Dogmen are enmeshed in this subculture, and therefore their own attitudes and actions should be shaped and fashioned along similar lines. Placing the sport of dogfighting in its proper Southern manhood context, then, will be necessary before an understanding of dogmens motivations and perceived rewards maybe developed.

A second important context for understanding masculine ideals in this study concerns the socioeconomic status of dogmen and the perpetuation of dogfighting in an era which no longer accords the sport the same reputability it once held. The baiting sports were first introduced to society by royalty and aristocrats (Atyeo, 1979), and during the nineteenth century, attending a dogfight came to be considered a right of passage into manhood for wealthy young men (Matz, 1984). It was a reputable activity of the time. Such a fact is important, when considered in light of Veblen's theory of the leisure class, where the standards of worth and manner of life considered reputable for "the leisure class ... become incumbent upon all classes lower in the scale" (1994, 84). Veblen maintained that this is true of spons as well. Thus, sports favored by the upper classes become those which are held in high repute among all classes. For example, Veblen (1994, 143) attributed the popularity of horse


racing among the leisure class to this notion of emulation when he asserted:

The utility of the fast horse lies largely in his efficiency as a means of emulation; it gratifies the owner's sense of aggression and dominance to have his own horse outstrip his neighbor's. This use being not lucrative, but on the whole pretty consistently wasteful, and quite conspicuously so, it is honorific, and therefore gives the fast horse a strong presumptive position of reputability.

Though Veblen mentions other sports, such as cockfighting, which served the same purposes, he does not write directly of dogfighting as a means of emulation. Still, we argue that it is within this same context that dogfighting originally emerged as a means of adherence to the standards of the leisure class, and as' an attempt at emulation, in which the traits of honor and reputability (as proscribed by the leisure class of the time) could be aspired to by the lower classes of society.

Furthermore, Veblen argues that throughout . history, once the upper classes of society have dictated which institutions of society are to be considered reputable, these institutions become accepted into habits of thought and are resistant to change. Veblen's contention that forms of honorific expenditure, once accepted and habitual, are resistant to change is central to the understanding of the persistence of dogfighting in modern society. Though dogfighting no longer conveys the reputability it once did (particularly among the middle and upper classes of modern society, from which animal-rights activists draw most of their support), and is illegal in alISO states, it has continued to thrive as a sport. This is especially true in the South, a region Veblen (1994, 326) characterized as predatory (or violent) in temperament, and possessing a "livelier sense of honour." Recent research agrees that the Southern heritage of violence remains present to this day (Nisbett, 1993; Nisbett and Cohen, 1996), perhaps " ... because [it has] become embedded in social roles, expectations, and shared definitions of manhood" (Cohen et al., 1996, 958). Thus, although the sport of

dogfighting may have its origins in the' upper classes of pre-modern times, its continued persistence in the modern era may be explained as one manifestation of the Southern subcultural expectation of violence.

Furthermore, within the larger context of Southern violence and culture of honor norms may lie important socioeconomic bases for differences among dogmen in levels of commitment to. the sport. Though today dogmen are drawn overwhelmingly from the working-class, some participants come from the middle and upper classes as well. Just as the defining characteristics of and opportunities for expressing masculinity in the U.S. vary between subcultures, so too do they vary between social classes. Thus, while strength and aggression are the preferred masculine qualities in working-class subcultures, rationality is the valued characteristic in middle-class subcultures (Craib, 1987). Differential constructs, by social class, of masculinity, may be related to opportunities for obtaining masculinity. Research suggests that men from lower-class backgrounds, who lack opportunities for expression of masculinity through occupational success, tend to rely on more accessible routes of expression which emphasize aggression, violence, and strength (Toby, 1975). This is evident in the arena of sport where participants in boxing, football, and wrestling are disproportionately drawn from the working-class sectors of society (Loy, 1969; Weinberg and Arond, 1952). Thus, with the sport of dogfighting, it may be true that there are differences in meanings derived from participation by men of different socioeconomic statuses.


The primary data for this study are interviews with an availability sample of men who fight dogs for sport (N '" 31). The interviews range from 2 to 4 hours each, and were held at dog fights, the homes of dogmen, or at pre-fight meetings. In addition, primary data include ethnographic observations of all activities and participants at

14 dog fights and numerous pre-fight meetings. The research locations include several parishes in Louisiana and counties in Mississippi. The racial/ethnic composition of our sample is approximately 90% white. Secondary data are taken from historical accounts of dogfighting.


Symbolic Meaning and the Southern Culture of Bonor

Public sporting events provide opportunities for generation and illustration of character, if the contestants are able to demonstrate valued qualities such as courage, gameness, integrity, and composure (Birrell, 1981). We argue that in the sport of dogfighting, the actual combatants serve as symbols of their respective owners, and therefore any character attributed to the dogs is also attributed to the men they represent. Dogfighting is centered in the South, a region whose inhabitants are well-known for their love of sports and " ... any event that [promises] the excitement of deciding the inequalities of prowess among men, or among men and beasts" (Wyatt-Brown, 1982, 339). As such, gaming of all sorts (including cards, dice, horse racing, cockfighting, and dogfighting) qualifies. But as Wyatt-Brown (1982) notes, these activities mean much more than a chance to turn a profit; they provide for the distribution of honor and status to participants, while nonparticipation signifies cowardice. For our purposes, an even more meaningful observation is the one that among Southerners "... the union of the individual with the instrument of his prowess - the horse, cocker, cards, marksman's gun, or dice - [has) a sacred character" (Wyatt-Brown, 1982, 344). This, we argue, is the case between dogmen and their dogs. If the dogs behave as heroes, then the men must be heroes also. As Porpora (1996, 211) notes:

heroes are better conceptualized not as idols of worship, but as an idealized reference group: one


seeks to stand with one's heroes rather than to be one's heroes in actuality, and heroes thus are one mechanism we use to tell ourselves what it is we stand for. For those who have them, then, heroes are an important inner marker of identity. They are parr of the landscape of the soul.

The hero in this case is the American Pit Bull Terrier, the exclusive breed employed in dogfighting today. The dog is expected to fight under stringent rules and "take it like a man." The rules of the sport are primarily concerned with penalizing any dog (and the owner of the dog) who behaves cowardly (or as the members of the fraternity would say, shows signs of being a "cur"r The rules are further concerned with rewarding dogs (and their owners) who. display masculine characteristics with status and prestige.

The term "cur" is considered by dogmen to be extremely derogatory. Their ultimate goal is to prove that their dog possesses the most admirable quality within the sport of dogfighting: gameness. Gameness is defined as: "an awesome persistence that flows out of an invincible will" (jones, 1988, 249).1he dog who displays gameness and is persistent in this display will win and the dog that shows weakness or any signs of being a cur will lose. Jones (1988, 293) notes that gameness is an essential quality of heroism and that

the dogfighters, more than anything else, [are] hero worshippers. They [seek], through the test of the pit, to find the unstoppable dog ... the dog, within which (dwells] a mighty force, a will which [enables] him to push forward, unbroken and unbreakable, in spite of pain or injury, to victory or to death. The dogfighters [are] in the business of creating heroes. They [are] artists who [sculpt] in flesh, men who [aim], by the application of scientific breeding principles, to produce Sir Lancelot for real. Characters in a book [are] fine for timid souls, but not for them. They [want] heroes that [live] and [breathe] and [walk] on Earth.

Our research confirms that the dogs employed in the sporr of dogfighting do serve as symbols for the traditional masculine ideal of heroism


that exists within the subculture of dogfighters and they are the symbols through which their owners gain status as men. & one dogfighter puts it, "... these dogs are a reflection on the man. Mean and tough guys have the kind of dogs that [demonstrate] they are men." Our informants repeatedly confirmed to us that the sport serves an important purpose by validating their masculinity. For example, one participant notes the significance of dogfighting as an arena for gaining status as men, by stating: "There's an old saying about this game, that the truth of it is you're an honest and tough guy. If you're faking, the truth comes out in the pit." Another owner states outright: "I only expect a dog to be as good as the man behind him, not any more, not any less. If a man brings a no good dog to the pit, he's usually not 100 percent either." Still another fighter concurs: "I expect the same thing out of my dog as I expect out of myself. A dog is only as good as his master."

In fact, because fighting dogs are seen by dogmen as reflections of their owners, they are expected to aspire to mythical ideals of masculinity within the context of the Southern culture of honor. The following meaningful statement by a dogman vividly expresses these expectations:

To us a game dog is one that will try aggressively to beat you and not stop until he is physically or mentally unable. He tries to fight the other dog by putting out a frontal assault, not backing up, running, like you sometimes see in boxing. Whenever I was raised up, Saturday night fights with my grandfather ... you never saw them old fighters back up and dodge their opponent. That's the kind of dogs we want. Like Mike Tyson, that's the kind of bulldog I want. No Sugar Ray Leonards in our breed.

This comparison between the fighting styles of Tyson and Leonard is indicative of the importance of the symbolic expression of a macho identity in these dogmen. Mike Tyson is Widely perceived as tough, aggressive, and fearless. He is a fighter who is not afraid of punishment, Leonard, on the other hand, is known for strategically trying

to avoid punishment. Significandy, Southern dogmen indicated to us that they feel validated as men when their dogs behave as Tyson would, yet they fear the scorn associated with dogs that fall short of this heroic mark. Other dogmen echo this sentiment in the following statements:

The dog that stays there and keeps it going regardless of if he's getting whipped, is what I'm talking about.

If the dog is capable of standing on his feet, he should keep fighting and never quit. I would condemn any dog that chooses to quit.

All respondents note that they expect their dogs to . display this quality of gameness in extreme proportions. Dogs that prove to be curs are considered poor reflections on the sport, and as such, disposable. The fate of participants who fail to display the masculine qualities which have come to define gameness is severe:

If one of my dogs proves to be a cur, I put him to sleep. I don't give curs away or sell them for any amount of money. We don'twant curs being bred; it looks bad on the sport.

Not only are curs considered to reflect poorly on the sport, but inappropriate resolution of the problem they present can damage the man's reputation as well.

A true dogrnan will put a dog that quits (a cur) to sleep, instead of letting someone else have him [even as a pet]. A person who would take a dog that quit, is not a true dogman.

Thus, dogs who prove to be curs are killed, not only because of their perceived negative impact on the sport but also because they are perceived to reflect badly on the men who own them:

Status is gained by bringing game dogs to the pit; status is questioned or lessened for any man who brings a cur. As one respondent notes:

No man should come to the pit with a cur dog. He should know what he has before he enters the ph. ~" r

. . ~

Bringing a dog to the pit who proves to be a cur, leads to the humiliation of the owner. In a sport where the dog symbolizes the man, there is no place for cowards. All respondents told us that if they ever have a dog that quits in the pit, it faces certain death. What is striking about this declaration is that in every fight, the structured nature of the sport is such that one contestant must be declared the loser. Unless that dog has proven itself in previous fights, it will not be given even one more chance to do so. Losing dogs with proven histories of gameness may gain one, perhaps two, additional chances to redeem themselves in the pit, but no more. Yet, the crucial sociological question is: what is so important to these dogmen that their cur dogs must be killed?

The official reason given by the dogfighters for killing cur dogs (to prevent the transmission of bad character through procreation) seems incomplete, as neutering the dog would accomplish the same goal. Symbolically, however, it may be important to execute the curs because this provides an aggressive and violent end to a nonaggressive, nonviolent (or at least not sufficiently aggressive or violent) life. It is a symbolic reinstatement of the (by virtue of his losing dog) fallen man to the masculine ideal. In this way; status lost via a cur dog is regained via quick and aggressive action to extinguish the problem. In fact, as we note above, failure to dispense with the dog quickly is judged harshly by onlookers as evidence of weakness of character. This is an additional confirmation that the man is "no better than his dog." The threat to the losing dogman, then, is much more than a simple loss in the pit; the threat is a loss of masculinity and status in the eyes of his dogfighting peers.

Furthermore, since the overwhelming majority of dogflghters are drawn from the working class, we argue that alternative opportunities (such as occupational success) for validating masculinity may be perceived by these working-class men to be less accessible, thus making a loss in the pit much more threatening in terms of their masculine identities. These males may already feel they are "losers" in the game of life,


and they may therefore be more inclined to rely on validating rituals such as the execution of cur dogs to keep from being stigmatized as "losers" in this situation as well. The ritual of violence becomes intelligible when considered in context: in the Southern culture of honor, humiliations are met with violent rejoinders. As one respondent states;

I don't care how long my dog fights, if he is still able to keep going and chooses to quit, he's not coming home with me. He's a dead dog.


Our sample of dogfighters is drawn primarily from the working class, a fact which lends some support to the findings of other researchers (Loy, 1969; Weinberg and Arond, 1952) that participants in aggressive, violent sports are disproportionately drawn from the working class.

However, a small portion of our sample includes middle-class business owners. These two groups provide the opportunity to explore a second important context for understanding masculine ideals: the socioeconomic status of dogmen and the perpetuation of the sport into the modern era. Our sample allows us to explore possible differences in the symbolic meaning of this sport to men of different socioeconomic status.

All of our respondents, regardless of class, view the sport of dogfighting as an arena in which they can compete with other men for status. However, there are notable differences between participants from the working and middle classes. The most significant difference lies in the degree of importance ascribed to the sport by each class of men. While working-class men tend to express extreme commitment to the sport and describe it as having a primary role within their lives, the responses of middle-class participants indicate that they are not nearly as committed to the sport and view it merely as a hobby. To demonstrate the strength of this difference, note the


following remark by one married, working-elass dogman (a construction worker) who describes the significance of the sport to him as follows:

I eat, sleep, and drink bulldogs. That's the only thing that I live for. This is my life. My goal is to one day be an old man and have people say this was a gentleman who had some of the best dogs.

This individual, like many of the other dogmen with whom we spoke, hopes that the actions of his dogs may come to have enduring symbolic value; his dogs may be his only means to display attributes of his own character unseen in other arenas of life. Another working-class dogman expresses his commitment to the sport by saying:

I told my girlfriend that if she ever thinks there will be a day that I won't fool with these dogs, then we could just end our relationship now. That ain't happening. I won't give it up. I gave it up once and those were the worst two years of my life.

These responses, and others like them, suggest that this sport occupies a primary position in the lives of participants. Though winning is always important, it is not the solitary goal of these participants: the camaraderie among the dogmen is just as important. Being a member of this subculture allows participants to maintain a sense of belonging and solidarity with other men. They share similar risks, ranging from potential betting losses to legal detection (and the ensuing consequences) of their involvement in illegal activities. It is this shared association and sense of group identity that holds the subculture of dogfighters together. It is this same togetherness that causes dogmen to return when they have left the group, for they report feeling lost without it. This idea is common among sports competitors in general: that belonging is just as, perhaps even more important, than winning.

Additionally, working-class dogmen seem to view their sport as an avenue by which the playing field has been leveled between men. Here, too, is an idea that is common among sports competitors in general: wealth has less to do with

winning than brute strength and determination. Sports have long been heralded as a place where rich and poor, black and white, can meet and play with some consciousness of a level playing field. On the contrary, in other areas of social life, working-class dogmen correctly perceive the fields to be tilted in favor of those with more social weight. One respondent put it this way:

In this sport I can compete with someone who is really wealthy and whose ancestors have been in the sport for 60 or 70 years. I can beat them. If I bring a good dog to the pit, I stand just as good a chance of winning as they do. It doesn't matter if they are richer than I am.

Winning, in terms of the masculine ideal, is paramount to maintaining masculine status for working-class males in particular. Though middle-class participants "enjoy" winning, they do not focus as strongly on that goal. While working-class participants repeatedly assert their dedication to the sport as a part of their everyday lives, middle-class participants indicate that the sport is not central to their lives at all, but more an amusing distraction from the serious business of their lives. The following response of a middleclass business owner is representative of the responses of the other middle-class participants with whom we spoke:

I enjoy competing in the sport; but, tt s Just a hobby to me. I try not to let it interfere with my business.

The literature on sports documents a connection between socioeconomic status and the meaning participants attribute to sport (Messner, 1990). Though baiting sports were once' viewed as reputable standards by the upper classes, meanings attributed to the sport have changed in modern times. Yet, as Veblen (1994) noted, once standards become established, they are highly resistant to change. This may be even more the case when the lower classes, still in pursuit

. of status, find new standards of repute blocked from access. Thus, the differential meaning attributed to the sport of dogfighting by men from

different socioeconomic ranks suggests that, for working-class men, restricted means of asserting masculinity and gaining status through other routes (such as workplace/economic success) may motivate them to rely more heavily on an older standard (such as the sport of dogfighting) as an alternate path toward masculine status.


The symbolic battlefield on which the dogfight is waged may be the primary route for some men, entrenched in a Southern culture of honor, to validate their masculinity without risking physical injuries to themselves or their human adversaries. Gaming, in this context, functions to distribute honor and status among males who have little access to alternate routes for legitimate successes which might allow them to "measure up" as "real" men. Instead, these men hope to breed unbreakable heroes of their dogs, who will then be considered mere shadows of them as men. Should they fail in this regard, the dogmen seek to insure future success by killing all curs, while simultaneously defending their threatened honor as men.

The men who participate in this sport face the possibility oflegal prosecution and yet they continue to participate in ever increasing numbers (Semencic, 1984). We maintain their reasons for participation include the symbolic status they gain from the sport. The sport offers an arena in which they can aspire to the masculine ideal through their dogs. The findings of this study also indicate that there are differences in the meaning attributed to sport by participants from different socioeconomic status. We suspect these differences stem from differential legitimate opportunities to achieving masculine status. Working class men face limited opportunities for masculine expression and validation within or through their jobs, and may be more likely to see sport as a primary means for validating their masculinity.

Though not a focus of the present research, one avenue for future study might be to explore


the activities of participants who play the role of spectator to these events. Most individuals present at the dogfights are not fighting dogs in the current match, but have in the past, or will be in the future. In other words, individuals rotate between the roles of spectator and handler. As spectators, the primary behavior is one of betting on the outcome of the fight. Research on horseracing and poker suggests that only bettors that take chances are considered capable of displaying character (Scott, 1968; Birrell, 1981). Geertz (1972) argues the same is true of Balinesian cockfights, where "deep play" refers to the custom of betting more than one can afford to lose. This practice is not considered foolish among the Balinese, but: honorable. Future analyses of dogfight bettors should examine what role, if any, masculine honor plays in guiding betting practices ..

In this paper, we have argued that the sport of dogfighting provides masculine validation for the men who participate in it. The study of this sport as an arena for expressing masculinity offers inSight into the lengths men will go to in order to prove they are "real men." Furthermore, the implications of our findings are not restricted to the Southern, working-class subculture but extend to the larger culture of masculinity in the United States. Though violence may receive heightened emphasis among Southerners, the emphasis on violence is found to exist in definitions of masculinity across the nation as a whole. We see this emphasis in the violent rites of passage demanded of male gang members. We see it in the continued persistence of rape myths which suggest that rape is an act of passion on the part of "real" men driven by masculine impulses. We see it in the military hazing of young (particularly male) recruits as a prerequisite to combat training. Certainly, we also see it in sports such as hockey (where violence is central to the game itself). Even the "non-contact" sports such as basketball and baseball assure elevated status among their peers to men who "foul" their opponents with violence, or who "bean" the batters with the baiL Thus, the code of honor to which dogmen aspire is but a reflection of a more universal code which


exists among men in most walks oflife. Violence is viewed as culturally legitimate, and masculine, and as such it aids in shaping men's ideas about who they are as men. Violence as a legitimate element of masculinity has succeeded in assuring men as a group of their relationship to each other, to women, and to society.

As long as the status of manhood continues to be "precious" (Gilmore, 1990) and defined as something that must be earned, males will continue to seek avenues by which to validate their status as men. Males who face limited opportunities for masculine expression within the boundaries proscribed by the dominant culture may seek avenues outside of these boundaries, even if they are illegal. In U.S. society, failure to achieve (or even failure to aspire to) the culturally constructed and defined goal of masculinity is often considered, by many males, far worse than any legal penalties they might incur in the process.


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