The University of Wisconsin Press

Cultural Studies / Rhetoric & Linguistics / Gender & Sexuality / Sociology


Studs, Tools, and the Family Jewels
Metaphors Men Live By
Peter F. Murphy

Reveals the insidious effects of the language men use to speak about manhood

Peter F. Murphy's purpose in this book is not to shock but rather to educate, provoke discussion, and engender change. Looking at the sexual metaphors that are so pervasive in American culture—jock, tool, shooting blanks, gang bang, and others even more explicit—he argues that men are trapped and damaged by language that constantly intertwines sexuality and friendship with images of war, machinery, sports, and work.

These metaphors men live by, Murphy contends, reinforce the view that relationships are tactical encounters that must be won, because the alternative is the loss of manhood. The macho language with which men cover their fear of weakness is a way of bonding with other men. The implicit or explicit attacks on women and gay men that underlie this language translate, in their most extreme forms, into actual violence. Murphy also believes, however, that awareness of these metaphorical power plays is the basis for behavioral change: "How we talk about ourselves as men can alter the way we live as men."

"In this brave and provocative book, Peter F. Murphy looks inside the metaphors of masculinity to reveal that sexual slang is more about fear than power, more about distrust than control, more about softness than hardness. Our language, our bodies, our selves—a paper-thin veneer that masquerades as cold, hard steel."—Michael Kimmel, author of Manhood in America

"Murphy reveals much about the heterosexual/masculine assumptions that all of us contend with on a daily basis. This book has the potential to make us, both men and women, rethink our beliefs and change the way we configure our language and relationships."—James D. Armstrong, editor of Distant Mirrors: America as a Foreign Culture

Peter F. Murphy is the chair of the Department of English and Philosophy at Murray State University and editor of Fictions of Masculinity: Crossing Cultures, Crossing Sexualities.


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The cover of Studs, Tools, etc. is blue. An illustration of a wrench arises from what appears to be an unzipped pair of jeans.

April 2001
216 pp.     6 x 9

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Cloth $19.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-17130-8
Paper $21.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-17134-6
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