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Change and the Construction of Gendered Selfhood among Mexican Men Experiencing Erectile Difficulty


  • Emily Wentzell


Cultural anthropologists disagree about how to define “the self,” debating whether it is an integrated or fragmented entity, and how people experience singular “selves” despite lived change. I argue that, rather than disrupting self-making, experiences of social or embodied disjunction may become key elements of shifting but cohesive-feeling selves, especially in cultural contexts in which change over time is expected. To do so, I examine the changes in selfhood lived out by Mexican men experiencing decreased erectile function, analyzing their narratives regarding their experiences of erectile difficulty and the social and physical changes, like aging and illness, that can cause it. I examine how men collaborated with women including wives, mistresses, and me to incorporate changes that rendered them unable to enact stereotypically macho or youthful masculinities into self-consciously different selves, which made sense within local cultural calls for change in gender norms. [self, masculinity, aging, sexuality]

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