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A touch too much: Negotiating masculinity and proximity in intimate labor

Hancock, Philip; Sullivan, Katie LU and Tyler, Melissa (2015) In Organization Studies 36(12). p.1715-1739
Abstract
This paper explores how men who perform intimate labour negotiate perceptions of themselves and their work through complex intersections of masculinity, proximity and propriety. Its focus is on the ways in which embodied organizational negotiations are shaped by gendered perceptions of bodily propriety in three examples of physically, sexually and/or emotionally intimate forms of labour: male massage therapists; men who work in sex shops; and men working as Santa Claus performers. While ostensibly quite different forms of work, each is shaped by the expectation that a ‘quality’ interaction with customers or clients will be based upon the nurturance of a close physical, sexual and/or emotional bond between the service provider and... (More)
This paper explores how men who perform intimate labour negotiate perceptions of themselves and their work through complex intersections of masculinity, proximity and propriety. Its focus is on the ways in which embodied organizational negotiations are shaped by gendered perceptions of bodily propriety in three examples of physically, sexually and/or emotionally intimate forms of labour: male massage therapists; men who work in sex shops; and men working as Santa Claus performers. While ostensibly quite different forms of work, each is shaped by the expectation that a ‘quality’ interaction with customers or clients will be based upon the nurturance of a close physical, sexual and/or emotional bond between the service provider and recipient, at the same time as maintaining appropriate bodily boundaries and professional distance. Mediating both imperatives requires a careful negotiation of being appropriately close while at the same time understanding that social perceptions of their work, themselves as workers, and their interactions with customers and clients mean that they are frequently under heightened scrutiny, requiring constant vigilance on their part. Drawing on insights from phenomenological writing on embodiment, specifically Merleau- Ponty’s (2002 [1945]) Phenomenology of Perception, the analysis considers the ways in which intersections between masculinity, propriety and proximity are perceived and negotiated in intimate forms of labour, reflecting on instances when a touch becomes ‘too much’. It considers what these instances reveal to us about gendered experiences of embodiment within organizations and the importance of perception in understanding embodied negotiations of workplace intimacy. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
embodiment, intimate labour, masculinity, Merleau Ponty, propriety, proximity, touch
in
Organization Studies
volume
36
issue
12
pages
1715 - 1739
publisher
SAGE Publications Inc.
external identifiers
  • wos:000364829600005
  • scopus:84946914507
ISSN
1741-3044
DOI
10.1177/0170840615593592
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
1a0a7a7a-ec4d-4d32-afe1-337cb339a65b (old id 8230972)
date added to LUP
2015-11-26 10:56:30
date last changed
2017-08-13 03:02:56
@article{1a0a7a7a-ec4d-4d32-afe1-337cb339a65b,
  abstract     = {This paper explores how men who perform intimate labour negotiate perceptions of themselves and their work through complex intersections of masculinity, proximity and propriety. Its focus is on the ways in which embodied organizational negotiations are shaped by gendered perceptions of bodily propriety in three examples of physically, sexually and/or emotionally intimate forms of labour: male massage therapists; men who work in sex shops; and men working as Santa Claus performers. While ostensibly quite different forms of work, each is shaped by the expectation that a ‘quality’ interaction with customers or clients will be based upon the nurturance of a close physical, sexual and/or emotional bond between the service provider and recipient, at the same time as maintaining appropriate bodily boundaries and professional distance. Mediating both imperatives requires a careful negotiation of being appropriately close while at the same time understanding that social perceptions of their work, themselves as workers, and their interactions with customers and clients mean that they are frequently under heightened scrutiny, requiring constant vigilance on their part. Drawing on insights from phenomenological writing on embodiment, specifically Merleau- Ponty’s (2002 [1945]) Phenomenology of Perception, the analysis considers the ways in which intersections between masculinity, propriety and proximity are perceived and negotiated in intimate forms of labour, reflecting on instances when a touch becomes ‘too much’. It considers what these instances reveal to us about gendered experiences of embodiment within organizations and the importance of perception in understanding embodied negotiations of workplace intimacy.},
  author       = {Hancock, Philip and Sullivan, Katie and Tyler, Melissa},
  issn         = {1741-3044},
  keyword      = {embodiment,intimate labour,masculinity,Merleau Ponty,propriety,proximity,touch},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {12},
  pages        = {1715--1739},
  publisher    = {SAGE Publications Inc.},
  series       = {Organization Studies},
  title        = {A touch too much: Negotiating masculinity and proximity in intimate labor},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0170840615593592},
  volume       = {36},
  year         = {2015},
}