You sing like a girl? An exploration of 'boyness' through the treble voice.

M. Ashley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, the notion of ‘doing boy’ through performance is explored. The point is made that singing is a potential gender performance but the treble voice of the 8‐year‐old to 14‐year‐old boy is a biologically determined as well as socially constructed feature of young masculinity. A complication is the degree to which the boy's treble voice is traditionally associated with sacred music. Recent attempts at widening participation in singing by cathedrals are evaluated for their potential to increase male participation in the arts through more eclectic forms of repertoire and the sharing of musical expertise. The under‐representation of males is seen as a problem in the study and boys' choices not to sing during the 8–14 years because of uncertainty about the gendering of the high voice is presented as the major issue. Different sexualities can attach to vocal performance by young males, and these are explored. The changed voice of the ‘boy band’ is associated with explicit performances of heterosexuality in the tradition of hegemonic masculinity. The unchanged treble voice, through its strong association with sacred music, can represent innocence, but such innocence may be related to other forms of masculinity than the hegemonic type. This makes for continued ambivalence over whether boys' singing is a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ form of masculinity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-205
JournalSex Education Sexuality Society and Learning
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


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