Referring to Bourdieu’s thesis that masculinity is constructed within the “serious games of competition” that men play with each other and relying on group discussions with men and on ethnographic research on male settings it is demonstrated how competition can be seen as the generating principle of the homosocial construction of masculinity. Competition is described as a mechanism of distinction and conjunction. It produces hierarchical relations among men, depending on how good or bad one performs in the serious games of competition, but the competitive pressure is also a source of comradeship, solidarity and mutual affection. Because of its ritualised character the serious games can be seen as “structural exercises” (Bourdieu 1993), by which the competitive logic of hegemonic masculinity is acquired. Not only the rules of the games are learned, but love for the competition itself. Refusing to play these games generates doubts on one’s masculinity. And it causes habitual insecurity on the side of those men who refuse because there is no widespread socially accepted alternative to the pattern of competitively structured hegemonic masculinity.
competition, conjunction, distinction, homosociality, structural exercises