Prostate cancer treatment as an embodied rite of passage: impotence and incontinence as challenges to status reversal and reintegration

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Deady, Gavin Patrick
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University College Cork
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Introduction and Rationale: A central argument in the thesis is that performative acts of control, sexual potency and spontaneity are central to the continuous construction of embodied masculine identities. The acts of control, and particularly issues of spontaneity, are central to understandings and addressing the difficulties men face at varying levels of embodied identity. Using Watson’s (2000) ‘Male body schema’, I will explore the challenges and opportunities men face when negotiating normative, pragmatic, and experiential embodiment. I will later then explore the importance of these levels of embodiment to achieving visceral embodiment; or what I would define as a renewed unconscious satisfaction and ability to achieve and maintain normative, pragmatic and experiential forms of embodiment. Purpose and Objectives: Using the concept of liminality, and permanent liminality, the thesis explores how we can interpret and understand men’s experience of prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, and their struggle to regain power and control in the context of diagnosis, and also the side effects to treatment. The strategies men adopt in seeking out personalised medical programmes of treatment with their doctors are explored in detail. The power and control that can be exercised over medical professionals and treatment options is demonstrated. Method: Collecting responses online from prostate specific discussion boards via gatekeepers, and from interviews on the ‘health talk’ online database, three intersecting conceptual categories - liminality, masculinity and the body/embodiment - are combined in this research. Liminality and ‘time’ are directly linked to notions of ‘success’ and ‘outcome’ during the treatment process, and mark distinct points at which men, and their families, expect measures or limits to have been reached. Exploring liminality within the context of Turner’s ‘rites of passage’, I explore the difficulty men face in concluding the third stage of the rites; reintegration. Results: Prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, impotence and incontinence, in particular, have profound implications for the continuous construction of embodied masculine identities, and thus identity in general, making the construction of hegemonic ideals in the context of a highly ‘performative’ society highly troublesome. The issue of ‘spontaneity’ in the construction of various forms of embodied identities is of particular concern for men who contributed to this study.
Masculinities , Prostate cancer , Rite of passage , Liminality , Embodiment
Deady, G. P. 2015. Prostate cancer treatment as an embodied rite of passage: impotence and incontinence as challenges to status reversal and reintegration. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.