Drinking Vodka from the 'Butt Crack': Men, Masculinities and Fratriarchy in the Private Militarized Security Company

Paul R Higate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


This article speaks to the emerging literature by critical scholars of race and gender focused on Private Militarized Security Companies (PMSCs) working in post-conflict settings. As one aspect of a wider project to illuminate concerns of security and the masculinized world of the private security contractor, I develop the concept of fratriarchy to bring into sharp relief the potential consequence of contractors’ relative operational freedom within the context of close, yet sometimes competitive brotherly relations. Here, I go on to consider the means by which a small group of US Embassy guards in Kabul created dense intra-masculine bonds within a wider hierarchy of men through norm-bound, homoerotic practices. From the view of those involved, these practices may well have neutralized the threat of homosexuality through cementing heteronormative relations among the hegemonic members. In using three images depicting sexualized activities drawn from the 2009 Kabul Hazing, I argue that intimate forms of embodiment intersect with processes of racialization in politically important ways. In conclusion, it is tentatively argued that the Kabul Hazing and wider discussions of the industry conceived of through the lens of fratriarchy provide the emerging feminist security studies literature with a closely focused resource with which to augment claims located at higher levels of abstraction around the process of (re)masculinization argued to be underway in this exemplary sphere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)450-469
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Feminist Journal of Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012

Bibliographical note

Paul Higate is Reader in Gender & Security in the School for Sociology, Politics
and International Studies at the University of Bristol. He writes on military and
militarized masculinities and is currently studying private security contractors


  • accountability, fratriarchy, heteronormativity, masculinities, racialization, PMSC


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