Straight Edge – Clean-living youth, hardcore punk and social change a sociological analysis of the movement by Ross Haenfler. Seven years field research in the sXe scene by an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Mississippi.
From the early 1980s punk subculture emerged the youth movement straight edge. Its main tenets speak for a drug-free, tobacco-free and sexually responsible lifestyle. Ambitious goals in a society based on commerce, 24-hour commercials in the media and lobbyism for alcohol and tobacco everywhere. Ambitious goals not only for kids and young adults.
Ross Haenfler became straight edge in 1989 in the age of fifteen after visiting a punk rock show with his best friend. It was an initial experience for him, loud and harsh music, rough dancing in the mosh pit, but no conflict or any violence at all.
The basic tenets of sXe are: members abstain completely from drug, alcohol, and tobacco use and usually reserve sexual activity for caring relationships. These „rules“ are absolute for the sXe identity. A vegetarian or even vegan diet punctuates the ambitious lifestyle.
Some of the straight edge kids interviewed by Haenfler had made experiences with drugs, tobacco or alcohol misuse themselves. Most of them speak about relatives who ruined their lifes through drug abuse or something like that.
„Straight edge is a philosophy of being in control of your mind. Not giving in, making a promise to yourself. It’s a personal commitment. It’s no one else’s. Not to a crew, not to a band, not to a group of friends. It’s all about YOU and making a commitment to yourself…not giving up, not giving in to social acceptance.“…“creating a society, based on mutual respect, without prejudice, hate and ignorance; working for a world without the big differences in welfare which exist nowadays, a world where humans, animals and the environment have priority, and not economic growth and monetary considerations.“
Straight Edge developed through the years from Old School era over Youth Crew, Emo-Influenced/Politically Correct to Victory Style, Youth Crew Revival to Metalcore. The D.C. band Minor Threat gave with their song „Straight Edge“ the movement its name. Even if it wasn’t ment to be a movement by the protagonists then, it developed like a fast-selling item. Haenfler tells about the very personal views in the scene, everybody has their own reasons and motivations.
The main chapters of Haenflers book are:
- an introduction in the subculture of Straight edge
- Straight Edge core values
- Straight Edge as a social movement
- Positivity versus militancy – struggles with the scene
- Masculinity in contradiction – the two faces of sXe
- Girls united and divided – women in sXe
- Life after subculture – how older sXers redefine commitment
- Commercialization, the Internet, and the cultic milieu
Ross Haenflers perspectives of the good and bad in subcultural living close with a very important statement…“Innovation keeps a movement vibrant. If sXe is to truly thrive as a source of change, it must find ways to include women as full participants. It must also continue to find creative ways to hold onto its core meaning while welcoming the next generation of kids. Militancy may occasionally have its place, but dogma allows no room for growth and ultimately blows up in your face. The best, most lasting way to influence people is through patient, positive, personal example.“
For me it was very interesting to hear and read about teenagers and young adults believing in the personal choice everybody has, living an independent and clean life with estimable values…and having FUN!
Worth reading for everybody who is interested in youth cultures, clean living and sociological analysis.