One of my students found this MA thesis by Matthew J. Aslaksen submitted to the Bowling Green State University August 2006. From the abstract:
I have argued that emo represents challenge to conventional norms of hegemonic middle-class masculinity, a challenge which has come about as a result of feelings of discontent with the emotional repression of this masculinity. In this work I have performed multiple interviews that include both performers and audience members who participate in this type of music. The questions that I ask the subjects of my ethnographic research focus on the meaning of this particular performance to both the audience and performers. In an attempt to further clarify the meaning of this form of expression, I draw upon the works of gender theorists such as Judith Butler R.W. Connell as well as several popular music theorists such as Mimi Schippers. Overall I hope to show the greater significance of emo as a shift in masculine expression by that is very thoroughly based in the middle class.