SEXUALITY IN SPORTS: THE THINGS WE THINK BUT DON’T OFTEN SAY

Hondo S. Carpenter

SEXUALITY IN SPORTS: THE THINGS WE THINK BUT DON’T OFTEN SAY

By Heather Zara

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In today’s society, sex is everywhere. It’s in the music blaring from our FM radio station on our daily drive to work. It’s on the front pages of celebrity magazines that line the check out counters at the grocery store. It’s even in commercials advertising products as sexy as “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”. Many of you may have let out a slight chuckle or even a knowing smirk and nod of agreement because let’s face it- it’s true.Â

This is the world that we live in. Sex sells. We’ve all heard it before. It’s only natural that this mentality or even way of life has crossed over into our beloved world of sports. And the world of sports is taking it all in from every angle. Advertising campaigns, dancers on the sidelines, accusations placed upon professional athletes, athletes transitioning into models, and women in sports (from the athletes to the reporters), are all examples of just how that three letter word (S-E-X) has taken a major role in the games that were once so simple.Â

I will not and do not want to place a negative light upon the present issues regarding the professional world of sports. You won’t catch me doing that-I love sports to much… however; I do want to bring about awareness about these issues because I do think that they are important and relevant to everyone involved; men and women included.

I love sports. My middle name is sports. Ok, well maybe it’s not inscribed on my birth certificate or anything, but I love sports. I am also a woman. Not only am I a woman who loves sports, but I am a woman who has had the opportunity to be a part of professional athletics for quite sometime now… and I am making it my career. This information is essential because my point of view on this subject is so different from many others that you might hear.

I danced professionally for the Detroit Fury and the Detroit Pistons for two years. Being a member of professional dance teams for the AFL and the NBA was an experience that I will never forget. (Not to mention the Pistons won the championship the year I was on the team…but that’s another story.) I am also on my way to becoming a full time broadcast sports reporter… did I mention I am a woman?Â

So… I have been the girl in the half tops and sparkly short skirts shaking it on the court and I have been the professional reporter, trying to be taken seriously, interviewing athletes after a big game. Get where I am going with this? Point in blank; whether you agree or disagree, sexuality in sports doesn’t just end with the Automotion swimsuit calendar or the Monday night football beer commercials between time outs. It’s the unspoken images and judgments primarily surrounding women that make it so difficult for women to really be taken seriously. From the steamy endorsement advertisements of Anna Kornikova, the publicity spots of Danica Patrick, or even the female reporter on the sidelines just trying to fit into the male dominated world of sports.Â

More and more women in athletics are gracing the covers of FHM and Maxim. I mean why shouldn’t they? They are not only talented, well rounded spokespeople, but it is in their job requirement to be in great physical shape. I say, good for them. As long as it is respectful, tasteful, and in coherence with their personal beliefs they should take advantage of the hype surrounding them.Â

This topic of sexuality isn’t just limited to the sexy images and advertisements. It’s a topic involving the constant decisions made by women as well. When women delve into the world of sports, from the models in the commercials to the athletes themselves, they are looked at in a much more critical way. It may be 2006 and we may have come very far (men and women alike), but there are still the unspoken issues that keep it a continuously competitive world for females. How can most women keep their competitive edge? They play into the roles suited for them by society.

I truly think that this is why the sexual personas of women come about in sports. Sex sells. The ‘sex sells’ attitude will continue to be prevalent in sports and society alike.   I’m not necessarily saying that this is a bad thing or something that applies to all women in the field, but it is simply the reality of the situation for the most part.Â

What also comes into play are the double standards that act as barriers to progress for equality in sports amongst men and women. Women are allowed inside of men’s locker rooms after games. Men on the other hand are not allowed inside the women’s locker rooms after games. Now, I’m not saying that either rule is just or unjust. However; it sets a certain tone. Men will look at it as unfair while women are getting negative banter for setting a double standard. On another note from the reporter standpoint, we all want to be taken seriously, we all want that first great interview, and we all want an equal shot. I would be utterly distraught if limitations were placed upon me to do my job, simply based upon my gender. So in defense of both genders, I bring up this topic.

To kind of bring a close on this subject, I will tell a quick little story. I was working the MSU football team’s annual summer youth camp as a guest coach. I was pleasantly shocked that none of the little boys made any comments about my gender on the first or even second day of the camp. I didn’t hear, “Hey, you’re a girl. How are you supposed to coach football?” I was pretty pumped. On the last day, some of the players on my team asked me for my autograph on their camp T-shirt. It was just icing on the cake when the little boy ran to Drew Stanton right after and asked him to sign the very same shirt. I was worthy enough for a 10 year-old football fanatic to be on the same shirt as our beloved starting QB, and yes, I am a girl. I was pleased.

Soon after, we lead stretch and a little boy from one of the other teams asked, “You’re a girl, why are you here?” I kind of looked at him with a smirk and said, “Well little boy, I might be a girl but I love this sport just as much as you, and by the way you aren’t doing that stretch correctly. You should pay attention to your coaches”.  He fixed his stance and said, “Thanks coach”.Â

That made me wake up to the reality but gave me reassurance that I too could be taken seriously. Maybe women don’t always have to be the dainty and pretty sources of entertainment for men to look at between time outs. After all, us chicks love sports too.

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