Tackling footy phobias
May 22nd 2010 04:48
Thanks to Jason Akermanis confused unguarded comments, the debate on homosexuality in sport is now beginning to drag some truths into the sunlight.
As he pointed out, if you sequester a group of fit young men in close intimacy – in prison, the armed forces, or a footy team - then a strongly homoerotic situation results.
Many men who would not otherwise express the homosexual component of their nature begin displaying homoerotic behaviours.
Team training, in sport or the military, deliberately exploits this. Extremely fit young men, at the peak of their sexual drive, sleep, eat, shower and train together, frequently naked or near-naked, and in close physical contact.
This is bolstered by, for example, providing communal showers, baths and change rooms instead of private facilities, encouraging players to leave their families and live with team mates, and so on.
Physical and emotional dependence on each other is promoted and encouraged: you do it for your mates.
A strongly homoerotic culture results. It's called "male bonding". But its real name is love. It's a team-building system was invented by the Greeks. We just took the sex out of it.
At the same time trainers strenuously suppress any sexual expression of this erotic arousal, which creates a high level of frustration, which in turn fuels aggression - which is then available to be channelled against opponents.
Of course, it sometimes spills out in late night drunken brawls.
This is why sports teams often sledge their opponents by calling them "poofters", "girls", etc. They are saying ‘you are weak because you succumbed to the homoerotic milieu in which we all live and work; we, however, being ‘stronger’, did not’.
Clearly, this is a dangerous strategy: it can lead to players forcing sex on one other. A documentary about a straight amateur rugby club in the UK a couple of years back showed exactly that: after the weekly player assessments, the least competent member of the team was expected, as part of the regular Friday night drinking ritual, to give the team captain a blowjob in public.
As a former member of a rugby club, I can vouch for the fact that this particular club is not unusual.
This is why group sex with a woman or women is so often a part of team culture. The men can have sex with one another, without compromising their heterosexual self-image, interpolating a female body as a ‘voltage convertor’. To the men, the woman is not really a person. No wonder she ends up feeling used.
Small wonder, then, that Akermanis feels discomfort playing and showering with an openly gay team-mate. It’s his unconscious recognition that this old ultra-sexist (which he calls ‘hyper-masculine’) sporting culture, which depends – as he has pointed out – on the lie that everyone is 100% straight, cannot accommodate an openly gay man.
But the answer, Jason, is not to tell gay players to stay in the closet, not to force all team members to pretend to fit an artificial norm. The answer is to celebrate their diversity.
And that would really change the game.
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