Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Unspoken Lesbianism in Women's Sports

Poseur will be away for a little while, but he'll be back to give us his insight after the opening rounds of the tournament. I know everyone's looking forward to seeing oodles of basketball today, but I'm going to switch gears just a bit.

With the hoopla surrounding Pokey Chatman's sudden resignation from the head coaching position of the LSU women's basketball team, I have seen numerous references to the "unspoken lesbianism" in women's sports. After doing a lot of thinking about this topic, I have come to the conclusion that it is probably better left unspoken.

Pokey's problems seem to have arisen from an affair with a player, and that's never good, but some people on the various message board have taken this as an opportunity to rail against women's athletics, and let me just say that there are a lot of utter ignoramuses out there. They say that women's athletics is a haven for lesbianism and that, therefore, women's athletics is damaging to society. There is also a lot of blaming of Title IX, which is a topic for another day.

I don't think that it's a big secret that lesbians are overrepresented in women's sports. By which I mean that there is a higher proportion of lesbians in women's athletics than in the women's population at large. Personally, I don't particularly care, and I don't think it's really anyone else's business if a particular athlete is gay. I understand that it is an important factor in team chemistry and in the culture around a team, but I don't think we should be getting regular SportsCenter updates on the sexuality of our athletes. Leave it in the locker room.

It got me thinking about the sexual politics of athletics. Just like it's not a big secret that there are a lot of lesbians in women's sports, it is also not a big secret that is a lot of hyper-masculinity in men's athletics. We know, though we don't often discuss it, that major athletics (college and pro) are filled with groupies, homophobia, promiscuity, even activities that bear a striking resemblance to prostitution. This hyper-masculinity also remains "unspoken", until of course it bubbles up into something the media can't ignore, like the Minnesota Vikings' sex boat incident, the allegations of UMass using prostitutes to recruit Marcus Camby, or the John Amaechi book.

Compared to the problems with sexuality in men's athletics, I think it's not terribly important or even interesting to learn that there are a lot of lesbians playing women's sports. In wake of Pokey Chatman's resignation, I have heard many reports that certain teams are known as "gay teams" while others are "straight teams", though no one seems to know exactly which teams are which. Allegedly, straight players are not particularly welcome on gay teams and vice-versa. I don't know if any of that is true, but I'm perfectly willing to accept that a group of 18 to 22 year olds can be particularly cliquish and intolerant of differences.

With all this in mind, I think we should just leave female athletes' sex lives alone. I also wonder why some people find this topic so very important. Yes, there are some things that are totally unacceptable, like a relationship between a coach and a current player or incidents of sexual harassment (which seems to be completely tolerated in the world of men's athletics). Beyond that, I don't see where it matters if a player is having a relationship with another player or if a coach is having a relationship with a former player, regardless of the genders involved.

1 comment:

Jason said...

In general I agree with you. I don't care to know who is homosexual, and it's not as though homosexuality changes a player or coach's performance. I don't see an advantage to such information being open. Perhaps there is a disadvantage if a player, homophobic or otherwise uncomfortable with things like showering with a homosexual teammate, feels an aversion to joining a team with these sorts of open secrets. Anyway, I don't care much. I don't follow sports to know who is sleeping with whom.

My one point of disagreement is with players on the same team being sexually or romantically involved with one another. This can screw up team chemistry, and if I were a coach, I would not allow it (provided I had the power). It can lead to favoritism, or the appearance of favoritism. Lots of relationships end ugly, so it can lead to hard feelings following a break up. My old high school team had an issue like this on the girls' soccer team, and it really hurt team morale.