The Myth of the Sexual Athlete
March 1, 2012 § 7 Comments
I grew up & went to school in a small town in Indiana. My graduating class numbered 104 and had very little diversity within it. With that being said, I believe my school thrived on “the norm.” For example, the cheerleaders and jocks were always considered to be the most popular people in school (Class president, Homecoming Court, Prom King & Queen, etc) and everyone else fell below them in ranking. There were the band kids, the art kids, the video game kids…all of the typical cliques that one finds in a stereotypical high school. Part of why I found Don Sabo’s essay, “The Myth of the Sexual Athlete,” to be so interesting is because the situations he describes were typical at my school.
The more I reminisced, I recalled how differently female athletes and male athletes were treated in high school. The “popular guys” were popular because they played football and basketball, two very important sports for my town. Yet the female athletes rarely managed to make it into the popular crowd. One exception came with a few members of the volleyball team because the jocks declared which girls looked the “hottest” in their tiny spandex shorts. But as I was saying, not many of the female athletes reached the popularity that the males did. There were quite a few times when the women’s team won more games or advanced further in a tourney than the men’s team, but that did nothing to elevate their popularity status. Also, the female athletes were not sexualized like the cheerleaders were. The jocks would always joke with a certain female basketball player, treating her as if she were one of them, “just one of the guys.” They assumed that just because a woman was playing a sport, that meant she must be masculine and therefore they would joke around with her instead of flirting. Off the court and in the halls, many of the female athletes wore makeup and feminine clothing but that didn’t change the jocks’ perception of them. In their eyes, as male athletes, it was completely normal and expected to be almost hyper-sexual but it was not the same for the female athletes.
I agree with Sabo when he says, “What they think they want rarely coincides with what they need” (282) and I hope that more men will allow themselves to open up and realize this.