Sporting Sexism

In other news, we have had a fantastic month of sport. Part of me would like to wax lyrically over the wondrous performance of the Welsh football team, reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and providing great joy for us Welsh footie fans, both on the field and the sense of unity it provided for the nation as a counter-balance to all the divisive brexit stuff.

However I’m going to talk more mainly about tennis as the Wimbledon tennis tournament finished at the weekend. I love watching sport for many reasons: It is an inspiration to improve my own fitness levels and an inspiration in the dedication to perform at the professional level, the strategies and interplay of tactics provide interest too and an appreciation of the sheer skill of the athletes. These aspects are often trumped by the emotional engagement where the viewer supports one side or the other. This is where tribal loyalties come into play.

Whilst I am a fan of several football teams, there is something different about national teams, because you didn’t choose the team, you were raised with it. Normally when I have watched any football match I can’t help but root for one team over the other, this is a widespread phenomena. During international football tournaments I usually have to pick a team/ country to support. This decision process is interesting as it is the culmination of the weightings of many factors, such as: Are they underdogs, have I visited that country, do I have friends from that country. Even without any guiding factors, during a match I end up picking a team to support. This picking a side phenomena, happens in every sport I watch. However when i am attached to a particular team, I am more engaged emotionally, the highs are a lot higher and the lows much much lower.

So, to tennis, I am not a massive tennis fan, I generally prefer team sports. Tennis does have an easily observable tactical interplay, coupled with the mind games of the swings and roundabouts of confidence of the players. I believe the most popular form of tennis is the Men’s Singles, but for me I find the mixed doubles much more fascinating. More fascinating because it is now a team sport and that makes things much more interesting and the team dynamic becomes interesting in itself, they smile more and seem to enjoy playing. It also tends to be a bit slower, it’s not just about whacking the ball as hard as possible and this gives watchers more time to consider the battles playing out.

This brings me to sex. I have written a little about the trials and tribulations of being a heterosexual male. There is another phenomena that I don’t seem to have much choice about and that is finding sportswomen attractive. So, and I think this applies to most people, that we end up supporting athletes we find the most attractive, perhaps especially when they are wearing skimpy clothing and running about a lot. Sometimes I think this is awful. Awful because there tends to be a general consensus agreement about whom is attractive, I’m a little off normal, but there isn’t a huge amount of variance. So attractive sportspeople gain more support than those less attractive and this is unfair. It is unfair because someone could be a brilliant exciting player, but they don’t garner support because the other person is more attractive. Generally I don’t think there is anything at all wrong in being attracted to people, it’s natural, but it can be an issue if you decide to act on this attraction.

What I mean by acting on this attraction isn’t as sinister as it might sound. The act is often a male commentator making remarks about a sportswoman that are not related to their sporting ability, such as ‘how lovely they are’, you do hear this from time to time. I was watching the Mixed Doubles final from Wimbledon and found myself thinking that Heather Watson is impossibly lovely and beautiful, however if I was a sports commentator I would not mention this. I don’t know how much other people find this, but watching that match I went through appreciating the sporting spectacle, the drama as I would for any other sporting event, but underneath this is a part of the appeal are the continuing thoughts of how attractive she is as a woman. It’s like sport can become kind of like soft pornography.

I am a huge advocate of equality. I love watching rugby, I have female friends who play rugby. However I can’t bring myself to go along to the games and support them, because of the sexual aspect, I imagine that I would feel like a pervert watching women rolling around in the mud. I have been told not to worry about it, but at the back of my mind I’m wondering if my motivation for going to support and appreciate the game is affected by a desire to appreciate their bodies.

Everyday when out and about I see attractive women wearing attractive clothing and it is nice, but it isn’t the reason I go out and about. I’m just wondering what it is about sport that is different. It also applies to films, sometimes I am motivated to watch films with actors I enjoy, whether male or female, yet there is that little bit of extra motivation if I regard the female actress as attractive. There are very attractive female actors out there, who don’t act very well, so I am not motivated to watch their films, yet it is possible to ignore their acting ability sometimes. Really I wouldn’t have enjoyed watching this tennis match so much if it wasn’t an enjoyable well played game. At the end of the day, no matter how attractive someone is if they are not good at what they are doing, the appeal of watching them diminishes. It seems that the motivation of watching a game is decided by a weighing up of many factors, sexual attraction being only one. The best things to watch are when the sportspeople are both good at what they do, entertaining and very attractive!

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