Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Homoerotic Imagery Inherent in the Sport of Football

On yesterday, a casual acquaintance again invited me to watch an afternoon of college football with him and a few of his friends and colleagues. Evidently this is a weekly ritual for them. And so as to not offend him by turning down his invitation yet again, I decided to go. But just as I had suspected, I did not fit in at all.

First of all, the homophobic remarks were very much in abundance. Perhaps, because we were a crowd of men stuffed into such a small space around such a huge television (Was the host trying to overcompensate for something?) that the men were trying to reassure one another of their heterosexual bona fides. I do suspect many of the remarks were aimed at me.

And I didn’t help my case any when I lingered just a little too long in the room where, for whatever reason, the women watched the game separate from the men. But when I passed through on my way to the bathroom, someone asked me about a book, and a very stimulating conversation ensued around a topic I am passionate about—books.

Plus, though their television was smaller, the women’s room was much larger and more accommodating, which is why I suggested that the men move from our small, cramped quarters into the room with the women which had room to spare. I guess this suggestion made me even more suspect in their eyes.

But it probably was my objection to the continued homophobic remarks that solidified their opinion of me. However, perhaps they do not realize the homoerotic imagery inherent in the sport they profess to love so much.

Keep in mind that the potential for homosexuality is greatest in those exclusionary spaces inhabited only by men—street gangs, military barracks, and sports locker rooms to name a few that come readily to mind. And even further, violence or the potential to do violence often elides doubts about male sexuality and sometimes acts as a precondition for outward shows of affection between males.

With that said, let’s examine football. I will mention the opening stanch of the quarterback, hunched over the upturned behind of the center, his hands secured between the center’s legs only in passing. To mention that seems like a cheap shot.

But let’s look first at the aim of the sport. The whole object of football is for one group of men to violently invade the territory of another group of men with the end goal of penetrating their most sacred of places, the endzone, with a cylindrical shaped object, a phallic symbol. Sounds a bit like prison rape, does it not?

And if the former group of men is successful in the completion of their mission, or if the latter group of men is able to violently rip that phallic symbol away or take it away by any other means, a celebration ensues.

And in that celebration precipitated by violence, the usual rules of male to male affection are stripped away. The men are free to grab each others’ behinds and embrace and roll around on the ground still trapped in that love embrace. Yesterday during one such celebration, one player placed his hands tenderly on either side of his teammate’s face and brought his face into such close proximity that the two faces were almost touching, and they seemed to gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes as they congratulated one another on the violence done.

And when the violence is complete, the players retire to the locker room, where convinced by the violent spectacle they all just took part in that no one among them is gay, even the tiny little kicker, they prance around naked as the day they were born, confident in their heterosexuality. I have seen it written that to insert a gay man in such an environment would disrupt the atmosphere and lead a plummet in team morale.

Do they really think there is not a gay man among them already or does the violence work to assuage any suspicions they may have?

If after a particularly good performance, the glee club began grabbing each others’ buttocks and embracing and rolling about on the ground or gazing into each others’ eyes before retiring to the locker room where they stripped naked and pranced about, what would the reaction be? Absent of the specter of violence, I’m sure the giggles and the winks and the jokes would abound.

But I do not mean this as a snide attempt to get back at that obnoxious group of men from yesterday; I just wanted to share some of my observations with you to determine if anyone agrees or disagrees. Now I am preparing myself for an evening of football here in the sanctuary of my own home with my wife even though she does ask the most annoying questions just as I like it.


Lyn Marie said...

Well Max,
I will never look at football the same again.

Keith said...

I actually totally agree with you.

AJ said...

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one that sees football this way. My husband rolled his eyes at me once when I brought up the quarterback/center position. LOL They also run around in tight pants while crouching and wrestling on the ground.

Unknown said...

LOL! I been say this for years! Whenever men start talking about football the first thing I say is "Football is so gay"! They are always slapping each other on the a__!
And that stance with one dude's hands 1/2 inch from the other dude's testicles is just plain nasty!

So I definitely agree with you on this!

msladyDeborah said...

You're observations are spot on!

What is really ironic is no man can explain why the players smack each other on the butt. Or why they do the frontal body bump.

md20737 said...

I dont watch sports much but I agree with you. But it seems as if intelligence for some reason makes you less manly. If you prefer to read and write instead of play sports there is something wrong with you. My girlfried often has this argument with her husband. Her sons want to be in the band instead of playing football and her husband often calls them soft and teases them because football isnt thier primary interest. This causes tons of hostility and stress in the family.

SjP said...

You got that right! Every word. But, there is something about those "tight" bottoms that always seem to get my attention... Oh my...did I say that?


Max Reddick said...

@ Lyn Marie

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big football fan. But everything must be viewed with a critical eye.

@ Keith

Thanks for co-signing.

@ AJ @ Regina @ msladydeborah

My son, who is not a sports fan, asked me today why must they wear such tight pants. I'm sure that is a valid reason, I just can't come up with one right now.

@ MD20737

Those children have my sympathy, and that dad must be out of his mind. I figured out a long time ago that my son was not cut out to be an athlete, much to my chagrin. But my son does excel in the classroom, and he is happy with his books and his vidio camera, and as long as he is doing well and is happy, that is enough for me. It appears as if that gentleman is simply trying to live through his kids which never ends well.

@ SjP

Those tight little pants seem to have caught everyone's attention this morning. LOL

Phi Skee!

Keith said...

I love sports. I watch football, basketball, etc. I'm not that good at playing them though.

I also love to read and do other things that some wouldn't consider that manly. Heck, I'm a big into fashion.

I'm comfortable enough with my sexuality and my manhood to embrace all sides of myself. I try not to worry about what others are going to think about. I'm straight and I know it. That's all that counts.

I think in society we have certain attributes, etc. that are considered one gender or the other. It's hard for many people (and it's not just men either) to grasp that you can have a balance. You can be interested in different things.

Not a real sport, but I've always seen pro wrestling as being very homoerotic.

omi said...

lol...interesting commentary. i agree with you. i have a lot of thoughts about this topic, but i think some of this work is going to have to be done for men, by men...

to answer the tight pants question, it's the same as wearing fitting clothes to yoga. helps with ease of movement, etc. plus by them getting tackled, sliding on the ground, etc. they protect from injury. anything loose would ride up and expose skin for injury.

Max Reddick said...

@ Keith

Wrestling has always been homoerotic. Do you know that wrestlers in the original Olympic games wrestled butt naked?

@ ms. bliss honeycomb

Your explanation as to the tight pants is feasible. But they don't have to be that tight. I think they make them tight and them make them even tighter for effect.

curlykidz said...

I got nothin' really profound to say except I "LOLOLOL"ed at this :)

Anonymous said...

LOL & you called me angry? You would make my mother proud. She hates football & I've heard all growing up her talk about the (not-so-nice word) men who just want to feel up on each other.

I personally love football but E. Lynn Harris did make me take a second look in Invisible Life (hope I got that reference right). Perhaps four years as a high school cheerleader made me appreciate the sport.

It may be all that you said and then some, but I'll stay tuned in. You on the other hand, keep a safe distance.

uglyblackjohn said...

I think the "gayest" I've ever been was when I was around a lot of football players.
We would always try to assert our dominance by calling each other our bitches, pantsing each other and pretending to be the top dog prisoner.
Maybe you're on to something here.

Alisha Gray said...

@ZenMamaPolitic I have to agree with you. I hate Football, but still do not let that bias my honest opinion. Sociologically; it is perverse to force young boys into playing such a violent, homoerotic game. It confuses them, and creates a superficial bond amongst men; which often substitutes for other things in their lives that are missing. Sometimes, they even secretly resent women as a result. I have been noticing a great deal more homoeroticism in the world lately..not just in sports. And, I honestly wonder why. It is really getting bad. For instance; when I was in D.C., the women..when speaking to men, almost always start off the conversation with a football analogy-to make them more comfortable. No matter how silly that they look. LOL. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous. I'm not a sports nut and I don't condone (though I'm a hypocrite) the use of gay/faggot as a perjorative but that doesn't make football homoerotic.
Just because they *gasp* are comfortable with a higher level of physical contact and more used to public nudity than the 'norm' isn't by it's nature homoerotic and many might say, particularly in a different context, that it was a sign of a more advanced culture.
If they were a bunch of euro businessmen kissing cheek, hugging and going nude in a spa together I sense that the blogger would be cheering them on as 'cultured and sophisticated' but because they're a bunch of jocks playing football it's homoerotic.
This blogger needs to get past his own issues. Is using gay/faggot as a perjorative wrong? Yes, of course it is but I seriously doubt that it was being aimed at him; it was just the guys talking like they always do - as c/rude as that talk may be.
The blogger is clearly viewing the world through 'homo-victim' glasses (yes, I just made that up). I think it's great that they kept inviting him, clearly knowing he was gay, it's a sign that our culture IS growing up and becoming more accepting.

Aneil M. Shirke, M.D., Ph.D. said...

Male homosexuality is one man's sexual desire for another man.

It is not one man respecting another man, one man admiring another man, one man caring for another man, one man having affection for another man, one man establishing himself in the pecking order with another, one man touching another man at all or one man loving another in general.

It is about sexual desire and sexual actions.

To call something homoerotic more specifically is to arouse or reflect homosexual desire. Check out a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph. (Here's the image from the cover of his book. It's safe for work. ).

See? That's homoerotic. It evokes in the mind the idea of sexual desire between men.

Violence between men to establish hierarchy and non-sexual behavior to establish kinship between men is not homoerotic. It's what men do with other men. Outside of the US, men are much more comfortable being physically close with each other in a non-sexual way I think in part because of simplistic ideas like those conveyed in this post.

To confound male closeness with male homosexuality diminishes both.

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