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Masculinities and Sexualities in Sport and Physical Cultures: Three Decades of Evolving Research

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This article traces the foundation of the study between sport and physical cultures and masculinities and sexualities principally by examining the homophobic zeitgeist by which the academic discipline was formed. I show that the intense homophobia of the mid-1980s waned throughout the 1990s, and that during the new millennia, researchers found more inclusive forms of heterosexuality. Indeed, research on masculinities and homophobia today shows that, even in the traditionally conservative institution of sport, matters have shifted dramatically. This has resulted not only in improved conditions for sexual minorities, but it has also promoted a culture of softer, more tactile and emotional forms of heterosexual masculinities. These studies, alongside those within this special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality, highlight the necessity of developing new ways of theorizing the changing dynamics between masculinities, sexualities, and physical cultures in the next decade.
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Journal of Homosexuality
ISSN: 0091-8369 (Print) 1540-3602 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wjhm20
Masculinities and Sexualities in Sport and Physical
Cultures: Three Decades of Evolving Research
Eric Anderson PhD
To cite this article: Eric Anderson PhD (2011) Masculinities and Sexualities in Sport and Physical
Cultures: Three Decades of Evolving Research, Journal of Homosexuality, 58:5, 565-578, DOI:
10.1080/00918369.2011.563652
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2011.563652
Published online: 29 Apr 2011.
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Journal of Homosexuality, 58:565–578, 2011
Copyright ©Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0091-8369 print/1540-3602 online
DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2011.563652
Masculinities and Sexualities in Sport and
Physical Cultures: Three Decades of
Evolving Research
ERIC ANDERSON, PhD
Department of Sports Studies, University of Winchester, Winchester, UK
This article traces the foundation of the study between sport and
physical cultures and masculinities and sexualities principally by
examining the homophobic zeitgeist by which the academic dis-
cipline was formed. I show that the intense homophobia of the
mid-1980s waned throughout the 1990s, and that during the
new millennia, researchers found more inclusive forms of het-
erosexuality. Indeed, research on masculinities and homophobia
today shows that, even in the traditionally conservative institu-
tion of sport, matters have shifted dramatically. This has resulted
not only in improved conditions for sexual minorities, but it has
also promoted a culture of softer, more tactile and emotional
forms of heterosexual masculinities. These studies, alongside those
within this special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality, highlight
the necessity of developing new ways of theorizing the changing
dynamics between masculinities, sexualities, and physical cultures
in the next decade.
KEYWORDS gay, athletes, sport, homosexuality, history
Although there is a dearth of research concerning the relationship
between sport, masculinities, and homosexuality before the 1980s (see
Garner & Smith, 1977, and Sabo & Runfola, 1980, for notable exceptions).
Gay athletes had not yet begun to emerge from their sporting closets, nor
did they exist openly within the sport-related occupational industry. For
example, when Pronger (1990) studied closeted Canadian gay athletes in
the late 1980s, he was unable to find men who were out to their teammates.
Address correspondence to Eric Anderson, Department of Sports Studies, University of
Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester SO22 4NR, UK. E-mail: EricAndersonPhd@aol.com
565
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566 E. Anderson
Whether participating in individual sports (e.g., tennis, swimming, and run-
ning) or teamsports (e.g., football, basketball, and rugby), there were few
openly gay athletes in the Western world. They remained closeted because
they assumed that the high degree of homophobic discourse, alongside
their teammates’ vocalized opposition to homosexuality, indicated that they
would have a troubled experience coming out (Woog, 1998).
Interviewing heterosexual male athletes a few years later, Messner
(1992) confirmed this perception: “The extent of homophobia in the sports
world is staggering,” he wrote. “Boys (in sport) learn early that to be gay,
to be suspected of being gay, or even to be unable to prove one’s het-
erosexual status is not acceptable” (p. 34). These attitudes also extended
into recreational level sporting leagues. Discussing the Netherlands, Hekma
(1998) wrote, “Gay men who are seen as queer and effeminate are granted
no space whatsoever in what is generally considered to be a masculine
preserve and a macho enterprise” (p. 2).
This paradigmatic view was supported by the quantitative work on uni-
versity athletes in the United States, too. For example, in 2001, Wolf Wendel,
Toma, and Morphew found that White male athletes exhibited dispropor-
tionate degrees of homophobia compared to their attitudes toward racial
minorities. Hence, sport has been widely recognized as an institution that
promotes heterosexuality over homosexuality. This is a phenomenon that I
experienced firsthand.
In 1994, I became America’s first (or at least the first publicly recog-
nized) openly gay high school coach (Anderson, 2000). Although I received
tremendous support from the high school runners that I coached, I was
maligned by the administration. Worse, my athletes were victimized by many
members of the high school’s football team, assumed gay through a guilt-
by-association process. My athletes were intimidated by a series of symbolic
and real episodes of harassment by our school’s football team, and because
this bullying was not stopped by the football coaches or administration, the
harassment escalated. A two-year period of abuse saw damage to our cars,
the extradition of my athletes from one locker room to another, and threats
on our lives. Eventually, a football player brutally assaulted one of my het-
erosexual athletes. My athlete endured a beating that resulted in four broken
facial bones, including his pallet, as the assailant called him a “fucking fag-
got” while beating his head into the asphalt. The incident was determined
to be “mutual combat” by the Huntington Beach Police Department, and the
high school principal dismissed the possibility of it being a hate crime.
These experiences led me to abandon my high school teaching and
coaching, and to instead pursue a Ph.D. in sport sociology under the
tutelage of Professor Michael Messner. Here, I was introduced to studies
highlighting that not only was men’s competitive sport built on the premise
of homophobia, but that it was also a social institution organized around
the political project of defining certain forms of heterosexual masculinity
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Masculinities and Sexualities in Sport and Physical Cultures 567
as acceptable, while denigrating other forms (Crosset, 1990; Messner, 2002).
Sport, I learned, was also used in promoting men’s patriarchal privilege over
women (Burstyn, 1999).
Messner (1992), Pronger (1990), and others (Connell, 1990, 1995;
Messner & Sabo, 1990; Plummer, 1999) have shown that sport—particularly
teamsports—traditionally associates boys and men with masculine domi-
nance by constructing their identities and sculpting their bodies to align
with hegemonic perspectives of masculinist embodiment and expression.
Accordingly, literature on the relationship between sport and men’s mas-
culinities throughout the 1990s highlighted that, in competitive teamsports,
boys and men were constructed to exhibit, value, and reproduce orthodox
notions of masculinity (Anderson, 2005a; Plummer, 1999).
THEORIZING MASCULINITIES
The most prominent theoretical tool for understanding this social stratifi-
cation of masculinities has come thorough Connell’s (1987, 1990, 1995)
concept of hegemonic masculinity. From a social constructionist perspective,
hegemonic masculinity theory articulates two social processes (Demetriou,
2001). The first concerns how all men benefit from patriarchy (Burton-
Nelson, 1995; Connell, 1995; Messner, 2002; Messner & Sabo, 1990).
However, it is the second social process that has been heavily adopted by
the masculinities literature. Here, Connell’s theoretical contribution has been
particularly adopted for its conceptualization of the mechanisms by which
an intramasculine hierarchy is created and legitimized.
In conceptualizing intramasculine domination, Connell argues that one
hegemonic archetype of masculinity is esteemed above all others, so that
boys and men who most closely embody this standard are accorded the
most social capital. Some of the characteristics of hegemonic masculinity
concern achieved variables and attitudinal depositions like athletic ability,
the presentation of a masculine identity and the maintenance of homo-
phobia. Other variables, however, concern ascribed variables: Whiteness,
heterosexuality, and youth. Connell argued that regardless of their body
mass, age, or sporting accomplishments, gay men are at the bottom of this
hierarchy. Furthermore, Connell said that straight men who behaved in ways
that conflict with the valorized form of masculinity are also marginalized. It
was for these reasons that homophobia was found to serve as a particu-
larly effective weapon to stratify men in deference to a hegemonic mode of
heteromasculine dominance (Connell, 1995).
Connell (1987, 1990, 1995) noted that the power of a hegemonic form
of masculinity was that those lower down the stratification of masculinities
believed in the right to rule of those at the top. Instead of contesting their
position—instead of forming a coalition among the complicit, subordinated,
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568 E. Anderson
and marginalized masculinities that Connell describes—these men instead
looked up and referred back to the jocks ruling their schools, sports, and
social spaces. Accordingly, multiple studies found high schools to be loca-
tions where teamsport players (predominantly football players) controlled
school space (Plummer, 1999). These athletes distributed power as they saw
fit (Bissinger, 1990).
Hegemonic masculinity theory made sense in 1987, when Connell
(1987) began theorizing her theory of hegemonic masculinity and, undoubt-
edly, it continued to be effective throughout the 1990s. But the level of
homophobia at a cultural level peaked in 1988 in America (Anderson,
2009a), and this had serious implications both on how gay men were treated
(and, therefore, how they acted) and also on how straight men behaved. In
order to fully understand hegemonic masculinity theory, I argue that it has to
be historically contextualized within its own temporal moment—in a culture
that I call “homohysteric” (Anderson, 2009a).
I use the term homohysteria to describe the fear of being homo-
sexualized. It incorporates three variables: 1) cultural awareness that
homosexuality exists as a sexual orientation; 2) high levels of homo-
phobia within a culture, and 3) the conflation of feminine behaviors
in men with same-sex desire. Varying combinations of these three traits
determine unique outcomes for men’s gendered behaviors. For exam-
ple, a highly homophobic culture that believes homosexuals do not
exist within their religion is not homohysteric. This is why men in
many highly homophobic Muslim countries are permitted to engage in
homosocial intimacy without threat to their publicly perceived heterosex-
ual identities: They do not believe someone can be gay. Conversely, a
homohysteric culture (e.g., Jamaica) is found in a country that under-
stands that homosexuality exists among a significant proportion of people,
but cultural homophobia is so elevated that all men (gay and straight)
desire to distance themselves from the possibility of being thought gay.
Accordingly, men esteemed the most extreme representations of masculin-
ity and position themselves as highly homophobic as an indication of
heterosexuality.
America, the United Kingdom, and Australia were (among other
Western countries) highly homohysteric cultures in the mid-1980s. During
that period, it was understood that any male (regardless of their gendered
expression) could be gay. It was no longer possible to assume that one was
heterosexual simply for “acting straight.” This awareness (that anyone could
be gay) was the result of “normal” men dying of AIDS in “normal” fami-
lies. It was promoted by a vehemently anti-gay Christian fundamentalism.
With homosexuality being so vilified, homosexual suspicion was also rife.
Thus, this was a period of time when Western men desired to physically
and emotionally resemble Rambo, all in order to prove that one was not gay
(Anderson, 2008b; Kimmel, 1997).
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Masculinities and Sexualities in Sport and Physical Cultures 569
This has traditionally limited the gendered expression of men wishing
to retain an image of heterosexuality. Thus, heterosexual men have had
to avoid the expression of homosocial intimacy, sadness, or love of their
friends. They have been denied the ability to express the emotions of fear
or intimidation, and they must adhere to rigid body language while avoiding
certain clothing types and entertainment choices (Ibson, 2002). Men wishing
to be perceived as straight can only play select sports or dance in masculin-
ized ways. These are expectations that society had placed on boys as young
as 8 years old throughout the 1980s and 1990s (Pollack, 1998).
It is important to recognize that the discipline of masculinities estab-
lished itself during the West’s most homohysteric decade. It was the time
when Messner, Sabo, Kimmel, Connell, and others were writing about the
social problems of masculinity. But the social climate toward gay men has
changed since then. Increasingly, men are less afraid to associate with behav-
iors that were once coded as gay. When men wear pink, express their love
for their male friends, and freak their gay male friends on the dance floor
(Anderson, 2009a) it requires us to rethink the theories that we once used
to understand men and their masculinities: The stratification of masculin-
ities and sexualities shifts in accord to changing levels of awareness of
homosexuality and our attitudes toward it.
While hegemonic masculinity theory has maintained great utility in
times of high homophobia (Connell & Messerschmitd, 2005), it nonetheless
fails to accurately account for what occurs in a macro or even local culture of
decreased cultural homophobia. This is because hegemonic masculinity the-
ory only permits one form of masculinity to reside atop a social hierarchy; it
does not explain the social processes in an environment in which more than
one version of masculinity has equal appeal (Anderson, 2005a). Accordingly,
hegemonic masculinity theory is incapable of explaining empirical research
that documents multiple masculinities of equal cultural value (Anderson,
2005a; McCormack, 2010, 2011b). In fact, it argues that this cannot occur.
SHIFTING RELATIONS BETWEEN MASCULINITY AND
HOMOPHOBIA
But by the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, studies began
reporting a rapidly decreasing level of homophobia, even in men’s team-
sports (Anderson, 2005b; Kian & Anderson, 2009; Southall, Nagel, Anderson,
Polite, & Southall, 2009). At the start of this millennium, I interviewed 26
openly gay high school and university athletes throughout a spectrum of
sports in the United States (Anderson, 2002). The study provided the first
examination of the experiences of openly gay male athletes on ostensibly
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570 E. Anderson
all heterosexual teams. In the absence of the ability to ban openly gay ath-
letes from sport, heterosexual athletes within teamsports (both contact and
non-contact) resisted the intrusion of openly gay athletes through the cre-
ation of a culture of silence around gay identities. Although publicly out, the
athletes in this study were victimized by heterosexual hegemony and largely
maintained a heteronormative framework by self-silencing their speech
and frequently engaging in heterosexual dialogue with their heterosexual
teammates.
In this 2002 investigation (Anderson, 2002), I also found more openly
gay runners and swimmers than football and baseball players. Pronger
(1990) theorized that competitive teamsports that involve collision are more
likely to be over representative of macho men, that gay men might be likely
to deselect out of them as they grew older. Using data from the 1994 to 1995
Longitudinal Add Health Study of adolescent health, Zipp (2011) empirically
validates this, showing that while gay youth played teamsports equally with
their heterosexual counterparts in middle school, they began to self-select
out of teamsports by high school. Of course, it is possible that deeply clos-
eted gay youth play contact sports because of the veneer it offers them
against cultural suspicions of homosexuality. In other words, it is those who
are more likely to come out that are more likely to run or join theatre, and
gays who are highly closeted may be more likely to play American football
(Anderson, 2005a).
In 2005, I expanded my work on gay male athletes to 40 openly gay
(and 20 closeted) athletes (Anderson, 2005a). Here, I found that openly
gay athletes were not physically harassed or bullied. However, I found that
their acceptance was partially attributable to the stigma of homosexuality
being mediated because these were mostly top-performing athletes. Thus,
although many of these athletes reported gay-friendly team cultures before
coming out, others used their athletic capital to work through homophobia.
I, therefore, argued that hegemonic masculinity (as an archetype) seemed
to be slipping. I suggested that this would have implications for the use of
hegemonic masculinity theory.
Matters have improved for gay and lesbian athletes since publishing
my 2005 work. Supporting this, a February 27, 2006, Sports Illustrated mag-
azine poll of 1,401 professional teamsport athletes also showed that the
majority would welcome a gay teammate; this included 80% of those in the
National Hockey League. Matters are even better in other Western coun-
tries (McCormack, 2010; Weeks, 2007). During my research on heterosexual
male cheerleaders, and finding a rift between those adhering to ortho-
dox versions of masculinity and those to more feminine versions, I began
to design inclusive masculinity theory (Anderson, 2005b), formalizing it
in 2009.
Inclusive masculinity theory (Anderson, 2009a) supersedes hegemonic
masculinity by explaining the stratification of men alongside their social
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Masculinities and Sexualities in Sport and Physical Cultures 571
dynamics in times of lower homophobia. The theory was constructed to
explain settings with low homohysteria. Here, heterosexual boys are per-
mitted to engage in an increasing range of behaviors that once led to
homosexual suspicion, all without threat to their publicly perceived hetero-
sexual identities. For example, fraternity members (Anderson, 2008a), rugby
players (Anderson & McGuire, 2010), school boys (McCormack & Anderson,
2010), heterosexual cheerleaders (Anderson, 2008b), and even the men of
a Catholic College soccer team in the Midwest (Anderson, in press) have
all been shown to maintain close physical and emotional relationships with
each other.
McCormack (2010, 2011a) also shows that young men are physically
tactile and that the expression of homophobia is stigmatized among English
high school students, at three different schools (lower, middle, and upper-
middle class). In fact, Anderson, Adams, and Rivers (2010) have recently
documented that 9 out of 10 heterosexual male undergraduates in the
United Kingdom kiss their male friends on the lips as a form of nonsex-
ual, homosocial bonding. I have also found same-sex kissing as a form of
homosocial bonding occurring among 20% of the university undergraduates
I interviewed in my research on American college soccer players (Anderson,
2009a).
Collectively, these studies highlight that as cultural homophobia dimin-
ishes, it frees heterosexual men to act in more feminine ways without threat
to their heterosexual identity. It suggests that we have dropped out of
homohysteria: Homophobia used to be the chief policing mechanism of
a hegemonic form of masculinity, but there no longer remains a strident
cultural force to approximate the mandates of one type of homophobic
masculinity.
In the 1980s, homophobia served as the primary policing agent of
men’s gendered behaviors. Homophobia is what kept Connell’s (1987)
model of hegemonic masculinity in operation; homophobia aligned vari-
ous masculinities vertically. But, without homophobia, there is nothing to
enforce a hegemonic form; thus, multiple and varied masculinities can flour-
ish in, what McCormack (2011b) calls, a “hierarchy without hegemony.”
Accordingly, men and their masculinities are not stratified hierarchically, but
they exist with more equality, horizontally. This is evidenced by the outright
acceptance of gay male athletes today.
OPENLY GAY ATHLETES TODAY
There is increasing evidence that as cultural homophobia continues to dis-
sipate (particularly among male youth) teamsport athletes are coming out
in greater numbers. This is clear if one clicks on Outsports.com, where
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572 E. Anderson
hundreds of articles related to openly gay athletes are available. More
systematically, in April of 2011, I published a Gender & Society article about
the experiences of 26 openly gay American high school and university ath-
letes (Anderson, 2011). Compared to my 2002 study, these athletes (who
represent the same class and racial demographic) did not fear coming out
in the same way or to the same degree as the 2002 athletes. Unlike the men
from the 2002 study, they did not fear that their coming out would result in
physical hostility, marginalization, or social exclusion (either on or off the
field). Athletes in the 2011 cohort were a more diverse group of athletes,
too. Not only were teamsport athletes represented equally with individual
sport athletes, but they were not as good a group of athletes, thus, they
were not using sporting capital as a shield against homophobia. Still, these
men were widely accepted by their teammates. In fact, they report that
their teammates are closer now than before they came out: that disclosure
of something personal engenders further disclosure drawing teammates to
upgrade their opinions of one another. I found that this was as true for a
benchwarmer as it was a star player.
This study also found that openly gay athletes evade the culture of
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that characterized the experiences of athletes in my
2002 study. Conversely, athletes in the 2011 cohort found their sexualities
accepted among their teammates. These athletes talked about their sexuali-
ties frequently, and none reported that their teammates tried to publicly or
privately heterosexualize them.
I concluded this research by arguing that because the social demo-
graphics of the two cohorts studied are alike, it, therefore, stood to reason
that there are two possible reasons that account for the improvement of
experience of gay athletes. First, sport has “learned” from pioneering openly
gay athletes across America; or second (and much more likely), that cultural
homophobia has decreased in the local cultures of the 26 men of the 2011
sample. If the latter is the case, it speaks to a broader decrease in homopho-
bia throughout the country (see Kozloski, 2011). Accordingly, I suggest that
the existence of local cultures with great social inclusivity speaks at some
level to inclusivity in the broader culture.
This argument is supported by quantitative research. For example,
in research conducted on undergraduate male athletes in the United
Kingdom, only 6% expressed some form of reservation about having a
gay male teammate share their sporting spaces (Bush, Anderson, & Carr,
in press). Also, Cunningham (2010) has recently surveyed nearly 700 uni-
versity athletic department members in nearly 200 institutions to show
that while sexual diversity lags behind age or gender diversity, 54%
of the universities studied maintained strong sexual orientation diversity,
only 17% showed no diversity. These descriptions of sport, sport insti-
tutions, and young men’s gendered behaviors clearly do not correspond
with research from the early 1990s, and it is difficult to explain them
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Masculinities and Sexualities in Sport and Physical Cultures 573
using the theoretical frameworks of former leading figures (Connell, 1995;
Kimmel, 1997; Messner, 1992). Rather, they call for new investigations
and new ways of theorizing the relationship between masculinity, sexu-
ality, and sport. It is a need that I hope this special addition begins to
address.
THE CONTRIBUTION OF THIS ISSUE
It is my aim that this special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality will
contribute to the discussion of how scholars understand the relationship
between sport (broadly defined to include physical cultures and ancillary
occupations), masculinities, and homophobia. It serves as a valuable col-
lection of theoretical and empirical articles that document and explain how
declining homophobia within the institution of sport and physical cultures
positively impacts on straight and gay men alike. This special issue makes
salient that it is no longer appropriate to cite research from the 1990s as
being indicative of youth sporting culture. Times have changed.
Today’s youth exist within a much improved social and sporting land-
scape, one in which young gay men are more able to be out to their
teammates, and older gay men are able to be out at work in the sport’s ancil-
lary occupations. The collective findings in this special issue highlight the
necessity of conducting new studies and the corresponding need to develop
new ways of theorizing the changing dynamics between masculinities,
sexualities, and physical cultures in the next decade.
In seeking contributions to this special issue, I both requested submis-
sions from leading authors in the field as well as authors who could expand
the definition of sport to include physical cultures other than sport. I also
sought articles that examined for the contemporary experiences of mostly
young heterosexual men in these physical cultures, as it is among youth that
we can best chart social progress.
I was fortunate to receive far more submissions than could be pub-
lished. This was not only helpful as a guest editor looking for quality articles,
but it was encouraging because the articles that did not make it into this
special issue also reflected an improving relationship between sport, men,
and homophobia; no article submitted presented a counternarrative, which
I would have considered as an important addition to the debate.
I was fortunate to receive a variety of articles that empirically exam-
ine decreasing cultural homophobia and analyze the influence that this
has not only on gay athletes and other gay men, but on young hetero-
sexual male athletes as well. For example, Adi Adam’s article, “‘Josh Wears
Pink Cleats’: Inclusive Masculinity on the Soccer Field,” shows that inclu-
sive forms of masculinity proliferate among the undergraduate students he
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574 E. Anderson
studies in the American Northeast. Adams documents that the maintenance
of a softer, gay-friendly form of masculinity is esteemed among the soccer
players of this competitive, Division I university. He shows that not only
does one of the players proudly wear pink cleats, but that the men on this
team are emotionally bonded to one another in ways that directly contra-
dict research on men and masculinities from decades ago (cf. Messner, 1992;
Messner & Sabo, 1990). Thus, Adams shows us that declining cultural homo-
phobia has a socio-positive effect on the lives of heterosexual male athletes
(Adams & Anderson, in press; Adams, Anderson, & McCormack, 2010;
Anderson & Adams, 2011).
Jamonn Campbell, along with his colleagues Denise Cothren, Ross
Rogers, Lindsay Kistler, Anne Osowski, Nathan Greenauer, and Christian
End, contribute to this special issue by showing us that decreasing cultural
homophobia has had a very positive influence on the way young sport fans
view professional teamsport athletes who are gay. Among the young under-
graduate men with whom Campbell and his colleagues conducted their
experiment, they reported no increased negativity over a hypothetical sit-
uation involving a gay professional athlete compared to a straight player.
In fact, they even show that undergraduate women favor gay players over
heterosexual players.
The shifting degrees of cultural homophobia discussed earlier affects
not only gay and straight athletes, however; it also influences how gay men
relate to their bodies—indeed, how they move their bodies. Thus, Grant
Tyler Peterson discusses how the way gay men dance in clubs has changed
in relation to cultural levels of homophobia. Peterson provides a brief
genealogy of gay men’s dancing spaces from the 1970s to the first decade
of the second millennia, documenting how decreasing cultural homophobia
has led to the acceptance of more feminized dance, as well as the sexual
adulation of thin boys moving to pop music. His reflections exemplify that
physical culture is reflected in more than just competitive sport.
I am also very pleased to have the work of Elizabeth S. Cavalier included
in this special issue. Using some of the primary findings of her doctoral work,
she focuses on the experiences of 10 gay men working in professional, col-
legiate, and club sport positions, not as sportsmen, but as managers and in
other ancillary occupations. While previous work has shown that contempo-
rary sporting institutions near-exclusively draw on a relatively homogenous
group of hypermasculine, overconforming, failed male athletes to repro-
duce the institution as an extremely powerful sexual and gender regime
(Anderson, 2009b), Cavalier finds that five of the men in her study were
publicly out to their colleagues. She shows that while those in the closet still
retain fear about the implications of coming out, those who have come
out lead relatively trouble-free working lives. Importantly, Cavalier uses
the narratives of both closeted and openly gay men to show that a per-
son’s perceptions of homophobia can be as important as the actual level of
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Masculinities and Sexualities in Sport and Physical Cultures 575
homophobia. This has clear implications for the debate concerning whether
gay youth are an “at risk” group as well as how gay youth are discussed in
the media.
In a theoretical piece, George B. Cunningham and E. Nicole Melton
explore how sexual orientation diversity in the sport occupation industry
can lead to positive outcomes for the institution. They suggest that sex-
ual orientation diversity can be a source of competitive advantage for a
sport organization, and that the degree to which sexual orientation diversity
positively contributes to a team’s or organization’s success appears to be
dependent on the degree of LGBT-inclusiveness in that entity.
Next, Mark McCormack provides a valuable framework for understand-
ing the changing relationship between homophobia and masculinities. Using
his research from the experience of boyhood in three British high schools,
he tracks how the shifting levels of cultural homophobia are reflected in
the changing use of homosexually-themed language. McCormack traces
the use of homophobic language, showing us that it has moved from
a disposition in the 1980s, where its purpose was to both demean and
wound to one in which the use of homosexually-themed language can have
positive social effects, such as bonding between gay and straight youth.
McCormack’s framework should be of use to scholars and activists who
seek to understand the meanings and effects of language in a particular
context.
Finally, the work of Edward Kian, Galen Clavio, John Vincent, and
Stephanie D. Shaw document that while cultural homophobia is decreas-
ing, and while this has positive impacts on sport and sport media
(Kian & Anderson, 2009), decreasing cultural homophobia is an uneven
social process. It, therefore, maintains varying implications for differing
demographics. In their research on a sport fan Web site for American foot-
ball fans, they document homophobia in a minority of postings. However,
when homophobia did occur, it went uncontested. Thus, even though the
vast majority of men did not partake in this homophobic exchange, few felt
strong enough to contest it.
Together, these articles help push our understanding of the relationship
between men, homosexuality, and masculinities in sport and physical cul-
ture in an age of declining homophobia. They help shore up the notion that
while decreasing homophobia may be an uneven social process, homopho-
bia and homohysteria is decreasing across sport and physical cultural spaces.
This research, therefore, substantially adds to an ever-growing body of work
that finds that young men today do not represent the same homophobic
and hypermacho disposition that they did two decades ago when the field
of masculinities was founded—not even in competitive sport. Thus, as the
results of these studies into sport and physical culture find socio-positive
improvements for gay and straight men alike, it is necessary to revise our
theorizing about them.
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576 E. Anderson
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