Maintaining Male Order and Suppression of Gay Jocks

My research question is: What are the social, emotional, financial, and political ramifications for homosexual football players at the elite and/or professional level?

The book Taking the Field is written by Michael A. Messner, a professor at USC and the Past President of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, writes about the remaining patriarchal and heterosexual tendencies of American Sports. Moreover, he also addresses the issue about sports media and how consumers are taught to view sport dynamics in a specific and hegemonic way. Furthermore, he argues that heterosexual hegemony controls the sports world because of the influences the media has on its young consumers, which are unconsciously reinforcing heteronormativity. Messner addresses the heterosexual dominance of sports by forming a bond of sexual dominance, which specifically excludes homosexual males. Thus, he claims that hyper-masculine institutional patterns of sport are seen as natural through historical persistence. Throughout this text, the recurring theory of sports as a heterosexualization process is critical for understanding the stance the author takes on his claims towards masculinity within sports.

Messner’s text will be useful in my research because he provides in depth analysis of the components that cause hyper-masculinity in sports and sports media, while also addressing how these stereotypes penetrate the lives of the homosexual minority. In my paper, I will address how heterosexual males are idealized in sports and what connections this has towards an athletic identity. This issue leads me to discuss the lack of acceptance of gay males to be apart of this identity. Furthermore, I will take into consideration not only the hyper-masculine tendencies, but the enforcement of a constructed homosexual identity as feminine and passive. For this discussion, I can extract Messner’s observation that homosexuality in sports media does not sell because of the dominant inclination to please the heterosexual eye. The text changed my previous thought that homosexuals were not only unwanted, but they were symbolically obstructed from the spotlight of sports media. This change of thought is important to my thesis because it reinforces my claim that exclusion of gay male athletes as the “other” is taught and practiced in various fields and continues to be the underlining factor of homosexual presence in athletics.

I will be analyzing several chapters from an anthology edited by Donald F. Sabo and Michael A Messner. This book overall encompasses gender inequality and the traditional and normalized relationships between men, women, and sports.  A chapter that illustrates the theoretical and historical foundations of sport and gender (performance) explains the social constructions of masculinity. This chapter incorporates the significant terminology that I seek in my analysis: hegemonic masculinity and male masculinity. It discusses the systems that construct the normal idea of what it means to be masculine in sports, especially football. In the next chapter, the main claim is that masculinity is not a trait that is naturally tied to man and the Y chromosome, but rather it is a set of actions that is taught by external forces. In another chapter, it clearly focuses on the social reproduction of masculinity in football. This is particularly helpful to my research question because it provides information about the specific relations of masculinity in football with the gay male struggle. Also, another chapter specifically writes on gay men in several sports. In this chapter, a main claim is not evident, however there are many sub-claims that relate masculinity and effeminacy to the presence of gay men in the American sports culture. In various parts of this book, the writers  synthesize theories of oppressive misogyny and patriarchy in the sports world and tie them back to the gay struggle in this institution.

Dan Woog, after writing Jocks: True Stories of America’s Gay Male Athletes in 1998, published a continued version titled Jocks 2: Coming Out to Play. Woog, a journalist, published these books to magnify the lives of homosexual male athletes and their existence within the world of athletics. Specifically, he writes about Greg Congdon, a collegiate football player from Troy, Pennsylvania who hid his sexuality as a gay man. Woog starts by connecting Congdon’s life with Corey Johnson’s, a high school football player that who “came out” to his high school varsity team. Woog makes this initial connection to show how acceptance of homosexuality within particular sport institutions inspire some homosexual athletes to also publicize their sexuality. Woog also writes about sexual encounters in high school, and how his feelings for those sexual activities caused his insecurities about his sexuality in the realm of his football career. Also highlighted was the social and emotional experiences that Congdon faced after the truth about his sexuality was exposed. This road of acceptance that harmed Congdon in social and emotional terms proved to be beneficial for his inner-strength in the long run.

This source will be useful to evaluate the consequences of being homosexual in the sport of football. This source is helpful because it gives me a clear idea of the specific ramifications that were placed on Congdon’s social and emotional status. Socially, his status was diminished and stigmatized to almost microscopic existence, while emotionally he was suffocated by feelings of subordination and incompetence in relation to his heterosexual teammates.

Messner, Michael A. Taking the Field: Women, Men, and Sports. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2002. Print.

Sabo, Donald F., and Michael A. Messner, eds. Sport, Men, and the Gender Order: Critical Feminist Perspectives. 1990. Print.

Woog, Dan. Jocks 2: Coming Out to Play. United States of America: Dan Woog. 2002. Print.

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1 Response to Maintaining Male Order and Suppression of Gay Jocks

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    This is an excellent review, and a good model for others still completing this assignment. You did a great job summarizing the sources and stating clearly what their value is to your research question. Your writing is clear and incisive, and gives me a very good sense of where your project is headed. The last source is technically not a peer-reviewed source, but it still seems highly apt to the project. (Plus your attention to multiple chapters in an anthology can count as multiple sources.) I look forward to seeing this project progress!

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