During the recent sport sociology conference (NASSS) I heard inspired critiques of sport and had many great conversations about sport media and female athletes. Ironically, I returned home today to this tweet by the Lingerie Football League.
As you know, I’ve written previously about the LFL and I’ve been keeping an eye on what is happening with the league. At the NASSS conference I heard some great audience reception research on why sex does not sell women’s sport, sex sells sex. More specifically, sexy images and sexy female athletes sell sex to young male consumers ages 18-35. I would be really interested to see the market research—who are the consumers and fans of the LFL? (any guesses?)
The LFL is a perfect example of how sex can and does sell sex. The numbers prove it. Arguably, the LFL is not sport it is a dramatic spectacle aimed at entertainment and consumption of the female body. No where in any of the promotional materials is the athletic competence of LFL “athletes” highlighted or portrayed in any serious way. The sexualization of the LFL women is overt and aimed at appealing to male sexual fantasy. In fact their website promotes the LFL as “True Fantasy Football” which merges two primary desires and interests of many (not all) US men— football and sex.
If you watch the many videos of LFL games posted on the website, you will see continuous images of women tackling each other, acting violent, and slamming each other to the ground. Yet one women (New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert) acts aggressive and pulls a ponytail and we have a national outcry (see the video and read examples of indicative responses on Perez Hilton’s blog). Male athletes act aggressively and unsportsmanlike all the time (remember Zidane’s head butt in the World Cup? or Florida football team member Brandon Spikes fingers through the face mask? , both of which were similarly caught on national TV). Yet, the sanctions for Lambert were severe and quick (permanent dismissal from the team), while Zindane and Spikes punishments were much less in scope and severity.
What is our take home? Females can act aggressively as long as they are sexy, but if a real female athlete acts outside of the rules in real sport, she will be met with quick and severe sanctions…not only within her sport but will be berated by the public…while male athletes can “act like men” with comparatively less fanfare.
What is most interesting to me is the societal discussion and the media’s construction of Lambert’s transgression, rather then the event itself.