You Don’t Often See This!: Sexualized Male Athletes

Vanity Fair layout of World Cup players

Today a student (thanks A.N.!) sent me a link to a Vanity Fair piece on the upcoming men’s soccer 2010 World Cup being held in South Africa this summer. The title of the story, The World Cup’s Stars Wear Their Flags—And Little Else—For Annie Leibovitz pretty much summarizes the piece.

I’ve written often about how media routinely sexualizes female athletes, rather than focus on their athletic abilities and achievements.  This Vanity Fair piece and June issue  is a rare example of the same pattern for male athletes. The argument is not that male athletes are never sexualized. The main point is that female athletes are disproportionately sexualized in the media (female athletes only receive 6-8% of all sport media coverage ) compared to male athletes. The other point is that when female athletes are sexualized it often undermines perceptions of their athletic abilities, while when male athletes are sexualized it rarely leads to the perception their athletic achievements are questionable. What do you think?