I know that this whole series has been a rollercoaster ride, with many twists and turns in regards to sexuality, sexual expression and gender differential issues. The problem is, the topic in itself is a broad one, with many different avenues to go down. The issues expand further then whether or not cheesecake and beefcake is acceptable. The issues reach further then what is acceptable to us and acceptable to society and the differences in between that.
The one thing that I would like to clarify is that there is a difference between genders in sports and sexuality in sports. There will always be the argument as to whether or not females have the capabilities of being able to perform at the same level as men. Sexuality in sports should never be an argument though. It exists, it always has and always will be there, basically because we are a species that identifies ourselves and relates to others based on conscience, subconscience and instinctive reactions to our own and others sexuality.
So the issue in itself has never been about gender and sports, though that does come into play. In a recent discussion about Danica Patrick with a friend, it was asked as to why Danica Patrick being a woman should be an issue. The answer is, it shouldn’t, but we’ve made it an issue. It’s the same reason that Sally Ride being female was an issue, the reason that Speaker Pelosi being the first woman speaker in the House of Representatives is an issue, why Hillary Clinton running for President is an issue. Historically, women have had little opportunity in these arenas and for better or worse, we choose this to focus on (rather then their capabilities) and either applaud or tear them down because of their gender or the image they present with their gender.
I’ve often heard the comments, that we women can’t have it both ways. We can’t be treated as equals and use our femininity in the process. Huh? Why not? Men do it all the time. Jeff Gordon marketed his good looks to draw a fan base before he started winning in NASCAR. Troy Polamalu appeared very masculine in a cover shot of SI, dressed in his football gear. This shot alone oozed testosterone and masculinity. Instances like these, and many others market the male sexuality. Yet we “tolerate” female tennis players who play up their femininity on the tennis court? Yet we “tolerate” only successful female athletes who take the opportunity to appear in swimsuits in a photo shot? In other words, what I’m understanding is that, in 2008, it is completely acceptable for one gender as a whole to market their sexuality, and we can cherry pick which, from the other gender, who we’ll “tolerate” to do so and what venue.
We respond to an athletes sexuality, both male and female, that’s why “sex” sells so well. Advertisers know this and they use that sexuality to reach out and seduce us to buy. That’s why sponsors go after good looking sports figures. Remember that sexuality goes beyond the capability of being seductive. When fashion designers use a female tennis player or golf pro to advertise sportswear, they’re using her sexuality to sell their brand to women. When products like Gillette uses a trio of three male athletes for their razor commercials, they’re using the sexuality of the men to reach out to men. Neither of these instances are sensual and thus able to reach out to and relate to members of the same gender. Yet they’re still playing off of the individuals masculinity and femininity.
Think about it, advertising agents for car companies have known this for awhile now. Why else do they show good looking, masculine, successful men behind the wheel of the sports car? Think that car commercial with the good looking brunette behind the wheel, equating her driving experience to a sexual episode is meant for the men? Nope, though it may produce a response from the men, it’s meant to tell the women that you too can be sexy and exciting when you drive this car.
So we don’t get rapid heartbeats when members of our own gender use their sexuality to sell to us. It’s not meant to produce a sensual response. It’s meant for us to relate with them. You too can have this type of body that makes you irresistible. You too can have a nice butt when you wear these jeans. You too can feel like a champion when you drink this beer.
Of course, advertisers also know how to play upon our sensuality. Best example on the market today, Victoria’s Secret. They’re advertising method to reach out to men with the sexuality and sensuality of their models in their products, produces an erotic effect for those who are turned on by the female form. The SI swimsuit edition does the same thing. Yet the product they’re selling is meant for women to wear. Jeans commercials that show bare chested men are meant to play upon the sensuality of women. It’s still cheesecake and beefcake, regardless of how you wrap it.
We accept, we embrace these images, especially of the women who pose in them. They become objects of fantasies and desires, we want to see our own women dressed scantily in this. As women, we want to evoke these fantasies from our men also. (Okay, here it comes). Yes, as a female consumer, I do have lingerie that not only allow me to entice my husband, but also allows me to feel sensual also. (Trust me, there is a difference when you go from wearing the sexy undergarments to the so called “granny panties”). We know it adds to the overall affect. Regardless of our gender, we enjoy what our sensuality produces and we respond to the sensuality of others.
Yet, why is it okay for a male sports figure to pose for beefcake (guess what folks, Tom Brady posed for beefcake pictures and we didn’t hear a word about this in the press). Why is it okay for a male athlete to market his masculinity for products (regardless of his abilities), yet when a female athlete markets their sexuality, it supposedly makes them less of an athlete?
Sexuality and sensuality, especially off of the field of play should never be an issue that brings about scorn and ridicule, regardless of the athletes ability, or his standings on the field. It is something that we should accept. It's common knowledge that when we embrace our own sexuality, we tend to be healthier and happier individuals. So why should we allow certain sets of individuals to express their sexuality and sensuality and scorn others who do?