Often, we see many professional athletes, who are paid enormous and outrageous amounts of money get physical with one another to reward a job-well-done. In both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and in the National Football Association (NFL), countless team-mates give each other a pat or a slap on their buttocks in a congratulatory gesture of goodwill and friendship. Even coaches do the same as a show of support to their players and a way of offering encouragement. No one complains of bodily harm, excessive violence, sexual harassment or indecency.
Such actions are viewed as nothing more than player camaraderie and team spirit. It is the team, whether NBA, NFL, or whatever the sport, working together as a unit and nothing more. It is all part of the teamwork experience and an exercise in team-building. As for the fans, no one criticizes or complains. It’s all seen as an integral aspect of the game and few give it more than a cursory notice. “That’s what men do.” is the philosophy and, of course, no one doubts that all these professional athletes are anything but real men. After all, they’re athletes.
That the same behavior takes place in the stadium or playing court in full view of the crowd of spectators and in full view of the cameras filming the game for television, it’s all still acceptable. That the same behavior undoubtedly takes place in the locker rooms or changing rooms raises no eyebrows. It makes no difference if the buttocks get patted or slapped when they’re naked or clothed. These are, after all, real men. They play sports, there’s no way that any of them are gay.
Consider now the image accompanying this ReNude Pride post. It’s of three nude men, with full-view buttocks, pool-side at a resort (hopefully a bare one). There is no physical contact between the trio save for a slap or a tap the one in the middle delivers to both of their buttocks. No one flinched or in any other way reacted to the slap/tap, so it’s safe to assume that it didn’t hurt. It wasn’t violent.
The trio is no more nude, or less nude, than anyone in the communal showers in the sport’s locker rooms of any of the professional teams mentioned above. There is nothing to even indicate whether or not any of the men are same gender loving (gay). yet the gif image is censored and criticized for being lewd and/or indecent.
Why? Because it shows physical contact between men? No more so than the gestures of support and congratulations we see in and on the competitive arenas of professional sports as enumerated above. In fact, the image shows only a friendly tap on the buttocks and that’s it. There is no other contact or touching among either of the three individuals.
Is it because of the perception that one or more of the three individuals might be gay? If that’s the case, then it is safe to assume that the same behavior on any of the athletic playing fields or courts of professional sports is indicative that at least one of those incidents involves a same gender attracted player. In fact, the likelihood is higher simply because of the greater numbers. The statistical probability increases along with a higher number of people included in the grouping.
There’s no question that a double standard exists. It’s a reality that few deny. My thinking is that this double standard will continue to plague us until we begin to fight back against it.
In this country, there is a long history of double standards that were allowed to survive for centuries. When people tired of them or recognized the fact that they were based on ignorance and profiling, they slowly began to disappear. First the African-Americans and Indigenous Americans struggled for their rights, followed by women then by migrant workers and other immigrant peoples, then gay people and persons with differing abilities.
When the outcry against the double standard is widespread and forceful is when the power of said standard begins to erode and eventually subside. Those of us who believe in the freedom to be bare and in the freedom to love whom we choose should direct our outrage to those who enable this double standard to exist. It is no longer acceptable or healthy to suffer in silence.
Whenever we encounter gymnophobia (fear of nudity) and/or homophobia (fear of gay people), we owe it to not only ourselves but our entire community to challenge the bigotry, fear and hatred. In letting others know that type of behavior is not acceptable may raise a few eyebrows; at the same time, we’re putting others on notice that our level of tolerance of such behavior has just been lowered. As long as we adhere to our standards, others will soon begin to demand the same.
We may not see immediate results. Hatred is a learned behavior and among the most difficult to undo. However, if we all work together to change attitudes, the world become better because of our efforts.