While studies show that male contact sport athletes are more likely than non-athletes to perpetuate violence against women, there has been very limited research on the extent, distribution, sources, and consequences of such behavior. Culture Reframed’s latest white paper, Secret Connections: Male Collegial and Professional Contact Sports, Pornography, and Violence against Women, explores this connection and the ties between porn and abusive acts committed by men who play the most popular and profitable contact sports.
A Lack of Consequences
Certainly, not all superstar male athletes who are involved in contact sports perpetuate violence. The issue is that repeated incidents of inappropriate and dangerous behavior among this group of athletes — including sharing sexual photos without consent, domestic violence, and rape — have gone mostly ignored. Athletes found guilty of violent crimes against women are still drafted ahead of other players. Meanwhile, the women involved face lasting repercussions.
This lack of accountability and consequences condones and perpetuates rape culture and misogynistic behavior, setting an unfortunate example for the general public — especially our children and youth.
Here are just a few recent examples in the news:
- N.F.L. Players Pay a Small Price When Accused of Violence Against Women (New York Times): A peer-reviewed study found that players who are arrested in these cases generally do not suffer major career consequences.
- Canadian hockey has a rape problem (Aljazeera): Cases involving players spanning decades have come to light. Worse, victims are shamed, and accountability is missing.
- The charges against Miles Bridges and how the NBA Domestic Violence policy works (SBNation): This policy is exceptionally vague when it comes to actual punishment levied against players.
Male Athletes and Rape Culture
There is a growing awareness of the ties between rape culture narratives and male team sports such as ice hockey, football, and basketball. Rape culture perpetuates dangerous stereotypes about sexual assault, excusing such behavior and positioning victims as liars.
This paper highlights one study that found increased television sports viewership is strongly related to sexism and sexual objectification. It is argued that these factors are inextricably linked to rape myth acceptance, dangerous false beliefs, stereotypes, and statements about rape, victims, and perpetrators.
When superstar athletes perpetuate rape myth acceptance, so too will their adoring fanbase, which includes impressionable young kids and teens.
For more on this topic, read the full white paper here: Secret Connections: Male Collegial and Professional Contact Sports, Pornography, and Violence against Women