(This article was published in 2002).
I was interviewed last August by Atlanta radio host Tom Hughes. After a few pointed questions about gays in sports, Hughes asked me why Outsports felt the need to have pictures of "hot" male athletes on the Web site. Despite Outsports being tamer in its sexual innuendos than many other sports outlets, his implication was that this was typical gay behavior – sex fiends who, despite liking sports, simply couldn’t put their libido on hold for six seconds.
It seemed to me in that moment that one simple fact has been lost in the sex-crazed-gay-guys mantra: It’s not a gay thing, it’s a guy thing.
There has forever been a myth that, unlike straight men, gay men are uncontrollable sex-hungry lunatics. We can’t control our sex drives, the argument goes. The real myth here doesn’t lie in the latter half of that statement, but the former: that we’re any different in our sexual drive than straight men. True, sex is more readily available for gay men because we’re attracted to other men – who have our same testosterone-driven sex drive. But gay men are no more sex-crazed than any straight man.
What’s the top selling issue of Sports Illustrated every year? Not the college basketball tournament preview. Not the Super Bowl recap. Not the annual Michael Jordan comeback issue. It’s the issue with the most jugs for your bucks: the Swimsuit Issue. Yep - straight guys prefer women in bikinis over Barry’s home run record or Miami’s drive to the National Championship.
In Los Angeles, Fox Sports 1150 features a daily show with Dave Smith and Arnie Spanier. Where do they go when they do a show on the road? Hooters in Santa Monica. What do they talk about for half of their show? The hooters, of course.
Countless times I have heard a straight guy say that the only reason he’d ever watch the WNBA would be to "watch the hot chicks’ boobs bounce up and down." They even joke that, with the lesbian quotient at WNBA games, they just might be able to fulfill a lifelong fantasy.
And some still raise an eyebrow when we post a picture of Bobby Estallela’s butt.
I didn’t hear any men worrying about the XFL, when it decided to have skimpily clad cheerleaders with big breasts. In fact, I heard many straight guys saying they’d watch the games just to see the cheerleaders.
Why do you think cheerleaders were invented? Why do you think the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders were every boy’s wet dreams for years? (Well, not every boy, but you get the picture.) Since an average play in the NFL might take five seconds, the League needs something to keep their fans interested during downtime. After all, the average man, straight or gay, thinks about sex every six seconds. Yes, the average gay man gets it every six days, and the average straight man gets it every six weeks, but it makes us no more sex-crazed – just luckier.
That’s what this all seems to come down to: luck. When straight guys watch a football game, they watch guys throw a ball, catch a ball, run with the ball, and have to try to catch glimpses of cheerleaders as the network goes to commercial. When gay guys watch a football game, we watch the throwing, catching and running, but we also get 60 minutes of built guys in tight pants piling up on, and grabbing at, one another. For a straight guy, it’d be like watching the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders mud wrestle.
Or, like watching Anna Kournikova play tennis. For the last several years, straight guys have taken a new interest in women’s tennis – specifically because of hottie Kournikova. Despite some pretty poor play in the last few years, and no Grand Slam singles titles (or even finals), she’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated, gets big endorsement deals, and straight guys around the world have their tongues hanging out of their mouths for a mediocre tennis pro with blonde hair and two big – ahem - rackets.
Just this past weekend, John McEnroe was quick to point out, on the final day of the French Open, that they couldn’t let two weeks go by without showing Kournikova. Despite her embarrassing loss to "a player most have never heard of before," McEnroe ushered in the clips of Kournikova’s match, now two weeks old, with, "we want replays from all angles." The network then went on to show Kournikova falling, in slow-motion, her legs in the air, slightly spread.
A letter to the sports section of the Los Angeles Times by Kevin Michael Kirwan last September summed up the straight man’s approach to watching sports perfectly:
"The only time we want to see women playing sports is if we see them as sex objects (Anna Kournikova, the WNBA is on the phone for you). Professional women’s basketball suffers from the same affliction as the LPGA. Namely, unattractive women playing a man’s sport at a high school level. Enough already.’’
Just as with so much in life, there continues to be this double standard when it comes to watching sports: sports are meant to be enjoyed for the athletic prowess of a team or individual . . . except when that individual is blonde . . . or when she has big breasts . . . or when they wear a bikini. Though, that last part isn’t exactly true. Real men aren’t supposed to watch swimming, because you’ve got guys with their "marble sacks" walking around. Diving’s even worse, with the camera zooming in on men in Speedos and holding there, while the diver prepares to launch himself. It’s strange how seeing guys in Speedos makes many straight guys uncomfortable. I’ll leave that discussion to Freud.
This last Super Bowl was one of the greatest ever played. It had huge defensive plays and was the first ever concluded with a scoring play - a last-second field goal by kicker Adam Vinatieri. It was a storied upset for the ages, complete with plays that fans will stop and look back on for decades to come. What, you may ask, was the most-re-watched play of the game by Tivo viewers?
Britney Spears’ bare-midrift-shake-left-roll-right-bend-over-and-smile move that Pepsi paid a kajillion dollars to get in front of many-a-million testosterone-driven "football fans." So, while the average straight Joe next door had his bedroom door closed after the game watching Britney over and over again, I spent the rest of that evening watching ESPN coverage of the game.
And who’s the sex-crazed one, here?
The next time some guy asks you why gay men are so obsessed with sex, ask him who his favorite female tennis player is. If he tells you Anna Kournikova, smile and thank him for making your point for you. If he tells you another name, let him know that he may want to check out Outsports- he just might find a new home here.