If Sports Were Covered Like Women’s Beach Volleyball

In honor of the Summer Olympics, and because I’m out of town, I’m rerunning this: Interesting contrast between photos of men’s and women’s beach volleyball. For men you find tough, competitive guys:

  

And for women:

        

    

Oh, and here’s a woman actually playing the sport. In that outfit she stays sexy!

Interestingly, there are a number of pics of women listed under “men’s beach volleyball” but no men on the women’s list.

When Nate Jones, over at Metro.us, innocently searched for pics of women’s Olympic beach volleyball, he was left asking, “What if every Olympic sport was photographed like beach volleyball?” Here’s a sampling of what that would look like (you can see all his pics by clicking here):

As the camera hones in on women’s body parts and ignores men’s, you can see why all of us – men and women – come to think of women as the sex objects in our society. Even the fact that women volleyball players wear such a skimpy outfit doubles down on the whole, “women as sex object” thing.

And so ignored men’s bodies leave us ignoring men-as-sexy while the women’s body-focus makes them all about sex. And actually, that’s not very good for our sex lives – or for well-rounded lives. For more on that, see the posts below.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on August 8, 2016, in objectification, sexism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Fascinating post and question. Granted, I am quite biased in this area, but I think it is simply that women’s bodies are more beautiful than men’s bodies. While I pause at typing the above as it can sound ‘sexist’ ~ but aesthetically, there seems to be agreement that beautiful women are more beautiful to look at than a man – then add to this the warped focus on sexuality (the great posts on sexual objectification you’ve had) and the focus is even greater. With this deep trenched culture that focuses more on the sexy woman athlete, instead of the strong-sexy woman athlete, and we get the pictures we get. There is the strong/physical/competitiveness sexiness both sexes have, but women athletes deal with another version of sexiness that…well, you’ve said it well.

  2. I remember seeing this before. But I was just thinking, I swear each olympics the outfits get skimpier for the female athletes. I know some can be from physical activity and clothes riding up if the women are wearing bathing suits. Though the cuts of the swim suits probably have a lot to do with riding up. I know beach volleyball is known for the skimpy bikinis and even women’s indoor volleyball for the short shots and very tight shorts showing off female player’s asses. But I’ve noticed from other sports too. Women’s diving, they are one piece but some a cut where it’s kind of cheeky. Same for women’s water polo too. And the track and field sports too. Not usually the running, but the long jump or pole vaulting ones.

    Seriously some of the outfits are not much off from thongs. And your right, the camera does focus on their bodies, which as a man I’m not complaining, but that has to get annoying for the female athletes and women. Then again, it’s most likely because most of the camera people are men and directors calling the shots are men, so it’s going to be much favoring from the straight male gaze point of view.

    • I think that men’s bodies are just as attractive as women’s bodies, but we have created the sense that women’s bodies are more attractive. I think for the reason he you name, men have historically been in charge of media, art and literature. And then men and women both internalize the view that women are the sexy half of the species.

      So our culture both reflects and re-creates the notion that women are the sexier Half of the species by doing the very things you mentioned:

      “I know some can be from physical activity and clothes riding up if the women are wearing bathing suits. Though the cuts of the swim suits probably have a lot to do with riding up. I know beach volleyball is known for the skimpy bikinis and even women’s indoor volleyball for the short shots and very tight shorts showing off female player’s asses. But I’ve noticed from other sports too. Women’s diving, they are one piece but some a cut where it’s kind of cheeky. Same for women’s water polo too. And the track and field sports too. Not usually the running, but the long jump or pole vaulting ones.”

  3. I wonder about the rationale for the two-piece bikini worn by women players of beach volleyball. Obviously, the game does not demand such a costume. Shorts and tops as worn by men players are fine for women too. It is up to women players and the apex body of beach volleyball to change the practice and move over to a strictly functional costume. The question is whether parties involved, including women players themselves, are keen on effecting any change?

    • I suspect the rationale is drawing an audience. I read that the US women’s team chose to continue wearing bikinis even though the dress code has changed to include more options. But if you get a bigger audience you get more fame and money.

      • Yeah women had the option to not use them. But I don’t think women choosing the bikinis are degrading themselves as I think specifically for beach volleyball. With the sun and the heat and sand. I think the women aren’t bothered or prefer a bikini like uniform, because it’s hot and the sand and it seems easier to play and cooler with less clothes. It’s not much different than what some or many women where with bikinis at the pool or beach lounging around. Then again we have the difference as far as non sports and difference of men and women’s clothing in general whether beach etc, because of culture too and it works its way into sport and other things to where it’s seen as normal. But like if women were wearing bikinis and chose to for say indoor volleyball, then I could see how they are more likely internalizing things with that.

      • I don’t think it’s necessarily degrading. But it does show how we sexualize and eroticize women’s bodies but not men’s. Like on the beach women wear bikinis and men wear shorts that reach their knees. And even the fact that men don’t wear tops on the beach desexualizes their chests because we see their chests all the time – so no big deal.

  4. And even the fact that men don’t wear tops on the beach desexualizes their chests because we see their chests all the time – so no big deal.”

    It made men’s chests normal, but I doubt men casually going shirtless and being shirtless at the beach caused women to not fetishsized men;s chests. I just don’t buy that. If men weren’t free with their clothes and more covered up and couldn’t go shirtless at beach or on tv, women might be more interested but I doubht women would obsess or act like how men do with topless women. The reason I say this is because remember, before the 1930s, men were not allowed to go shirtless at the beach in America.

    That day came when a few guys challenged things and went shirtless and the ban was removed and men could be shirtless. There was shock about it, but I never read anything about how women who first saw men shirtless at the beach during this perioed were madly in lust and turned on and such. There was shock perhaps, but not arousal. If this was the case, then women should have been turned on from this, because before that time, men being shirtless at beaches or in public was not allowed.

    • Cultural fetishes are created in this way:

      • Selectively hide and reveal — creating sexual tension
      • Declare the body part sexy, and then say, “Don’t look at it!” — creating sexual tension
      • Obsess over the body part: The camera zeros in on it. People talk about it incessantly… Because it is declared soooo sexy.

      In the 1930s men’s chests were covered but they weren’t: selectively hidden and revealed, declared sexy yet everyone told “don’t look!” And we didn’t have a cultural obsession with men’s chests.

      Just like in tribal societies none of those things happen with WOMEN’s chests, and they aren’t fetishized in those cultures either.

      So women are unlikely to feel as aroused or powerless to not look when men’s chests, since they aren’t fetishized. Take a look at this: Why Aren’t Men Objectified? https://broadblogs.com/2015/05/13/why-arent-men-objectified/

      I’ll just add that there’s a difference between a fetish and finding someone or something attractive. Men can go around shirtless all they want and women can still find them plenty attractive.

      • In the 1930s men’s chests were covered but they weren’t: selectively hidden and revealed, declared sexy yet everyone told “don’t look!” And we didn’t have a cultural obsession with men’s chests.”

        I think there can develop some obsession to a body part if it’s sexually attractive, but usually covered up. I think that in itself is enough for a visual sex to have visual interest in seeing said body part(s) and aroused if seen that usually covered body part. I think it’s amped up when the body part is selectively hidden, revealed, declared sexy but forbidden to see. That can cause a cultural obsession to where it’s porn level obsessed. So I admit it turns things up a notch more. But I think simply not usually seeing a sexually attractive body part while not amped up with the other revealing, teasing clothes etc. But I still think it’s still enough to cause men or a man to be visually aroused quite interested in boobs and ass if usually not shown despite or irrelevant to if they are revealed or teased. The reason is because those are sexually attractive body parts to men. They are something that a man can see as regular if shown constantly and normally nude.

        But if not shown or covered up because of indecent, which is why men’s chests were covered in the 1930s and before. It sets up imagination for a man which creates intrigue and interest. A woman simply being covered up doesn’t have to have revealing clothes, body parts covered declared as sexy and teased. Because first off some body parts I believe are naturally sexually attractive and society doesn’t have to declare them to be sexy for them to be so. Society doing it only magnifies the sexiness and how sexual said body part is and becomes as I said with magnified part. But seriously a good looking woman can have plain, non sexy clothes. Nothing revealing, but because women have curves and things that stick out. You can as a man even if a woman is wearing a bagging clothing on her, you can usually still see those bumps sticking through a little at the top (breasts) and usually unless on the flatter side of the ass department seeing some roundness on the bottom and hips. So it’s enough even if not revealing to have interest, and curiosity in seeing such parts nude, because they are sexually attractive, but usually covered and not nude. So you want to naturally see something you find attractive but not often seen and it makes it arousing because it’s not constantly seen to where it would normalize and desexualize the body parts. .

      • All I can say is that in societies where women’s breasts are always uncovered no one thinks they are any big deal. But since few men are interested in googling vaginas and few women Google a penis it could be that certain things are going to be that attractive regardless.

  5. True, as you’ve said, skimpy outfits help to attract more people and hence more fame and money. Thus, women themselves are making them sex objects indirectly..pretty ironical…

    • And it’s not uncommon for women to make themselves into sex objects since society encourages us to do just that. We tend to unconsciously internalize our culutre’s ways of seeing so that society gets embedded in our brains.

      But I do make a distinction between sexy and sex object. No one cares how a sex object feels — she’s just an object. And so she may be treated poorly. And she may become one dimensional, and lesser-than, to herself. So it’s not just the clothing but the attitude that gets attached to it — which can vary from person to person.

      On the positive side, bikinis build audience and bank account. On the negative side the women athletes may be taken less seriously.

  6. All I can say is that in societies where women’s breasts are always uncovered no one thinks they are any big deal. But since few men are interested in googling vaginas and few women Google a penis it could be that certain things are going to be that attractive regardless.”

    True when uncovered constantly or consistently in a casual, everyday manner. But I would think men’s chests are a little different from dicks in that women or some women do seem to find men’s chests attractive unlike dicks or more so. But one would think that if women are sexually attracted to men’s chests and it had that potential, that simply men’s chests being covered would be enough to cause women to be aroused if on the few times they were uncovered like in the 1930s or before. Because like I said, women’s breasts being revealed and teased and seen as sexy amplifies to where men can be in a constant state of arousal. But women’s breasts are sexually attractive enough where they don’t have to be teased, revealed and simply covered, as they are sexually attractive body parts and men aren’t seeing them so there will be an intrigue and natural sexual tension just from wanting to see them under the clothes because they aren’t shown. I’m pretty sure men would still be aroused seeing breasts shown even otherwise usually covered from women even without revealing clothes or selectively hidden, etc.

    Those magnify things for sure. But men are still going to enticed and aroused seeing bare breasts simply because they are sexually attractive and don’t get to see too often. It didn’t seem like that happened with women’s reactions back in the 1930s and prior. Women less visual or men’s chests less sexually attractive regardless of covered or uncovered? I’m sure, i don’t know, maybe the women had more of a response though back then during that time when men were just starting to go shirtless at beaches and it was new. But it’s probably the former and latter of what I just asked.

  7. These pictures are AWESOME!!

  8. After reading this article I get more aware of how women gets objectified in so many different ways, without I even notice it. Like they are saying in this article what would have happened and what would the social media’s reaction have become if we focused at men’s but in swimming like we focus on women’s but in beach volleyball.

    One of the negative aspects of this is that this is normal and that I don’t even notice the big focus it is on women’s body. It’s not weird that girls are growing up with bad confidence and self-esteem when they think that this is how they are supposed to look like. The focus at the women’s body is huge and I think it’s sad that we don’t do anything with it. However, on the other hand what can we do? It’s quite impossible to control the media..

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