There’s a media frenzy going on at the moment in Australia about sports players touching each other. From bum slaps to crotch grabs. And not just men, but women too. The main discussion point is about sexual harassment in the workplace, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because we’re avoiding the taboo question of whether men or women groping each other is gay.
Why do they grope each other?
Of course, we have to remember that men have been slapping each other’s butts for centuries. And women have been doing the same since rising in the world of sport. But why on earth do they touch each other?
Well, according to Charles S. Jacobs via Psychology Today, it may have something to do with team morale.
“A study I once conducted found that the highest performing managers would opt for team players over individual stars,” Charles writes. “Recent research has established that members of high performing teams touch each more than those on other teams.
“One theory is that it keys the release of the hormone oxytocin, which creates strong bonds between the team members.”
In fact, the simple act of touching someone offers powerful remedies to the body. It regulates the body, reducing stress and boosting the immune system. As well as that, the release of oxytocin also brings with it dopamine, which greatly reduces loneliness and allows you to bond.
But why touch bums and crotches?
Why not just a pat on the back or a chest bump? Or even just a ruffling of someone’s hair?
Well, it may surprise you that male players do more than just grab butts. According to this homosocial study by Eric Anderson and Mark McCormack, players regularly hug each other and sometimes “spoon” each other in bed. And that’s just their way of bonding. It’s got nothing to do with sexuality, and everything to do with team cohesion.
A team that trusts each other on a physical and emotional level are more likely to win games. That’s not science, that’s just a simple fact. You can drill in all the tactics you want, but if your team doesn’t trust each other on an emotional level, how can they trust every pass or kick they make? How can they properly work together as a team?
In fact, I would argue that pats on the back and chest bumps are not as effective as bum slaps and crotch grabs. Because the latter are essentially private parts, and if you allow someone to touch you there, you’re essentially saying you trust them.
But it’s not technically gay…
As I’ve stated before in other articles, sexuality is just a label. When I refer to myself as gay, it’s not because I have sex with men, but because I’ve accepted the label as my true identity. But there are men out there who have had sex with men that refer to themselves as straight. And that’s their prerogative. You cannot force someone to be gay, just like you can’t force someone to be straight. That’s their decision to make.
And the same can be said for homosocial acts on the field. When players touch each other’s butts or grope each other’s crotches, they’re not doing it to get off. It’s purely for team cohesion. It’s guy stuff – just like girls who playfully smack each other’s butts is girl stuff. The only time when it might be gay is if the guy or girl gets aroused from it.
Of course, I emphasise “might” because arousal isn’t black and white. There are many different ways to get aroused, and not all of them relate to sexuality. Even your hormones can make you physically horny. And I’m sure the act of any hand touching your crotch could cause some sort of electrical stimulation.
However, I do have to concede that any homosocial touching that feels good shouldn’t be brushed aside. Sexuality is not clear-cut. It’s more like a journey, one that you’ll make for the rest of your life. Whenever you come across something that you like, you won’t know if it’s really for you unless you try it. For all we know, you could just be a little bit bi. And that’s great! There are many people like you!
But, regardless of your sexuality, players should be allowed the right to touch each other, provided they do it consensually…
Hell, it might just win you the game!
Feature image: Olga Guryanova via Unsplash