It’s official: Regina is getting a Lingerie Football League Canada team.
What is lingerie football, you may ask? Well, it’s football, for starters. The players are, for the most part, semi-pro or college athletes and they are good at the sport. But lingerie football consists of women wearing bras, panties, and garters as uniforms. The full athletic equipment that would generally be worn when playing a violent contact sport like tackle football is absent, except for shoulder pads and mouth gards.
Even though lingerie league players often come from highly competitive athletic backgrounds, this iteration of the sport isn’t really about the talent of the players; it’s about sexuality. Women in skimpy outfits are what you’re here for – after all, “lingerie” is the first word in the league’s name. There are plenty of women’s football leagues that exist in full gear if you’re actually interested in the quality of the game. Instead of having their talent celebrated, the players of the Lingerie Football League are essentially reduced to representing man’s perfect fantasy: he can watch football, a violent game that he loves, while simultaneously getting turned on.
The concern here is that this is a perverted extension of a social obsession for combining sexuality and violence. Lingerie football tries to be a professional sport, but by sexualizing something that doesn’t need to be sexualized, the sport is akin to the likes of mud wrestling and foxy boxing. It plays into the old fetish of catfighting, where the women involved in the violent conflict or opposition are eventually expected to kiss and make up – or make out – after a tumultuous struggle. The problem is that this fetish implies that violence is inseparable from sexuality, and that sex itself is a violent act.
It’s a rape culture that perpetuates these values. The combination of tackling, hitting, and pushing with the hyper-sexuality of lacy lingerie sends the message that violence itself has a sexual component and vice-versa, that this isn’t only normal but expected. It gives people the idea that watching sexuality in a violent arena and finding it entertaining is socially acceptable. If we are OK turning violent sexuality into entertainment, we are maintaining the view of rape culture that sexual violence is exciting. This view is the reason that a 16–year-old boy in Pitt Meadows, B.C. posted images of a girl being gang-raped onto the Internet, an act for which he’s facing charges. It’s the reason rape jokes are a laughing matter and the reason submissive porn, in which a woman is clearly in a degraded or servile position, is among some of the most popularly searched.
Many people say that the Lingerie Football League is just entertainment and view it in a lighthearted manner, which is to be expected; there is something rather silly about the combination of booty shorts and shoulder pads. Many of the people who attend these matches probably won’t rape anybody. They probably think rape is abhorrent, that women should have equal status and rights as men. But by involving themselves in an activity that intentionally degrades the status of women and perpetuates the idea that it is OK to put the sexual aspects of the sport first – to turn an athletic contest into a violent masturbatory fantasy – people are complicit in rape culture.
So, when thinking about attending and supporting a lingerie football game because it’s all in good fun, think about the other values you are supporting. If violence, in combination with sex, is socially accepted as entertainment, it is not a far cry to imply that serious forms of violent sexuality like rape and sexual assault or harassment can also just be part of the game.