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Sexual Abuse of Boys in Sports: Does The Sports Culture Itself Play A Role?

Boys to men

In order to be successful in the hetero-patriarchal culture of sports, boys are expected to be man-like and adopt "manly" qualities such as bravery, aggression, stoicism and risk-taking. As a result, the distinction between adult and child often becomes blurred and subject to negotiation.

Boys are expected to "suck it up," "shrug off" injuries and "take it like a man." Such expressions, ostensibly intended to encourage resolve in the face of adversity or physical discomfort, can and often are utilized instead to coerce many boys into participating in all manner of exploitative practices, such as hazing rituals

At the same time boys are encouraged to be pseudo-men they are still viewed as children, and, as such, subject to adult control and authority. That they are without a voice makes them particularly vulnerable to abuse.

Locker rooms & the code of silence

The importance of the locker room in male sports borders on the sacred. Unwritten protocol demands that what is seen and heard in a locker room go no further. If a mother complains, for instance, about the physically aggressive manner in which her young son's coach was treating him, she is likely to be told not to mention what goes on in the locker room if she wants her son to succeed in that sport.

The adage "What goes on tour, stays on tour" applies to many sport environments as a general rule, not only to away-game trips or social excursions. Thus, aside from the fact that normal changing room activities include many that appeal to sexual abusers, the locker room environment, indeed the sports club environment in general, facilitates sexual abuse by promoting the silence that an abuser needs in order to engage in abuse without being detected.