Studying up on Sex

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Michael A. MessnerUniversity of Southern California

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Although there has been some scholarly scrutiny of gays and lesbians in sport, there has been very little “studying up” on the social construction of heterosexuality in sport. In this paper, I begin by drawing on recent historical research on sexuality to reflect on the significance of the emergence of the heterosexual at precisely the time in history when the institution of modern sport was being forged. Next, I critically examine recent theoretical issues raised by poststructuralists, postmodernists, and queer theorists. I argue for a materialist examination of sexuality as a key linking process in a socially structured matrix of domination along lines of race, class, and gender. Finally, I interrogate a “sexual story” as an example of one way the meanings of heterosexuality might be analyzed within sport.

Michael A. Messner is with the Department of Sociology/Program for the Study of Women and Men in Society at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2539.

An earlier version of this paper was delivered as the Presidential Address to the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport meetings in Sacramento, CA in November, 1995.

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