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The Rules of Engagement: Negotiating Painful and “Intimate” Touch in Mixed-Sex Martial Arts

Alex Channon and George Jennings

Within the sociology of sport and its related disciplines, martial arts have become increasingly popular sites for research on embodiment, gender and society. While much previous work in this area has focused upon the embodied experiences of either male or female practitioners, relatively few studies have directly addressed the social significance of mixed-sex practice. In this empirically-focused paper, we draw on qualitative, semistructured interviews with both male and female long-term exponents of various different martial arts disciplines in England, exploring experiences of intersex touch within training. Within a social-constructionist, feminist framework, we suggest that heteronormative, patriarchal and paternalistic gender structures can potentially be challenged through sustained mixed-sex practice. As such, this article contributes to work on transformative sporting bodies, martial arts and gender subversion.

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‘Legends’ in ‘Lingerie’: Sexuality and Athleticism in the 2013 Legends Football League US Season

Anastasiya Khomutova and Alex Channon

This paper explores the representation of female athletes within the Legends Football League (LFL; formerly ‘Lingerie Football League’) in 2013. Specifically, the study seeks to understand the vision of women’s sport, and female athletes, which the LFL propagates. Drawing on a combined content and semiotic analysis of the commentary and visuals featured in 26 LFL matches broadcast online in 2013, our data suggests that the LFL presents apparently conflicting images of sexualized, but ‘powerful’ female athletes. We discuss these data relative to competing interpretive approaches to female sexuality in sports media, and join other sports media scholars in advocating audience reception research as a necessary next step to grasping this emergent sport’s significance. Cet article examine la représentation d’athlètes féminines au sein de la Legends Football League (« Ligue de football des légendes » ou LFL, anciennement la « Lingerie Football League » ou « Ligue de football en lingerie ») en 2013. L’étude cherche spécifiquement à comprendre la vision du sport féminin et des athlètes féminines que la LFL propage. En se basant sur une analyse de contenu et sémiotique des commentaires et images trouvés dans les retransmissions en ligne de 26 matchs de la LFL en 2013, les données suggèrent que la LFL présente des images apparemment contradictoires d’athlètes sexualisées mais « puissantes ». Nous discutons ces données par rapport à d’autres approches interprétatives pour étudier la sexualité féminine dans les médias sportifs. Nous nous joignons aussi à d’autres chercheurs sur les médias sportifs en prônant la recherche sur la réception de l’audience comme prochaine étape afin de mieux saisir la signification de ce sport émergent.

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“Just Existing Is Activism”: Transgender Experiences in Martial Arts

Anna Kavoura, Alex Channon, and Marja Kokkonen

This study focuses on transgender experiences in martial arts. Interviews with three Finnish and two British transgender martial artists were thematically analyzed, and findings were interpreted through the lens of queer theory. Two themes were identified related to the ways that transgender martial artists experience their sporting contexts, namely martial arts as an empowering and inclusive context and the challenges related to being transgender in martial arts. Two themes were also identified when it comes to participants’ strategies for coping with cis-/heteronormativity in martial arts. Whenever possible, participants employed social change strategies, whereas other times, they drew on self-care strategies. Following this, we suggest a need for context-specific, protective policies; nonbinary means of organizing sport; and gender diversity education for instructors to better cater for the specific needs of transgender people in sport.