Mainstream sports have been engaging more and more with social issues in the past decades. Indeed, UEFA has campaigned against racism in the recent years, making use of its high-profile platforms, including the Unite Against Racism campaign. Also, sports brands have been tackling gender discrimination in advertising by including famous female sport players. Although mainstream sports have been promoting key issues, sexual consent awareness has not yet been addressed by them.
First of all, the lack of campaigning for sexual awareness in sport is certainly due to the low participation rates among women and girls. Indeed, according to a study from Funding for Sport, this is caused by many barriers such as lack of time, funding, access to facilities, low self-confidence, body image issues, expensive equipment and mostly because sport is perceived as a male-dominated culture. Thus, sexual consent awareness often being derisively discarded as ‘a women’s matter’ isn’t often addressed in male dominated area.
Yet, it has long been argued rightly that sexual consent awareness matters to all women and men and should be especially addressed in sports. A study from the University of Sport in Oslo pointed out that sexual violence against women and mistreatment of female sports journalists and female fans has been traditionally tolerated for two main reasons.
During the 20th century sport was a site of justifiable male privilege over females, and it was thought the institution of sport should remain apolitical and treat sexual matters as taboo. However, it was also pointed out that sexual abuse was ignored in this context and could lead to someone justifying perpetrating those acts. The reason behind this tolerance was found as avoiding raising the issue in order to preserve the highly ethical and morally pure image of this institution.
Still, this image of the sport institution is especially why mainstream sports should promote sexual consent awareness as it will be watched by a lot of people and can influence them. Indeed, while the number of campaigns against sexual abuse have increased throughout the years, they still lack the impact upon the overall individual.
Yet, sexual abuse is still an issue that needs to be tackled within the sport institution. Indeed, according to the European Commission, 2 to 22% of female athletes are still forced into sexual activities and female coaches are still experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. Thus addressing this issue more internally could reform the institution and allow for a greater promotion against sexual abuse.
We should not forget that sexual consent awareness is a societal issue and thus should be promoted in each part of society including sport, culture, and education. Still, mainstream sports should be leading the way. It is time for them to address this issue. While some still argue that sport should stay out of politics, the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics were at the edge of a political controversy as the Human Rights Watch called for a boycott of the game due to homophobic legislation.