Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Sexual Harassment of Gender and Sexual Minority Athletes
Sexual harassment can present in many forms. Sometimes it constitutes intentional actions, some ties they are unintentional. It can also be verbal, not-verbal, or physical. A recent study explore the consequences of verbal and non-verbal gender-harassment by coaches in Finland. The author specifically studies psychological ill-being amongst gender and sexual minority sport participants. Additionally, the author analyzed differences in harassment according to sex and sexual orientation.
It is important to distinguish a couple of key concepts to appropriately contextualize this research. First, sex is defined as physiological structures and processes, such as chromosomal configurations, hormonal disposition, internal and external reproductive organs, etc. On the other hand, gender is defined as a non-binary social construction, and gender identity is the degree to which a person considers themselves male, female, or androgynous. In this context, gender and sexual minorities are those individuals whose gender identity, expression, or reproductive development differs from the norm.
Also important to recognize is the difference between verbal and non-verbal sexual harassment. Verbal sexual harassment includes comments such as derogatory sexual remarks, sexual jokes, requests for intercourse, rumor spreading, or other statements undermining performance or self-respect. Non-verbal sexual harassment includes sexually suggestive facial or body signals, such as leering, winking, howling, or kissing sounds.
The results indicate both non-verbal and verbal harassment affect gender and sexual minority males ill-being indicators disproportionately. In a nutshell, the more frequent the harassment, the more stress, psychosomatic symptoms, and depressive symptoms. This was not the case for women, possibly because the heteronormativity of male sports promotes a heterosexual masculine culture. This same culture may be more tolerant of lesbian athletes.
This article has important implications for coaches education. Additionally, for opening spaces where coaches can safely and educationally discuss and explore their values, prejudices and fears about gender and sexuality. The authors also suggest proper training may include role playing, communication skills, recognizing harassment behaviors, and intervention strategies. Author also mentions it is important to train coaches to encourage athletes to disclose their sexual orientation and harassment incidents. I would just caution that this has to be done in a way that does not become a harassing event on its own. Finally, there are implications for policy and sport psychologists also discussed.
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Kokkonen, M. (2019). Associations between sexual and gender-based harassment by a coach and psychological ill-being amongst gender and sexual minority sport participants in Finland. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 13(2), 259-273.