“The more sports culture treats women as human beings with feelings and not as some caricature of what women are supposed to be, the more likely the space will become safer and more welcoming for everyone,” writes Vice Sports’ Stacey May Fowles, arguing, “as absurd as it might seem, the freedom to talk about desire without judgment and dismissal is definitely a part of that.” And she’s got a point — when have male fans been discouraged from expressing their true desires?
It seems that sports culture can’t reconcile female desire with knowledge, so if you’re admiring the finer points of Josh Donaldson’s unstoppable swagger—his “liquid hot sexual gold,” as certain aficionados have been known to call it—you can’t possibly understand the mechanics of his MVP-worthy work at third base. Logic would dictate that I can find him stunning and still understand how the game works, and even be an expert on it. Yet, for whatever reason, acknowledging that I notice how pretty he is somehow becomes a shameful admission. I am forever a guest in a man’s house, and am expected to watch what I say and police what I feel accordingly.
Quite frankly, I’ve grown real tired of pretending that Bryce Harper isn’t a scorchingly beautiful specimen of masculinity. I’ve become exhausted denying that Buster Posey has the most adorable, angelic boy-band face I’ve seen since perusing Tiger Beat as a teenage girl. I’m weary from saying that Justin Verlander’s pants look “uncomfortable,” or that Matt Kemp looks “like an athlete.” I’ve actually come to think that every time I deny my inevitable attraction to players—I’m only human, and you know what Matt Kemp looks like—I’m supporting that terrible notion that real fans don’t have crushes, or that crushes hysterically cancel out all other considerations, and finally that women should simply shut up about how they feel if they want to watch a game with everyone else. A more cynical observer might even wonder if this gag rule has more to do with a threat to the general fan base’s masculinity than any real “respect for the game.”