Sexualized Athletes

At the bi-annual Female Athlete Conference, Dr. Chirban gave a talk highlighting the issues related to the sexualization of girls and the implications of sexualization and self-objectification on both male and female athletes.

According the APA Task Force report (2007), sexualization occurs when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior; when a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy and when a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for the others’ sexual use.

Researchers have found that girls with higher levels of internalized sexualization (the girls that buy in) were more likely to: dress in a sexualized manner; report body surveillance; experience body shame; express femininity; endorse gender stereotypes and obtain lower grades on standardized tests (McKenney & Bigler, 2010). Some of the consequences of internalized sexualization includes rise in rates of breast augmentation in girls under 18 and 4 to 10% of 12-17 year-olds have sent nude or nearly nude images of themselves over text message or the internet.

Dr. Chirban pointed out the paradox that since winning many freedoms in the ability to be an athlete and play sports over the last century, female athletes still face binds that inhibit freedom. She showed an image of Gabriel Reese and Brittney Griner. When women are sexualized (Gabby) they are considered more attractive and less competent. When they do not meet up to the feminine ideal (Brittney) they are considered less attractive and not feminine. Women often simply can’t win. For more information about this talk, feel free to contact Sharon ( for her slides.

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