Pronger, B.  (1999)  'Outta My Endzone: Sport and the Territorial Anus', in Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 23 (4): 373 - 89.

[This is a very interesting post structuralist account of the connection between the mechanisms of desire and the  'emotional logic' of competitive sport. There are lots of implications for policies such as widening participation -- if this emotional logic is not dealt with, widening participation simply means exposure to an unpleasant kind of power]

Competitive sport has long been associated with sexuality including sexual exploitation of juniors by coaches [a scandal in Canadian ice hockey is the example]. Fit and athletic bodies are also sexy bodies, and sport is associated with heterosexual masculinity  (although athletic masculinity is also a feature of gay culture). Most competitive sports are also segregated by gender, permitting a great deal of managed and channeled homoeroticism in men's sport. Given the public perception of female sports persons, suspicions of homosexuality are dealt with by displays of homophobia.

Lesbians and gay men have established their own sports clubs and Gay Games, but this has not affected the 'principal structure of desiring competitive sport; it has only made it less brutally exclusionary' (375). Most academic critiques also leave intact the notion of competition, although there have been some critiques of hegemonic masculinity and homophobia.

'Feminist, postmodern, gay and queer theories' (375) are required instead. The competitive relationship itself needs to be analysed, although it is not always complete central in all kinds of sport. However the issue is what makes winning desirable and satisfying, perhaps to the extent of breaking rules and injuring opponents or selves. There are many  'socio-cultural dynamics' which  'frame' this mechanism of desire, and the whole analysis needs to be applied to different empirical instances  (376).

Nevertheless, as Deleuze and Guattari suggest, competitive sport is a mechanism to construct Desire and to limit it, in particular in terms of  'a libidinal economy of territorial domination' (376). It is about the masculine will to conquer others while 'enclosing the space of the self'  (376). This mechanism is common in business, academic life, and sex as well. Competitive sport shows a parallel construction. However, this is not a standard freudian notion that sexual drives manifest themselves in sport. Instead, Desire takes a characteristic masculine form in a number of areas, including sport.

Desire as an expansive and creative force is limited by power relations, and deconstruction as a technique sets out to expose the limits  [this is the positive political role of deconstruction, and Pronger is denying that it will all end in cynicism and relativism -- but see Fraser]. Questioning limits is an important political act in sexual politics particularly, and is 'popular with deviants '... who find themselves excluded  (377). Questioning limits is explored in a book by Cornell  (cited 378) in terms of  'the logic of pareregonality: secondness, and alterity' (378).

Pareregonality implies that any system  'suggests a beyond to it: that which the system excludes, by virtue of what the system cannot comprehend, or by what it prohibits to accomplish its systematic objectives' (378). Secondness is based on Peirce, to refer to a material quality that resists conceptualisation -- 'What material realities in sport, for instance, resist the system of competitive sport?' (378). Alterity refers to radical otherness, the insistence that the other cannot be reduced to our systems of interpretation. It takes on an ethical dimension in a commitment to non-violence and a desire to  'guard the other' (378).

Competitive sport clearly acts to impose limits 'by ordering modalities of desire' (378). As with Deleuze and Guattari, this can be seen by how it constructs the body -- they suggest how bodies are produced historically by the interplay of different sorts of power:  'The puissance of the body is its power to connect, to be connected, to make connections. Pouvoir is a form of power that  "territorializes"... our capacity for making connections' (379). This territorializing power can take many forms, including the usual social divisions such as gender and class, but sport clearly limits the ways in which bodies can connect, through explicit rules and implicit conventions. It sets limits in permitting only some kinds of desire to become concrete, such as in 'a socially constructed territorial imperative' (379).

Clearly, other aspects are not understood or not permitted. Masculinity is expressed in various aggressive practices, sometimes by women. Feminists use the term  'phallocentrism' --'the despotic imperative to take up more space and yield less of it, be it physical, cultural, emotional, fiscal, hierarchical, or other kinds of space' (380). It also territorializes the body. Deleuze uses the term  'simulacrum' to describe  'a partial concretization of potential in a form that serves political or ideological ends' (380)  [quite dissimilar to Baudrillard, Pronger points out, with his notion of a copy that has lost all referents].

Sport is a simulacrum in this sense, just as the penis is the simulation of the phallus. [Pronger argues that the eventual inadequacy of the penis to represent phallocentrism means that there is a need for more attention to the body --  'in body-building, and more despotically in the territorial violence of warfare and competitive sport, for instance' (380)]. The anus by contrast represents a space capable of admitting others, and masculinity worries about its resistance to penetrations. It closes off other openings too, especially  'any vulnerability to the phallic expansion of others' (381). Masculinity thus involves dominating others and resisting being dominated. Of course, bodies can be constructed in other ways, including utopian ones, but these possibilities are limited in sport. Sport features domination, invasion and conquest  [large phallus], and tight defence of your own space [clenched anus]. Other public spheres show this too, such as commerce.

Women are bound by the same logic, but are not allowed to be so assertive and protective. 'Masculine selfhood' is resented in women. It is particularly induced and rewarded in competitive sport, hence the traditional discouragement for female participation. Invasion sports are seen as most masculine, and where invasion is more symbolic, via projectiles, or rank ordering, sports seems less violating. The emotional logic of taking space remains the same, though. The same logic can be seen in reactions to defeat. It can induce shame and feelings of having been feminised, an insult, like being penetrated. This humiliation can be resisted by remaining emotionally closed, not showing your feelings, or even admiring the sportsmanship  (phallic skill) of the winner. What is not permitted (pareregonality) is  'deference, openness, and vulnerability -- competitive sport... has no room for willing bottoms' (383).

The very idea of opening oneself to the other is unthinkable and unfathomable, and aspects in sport that might point to this possibility, as 'secondness', are denied. However, such desires are still present in for example  'the vast ironic, homoerotic subterfuge of body contact, party membership, and the spectacle of the locker room and showers' (384), or even the secret pleasures of losing. There is even a kind of recognition that successful conquest actually requires losers, and,conversely, that  'playful competitive desire demands the interplay of phallic wills', expressed by men and women. Women can certainly be masculine, although they often have to do it less aggressively. [I am reminded of other hints in the classic stuff on masculine hegemony, that suggests that rugby players enjoy playing a masculine role, rather than simply being carried away by masculinity].

In competitive sport there are the same binaries that are found in  'the traditional homophobic construction of Desire: winner/loser, top/bottom, dominance/submissive, phallus/asshole' (384). It is the same logic as patriarchal divisions of masculinism and feminism. It-affects men and women. This logic claims to represent 'authentic human subjectivity'. There are some examples of homosexuals who have subverted this logic ironically, as  'sporting homosexuality' --  'there is competition to see who ends up  "losing"  ['who gets fucked']... the loser is the winner' (385).

There are additional dimensions to sporting experience, including  'flow', and aesthetic dimensions -- but these are minimised in competitive sports. Although players can experience some detachment --'"playing in the zone"'-- they lack the necessary openness and compassion to gain spiritual benefit  (385). Instead, there is a close parallel with patriarchy more widely. Any puissance is soon limited.

There is little chance to experience openness to the other, since pleasure for the invader involves denying the other, in 'an essentially brutal economy', involving taking things from others against their will  (386). In this sense, the pleasures are the same as those of rape, producing  'enforced hierarchy, dominance, and submission'. These are also the conventions of warfare  (386). There are still significant restrictions, however -- physical assault of the opponent is allowed only in boxing, and triumphalism can also be frowned upon [e.g. after hitting a home run in baseball I understand]. Of course, all sportsmen also consent.

Nevertheless,  'Competitive sport... is a profoundly unethical way to organise desire' (387), despite its popularity, and despite the tendency to urge girls and women to join in  'just like men and boys' (387). As for public spectacles of competitive sport, they feature a  'mean libidinal economy in which destruction (pouvoir) is given the value of creation  (puissance). It is, as Nietzsche would say, a festival of cruelty' (387).

[Good fun, but a very abstract mechanism at the heart of this. I don't know if you can overcome this by simply arguing that of course socio-cultural influences and empirical cases must be considered as well -- presumably, all these will indicate local variations of the same underlying mechanism, but nothing that will falsify it].

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