Beach Volleyball, Bikini’s, and the Sexualization of Sports

OK, you have all seen it before – women beach volleyball players wearing next to nothing. For feminists, the idea of exploiting a woman’s body in this kind of sexual way is yet another example of how men and women are portrayed differently (after all, most mens sports include players who are fully clothed).  On the other hand, it seems as though most male fans don’t have a complaint in the world watching scantily dressed women v-ball players diving after balls in the sand, making this an interesting question for sport psychologists to examine.  The big sports marketing question has to do with what exactly women’s beach volleyball is “selling,” sex or serious sport competition?

Only being a marginal backyard, summer picnic volleyball player myself, I cannot say whether wearing a uniform of a tiny bikini is more advantageous and provides better utility for women sand volleyball players.  It would seem to my untrained eye that any of the current Under Armor or Nike body-fitting gear would also work just fine, and with the newer sweat absorption materials used these days I would guess there wouldn’t be any problems with additional perspiration, either.  So what are the reasons for womens sand volleyball to use skimpy bikinis as uniforms??

Advantages (I presume):

  • The teeny bikini’s allow for better game play?  Or maybe it has to do with the sand that would inevitably get trapped if the players wore another kind of uniform?
  • Straight up vanity?  The players like to show off their bodies, and the fans don’t seem to complain looking at them, either.

Disadvantages (and I can hear the fellas out there already questioning the validity of this heading):

  • It distills great athleticism to a cheap thrill of seeing women play sports wearing next to nothing?  In other words, the sport is selling sex over substance.
  • Accidental “fallout’s” and uniform dysfunction.  Honestly, I do not know how often this happens, but I would guess when you combine high-action sports with skimpy bikinis something is going to happen, right?

So what do you think?  Are there real reasons for women to wear next to nothing while playing beach volleyball, or should the sport legitimize itself more by minimizing the skin while turning a more direct focus on the actual play on the court?  Without a doubt the women who play beach volleyball are phenomenal athletes, but I think some of their athleticism clearly gets overlooked (or never recognized in the first place) because of the “attire” they wear while competing.

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