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Coach-Athlete Sexual Relationships: if no means no does yes mean yes?
Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, Department of Sport and Health Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5575-4737
2013 (English)In: Sport, Education and Society, ISSN 1357-3322, E-ISSN 1470-1243, Vol. 18, no 5, 678-693 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Coach-athlete romantic relationships and consensual sexual relations are commonly accepted among coaches and athletes, although a growing number of sport organisations discourage or prohibit such relationships. In research, coach-athlete sexual relationships are lumped together with sexual abuse, suggested to harm athletes’ well-being, performance, athletic career and team dynamics, and to inherently constitute an abuse of power, trust and ethics. In addition, mistrust of coaches’ motives, related to physical touch and fear of sexual misconduct, has resulted in a growing anxiety among coaches. This paper highlights and critically discusses research conceptualisations, contextual understandings and critical issues surrounding coach-athlete sexual relationships, on which there is no comprehensive research outside the sexual abuse context. Studies of authority-subordinate romantic relationships in other social settings have reported that such relationships facilitate both positive and negative characteristics and outcomes. To prevent and reduce harm and to promote well-being, functionality and safe practice in coach-athlete sexual and non-sexual relationships, I suggest that comprehensive research outside the sexual abuse context is required. In addition to the previous research focus on harmful and abusive relationships, coach-athlete sexual relationships that are experienced as consenting and mutually fulfilling by the involved parties need further examination.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2013. Vol. 18, no 5, 678-693 p.
Keyword [en]
Sexual relationship; Romantic relationship; Sexual abuse; Coach-athlete relationship.
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Social Sciences/Humanities
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:gih:diva-2693DOI: 10.1080/13573322.2013.777662OAI: oai:DiVA.org:gih-2693DiVA: diva2:614512
Available from: 2013-04-04 Created: 2013-02-18 Last updated: 2017-05-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Sexual Relationships between Athletes and Coaches: Love, Sexual Consent, and Abuse
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sexual Relationships between Athletes and Coaches: Love, Sexual Consent, and Abuse
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Coach-athlete sexual relationships (CASR) and sexual harassment and abuse (SHA) in sport can profoundly impact athletes’ welfare and performance. Yet, it is often ignored due to sensitivity, secrecy, and lack of knowledge. There is no previous research on SHA in sport in Sweden, and legal, consensual, same-sex CASR is under-researched. The overall purpose of this doctoral thesis is to examine CASR in competitive sport in Sweden. More specifically: a) athletes’ experiences of CASR; b) prevalence of SHA in coach-athlete relationships; c) conceptual and theoretical issues to broaden the understanding of CASR and SHA, will be examined.

Survey methodology is employed in Article I to explore the prevalence of SHA, coach-athlete relationship factors, and association between relationship factors and SHA. A random sample of current and former male and female Swedish athletes (n=477) aged 25 participated. Article II outlines critical issues of CASR, and theories and conceptualisations of romantic love, sexual consent, and female athlete sexual agency is further developed in the thesis research summary. Drawing on interviews with five female elite athletes aged 23-30, experiences of CASR are analysed in-depth using discourse analyses in Article III and narrative case study design in Article IV.

Results show that athletes’ experiences of CASR are positively and negatively diverse but potentially problematic because boundary ambiguity, secrecy, and isolation are common. Social and ethical dilemmas may also occur because CASR intersect contrasting discourses regarding elite sport, coach–athlete relationships, and romantic love. Moreover, CASR integrate professional and private contexts in which equality and power deviate. The research illustrates empirically and theoretically how female elite athletes exercise agency and recognise consensual, mutually desired CASR where romantic love is priority. However, sexual consent can be ambivalent rather than a mutually exclusive yes/no dualism. Socially, consent is a process of negotiation informed by contextual factors, sexual agency, and social structure. In addition, 5.5% prevalence of SHA perpetrated by male coaches is reported, distributed throughout the sampled athletes’ gender, age, sport performance levels, and individual/team sports in the sample.

In conclusion, this thesis expands knowledge of athletes’ experiences of love, sexual consent, and abuse in CASR. Previous evidence of SHA in sport is confirmed to include sport in Sweden. Implications for sport and sport sciences are offered. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Gymnastik- och idrottshögskolan, GIH, 2017. 206 p.
Series
Avhandlingsserie för Gymnastik- och idrottshögskolan, 09
Keyword
coach-athlete sexual relationship, sexual harassment and abuse, romantic love, sexual consent, gender and sexuality, power and agency, sport
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Social Sciences/Humanities
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:gih:diva-4890 (URN)978-91-983151-0-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-06-16, Aulan, Lidingövägen 1, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-05-05 Created: 2017-05-05 Last updated: 2017-06-19Bibliographically approved

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Publisher's full texthttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13573322.2013.777662

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