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‘Am I sexually abused?’: Consent in a coach-athlete lesbian relationship
Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, Department of Sport and Health Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5575-4737
2016 (English)In: Sport, Education and Society, ISSN 1357-3322, E-ISSN 1470-1243Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Elite-athlete Karin was 17 years old when the considerably older team coach Selma became her girlfriend. Responding to calls to prevent harm and sexual abuse in sport, this study represents Karin’s story, investigates how she makes sense of her coach-athlete sexual relationship, and analyses what can be learnt about consent. Although sexual consent is often the defining criterion of sexual abuse, consent is rarely explicitly defined or its social implications examined. Moreover, there are no studies on coach-athlete lesbian or gay relationships despite sexual minority vulnerability. The interview with Karin was analysed using narrative case study methods; represented as a short story and discussed in reference to sexual consent theory. The analysis outlines contextual factors conditioning the negotiation of consent and problematizes heteronormative, gendered perpetrator and victim stereotypes. Secrecy, alienation, and isolation is recognised, extending into additional vulnerability inflicted on socially problematic and atypical coach-athlete relationships. In conclusion, social implications of consent are more complex than yes/no to sex or inherent incapability to consent. Consent is multi-layered, alternately absent and present; an ongoing process that includes compromises, contradictions, and (re)negotiations influenced by structure and agency. Further research examining a diversity of sexual experiences among majorities and minorities is proposed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016.
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Social Sciences/Humanities
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:gih:diva-4462DOI: 10.1080/13573322.2016.1202819OAI: oai:DiVA.org:gih-4462DiVA: diva2:937847
Available from: 2016-06-16 Created: 2016-06-16 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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The full text will be freely available from 2017-12-15 10:00
Available from 2017-12-15 10:00

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