Masculinity and Inclusive Rugby in the United Kingdom



Rugby has traditionally existed as a leading definer of masculinity in British culture. In the twentieth century, this definition included overt homophobia and sexism. It is for this reason that openly gay rugby players have traditionally chosen to compete for gay rugby clubs. However, cultural attitudes toward homosexuality have improved rapidly in the twenty-first century. This research therefore sought to examine the function and purpose of gay rugby teams in England today. To do so, we employed ethnography with five gay rugby teams and conducted fifty semi-structured interviews. Results show that whereas athletes once played for gay rugby teams to escape homophobia of the broader rugby culture, this is today no longer true. Gay men choose to compete on inclusive teams primarily for social purposes, and because, as newcomers, it was a physically safer environment to learn the skills. This research therefore shows that gay rugby clubs have undergone an organizational shift in response to the social movement of acceptance of gay men. Whereas their primary function used to serve as a refuge, today it is purely social.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sport, Exercise and HealthCentre for Sport, University of WinchesterWinchesterUK
  3. 3.Department of Sport, Exercise and HealthUniversity of WinchesterWinchesterUK

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