‘‘Get Up, and Shut Up, You Play like Tarzan and Moan like Jane”: Rugby Union Men and their Suppression of Body Anxiety

By Natalie Darko.

Published by The Sport Collection

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Research has shown that those men who are dissatisfied with their bodies will mask these concerns in sports practices. Accordingly, men’s body dissatisfactions are documented less frequently because the practices drawn upon to conceal them are perceived as routine forms of public masculine behaviour. This paper examines whether a group of British Rugby Union males, aged 18–30 of varied ethnic origins, participating in a 1st XV Team at a British sports university, experience body anxieties and use rugby and health-related sports acts to overcome and conceal them. It moves away from some of the existing methods used in sports research examining men’s body dissatisfactions, as it combines collaborative visual research methods with conventional qualitative methods.
All of the rugby men expressed varying degrees of body anxieties and compared their bodies to their teammates whom they perceived to possess better attributes in this domain. Aspects of the rugby masculinity, adeptness, aggression and the tough body were relevant for understanding the development and management of the rugby men’s body anxieties.There were limited intimate dimensions for these men to express their body anxieties in Rugby Union, without ramifications for their masculine identity and sports performance. A competitive culture between the men, led them to use the sport, and health-related acts, to conceal and work to overcome their body anxieties.
Visual research methods combined with conventional qualitative methods made it easier for these men to verbalise their body anxieties in more intimate dimensions. More research is needed to examine these dimensions as they are significant for understanding rugby men’s body anxieties and the impact their relationships with other rugby men have to these concerns.
The implications are that visual research methods could be used in sports research, as they can assist in encouraging other sportsmen to express these types of concerns. Furthermore, they could help to understand the unnatural extremes in the sporting body; the drugs and over-exercise which may be used to produce these extreme effects.

Keywords: Body Anxiety, Rugby Union, Men, Visual Research Methods, Qualitative Research

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.49-66. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.592MB).

Natalie Darko

Lecturer of Sociology, Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, UK

Natalie DARKO currently works as a lecturer of Sociology at Nottingham Trent University, UK, teaching sociology and sociology of sport. Her academic research interests include sociology of the body and sport, sportsmen’s health, sportsmen’s relationships and their body anxieties. Aside from her academic work, Natalie is an athlete and personal trainer who has been involved, for a number of years, in providing sport and health-related services through physical remedial therapy.