Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Virginity in Sports

This week track star Lolo Jones did an interview with HBO's Real Sports and talked about her life. The item that tends to draw the most attention from her story is that Jones is 29 but still a virgin. Jones says in the interview that staying a virgin is harder than training for the Olympics. At the 2009 SEC Media Days, sports talk show host and blogger Clay Travis famously asked Tim Tebow if he was still a virgin.  An obvoiusly-shocked Tebow handled the unprompted question with grace and poise.

Both of these athletes are devout Christians who are not afraid to practice their beliefs in a public way. To them, their virginity is a sign of purity and a gift that they will give to their spouses and only their spouses. Because this seems to go against the norm for America's athletes, both Tebow and Jones have been ridiculed for their choices.  Tebow was recently mocked by his Jets teammates over this very situation.  Lolo says she has faced many temptations and problems because she is a virgin. Why is the media so obsessed and shocked by two leading athletes proclaiming their virginity with pride?

Part of the criticism may come from an audience more accustomed to seeing athletes in embarassing situations due to their sexual behavior.  Audiences laugh when Antonio Cromartie lists off his children  and seems to forget a few names.  If you've had twelve kids by eight women, it not only plays into the idea of athletes being masculine and virile, but also incredibly irresponsible and dumb.  Situations like Brett Favre's sexting scandal or Tony Parker's extra-marital affair are typically chalked up to ideas like, "They're full of testosterone; it's inevitable," or "They think they can get away with anything."  And non-big-four athletes are seemingly just as notorious:  the Olympic Village often becomes a "sex-fest" during competitions. There are countless tales of athlete debauchery in biographies and exposes that show a lot of athletes scromp and screw as much as they can while they're in playing shape. Yet these two individuals who are at their physical peak choose to not participate in sexual promiscuity because of their religious conviction.

As someone who is a Christian I absolutely understand and respect the stand they are taking. I understand the pressure they face and am in awe of their discipline and resolve, especially since they were both very popular athletes on campus. Tebow could have had just about any Gator-Nation woman he wanted because of the two championships and Heisman trophy he brought to Florida.  (And if you've never spent any time on their campus, I have it on good authority that a lot of coeds just go straight from sunbathing to class and back to sunbathing with no real wardrobe change in between.)  Jones, while not as nationally famous as Tebow, is a very attractive woman who competes in a glorified bikini displaying over 90% of her body at track meets. Not only are Tebow and Jones disciplined athletically but personally as well. This type of dual discipline should be praised, not criticized.

To say it is "human nature" may be cliche, but in fact it's a biological imperitive that we be interested in sex, and by extension, the sexual behaviors of athletic, attractive (read:  apparently genetically ideal) people.  Maybe it bothers us on some deeper, more primitive level that these folks aren't adding their genes into the pool; I don't know.  We constantly see people or groups try to tear down people who proclaim to be proud virgins.   For example, one website has recently put a $1 million bounty on any woman who can prove she slept with Tebow. Tebow and Jones both have expanded their fan bases by proclaiming their faith and pride in their virginity. I know many church organizations and leaders love having high profile stars to point too for their youth groups.

Tim Tebow and Lolo Jones should be appreciated and praised for their feats of athleticism on the field and their dedication to their faith off the field. They are both guided by their convictions and try to include that in their personal lives as well. If more athletes who proclaimed to be Christians lived their faith as well as these two, the public wouldn't be so skeptical of athletes proclaiming their faith in Jesus.

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