Our much-loved Golden State Warriors may have triumphed over the incredible athleticism of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers during last month's NBA finals, but the road to the title was upstaged momentarily during Game 4, when James, one of the most well-known and sought-after ballers of all time, inadvertently flashed his penis on live television.
James isn't the first professional athlete to get tangled up in a dick pic scandal. David Beckham had a similar pregame wardrobe malfunction a few years back, and Michael Jordan's son Marcus straight-up tweeted photos of his dick in 2013.
And yet, these athletes are rarely scrutinized or shamed for showing off their bathing-suit parts on the internet. However, when high-profile female athletes and celebrities end up exposing their bodies to the masses, the overwhelming media reaction is negative and shame-based.
When Bay Area native Brandi Chastain scored the final penalty kick to win the 1999 Women's World Cup and celebrated by ripping off her shirt and roaring (a common display for male athletes), she was accused of detracting from the spirit of the game with her “unladylike” display.
And in the wake of the 2014 “Fappening,” in which hundreds of female celebrities, athletes included, had their personal photos leaked via an iCloud hack, media personalities were quick to condemn them. Many insisted that taking a nude photo is basically asking to be publicly humiliated — the same type of logic that says women shouldn't leave the house in miniskirts if they don't want to get harassed or assaulted.
Even though James knew he was surrounded by cameras when his member made a cameo at the NBA finals, he hardly faced any criticism at all. In fact, tweets like “Now we know why he chose the handle @KingJames #LebronsDick” weren't uncommon during the fallout.
In pro sports, male bodies are symbols of heroism, power, and athleticism. But female athletes are assumed to be sexual objects as well.
In ESPN's “Body Issue,” which features nude photos of professional athletes, men are usually seen in action — swinging a baseball bat in the buff, or nude sprinting with a football. Female athletes are generally put into classic cheesecake portraits, transformed into pinups posing with sporty props.
Dick pics don't carry the same shock value as a nip slip or a muff flash, because media outlets and consumers are not as adept or interested in selling and scrutinizing male bodies.
Male professional athletes are rarely marketed as sex objects. Considering the statuesque bodies glistening with sweat, the uniform clothing, and the close quarters that come with professional sports, it would seem almost natural that there would be an underlying current of sexual tension to capitalize on.
As much as I love the athleticism and competitive spirit of professional sports, I can't deny that I, personally, get a little something extra when Buster Posey casually touches himself behind home plate, or when Steph Curry flashes his dimples and does a little victory shimmy after an epic three-point shot.
Truth be told, I've been objectifying men who play sports for years. While the overwhelming majority of sports fans are straight men who wouldn't be as hyped as I would be to see the NBA finals played in shirts vs. skins fashion, it seems strange that professional male athletes get such a pass when it comes to sexualized marketing.
In an industry based on meticulously sculpted bodies bumping into each other for the public's entertainment, this respectful distance that male athletes are given would be the envy of most female politicians.
And while it's not impossible to find examples of male athletes being objectified to sell Nike or Gatorade, it is hard to find a high-profile female athlete who hasn't been placed in a sexual context at many points throughout her career.
This difference in the expectations of male and female athletes exemplifies the double standard that is constantly staring us in the face like the bulge in a catcher's crotch. Female bodies exist to be salivated or sermonized over, and men's bodies (especially their televised dick flashes) are their own damn business.