Unless you were on crew like some sort of Winkelvoss Ivy Leaguer or love the Olympics, you probably don’t give a crap about rowing. It’s okay, we don’t really either (even though rowing singlets are revealingly tasty)… that is unless it involves a bunch of naked Abercrombie and Fitch models doing their whole softcore homoerotic fraternity thing.
Enter the Warwick Rowers, a UK-based university crew team that does an annual naked photo fundraiser. This year (as in years past), they’re also promoting a program called “Sports Allies” which aims to try to deliver anti-homophobia programs in local schools, make university sports more inclusive and encourage young people “who need advice about their sexuality” to connect with resources.
That’s quite admirable, but as the naked guys in the video say things like, “I’m Ivan, and I’m naked for equality… homophobia is still a problem in sport and we’re here to be part of the solution,” it’s kinda hard to pay attention when you’re busy ogling their buttcheeks and hoping to catch a glimpse of some straight rower dong.
Naturally, we support LGBT-inclusion in sports — in fact, we even asked the founder of the Outsports LGBT site why athletics remain so queerphobic — but here’s the thing: it’s not really clear what, besides making this video and attending London Pride, Sports Allies has actually accomplished.
Their website (sportsallies.org) linked from their Twitter account leads to a password protected site and the Twitter account itself was pretty much unused from April 26, 2015 to June 24 of 2016. And while a 2014 Mic.com report states that the naked calendars have raised $42,000 for Sports Allies, a news search on Google turns up no significant reports of their program’s contributions.
We have reached out to the organization to try and learn more. We’re certainly not shaming anyone for getting naked or supporting inclusive sports, but almost every news has seemed to report exclusively on the naked calendars without digging into what Sports Allies has done.
In the meanwhile, Angus Malcolm, the gay photographer behind the Warwick Rowers who is also a board member of Sports Allies, said that he shot the latest fundraising images shortly after the Orlando Pulse tragedy, reminding him of the importance of breaking down stereotypes. Before the latest shoot, he wrote his rowers:
Our project has received acclaim from professionals working in suicide prevention for its impact on young people struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity. You, as competitive male athletes at a top university, represent a world from which they feel excluded. It is a world that for centuries if not millennia has confined sexual freedom, power and legitimacy to heterosexual men.
To stand naked and vulnerable in front of people who have been historically disempowered is to make very clear, both to them and to the wider world, that you are committed to playing your part in creating a world that shows respect for everyone’s gender and sexual identity.
In that same letter he also admitted that he twice attempted suicide because of “my inability to come to terms my sexuality or overcome a profound sense of failure to achieve the masculine ideals against which I felt I was being measured, particularly in school sport.” That’s a sincere sentiment, especially considering that the UK’s LGB youth are more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide than their straight peers.