26 Apr 2019

Homophobic language common in rugby - Australian study

10:59 am on 26 April 2019

A new study from Monash University has found that most young boys playing rugby in South Australia are exposed to homophobic slurs.

Israel Folau. Waratahs. Wallabies. Rugby

Israel Folau is set to challenge Rugby Australia's decision to stand him down at a hearing on 4 May. Photo: Photosport

The research was published yesterday, two weeks after the Wallabies star Israel Folau was stood down by the New South Wales Rugby Union and Rugby Australia after posting anti-gay comments based on Old Testament teachings.

In the last rugby season, 75 percent of those surveyed said they had heard teammates using homophobic slurs within the past two weeks.

The lead researcher, Erik Denison from Monash University's School of Social Sciences, told Morning Report it was more often that the language had been common historically, rather than being intended as a homophobic slur.

"What it seems to be is that this language has historically been used in sport probabaly more than any other environment and no one has ever told people in sport to stop using this language, so it's basically passed down from generation to generation and it's quite self perpetuating.

He said the research showed about 30 percent of coaches were using language like "fag" and "poof" regularly, which was having an effect on the boys.

"They hear their coaches use this language, they hear the other boys use this language, and they think it's what's required to fit in ... it just takes some really meaningful action by the sport and some designated resources and time put to this problem.

"It's a very serious problem becuase we do know that this language is hurting gay kids in particular ... we do know that when they're exposed to this language their risk of suicide goes up quite markedly."

He said it was surprising the use of such language was still rampant considering there were tacit zero tolerance policies on such language.

"Clearly that's rubbish, on the ground there's no one enforcing the rules banning such horrible words.

"These zero tolerance policies need to be enforced and I encourage you to go back to rugby and ask them 'hey, what have you done since you made these commitments to stamp out this language ... our research shows it doesn't seem to be a lot."

He also said gay players to coming out could leave them vulnerable to abuse, but straight players could play an important role in setting the standards of behaviour.

"Players to go out there and really say 'hey, this is not the lang we use in sport'."

He pointed to a connection between homophobic and sexist slurs too, saying they were often used interchangably, so stamping out homophobic language could help curb sexist language too "which clearly - as we're trying to grow women's sport - deters a lot of girls from playing as well".

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