Sports and their metaphoric effect on behavioural paradigms between cultures: a preliminary discussion

“With baseball,” I explained to my wife, “the action in the game progresses from base to base, with a concomitant increase in excitement and arousal, both in participants and spectators. Action is clearly divided into distinct stages: first base, second base, third base and home base, and each stage dictates a unique strategy and approach.”

“Whereas with soccer, the point is getting the ball into the goal as fast as you can,” she replied.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the dominant sport in a culture will supply that culture with certain metaphors and paradigms that affect mores and behavior directly or indirectly. This is clearly the case with the American approach to sex as a graduated activity: from first base (kissing) to second base (fondling) to third base (heavy petting or oral sex) to home base (sexual intercourse).

This compartmentalization of various sexual practices in the United States, each granted its own discreet meaning and significance, as well as the paradigm of logical progression from one to the next helps to explain former President Clinton’s conviction that he had not “had sex” with Monica Lewinsky since he had only been to third base with her, and the entrenchment of this paradigm at all levels of American society is no where more clearly illustrated than in the recent statement by Texas district attorney Charles A. Rosenthal Jr. in a sodomy case heard by the US Supreme Court that sodomy between homosexuals and heterosexuals is fundamentally different, “Because it can lead to marriage and procreation,” between heterosexuals.

The one-track, goal-oriented “get the ball into the net” approach in soccer, on the other hand, does not provide any such metaphors and so the attitude in many soccer-dominant countries that “sex is sex” and that all sexual activity is equally sexualized, rather than the graduated American paradigm, is not surprising.

It is this compartmentalization in the American way of viewing sex that led me to claim in a comment to an earlier post that baseball was responsible for the view on the part of some Americans that oral sex is an end in itself rather than just foreplay, resulting in them being more willing to engage in said activity than citizens of other countries.

Please note, of course, that this “theory” is based solely on statistically insignificant anecdotal evidence and that I and my research assistants are still busy accumulating data.

Likewise, further research is called for in countries with other dominant sports, such as cricket (does sex there last for days? is it very confusing?) hockey (three-minute penalties?) and sumo (does the “bigger is better” paradigm explain the Japanese invention of b*kakke?).

4 responses to “Sports and their metaphoric effect on behavioural paradigms between cultures: a preliminary discussion

  1. Catherine

    Yep, in the English home counties they interrupt sex for luncheon and afternoon tea, and then continue until sunset. Sex recommences the next morning.

  2. Your wife was probably trying to send you some kind of personal message with what she said about soccer.

    My non-fan understanding of soccer of that the typical game is like this: “The first half was extremely exciting, as A almost scored four times and scored once, whereas B almost scored six times. In the first 2/3 of the second half nothing happened or almost happened, but the end of the half was a flurry of activity, with nine almost-goals and two goals, B winning 2-1.”

  3. Mig

    That does ring a bell, except that I score only once, while my wife usually ahem lalalalalalalala.

  4. Claire

    I’ve lived in the U.S., Europe and Australia and haven’t noticed any significant differences in the way people approach sex. As with all things in life, there are greater inter-person differences than inter-racial.