Opinion |

NBA Cheerleaders Are the Soft Side of the Sex Industry

We can teach gender equality all we want, but it's no secret: The men on the court are talented high achievers while the women are there for sexual arousal

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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Oregon Duck cheerleaders at the 2017 NCAA Tournament, Kansas City, Missouri, March 25, 2017.
Oregon Duck cheerleaders at the 2017 NCAA Tournament, Kansas City, Missouri, March 25, 2017.Credit: Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports and Reuters
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

It seems the time has come to rethink this whole cheerleader thing at NBA games. Not that they're actually cheerleaders. Once upon a time they led cheers, shouting out the name of their team with excitement and all the rest.

Today their work is really just to dance while the men rest. That’s it, that’s the rationale. Dancing women, only women – not a chorus of mixed male and female dancers together. Only women. Dancing during time-outs.

Did I say dancing? It’s not dance as art or even dance as entertainment. No one dishes out hundreds of dollars on a ticket to see these women dance.

And they're not just dancers. There are all sorts of dancers, but the NBA cheerleader squads have a rather clear appearance code: long hair, large breasts, ample rear ends – identical to the look for strippers and the same dress code too. The cheerleaders change their costumes a number of times during the game, and all of them emphasize their assets the same way.

Women and children are in the crowd too, but the cheerleaders cater to the bachelor-party mentality: the sweaty male entertainment that ends in a puddle of vomit, men drinking beer, watching sports and gawking at women whose entire job is to look sexy. They don’t exactly dance. It would be more accurate to say they move with the beat because moving with the music is a justification for all the twerking butts and bouncing breasts. It's a disgusting sexist exhibition.

We can teach gender equality as much as we want, but the eyes know what they see: The men on the court are talented high achievers; they fight for fame and glory. The women are the “fair sex” – beauty is all they have. This is their entire job, to be an ornament, and anyone who doesn't look like a cheerleader isn't sexy.

Women don’t need brains, just T&A. That's the message of this magnificent American cultural institution: Women are like Donald Trump's fantasy, nothing else.

You can try as much as you want to teach men that women are equal and worthy of being treated equally, but when a man looks at the basketball court on his television screen, he sees women as mere objects of adornment whose only role on the court is to arouse him sexually. If we can speak honestly, without the hollow facade of “they really are good dancers; even Paula Abdul was once a cheerleader,” the cheerleaders are the softest side of the sex industry.