Research challenges ‘misperceptions about female rugby players’ sexuality’


A new study conducted in partnership with Harlequins indicates that nearly half of female rugby players say homophobic and sexist jokes deter girls from playing the sport.

The research also “challenges common misconceptions about female rugby player sexuality,” Quins said in a statement.

Harlequins and The Harlequins Foundation teamed up with experts from Australia’s Monash University to carry out the survey, considered one of the first of its kind in women’s sport.

Episode 21 – Luke Cowan-Dickie, Six Nations Review and Sinckler’s Sauna

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Episode 21 – Luke Cowan-Dickie, Six Nations Review and Sinckler’s Sauna

The results were released ahead of Harlequins’ third annual LGBTQ+ Pride themed game tomorrow.


– 55 per cent of women and girls agreed that “many women don’t feel welcome to play rugby because of the jokes and negative language some people use about women”

– 37% have heard homophobic slurs at their club in the last year and 59% have heard sexist slurs and negative jokes about women

– 15% said they had experienced homophobic verbal abuse at their club

– 88% said people ‘often’ incorrectly assume they are lesbian because they play rugby (15% actually identify as gay or bisexual)

– 79% want negative jokes about women to stop in rugby, and 80% want homophobic jokes to stop (previous Harlequins research found 65% of men wanted sexist/homophobic jokes to stop)

Players were also interviewed as part of the research. Beth and Joe [Joanne] Evans, sisters and co-captain of the women’s side of Sutton and Epsom, have both said they have suffered different forms of discrimination in rugby.

“I love playing women’s rugby because it’s incredibly supportive of people of all sexualities and gender identities. I feel like my teammates can be themselves without fear of being judged by each other,” said Beth Evans, who is straight but attends the Harlequins event to support her sister Jo, who is gay. “But when people make assumptions about women playing rugby or telling homophobic jokes, it hurts everybody.”

Jo Evans agreed, noting: “We still struggle to be accepted and treated equally by others in rugby and I often wonder if people who buy into stereotypes or tell the occasional joke about us believe the ‘real’ women and girls wouldn’t want to play rugby, so we all have to be lesbians or want to be like men.

Marc Leckie, Head of Harlequins Foundation, said: “Sport is a powerful force for change and the Harlequins Foundation is founded on the belief that it should be accessible and welcoming for all. It has been a privilege to support this important research. We believe rugby should be a sport for everyone and at Harlequins we pride ourselves on promoting our sport as an inclusive and safe space. The results tell us that there is still a lot of work to be done to make rugby more inclusive and welcoming. We look forward to using the results to fuel the conversation, which ultimately will only make the sport better for everyone.


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