‘RealBJJGirls’ Rally Against Sexy BJJ Pics: Right or Wrong?

‘RealBJJGirls’ Rally Against Sexy BJJ Pics: Right or Wrong?

Does it turn you on to see that pearl weave gi sit on someone just right?

No market may remain uncornered! Sexy pictures of female bjj artists appear to be all the rage over at bjjpix.com . But there’s also an opposition to this trend.

BJJ black belt Shanti Abelha of Denmark stood up and voiced her opinion:


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“This is not SEXY. It’s not supposed to be. 
There’s been a recent influx of BJJ girls posing sexy and half naked in various videos and picture on Facebook and Instagram recently, some of them while “training”. 
This is me, during the last training of the week, with one week of hard training camp for European’s left. I’m focused, tired, worn out, and just doing my best. 
It’s not sexy. You know what will be sexy?
Me on top of that podium in two weeks!! Share to support us #realbjjgirls”


First thing that jumps out to me on this picture is that it’s sponsored. And this might be the root of all evil, sort of speak. Getting a sponsor might be the pinnacle of many jiu-jitsu journeys. Being sponsored means getting free gear, entrance fees, being featured in commercials, videos and other forms of publicity. Earning the coveted spot is by no means a joke. And it’s not necessarily about your athletic achievements or skill levels. When we consider that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a very expensive while at the same time very time demanding it’s hard not to congratulate Shanti Abelha.

But it’s also hard to begrudge other female athletes for wanting to covet the financial support and/or the public attention doing jiu-jitsu. Male athletes also don’t have the easiest time getting sponsored and by comparison women have it at least a couple of times harder. This is where suggestions like: grow a large social media fan base and engage your fans on social media come from. The cult of internet was built on naked women, so why shouldn’t they try to benefit from the vast male audience?

Let’s skip over the financial incentives for now. Our bodies are an important part of our identity. Just deciding to expose a part of yourself leaves you vulnerable to judgment. In this day and age there’s no such thing as thin enough or attractive enough and the comment sections will not let you hear the end of it. The body is a feminist issue and as such the struggle to own it never ends.

And there’s also something called external locus of control. Having external locus of control means that these individuals will tend to value themselves based on the public’s response to them. This is a condition you will observe in many artistically inclined individuals as well as with plenty of otherwise untalented social media residents.

So what’s so bad about wanting to expose the fruit of your labor? There are always opinions that come down to this:

“Does she Really need to do this publicly?”

The trouble with women is that practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu already means rejecting many stereotypes of female behavior so why succumb to this particular one?

This might be why Kyra Gracie’s or Mackenzie Dern’s sexy pictures might be one bitter pill to swallow. They are already legitimate in a masculine sport yet they still seek the attention of the objectifying male gaze.

Multiple times world champion Kyra Gracie's sexy pictures caused a lot of controversy a few years back

Multiple times world champion Kyra Gracie’s sexy pictures caused a lot of controversy a few years back

Kyra Gracie might be an especially interesting case considering her pictures could be characterized as slightly more risqué. As a rule some nations are slightly more laid back in regards to sexuality, and Brazil is most definitely one of them. But these pictures no longer have limited reach, once on the internet they will live on forever and in all cultures of the world.

This particularly seems to bother the residents of the United States of America. In a culture that condones obliterating a human on tv but censors words for female genitalia the disparity between sexes and victimization of women becomes a real concern. The country that houses the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Mecca has always suffered from gender issues. In a 2010 study the prevalence of rape in America was big enough to rank them at number 15 after such pearls as South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana Australia and Belgium among others, estimating 27.3 victims on every 100 000 of citizens. This ranking and horror stories such as the one that took place with students of a famous East Coast US BJJ academy perfectly explain why some wouldn’t feel comfortable sexualizing any part of bjj in any context.

  • Number of rape incidents per 100,000 citizens in different countries. Figures do not take into account rape incidents that go unreported to the police. http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Crime/Rape-rate

It also might be worth considering whether these displays of femininity and sex appeal also present a form of overcompensation for being superior in a male sport. I can’t imagine a life or a culture where most of males wouldn’t be frustrated with competitive females besting them at something they’re naturally better suited for.

Hello unsuspecting 30 year old male, would you like your pink belt now?

Have you ever heard of a jiu-jitsu self-defense program targeting men? Somehow it’s much more acceptable for women to start doing bjj because they’d like to defend themselves than because they need a competitive outlet. It’s also more acceptable to publicly embrace your great body than to embrace how nicely it can choke unsuspecting instagram followers. Masculinity and femininity are terms that will never cease to be fascinating in a cultural context.
When we google them we instantly get a definition that includes the following quote: “In our society, the values tied to masculinity have been generally seen as superior to those associated with femininity.”

As Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners, we find ourselves members of an even smaller niche society that values masculinity even more but must we judge everything by the standards we apply to the podium?
Having the hots for a certain picture does not mean you’re about to get turned on rolling.

While I wouldn’t want to be the “Anna Kournikova” of bjj I don’t mind it if some do. Further I don’t think less of the occasional guy attracted to these stereotypes nor do I think this would amount to sexual harassment during a bjj practice.

Written by Iva Djokovic, Psychology graduate and BJJ practitioner