Do All Sports Fans Have a Humiliation Kink?

I’ve spent a decade following the NBA, and I’ve found few things are hotter to me than my favorite players losing and losing in remarkably comedic fashion.

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Do All Sports Fans Have a Humiliation Kink?
From left, Devin Booker, Ben Simmons, and James Harden. Photo:Getty Images

It was Game 7 of the 2021 NBA Eastern Conference semi-finals and the Atlanta Hawks were up two points over the Philadelphia 76ers. There were 3:30 minutes left to play. It was still anyone’s game. Ben Simmons—essentially a towering 6’10” action figure—who was the Sixers’ point guard at the time, had the ball. He was mere feet from the rim, left wide open for one of his signature dunks, which had propelled him to stardom in the first place, earning him the hype as a potential next LeBron James. Instead, he passed the ball to his teammate—shooting guard Matisse Thybulle—who was fouled amidst an attempted dunk. The passed lay-up would ultimately cement the Sixers’ 103-96 loss—and Simmons’ teammates and coach, Doc Rivers, weren’t exactly subtle about who they blamed.

Today, the moment is a legend among Sixers fans—it was the moment, in many people’s eyes, that they lost the series; it was also the end of Simmons’ career as a Sixer, and all the potential it once held before the entire city of Philly, armed with pitchforks and torches, chased Simmons off to the Brooklyn Nets. And it was humiliating: for Sixers fans, for Sixers players, but mostly, for Simmons. But where other NBA fans were either entertained or outraged, I’ll admit, dear reader, that I was a third thing: aroused.

I’ve spent the last odd 10 years seriously following the NBA, and between the earnest sexual awakening of my adolescence to my ongoing exploration of my sexual identity in the present day, I’ve found few things are hotter to me than my favorite players losing and losing in remarkably comedic fashion.

Simmons, specifically, has always been special to me. Deeper than looks (though, look at the man), what’s long drawn me to him are the consistent, embarrassing gaffes that have perennially stunted his career. It’s every crushing, oft uniquely humiliating loss; every predictably missed free throw; all the wild tabloid stories of aghast teammates, thereafter. It’s the male outrage he inspires: a raw, visceral disappointment and frustration in a player with so much talent and promise, but who simply can’t or won’t shoot the ball.

Sure, the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker led his team to one of the most jaw-dropping defeats in playoff history against the Dallas Mavericks in 2022, and Steph Curry’s Warriors blew a 3-1 playoff lead for the first time in history in 2016. To be clear, those humiliations did something for me, as well. Yet, those losses are widely understood as flukes, blips in otherwise phenomenally talented players’ very long careers. Simmons’ passed-up lay-up during that Game seven and general, consistent failures to shoot or perform throughout the 2021 playoffs are a different, substantially more humiliating beast, entirely. And, for me, every moment of that era is unfailingly swoon-worthy.

Yet, I have to wonder—is it just me? Does humiliation kink actually have a place in the world of sports fandom? Do these stunningly, iconically humiliating moments—like, say, the 2021 game in which Kendall Jenner (who dated Simmons from 2018 to 2019) sat courtside as her new boyfriend Devin Booker dropped 36 points on Simmons—stir anything up for other basketball fans? And what of other sports leagues, and their own equivalent humiliating moments: Tom Brady—the face of “faith, family, football”—sacrificing his marriage and family for the game last year, only to be unceremoniously defeated in the first round of the playoffs; or anti-vax spokesperson Aaron Rodgers not even making the playoffs, eliminated by a non-playoff eligible team this year? Sports evoke an almost feral passion in most fans; entire cities get lit on fire; emotions run high—surely horniness must be among these emotions?

Humiliation is an actual sexual fantasy for some: The fulfillment of a desire to be or see others humiliated and dominated. In sports fandom, humiliating outcomes might give some fans the opportunity to see the realness and innate humanity of their favorite star athletes, Dr. Liz Powell, a sex educator and therapist who’s helped clients explore humiliation play, told Jezebel. Powell specifically recalled the iconic Ted Lasso scene in which Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) masturbates while watching a video of her boyfriend, footballer Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), weeping while announcing his retirement. “She explains she’s watching it because, she tells him, ‘You’re so raw, you’re so vulnerable, real,’ and it’s that vibe of, when we’re in a space of having lost or having failed, or feeling like we let people down, that’s often a very vulnerable space, which can be rare for men in western cultures,” Powell said. “So, it can be really attractive, arousing, even, to see that in a professional athlete you find hot, or anyone.”

In other words, the fundamental relatability of a Simmons-esque athlete wallowing in their failures could exude a sense of intimacy. Maybe for some (ahem, me) who might have a thing for voyeurism, there’s something hot about millions watching the humiliation unfold. Others (again, hello, me) are, perhaps, just innately, primally attracted to losers.

I can’t speak for others, namely because straight male sports fans aren’t exactly lining up to be interviewed about being turned on by the failures of their favorite teams. But I can speak for myself, and share some of the distinctly humiliating NBA moments that have stayed with me over the years—without going into specific detail about what these outcomes did for me, sexually. When the Houston Rockets set a league record for most consecutive missed 3-pointers (27) during their 2018 series against the Golden State Warriors (a truly heartbreaking—but also, admittedly arousing—loss for me as the self-identified Mrs. James Harden); the Warriors blowing a 3-1 series lead over LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals; the Mavs’ Luka Doncic smiling menacingly into Booker’s face in Game seven last year as the Mavs’ lead swelled further and further—all after Booker had spent much of the series aggressively bullying Doncic.

As I’ve previously written for Jezebel (shortly after Booker and his Phoenix Suns were eliminated from the playoffs last May, in stunningly humiliating fashion) there is almost nothing more attractive to me than players on a tragically defeated NBA team—the more humiliating the loss, the better, making Booker’s uncharacteristically low-scoring performance especially alluring to me. His basketball-playing abilities had suddenly vanished when he needed them most—and, frankly, so had my pants.

Powell says erotic humiliation and sports fandom aren’t something she’s seen or heard much about in the ever-expanding world of kink before; the more “unusual applications of humiliation kink” that she’s encountered tend to be “people actively seeking out being dunked on online for some horrible take, usually cis men wanting to be humiliated by a woman.” But she notes that humiliation kink takes many forms, and is usually rooted in a desire for “a safe space to explore taboo feelings and untraditional things”—like, say, big, strong, male professional athletes experiencing loss, projecting uncharacteristic softness and vulnerability.

Now, what I enjoy in the confines of my private life is between me, you dear reader, God, and—anonymously—Reddit, where a cursory search of “humiliation kink” and “basketball” immediately yields a thread in r/Sixers titled, “Does Ben [Simmons] have a humiliation kink?” The replies comprise a circle jerk of Sixers fans in 2022 agreeing that they’ve never witnessed a more humiliating performance or post-loss behavior, that if Simmons does have a humiliation kink, he should have stayed on the Sixers, where he’d perennially be booed, and mocked until he developed shooting abilities. “If he had that kink he would show up to games and sit on the bench and get booed till he’s dead,” one user wrote. Another replied to this: “I did hear that he watches the games though, and that’s gotta give at least a percentage of the experience.” Elsewhere, namely on Twitter, some fans seem certain the Sixers writ large—not just Simmons—are afflicted with humiliation kink: “Sixers really got a humiliation kink. I can’t be associated with that type of behavior,” one user wrote amid the team’s May 2022 playoff struggles. Others speculated that rather, it was Sixers fans who are sexually drawn to humiliation. Who’s to say it isn’t all of the above!

The bottom line is, I am not here to yuck anyone’s yum. All I ask is that, as I publicly salivate over Simmons and his every missed free throw; over Booker every time the Suns fall to the Mavs; over Harden and Sixers front-man Joel Embiid as they inevitably prepare to exit yet another Eastern Conference semi-final this spring, you all might have the courtesy to do the same for me.

Read the rest of Jezebel’s Horny Week 2023 stories here.

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