evolutionary psychology and gender studies perspectives on skateboarding

This is possibly the most important research that’s been done in the history of skateboarding. I stumbled across it here:

The authors report a field experiment with skateboarders that demonstrates that physical risk taking by young men increases in the presence of an attractive female. This increased risk taking leads to more successes but also more crash landings in front of a female observer. Mediational analyses suggest that this increase in risk taking is caused in part by elevated testosterone levels of men who performed in front of the attractive female. In addition, skateboarders’ risk taking was predicted by their performance on a reversal-learning task, reversal-learning performance was disrupted by the presence of the attractive female, and the female’s presence moderated the observed relationship between risk taking and reversal learning. These results suggest that men use physical risk taking as a sexual display strategy, and they provide suggestive evidence regarding possible hormonal and neural mechanisms.


This is soooooo true. In fact, it was explained to me around 3rd grade, by Skate or Die 2. Watch the first minute:

Fear and commitment are huge parts of skateboarding. You can clearly see what they’re talking about in this footage of Chris Cole 360 flipping Wallenberg and making his arm swell up to enormous dimensions. It’s inspirational:

Persistence or perseverative behavior? The fact that you see “reversal learning impairments” at these times is interesting. The sheer fact of enduring that much pain is a signal of…something. These issues are in no way limited to super badasses. Landing primo can happen to anyone, any time flip tricks are involved. You still have to go for it or not:

As you continue skateboarding, risk-taking becomes more important than physical ability, if you want to progress. It probably has a lot to do with why skaters have problems IRL. I guess what evolutionary psychology is trying to say is that Chris Cole has bigger balls than we do.

What normally happens at a skatepark is that it’s a bunch of young males, the mothers of some children, and one or two bored girlfriends reading or texting their friends. Occasionally, there’s a woman that actually enjoys the skatepark. I guess you could say there are tradeoffs to skateboarding as a reproductive strategy. For one thing, it takes a lot of time to be great at it, like you might have to drop out of high school.

Skateboarding is a male equivalent of fashion. Like, that kid who lands primo is lame for doing varial kickflips, and doing a benihana definitely means you’re homosexual. It’s a thing:

Skateboarding is a bunch of dudes, for the most part. Skateboarding, Space, and the City: Architecture and the Body has a cool section on gender politics:

To raise another form of social difficulty, consider first that much skateboarding takes place collectively, young men watching each other and taking turns to perform. Skaters thus spend much time looking at photographs of other young men, emulating other young men, and displaying themselves to other young men. Skateboarding could thus easily be construed as a homosexual gesture, and perhaps as a result of this possibility many skaters seem to react in a number of different ways.

First, there is homophobia…Such actions are no doubt not unique to skateboarding subculture, but, for some skaters they undoubtedly form part of their everyday language and abuse.

Second, there is an induction to heterosexual and homosocial masculinity implicit in attitudes to gender…In this light, the exchange of image-moves discussed in the previous chapter may be interpreted as an exchange of (heterosexual) masculinity, with new skaters becoming inducted through their performance of moves into the repertoire of male skate behaviour, ranging from skateboard moves themselves, to forms of dress (such as skaters’ display of boxer shorts over the waistband of trousers, a fashion common in the mid-late 1990s), to general codes of behavior…This was also the case with skateboarding injuries, where the experience of falling is sometimes seen by skaters as a way of bonding with other male skaters through aggressive masculinity.

All that gravity sucks you down to the cement and makes you fuckin’ slam, it brings your aggression out. You just go “Fuck!”…Blood. Getting hurt. Guys need to do that. Its [sic] a way of getting together to get aggro with your friends.

…As Tony Alva had previous explained, “skateboarding is not for sissies.”

The third response is to see skateboarding not as a group practice but as a solitary practice, each person performing as an individual. Here, the sexual politics are about self-satisfaction, where the skater’s body-centric space production is self-referential, on the one hand largely absolved of social context and on the other hand imbued with the desire to make the body a realm of highly significant action. Here, that significance is onanistic, an intimate space produced by individuals in search of self-expression, self-fulfilment, and self-satisfaction. Such inward-directed concerns perhaps help explain the connection between skateboarding and the ‘Straight Edge’ movement of the late 1980s-1990s…

The fourth response, as the celibacy of many Straight Edgers suggests, is to deny sexuality altogether, and this can be seen for example in the baggy clothes adopted by many skaters since the late 1980s. Although obviously functional, allowing more freedom to perform moves, such clothes also (even if unintentionally) mask the specific muscularity or shape of the body, and so lessen both the physiological appearance of any skater and the difference between male and female skaters. This may also relate to how skaters are often seen as socially dysfunctional or odd individuals who do not readily fit in with conventional youth cultures. The counter-cultural aspect of skateboarding thus carries within it a social reticence that is not always aggressive or boastful to the rest of society.

Everywhere I’ve ever lived and everyone I’ve ever hung out with has always made me feel out of place. I’ve never fitted in everywhere…That’s why I skate.