19 May 2009, Comments (10)


Author: Helen

For those of you who don’t live in Australia, this is about the Australian rugby team who “sexually assaulted” / “had group sex with” a nineteen year old girl in New Zealand a few years ago (according to our very coy media terminology.) The only player identified so far is Matthew Johns. The incident was reported in an ABC documentary program, Four Corners (Transcript here, and some followup information here.) For further reading, I’d recommend these posts at Radical Rayedish and Hoyden.

For once, the response to the news about the “group sex”, (as they call it), garnered a stronger response than the usual limp slap on the wrist. Matthew Johns was stood down from playing and coaching. He has been made to apologise, twice, on television for hurting his family (although not the victim of the group attack) and was sacked from a lucrative talking heads gig. And all hell has broken loose.

Over the last week or two we’ve all had more than enough in both the internet and mainstream press to fill up our bingo cards several times over. What were you doing out dressed like that?…Hearing this must be so hard for his family!He’s rich. I think we all know what she’s after, hmmm?What did she expect, going off with the two guys?

Where Johns is not being portrayed as a victimised hero (Dear god, he’s only human! How many of us haven’t … Um, well, YMMV), the commentary on what he and the rest of the NRL fraternity get up to is infused with strangely essentialist arguments. One can’t help that suspect that the Evpsych rubbish that filters into the mainstream media is picked up and distorted by people who simply want to justify their behaviour. Radical Rayedish picked up on this astoundingly self-serving and stupid comment by a senior NRL official, who, with a million motivational courses and a dash of pseudoscience under the belt, tries to get all psychological on us:

STEVE BURRASTON, CEO NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS: These guys are pumped up, they are playing a very aggressive game and they are putting their bodies on the line, it’s fearless. …When we want them on the field we want them to be aggressive. They’ve got to make tackles, they’ve got to be fearless, then we want them to do things that other people don’t do. So we attract an aggressive, young, risk taking male. We give him a shower, put a suit on him and then say now we want you to be, you know, a submissive male. We want you to go out there and not have any problems, it’s very difficult to do that.

Burraston throws up his hands (What can you do?) because apparently, we must allow top sportsmen to use young girls as their personal meatsock, otherwise we have no choice but to make them into submissive males, which you just know he would have described as f**king p**fters except that he knew he was being interviewed by the ABC. What a steaming pile of crap that is.

And there we have it. The obverse of the misogynist distortions of the notion of consent where the woman falls on the wrong side of the madonna/whore complex (she was up for sex with Johns and one other, therefore, she shouldn’t have complained when the rest of the team jumped in, is pretty much the default position.) This is the idea of the manly man as a force that cannot control itself, and requires constant input from women on the right side of the madonna-whore complex to keep him in line. The fact that this is hardly complimentary to the men themselves escapes many commenters, as does the fact that this makes them close ideological kin to the wahabist nutters to whom they claim to be so superior (uncovered meat, anyone?)

But I notice these arguments aren’t used so much for men in other settings. We don’t, for instance, see high-risk-taking rock climbers, parachutists, ocean yachtsmen and sea kayakers regularly fronting up to the cameras pretending to apologise for their latest “gang bang” or euphemism du jour. I’m not sure how Mr Burraston would explain this one. Going around in a pack, poor socialisation, and being paid far too much money and being fawned upon constantly would probably explain more than any faux-psychological excuse based on the need for extra aggression to run around after a leather bladder.

Comments (10)

  • […] I’m so sick of this deeply-entrenched idea that it is the responsibility of women and girls to police the boundaries of sexual behaviour and that, as we’ve seen in the Matthew Johns furore, men and boys are simply aggregations of brainless erectile material that can only be corralled, never asked to take responsibility themselves. As I’ve said elsewhere, and many have said before me, that view isn’t particularly complimentary to boys, is it? […]

  • […] A blog by an opinionated mother of two, which might lie idle for a while sometimes. The blog, that is. « B-I-N-G-O […]

  • Rayedish says:

    Thank you for the love link Helen.

    A couple of days into this whole mess I found myself wondering out loud why weren’t rock and roll musicians regularly in the news for this sort of thing. They have groupies too right? So what’s so terribly different? Definitely something about this particular setting- the emphasis on the team, the over glorification, etc etc.

  • […] Update: Helen has also written about the strange contortionist excuse-making going on in rugby league: B-I-N-G-O. The last paragraph of her post covers some of the ideas I was trying to get to. But I notice these arguments aren’t used so much for men in other settings. We don’t, for instance, see high-risk-taking rock climbers, parachutists, ocean yachtsmen and sea kayakers regularly fronting up to the cameras pretending to apologise for their latest “gang bang” or euphemism du jour. […]

  • tigtog says:

    Great post Helen (and thanks for the link, although it’s broken).

    I heard Our Germs on the radio yesterday noting that the one constant in team bonding traditions for male teams is shared transgression, which starts with underage drinking and stealing street signs, and moves on to the predatory isolation of trusting women and premeditated demanding of pack sex.

    I suspect that the other athletes Helen mentions and the rock and rollers you mention are too individualistic to need such team bonding in the first place, so the group traditions that would lead to predatory pack sex just don’t develop.

  • Ann oDyne says:

    I know a lot about rock & roll bands,

    (I deleted the 2 paras I wrote, in fear of young feminits attacking me)

    Despite lugging equipment, musos are not testosterone-pumped, and rehearsals don’t usually have manager/coaches thumping them on to kill the opposition. A musician (even Axl Rose) is an aesthete, not an athlete.

    (oh I just know an attack is coming)

  • Helen says:

    Now I really, really hate the U-word as it’s so misused and abused, and I do hate to use it on one of my fave commenters, but I am going to make an exception. Annie-O, you’re being unreasonable.

    For one, you’re not only a grown woman but you’re one tough customer, really. It’s a really silly trope contributing to a discussion and adding “I just know I’m going to be ATTACKED!!!1!” Either you have the courage to make a comment or you don’t. But how do you know you’re going to be attacked? Tigtog just made a favourable mention of musicians, too. Where have you seen wholesale condemnation of musicians on a feminist website? Please link!

    Two – people might disagree with you. But that’s not an attack – unless it’s an abusive comment, and this is a moderated blog, and you are, as I said, one of my fave commenters. So if you did actually get “attacked”, as opposed to debated, I’d pull the offending comment, or disemvowel the bastard. So there!

    Three – What’s with this dissing of young feminists? Many of my commenters here are young feminists and I read their blogs with much pleasure. Some of them may not have the depth of experience you have but that doesn’t mean they don’t bring a clearheaded and well written – and often very funny – take to the experiences they have had so far. They, to use a young person expression, fuckin’ rock!

    As do you!

    Don’t assume the fight or flight stance unless it’s warranted. And I say this as someone who’s withstood quite a lot of kicking on my own blogs!

  • Helen says:

    SO has just alerted me to the fact that my intro, intended for non – Australian audiences, mentioned “the Australian rugby team”, meaning the rugby team which was from Australia. WRITING FAIL: This casts needless aspersions on the Wallabies, who are The Australian (National) Team, who are not implicated in this fracas. The team in question was a NRL (National Rugby League) professional code team.

    As in, need to behave like professionals.

    I hope that has cleared that up adequately for my (inexplicably still) rugby-loving relatives.

  • Helen says:

    Tigtog – fixed now.

  • derrida derider says:

    No argument from me on this post. What is it with these drongos?

    When I was a young man I was as keen to get my rocks off as anyone. The fire burns hot when you’re young. But the whole idea was that you both enjoyed it (always my problem with Monicagate, BTW – he showed himself to be no gentleman).

    The idea of going slops after a string of my mates with some poor girl who’ll (rightly) hate you afterwards – yuk.

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