Tags: documentary program

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.