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Mar 19 2013

Risk ridicule

In the Nation, a sports writer talks about the connection between jock culture and rape culture.

As a sportswriter, there is one part of the Steubenville High School rape trial that has kept rattling in my brain long after the defendants were found guilty. It was a text message sent by one of the now-convicted rapists, team quarterback Trent Mays. Mays had texted a friend that he wasn’t worried about the possibility of rape charges because his football coach, local legend Reno Saccoccia, “took care of it.” In another text, Mays said of Coach Reno, “Like, he was joking about it so I’m not worried.”

In this exchange we see an aspect of the Steubenville case that should resonate in locker rooms and athletic departments across the country: the connective tissue between jock culture and rape culture. Rape culture is not just about rape. It’s about the acceptance of women as “things” to be used and disposed, which then creates a culture where sexual assault—particularly at social settings—is normalized.

Not by itself though. Jock culture is a branch of the larger guy culture, or dudebro culture, or macho culture, or whatever the right word for it is. The culture that just kind of forgets all about women most of the time; that wants to get away from women most of the time, on fishing boats or in lumber camps or lost in the wilderness, or at least watching reality shows about same; the culture that equates women to those profiles on mudflaps.

 

Jock culture is just a hypertrophied version of that larger culture.

In thinking about Steubenville, thinking about my own experiences playing sports, thinking about athletes I’ve interviewed and know, I believe that a locker room left to its own devices will drift toward becoming a breeding ground for rape culture. You don’t need a Coach Reno or a Bob Knight to make that happen. You just need good people to say or do nothing. As such, a coach or a player willing to stand up, risk ridicule and actually teach young men not to rape, can make all the difference in the world. We need interventionist, transformative coaches in men’s sports that talk openly about these issues.

It’s very striking that Dave Zirin takes it for granted that the coach will risk ridicule by doing that.

Striking and depressing.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    We need interventionist, transformative coaches in men’s sports that talk openly about these issues.

    But sadly, every school will always choose the “guy who wins” over the “man or woman who could actually change their players’ lives for the better.” Even if the “guy who wins” is a sociopathic jerk.

  2. 2
    Martha

    You’re so right to draw attention to the fact that it’s not just male athletes. I was visiting my young nephews last week, and the older one told his brother that he “shrieks like a little fat girl.” I told him I didn’t like the way he was talking about girls, but he hears that kind of stuff all the time. One of the men who carelessly uses that kind of language heard my objection. I wonder if he’ll stop to think about that next time?

    When I swam competitively as a kid, I never heard anyone say, “son, you swim like a girl.” So maybe all this is intensified in potentially revenue-earning sports.

    I find the article less depressing than you did. Just the fact that a male sportswriter published something like that is a pretty big deal.

    Did you see the article comparing Steubenville to Abu Ghraib– a moment in which people are photographed doing awful things to other human beings, preserving the moment so that we can no longer ignore it? I hope so, because I can’t find the link now!

  3. 3
    Walton

    Jock culture is a branch of the larger guy culture, or dudebro culture, or macho culture, or whatever the right word for it is. The culture that just kind of forgets all about women most of the time; that wants to get away from women most of the time, on fishing boats or in lumber camps or lost in the wilderness, or at least watching reality shows about same

    So true. It’s toxic masculinity.

  4. 4
    Pteryxx

    Martha:

    http://www.newstatesman.com/laurie-penny/2013/03/steubenville-rape-cultures-abu-ghraib-moment

    and now I’ve lost track of which article said approximately ‘we’re not teaching boys to be men, we’re teaching them to be not-women’.

  5. 5
    Martha

    Pterryx:

    Thanks!

    College Hall of Fame Quarterback Don McPherson said that. You can get there through Shakesville: http://www.shakesville.com/2013/03/quote-of-day_19.html

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