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.