Let me preface this by saying that not all men who take part in aggressive sports are insatiable, sex-hungry, and misogynistic.
When you hear people saying that one team “raped” another, or you hear two teens discussing the complete “rape” that occurred while playing Call of Duty, I’d suggest that you think a little deeper as to what they mean. At face-value, you understand that they are referring to one coming out on top, most likely in a way that seemed borderline savage – it’s an assertion of dominance. Now, put that in terms of sexual assault.
Late on Sunday night as I was scrolling through Twitter post-Superbowl and found that someone had retweeted Pornhub, an account which already often posts off-color, misogynistic tweets. What I read was more disturbing than the usual pornographic, hyper-sexualized tweets. This time it read (in re: the Broncos’ loss in the Superbowl) “Don’t try uploading the Game to Pornhub because we don’t allow rape.” While it is the Twitter for a famed porn site, and its adherence to what could be considered pornographic counterculture while politically incorrect is not entirely outlandish, rape culture is not laughable. It brings about the often-explored question of the connection between athleticism and (brute) sexuality.
How often do you hear of athletes getting charged with sexual assault or rape? Is it a release of endorphins and testosterone? Not to mention, is an act so horrific so easily blamed on a release of chemicals? This is not the first time this question has come about and it is certainly not the last time. I’d suggest that we delve a little deeper:
Think of the rape victim of Steubenville, Ohio: a high school-aged girl who was inebriated at a party and then forcibly taken from that party by several football players only to be undressed, photographed, and repeatedly sexually assaulted publicly. The boys posted the photos online. When the case was brought to court, the girl was referred to by the defense as a “drunk out-of-town football groupie” and the boys’ coach deemed the accusations laughable.
Note: Rape culture isn’t, and never will be a joking matter.
In a photograph posted on Instagram by a Steubenville High football player, the victim was shown looking unresponsive, being carried by two teenage boys by her wrists and ankles. Former Steubenville baseball player Michael Nodianos, responding to hearsay of the event, tweeted “Some people deserve to be peed on,” which was reshared later by several people, including Mays. In a video posted at a later time to YouTube, Nodianos and others talk about the rapes, with Nodianos joking that “they raped her quicker than Mike Tyson raped that one girl” and “They peed on her. That’s how you know she’s dead, because someone pissed on her.”
The media coverage wasn’t much better. CNN’s coverage could only be seen as biased and in favor of preserving the reputations of “star” football players with “promising futures.”
Athleticism is a trait that has been prized and praised since the times of the caveman and for some physiological and psychological reasoning, people are still under the impression that the rewards for such skill are still relevant in the modern day as they were in the Paleolithic Age. That is, athleticism is reason enough for worship, and thus sex from whomever they please to be pleased by – they deserve it, right?
As Dave Zirin wrote for The Nation:
“The fact is that too many young male athletes are taught to see women as the spoils of being a jock. These young men are treated like gods by the adults who are supposed to be mentoring them—like cash cows by administrators who use their on-field exploits to extract money from politicians and alums.”
Now, when you think about the horror and the shame that one endures when raped and then place the term “rape” in the context of winning (or losing) a game, you can almost see it making sense. It’s an act of dominance; conquering, if you will. Rape is not an act partaken in for the sake of pleasuring the other- it is an act of selfishness, a task meant to take over another and often to “masculate” oneself. You can see the semblance.
But the point I would hope that you see is how if you can compare a game of Call of Duty, or the Superbowl, to the terror that a rape-victim has endured, you demean his or her experience, making it out to be less impactful on his or her life, less definitive, and much more casual. When in reality, that is so far from the truth.
The mis- and overuse of the word rape is a mannerism that needs to be corrected. Rape culture is very much real. Not to say that rape is an endemic of sports or men’s culture, nor are men always to blame, but it is food for thought. Sexual violence is not a joking matter and rape is not inevitable.
Think before you speak and act with dignity. Your joke may just be someone else’s burden.