Monday, March 3, 2014

Rape culture; the golden step-child of jock culture

Two related stories are making news in the Ottawa Citizen today.

One is about an alleged gang rape by members of the University of Ottawa's hockey team. The school has taken the unprecedented step of suspending all hockey operations on the men's side indefinitely.

The second is about the sexual harassment of the female leader of the Student Association at the same university, Anne-Marie Roy.

I remember what I considered the dark days of over-cooked feminism, when folks like Catherine McKinnon and Andrea Dworkin got an awful lot of traction, at least in university environments, for theories that basically made all men out to be rapists and all male-female sexual encounters rape.

Gals, that's just way over the top, I thought at the time. At the time, of course, "gals" was an abusive term... they were "wimmin" or something...

They had their heyday well over a generation ago. I would have thought that with an entire generation and more treated to the non-stop saturation scale consciousness raising and an environment of strict political correctitude on campus, that the stories we read today would be relics of a dark and hoary past.

I've obviously been wrong.

The young men in these stories conduct themselves as though the last fifty years of feminism never even happened. How is such a thing possible?

I don't know, but I'll venture a theory or two that might begin a discussion. 

One factor is the culture of entitlement that surrounds elite athletes. By the time hockey players are at the Junior or the varsity level they are well accustomed to being surrounded by pretty girls who make themselves available. There is a thriving groupie culture around every one of those teams in every city and town and on every campus in the land. While I don't want to over-generalize, and there are notable exceptions, elite athletes are not typically revered for their above-average intelligence or their sensitive caring natures.

It's not hard to imagine that once a not-too-bright up-and-coming professional athlete (and virtually all these guys think they'll eventually sign a multi-million dollar contract) has been immersed in this atmosphere for a few years, he simply cannot grasp the idea that not every young female is eager to spread her legs for him.

Any co-ed who has too much to drink at a post-game party is, in that young man's mind, giving informed consent by the fact of her being there.

Another factor is the rise of social media and technology, and the desensitization of young people, both male and female, to sex, violence, and sexualized violence. In my youth pornography was difficult and expensive to access. For kids today, unlimited access to hard-core porn for free begins when they can log on to a computer.

That's got to impact the attitudes that kids grow into as they grow up.

And not in a good way.

Which leaves us with those stories out of Ottawa today. What is the answer? I don't know, but I fear that far from being aberrations, stories such as these will become more commonplace going forward.

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