Sunday, March 07, 2004

Gang rape and gay sex

Two feature articles yesterday, written in response to an alleged gang rape incident involving a Sydney rugby team, both contain a curious mix of conventional reportage and first-person moral outrage arbitrarily re-transmitted.

In the SMH (and also Age) story, we have this:

Roger Peters, a privately practising Newcastle psychologist who counsels several elite athletes, including footballers, says what he finds abhorrent about consensual group sex is its possible impact on the families of those involved. It needs to be spoken of, not in terms of sexual liberation, but of taste and morality. What havoc are rape allegations and "bun" stories creating among footballers' wives and children, he asks.

. . .

Peters questions how often women consent in situations because the men have power over them and they just give in, or they may be damaged souls wanting to feel loved. He is disgusted that such women are then called "scrag" by the men who have used them
.

Personally, I fail to see how one individual’s personal morality about group sex is newsworthy in the first place. Further, Peters’ presumed expertise as a psychologist, and his proximity to the story via his apparent counselling of several rugby players, is undermined by elementary factual misunderstandings. Most rugby players, AFAIK, would not be married, and only a quite small minority would have children.

More seriously, Peters elides the legalities of consent to sex with his own moralistic chauvinism, in equating “damaged souls wanting to feel loved” with women who have actually been raped. Peters’ description of footballer groupies is at once pretty accurate, and yet deeply offensive for its denial of these women having any erotic agency of their own. (The latter point is corrected, but “too little, too late”, in a quote from Kath Albury much later in the article).

Most curiously, the SMH story opens with a few paras on the work of researcher Michael Flood – a clear expert in the field – on the male/male erotics of heterosexual group sex, only to go nowhere with them. That, in contradistinction to Roger Peters’ moral matrix, most rugby players are young and unmarried should make the words “team bonding” and “sex” an unremarkable combination. Boys will be boys – and in an institutional or quasi-institutional setting (such as professional rugby’s full-time training, travelling and playing schedule), boys will be poofs, or quasi-poofs, anyway.

The Oz’s moral informant “Mike”, a pseudonymous former professional rugby player, is even more confused than psychologist Roger Peters. He quite rightly identifies group sex obtained through ambush – one player picking a women up at a bar, and then “sharing” her – as morally abhorrent (such practises will almost certainly lead to rape at law). But then in a non-sequitur, Mike rails against group sex, presumably consensual, between all the team’s players and a couple of prostitutes. And then there’s the "the spit-roast":

where one player would have vaginal sex with the woman while she gave another oral sex. "That was one the players liked because they could look at each other while it was happening and get a laugh” [said Mike].

Err, Mike I don’t think getting a laugh would be the main object of such a threesome, certainly assuming that it was consensual. Has it ever crossed your little Fred-Nile brain that the reason the two players might like eye contact in such a scenario is because they were getting off?

The homo-erotics of consensual gang-bangs* do place the woman/women in the middle in a peculiar situation. As Mike also notes, albeit with astonishment, female “groupies” can and do enthusiastically consent to such situations. Being a gay man, I am anything but astonished at such proclivities – a football team who wanted to gang-bang a man** would be overwhelmed by applicants for the, ahem, position.

A parallel truth is that female “groupies” not only have independent sexual agency, but that sometimes catering to their sexual needs is arguably a price that must be – reluctantly or otherwise – paid by professional footballers. The groupie is manifestly a type of stalker, and as with most low-level stalkers, it is usually easier and preferable in the long term to reach some type of accommodation with them. In this way, everyone sneaks a little something out of the gang-bang: the guys get to have sex with their mates vicariously, and the girl gets to be meaninglessly star-fucked, the hole in the donut.


* A "gang-bang" is not always the same as "group sex", certainly when the latter is practised swinger-style. Although I've never had group sex of any type involving a female, I am pretty sure that gang-bangs do not involve direct homosexual activity.

** Hypothetically, of course, as the absence of at least one woman would completely change the dynamics of the exercise, to a "locker room" one where outsiders, and especially gay men, would not be welcome.

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