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Get over the sex hang-ups

22 May 2009 1,460 views No Comment

THE rugby league sex scandal has gripped the nation by its genitals, and there’s no indication that it’s about to let go soon.

It’s a fairly crude assessment, but then it’s a fairly crude issue that the community is being asked to deal with and digest. Even Kevin Rudd felt compelled to wade in on the matter by calling on all sporting clubs to give women more respect and giving his tacit agreement to the Nine Network’s sacking of Matthew Johns.

At the same time there are many in the sporting world who believe that Johns was unfairly treated and who believe the Prime Minister should have stuck to commenting on his budget rather than the morality of larrikin footballers.

This newspaper’s House Rules blog echoed the thoughts of many on Rudd’s eagerness to put his own moral views on the situation. One blog commentator, “Skipper”, wrote: “So the man who reduced a female RAAF member to tears and failed to apologise and made a drunken visit to a strip club is telling others to show respect to women. Curious!”

More to the point was “Oracle”, who said: “No law was broken. This is purely a moral issue and if Johns can be sacked based on moral values can we sack Rudd for visiting strip clubs?” Indeed we can, especially if he calls an early election.

Another politician who offered comments on the affair was far more constructive. Australian Sex Party convener Fiona Patten advised rugby league clubs to form a relationship with their local brothel so players’ demands for group sex could be met in a civilised commercial arrangement where both client and service provider’s occupational health and safety could be guaranteed. Patten made more sense than Rudd.

But other factors at work in this tawdry affair are not being acknowledged. Old-style civil libertarians know only too well that what you repress inevitably comes back to bite you. Is it mere coincidence the Cronulla Sharks have fielded more born-again Christians than any other NRL club? Former Cronulla prop and “enforcer” Jason Stevens even professed to being celibate.

Only a couple of weeks out from the New Zealand scandal, the Cronulla team attended the nearby East Coast City Church to hear born-again Christian and former Canberra Raider Paul Osborne testify how God could help their chances in the competition. Osborne had graduated from the Raiders to become a politician in theACT Assembly, where he did allhe could to ban brothels and X-rated films.

Cronulla winger David Simmons, a regular church-goer, told the media he was certain that a few of his teammates had a quiet word with “the man upstairs”. Assuming he meant God and not the video ref, one cannot help but ponder how much this sort of religious bonding serves to install prudish values in players and whether it inevitably leads to the furtive and repressed team bonding we saw in a Christchurch motel.

Some cognoscenti have suggested that the NZ incident has finally outed the elephant in the locker room.

Well, that’s what rugby union and Australian football players are saying anyway, and it’s not the first time the homoerotic label has been slapped on rugby league.

Things started to look pretty pink when Wests Tigers’ John Hopoate was found guilty by the judiciary of “unsportsmanlike interference’ a few years ago for poking a finger where the sun doesn’t shine.

His coach, Terry Lamb, told an inquiry that it was “reasonably common to be touched in the area of the testicles” and that wedgies, bites, genital grabbing and “being jabbed in the stalk” all occurred maybe 10 times in an average game.

Then we come to the issue of group sex, which would appear to be more common than many think. Australian dating sites such as Red Hot Pie have 1.5million Australian adults on their books and once you get past the home page it doesn’t take long to see that there are thousands of singles and couples who are out there looking for something more than a single partner.

The Eros Association has estimated there are 10,000 individual ads each month in swinger’s magazines across the country.

It’s not good enough for the NRL or for big business, or indeed the nation’s leaders, to condemn certain forms of popular sexual behaviour as intrinsically embracing bad attitudes to women. This is not where the problem lies. If we are to make a dent in sporting culture and misogyny, we need to look way beyond the usual sexual stereotypes.