The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Sunrise Asks Its Viewers: “Are Women To Blame For Footballers Behaving Badly?”

Posted by Clem Bastow on October 6, 2008

Thanks to keen-eyed and early-rising reader Christine for the heads up on this little doozy: Channel Seven’s Sunrise (those storied social justice merchants) chose for their “soapbox” topic this morning, “Are Women To Blame For Footballers Behaving Badly?

I missed the on-air discussion so can make no comment about that, but here’s the website’s slug:

Scandals plagued all codes of football in Australia in the last year.

The worst incidents gaining national coverage were often blamed on alcohol or drug abuse, but could the women around the footballers be to blame?

A study called “Rogue men and predatory women – female fans’ perceptions of Australian footballers’ sexual conduct” has just been published in a Sociology journal with very revealing findings.

That introductory paragraph doesn’t bode well for the findings, does it? Said research revealed the following:

(1) There is strong support for players from female football fans – this is despite bad behaviour
(2) Some of the interviewees blamed the women themselves for the misconduct – for example, some female fans were perceived as sexual predators, seeking out footballers with the intention of having sex with them. This makes it “difficult for the players to say no”.
(3) Despite this, the interviewees did condemn sexual assault
(4) The players were also seen as part of the problem – they were seen as sexually forward, and having an expectation of casual sex
(5) Alcohol and “team bonding” were seen as cultivating this behaviour – and often team mates not involved in an incident close ranks
(6) Fans also thought that the culture of a club was a major factor

If you are alarmed at these findings, the researchers say even though their work is in the early stages, it does demonstrate that “female fans hold complex, often contradictory views about sexual misconduct by footballers”.

If this isn’t slut-shaming – apparently being conducted by the women themselves! – of the highest order, then I don’t know what it is.

Yes, there is a culture of determined “groupies” (as much as I loathe the term) in all codes of football in Australia; there was an eye-opening sequence in a documentary/special about Shane Crawford a few years back that depicted Crawford entering a nightclub on a night off, only to be met by a group of women flashing their breasts at him from the nightclub balcony.

But, and I wonder how many more times we will need to have this discussion with the media and the general populace, no matter how “sexually forward” a woman is, she always has the right to say “no” – and the only person to blame in cases of sexual assault or rape is the perpetrator.

Did anyone see the Sunrise broadcast this morning? I would love to know if any Soapbox callers/emailers set Mel and Kochie straight on the topic.

2 Responses to “Sunrise Asks Its Viewers: “Are Women To Blame For Footballers Behaving Badly?””

  1. Rhiana Whitson said

    I didn’t see the full broadcast but did manage to check out the clip posted on Sunrise’s website – just follow Clem’s link in first paragraph.

    What struck me as most shocking and “slut-shaming” was not the study itself but Kochie’s introduction of the story, and Dr Peter Mewett, and here it is word for word:

    “Well every footy season we hear reports of football player’s behaving badly off the field, just three weeks ago it was three Bronco’s stars being investigated over an alleged sexual assault, and its not just the NRL; in recent years the AFL has had its fair share of problems as well… But who is to blame? Well, according to some fans it’s the women themselves…”

    Such a provocative lead acts to transfer the blame and responsibility of the male perpetrators onto the sexual morality of women.

    First of all, I’m surprised that Dr Mewett felt that his research into female football fans perceptions of sexual assault committed by footballer’s needed such tasteless and sensationalised publicity. I know academia is renowned for reaching a very small audience, but really, how could he have not predicted the sensationalised treatment Sunrise would give what is a highly complex issue.

    The study itself sounds quite interesting, and poses some valid questions such as to why women internalising such damaging views towards women.

    From what I could ascertain from Dr Mewett’s brief summary, the women interviewed seem to have internalised the view that sexually assertive/promiscuous/”slutty” women deserve to be sexually assaulted by men who can not help but do so, by accident of their “hyper”, “primal” and “uncontrollable” sexual urges.

    As Clem wrote, women never deserve rape or to be sexually assaulted, regardless of the presence of sexual assertiveness in the lead up to the event. It is the man who commits the crime against the woman, not the woman who commits it against herself.

    Such an essentialist view is not only damaging to women but is also offensive to men. To imply that men possess a hyper sexuality due to “natural” “animalistic” urges and are therefore incapable of resisting the sexuality of women is to suggest that all men are capable of rape (an idea once floated by some radical feminists in the 1970s, but now terribly out of date). Such a suggestion renders men powerless, when clearly in the example of rape and/or sexual assault they are not, and instead places women as the perpetrator of her own abuse.

    I for one intend on reading Dr Lewett’s study, I just downloaded it from the internet, and anyone with access to academic journals through tertiary subscription should do the same.

    For anyone interested the reference is: “Rogue Men and Predatory Women: Female Fans’ Perceptions of Australian Footballers’ Sexual Conduct”, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Vol. 43, 165, 2008.

  2. hannahcolman said

    Unfortunately I don’t rise early enough to catch Sunrise, but boy do I love hearing about which pulse Mel and Kochie have their fingers on! Nothing like some early morning slut-shaming.

    I watched a documentary about female football fans a few years back (may or may not be the one Clem is referring to). I remember being shocked at how unashamedly forward these women were in professing that they went out to nightclubs specifically to meet and sleep (sort of like meet and greet but with less clothes) with football players.
    It’s one element of the really frightening (to me, anyway) reality that lots of Australians worship footballers, elevating them to a god-like status. *cough* Wayne Carey, etc.

    This is scary stuff. What motivates women in this way? How can their predominant goal be to have sex with a footballer? I find this equally disturbing and fascinating.

    But sexual assault/rape is another kettle of fish. The fact that research might be suggesting that any women is inviting assault is abhorrent.
    Is Sheik al-Hilali available for comment on this?

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