Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Should we accept Catherine's new rules?

Let's return for a moment to the rugby sex scandal. Seven years ago Matthew Johns, a rugby league star, had group sex which he asserts was consensual. The young woman involved lodged a complaint five days later and says she has suffered significant psychological harm.

What does Catherine Deveny, the Age columnist, think about this? Apparently, she wants a morality in which men are held responsible for what happens, not women:

The now-even-greyer territory between power, responsibility, consent and vulnerability in sex needs to be negotiated. "No means no" suggests the question is simply one of yes or no, and that's a simplistic reaction to a complex question. Women's more assertive and comfortable attitude towards sex, combined with the impact of raunch culture, which has diminished the taboo and increased the accessibility of the sex industry, means it's time for a rethink.

Equally, the days when it was socially accepted that women were the gatekeepers of males' supposedly rampant and uncontrollable sexuality are, or should be, long gone. "Don't walk round in your nightie when Uncle Brian's here" - the subtext being that he can't control himself and nor is it his responsibility to do so - is just not good enough. Never was.

The nasty collision of hormones, egos, psyches and alcohol aired in this incident suggests to me that we need public awareness programs and perhaps a manual ...

It also suggests we need to rewrite the rules ... Rules that need to be enforced by shame. Their shame, not hers.

They may or may not have committed rape as the law understands it, but what they did amounts to spiritual rape. And for that they should be held truly accountable.

I agree with some of this. Yes, the fact of a woman consenting doesn't by itself make an act moral. Yes, men are responsible for controlling their impulses even when conditions make it difficult to do so.

But look at the overall message here. Deveny doesn't at any stage suggest that women have a moral responsibility. All the shame and accountability is due to men and not to women. In fact, women who involve themselves in these situations are described positively by Deveny as having a "more assertive and comfortable attitude to sex".

So let's hear from one of these women. A reader of this site, Pat Hannagan, provided a link to a newspaper item on Charmyne Palavi, a rugby league groupie.

This is how she describes herself:

I'm no angel, but I've seen this game play out from both sides: first as the partner of a pro footballer for nine years, then as a single woman who can have sex whenever, with whomever, I choose.

What's important to her is that she is unimpeded in her sexual choices. She is therefore a liberal in believing that the higher good is to be liberated from impediments to her own will.

She goes on to describe the reality of encounters between footballers and groupies:

Group sex happens ... The reality is there are women out there who do hunt footballers down, are prepared to have sex with them in nightclub toilets.

Just as there are players who trawl Facebook and MySpace, who are more than willing to have sex with them.

Anyone who thinks the culture is going to change just because the story's out there however are kidding themselves.

I was messaging a young player, a Facebook friend, last week and asked what he was doing.

He replied: "Learning how to respect women. LOL (laugh out loud)."

I wrote back: "Yeah, and I'm still a virgin."

In a way, I feel sorry for the guys in this situation, but they should also be strong enough to say no.

... But just as the boys like being contacted by girls through Facebook, the girls use the information the players put on their pages to track them down.

They know where they go out after games, where they stay, when they are in town, with many booking themselves into the same hotels as the teams.

I can see how it would be tempting and flattering to the players, especially the young players, because they aren't used to that type of female adoration.

So the men do not respect the women who hunt them down for sex; Charmyne even feels sorry for the men, but still thinks that all the moral responsibility lies with them - they have to be strong enough to say no.

She then writes about an assault that she herself suffered:

But when it comes to sexual assault ALL men know what's right and what's wrong and if a girl is obviously drunk and trying to push them off, then it's assault.

I myself have been in this very same situation with a current NRL player and I can see how you get yourself into a situation that spirals out of control.

In my instance I was passing in and out of consciousness and didn't have the strength to push him off me.

She is right that she should not have been assaulted. But did her own behaviour contribute to the situation spiralling out of control? Is part of the moral equation women not getting paralytic drunk while hunting down footballers for sex?

What Charmyne goes on to tell us is that:

Unfortunately, we live in a society where women will always be shut down for the very characteristics men are revered for - being strong, opinionated, fearless and open about their sexuality.

People seem to be ignoring the bigger issue here while they look for someone to blame. That is - the disrespect for women inherent in the clubs.

So again the role of women is presented in positive terms ("fearless and open about their sexuality") while it is men who have to make changes ("disrespect for women").

It seems that the entire cure proposed by Charmyne is for men to respect the least respectable of women. Men are supposed to respect women whose lifestyle is to get drunk and have sex in toilets with strangers.

It's going to take a whole lot of "educaton" to turn that into reality. Especially when the men involved are young, drunken, impulsive, high-testosterone, aggressive football players.

Men are never going to respect football groupies.

We should reject the new rules of play suggested by Catherine Deveny and Charmyne. The problem is not only that the rules are unrealistic and won't work to prevent situations from "spiralling out of control".

The larger problem is that the new rules are one-sided. It is left to men to take moral responsibility, whilst women are encouraged to do as they will. We are supposed to accept that women can behave in any possible manner and not be judged for their behaviour and be shielded from any negative consequences of their own actions.

Men would be fools to allow women to assert this kind of irresponsible power over them. If it becomes a principle that men are always to blame morally, then we open up a form of social control over men - in any moral dispute, women will always have the upper hand.

If women want to exert an influence on us it should primarily be through closely connected personal relationships. This is not an option that is likely to appeal to women like Catherine Deveny or Charmyne; we should be wary of the alternatives they favour.


  1. Miranda Devine recently wrote an article pretty much in accord with your views in which she remarked, amongst other things that: "It is unfair to expect men to bear full responsibility for sexual mores as the boundaries of acceptable practice are blurred. Young women are told they can act and dress any way they please, and it is men, alone, with their supposedly filthy, uncontrollable sexual desires, who must restrain themselves"...

  2. The slow bedeviled march to the socialist feminist distopia that is the matriarchy. Where even bona fide sluts and their sexual insatiability are 'victims' of male chauvinism......

  3. Unfortunately, we live in a society where women will always be shut down for the very characteristics men are revered for - being strong, opinionated, fearless and open about their sexuality.Maybe it's just me, but my sense is that the people who are "revered" for bragging in public about their sex lives are women 99% of the time. So this is just more self-serving bs on the part of women.

  4. Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen a man bragging about having sex in the nightclub toilet, or while passing out drunk, in any newspaper in any country. And I've lived in several countries.

    It takes a woman to be "fearless" enough to say such things.

  5. Anon 12:14
    I think the word is "shameless" rather than "fearless".

  6. Perhapps is someone consents to be killed and someone else consents to do the killing, it is OK now?

    Indeed Euthenasia laws now essentialkly say it is. I don't know if they have reached Australia yet ut in Oregon, people have been euthenized who were incapable of giving voluntary consent.

  7. "Unfortunately, we live in a society where women will always be shut down for the very characteristics men are revered for - being strong, opinionated, fearless and open about their sexuality."

    According to this logic, today's ideal male sex symbol would be a womanising, male white nationalist or traditionalist (ie, opinionated, and totally unafraid of public disapproval) while the ultimate social pariah would be an opinionated left-wing feminist.

  8. we need public awareness programs and perhaps a manual ...Spare us.

    I'm trying to work out exactly why these men need to say "no."

    *I* think they should say "no" because sex is meant only for marriage.

    I cannot for the life of me think why the feministas expect men to say "no" to women who are seeking them out for sex.

    I've said it before, logic is not their strong suit.