This is in response to an earlier column Society, not rugby, needs to change its culture by Peter Jackson, Editor of the Northland Age.
Mr Jackson is right; society does need to change its culture. Rugby doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it’s played and managed by people. Imperfect people, impressionable people, people who will read Peter Jackson’s column and think too right! when he says that a player was “unable to control his testosterone”, or that a recent victim of alleged murder at the hands of her Tinder date knowingly “placed herself in a position where she was in jeopardy of coming to serious harm”.
Unfortunately, and somewhat ironically, Peter Jackson’s column is a product of the exact culture it’s admonishing: A culture which says rugby players should be more ashamed for hiring a stripper than allegedly assaulting her, a culture that questions whether a woman who was allegedly strangled and locked on a 14th story balcony while she begged to go home was complicit in her own death, and a culture which tut-tuts at Aaron Smith having sex in a public bathroom but doesn’t raise an eyebrow at the couple who waited outside, recording the incident on their cell phone.
This societal change is well overdue. Women’s Refuge cites that 1 in 3 New Zealand women will experience relationship violence, and yet we still feel that the issue is testosterone instead of setting higher standards for our men. Somehow, rather than sending clear (and surely common-sense) messages like hey guys maybe don’t assault women as part of your end-of- season rugby celebrations, our role models question the integrity of the alleged victim.
Women, and men, have casual sex. And they should get to do so without people like Peter Jackson bizarrely wringing their hands over the evils of Tinder but not, y’know, alleged murder. It’s frankly baffling how many of us are willing to invent the most tentative links to women’s complicities in the violence directed towards them, rather than spending that energy speaking with our friends and family about how to not be violent.
Our regressive view of sex and sexuality lets sexual violence flourish. When we admonish strippers, Tinder and casual sex, we put all sex outside of monogamous marriage in a big pile of ‘bad and embarrassing behaviour’. And in that pile the genuinely bad stuff gets to flourish because it’s safe there in the dark, and on the rare occasions it does get dragged out, it’s happily confused with the normal sexual behaviours we’ve been apparently dangerously indulging in since the beginning of time.
I’d hazard a guess that if we committed genuine resources and energy into teaching our young people (who are going to have sex, and maybe even play rugby) that sex is fine and good as long as it’s done with respect, enthusiastic consent and protection, we’d start to see a cultural shift that society – and rugby – would benefit from.
I originally sent this to The Herald in the hope that it might balance the scary, anti-woman rant from Jackson. John Roughan, their Leader Writer responded with a terse and baffling:
“I certainly won’t be publishing it until the trial is over, and not even then if Tostee is acquitted.”
Our lead news outlet, folks.