Here in the metro New York City area the Sayreville (N.J.) High School football squad has dominated the news in recent days. Seven players have been arrested for alleged rape - holding down four younger teammates and sexually assaulting them over a 10-day period in September. The community has been torn apart, players have lost their college scholarships and lives will forever be changed.
So many questions are unanswered. Why would teammates commit such heinous acts? Where in the world was the supervision? Why would no one intervene to stop the crime?
It is very clear that these acts are vile and completely reprehensible. Yet, I can't get the idea out of my head, every time an act of hazing involving a male athlete is brought to light, it involves an act that questions a person's masculinity.
Take this particular case. The four juvenile football players were allegedly held down, anally penetrated with a teammates finger and that finger was then stuck in the victim's mouth. I can imagine this student-athlete being terrified as teammates watched and cheered. The incident was probably brought up over and over among players ridiculing the victims. Jokes were made, subliminal social-media messages were posted - And I am sure the victims put on a smile.
In my mind, I envision one reason for doing this: taking away someone's "manhood." The definition of manhood: "the state or period of being a man rather then a child."
In our culture that is not how most would define it. I constantly hear coaches say "hey ladies, let's pick it up" or "man-up." Over the past year I have found myself questioning people when they say this and trying to explain why it is wrong. I know some pretty strong women who are stronger athletes and coaches than most of the folks using the negative terminology.
This behavior stems from our culture. Men are supposed to act a certain way, and if they do not they will be left open to ridicule. What's a great way to assert your dominance over a peer? For these kids it was allegedly to rape them. It is the ultimate way to humiliate another man. Male-on-male rape is never talked about in the sense of male-on-female, but the psychological damage can be just the same.
This is a behavior that has been practiced for centuries. In 2014, straight males do not go around commonly raping each other. However, in Rome 2,000 years ago it was not uncommon as part of an assault. Once again, a way to assert dominance over someone else. Of course, it is practiced in prison today in part for the same reason.
This is our culture's fault - A male-dominated culture. Wearing a pink shirt or enjoying a Broadway show are not "masculine" things to do. You might be ridiculed if you partake in either. Of course, if you run a slow lap around the gym, you must be running "like a lady."
I really feel sorry for the victims of the Sayreville tragedy; and yes the incident is a tragedy. Those four young men will be scarred forever. They will have bad dreams, distance themselves from sports and probably need some type of professional help.
Several parents were quoted as saying this is a football culture, as though this should be accepted and the suspended players should be allowed back on a football field this Friday. I am so sick of that bullshit. Football is a game, as are basketball and baseball. No game should negatively impact a high school student's life. In so many cases, rather than support the victims, parents, friends and coaches choose to make excuses.
We have failed these four young men. Yes, "we." Our cult of masculinity has allowed this to happen. It has allowed us to take a "survival of the fittest" Darwinist-type attitude. The bigger and stronger can dominate culture, as shown with allegations in Sayreville. It once again proves how much work we still have. Education is needed and is still the key.