Book Review: Night Games by Anna Krien.

anna krien night games

Everywhere you look lately, there seems to be a promo for Anna Krien’s latest investigative tome, Night Games, and rightly so: it’s a fantastic, impeccably researched and hard-hitting look at misogyny and power in football. I might be a little biased having a vested interested in the topic and, as I told Krien when I got my copy signed at the Readings Carlton book launch last week, the rape statistics she rattled off in an excerpt reading at the event, unfortunately they’re nothing I haven’t heard before.

Having said that, though, Night Games is an absorbing read for those well versed in the misogynistic nature of “jock culture” as well as for those new to the topic. Krien makes sure not to alienate sports fans who may be wary of picking up the book:

“This book is not anti-sport. ‘”Jock culture” is a distortion of sports,’ the American author and sports journalist Robert Lipsyte once noted, warning that America was in danger of finding its values in the locker room. It’s not the game, the pleasure of the play, that’s dangerous. It’s the piss stains in the grass, the markings of men who use sport as power and the people—teammates, fans, coaches, clubs, doctors, police, journalists, groupies—who let them do whatever they want.” [p. 266]

However, “football is an abnormal society” [p. 70], and nothing reflects that more than the bulk of the book, which deals with “regrettable sex” [p. 73] or rape accusations, depending on who you ask, against AFL and NRL players; “Camel Nights”, in which players bring two women they don’t care for so “everyone gets a hump” [p. 71]; and that infamous Cronulla Sharks group-sex scandal from 2002 that came to light in a 2009 Four Corners exposé, amongst many other examples.

Speaking of Matthew Johns and Cronulla, Krien quotes an anonymous player who laments the stigma of group sex bonding sessions:

“It’s like saying you can’t be homosexual, or you can’t have such-and-such sexual preferences. How can he tell us what to do in our private lives?… We already have so many rules; we can’t drink on these days, we can’t go to these places, now we can’t have group sex. About the only thing we can do these days is go to club functions and just hang around with other players. That’s just isolating us more from the rest of the world, and it could lead to even more violent acts.” [p. 46]

While it’s easy to scoff at these privileged footballer comments, he does make a valid point. It’s kind of like the argument against restricting dangerous dog breeds: the more you isolate a pit bull, for example, the more likely it is to be aggressive to other dogs and humans when it does come into contact with them.

Oftentimes, the difference between a rape allegation and the aforementioned “regrettable sex” is treating a woman well. You know, like a human being:

“‘It’s not during the act, it’s the way you treat them after it. Most of them could have been avoided if they’d have put them in a cab and said, you know, thanks for that, sort of thing, not just kicked her out, call her a dirty whatever, that sort of thing. It’s how you treat them afterwards that can cover a lot of that sort of stuff up.” [p. 183]

But what Krien makes the reader understand is that groupie sex with a footballer is not about the woman, it’s about them:

“A footballer does not look at another human when he fucks a groupie. He’s looking at his glorified reflection—and when he performs, he’s doing it for ‘the boys’, not her.” [p. 200]

And:

“[Sam Newman] said it [the hazing of sports writer Caroline Wilson on The Footy Show] was a compliment of sorts, a sign that the Footy Show culture ‘accepted’ her. In other words, it wasn’t really about Wilson, it was about them. About a subculture of men trying to find a place—albeit a very lowly place—in their world for a woman. Considering that it’s all about the boys, they prey doesn’t even need to be present.” P. 72.

Going back to the group sex-as-bonding scenario, it makes sense that the woman/women would be used as a vessel to bring the teammates closer together. And further to the absence of a woman, we can see this in the social media shaming of the Steubenville victim, for example. The whole team—and, by extension, the town—we’re brought closer together by reliving the girl’s assault on YouTube and Twitter.

Obviously this is one of the more extreme and brutal examples of sexual assault in sport, but Night Games also talks about the “gulf of uncertainty between consent and rape” [p. 73] and the many sexual experiences that occur therein. Krien also comes across as sympathetic to the “… ongoing education about how to negotiate sexual encounters in a way which ensures informed consent is always obtained” [p. 47] amongst the codes, but there’s still a long way to go, baby. This is exemplified by an educational male-on-male rape video that is shown during a training session. Many of the players are noticeably upset, with one lamenting that “You don’t really ask for trouble if you have too much to drink and get raped by a bloke. You don’t ask for that.” I’ll just let the double standards marinate for a bit after you consider that the video shown prior to this was one of mistaken identity male-on-female rape to which the players were less than sympathetic. [p. 188–189]

The abovementioned “grey zone” that exists between the sexes “to explain what was lost in translation” [p. 259] takes the form of the rape trial of Justin Dyer (name changed), an amateur footballer accused of raping Sarah Wesley (also not her real name) the night Collingwood won the 2010 grand final rematch. Many of the reviews of Night Games seem to focus heavily on this “he said, she said”, but Krien expressed relief when facilitator of the Readings event, Sophie Cunningham, skirted that issue. While the trial beautifully bookends all the points Krien makes about the treatment of women in male team sports, it’s not the be all and end all of Night Games. Similarly, though Sarah declined to be interviewed by Krien, thus leaving “all those little erased bits, I thought, hovering around like question marks” [p. 245], I don’t think it does the book detriment. In fact, I can’t envisage how Night Games could get any better.

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Related: In Defence of Mia Freedman.

Elsewhere: [The Vine] All Dogs Go to Seven.

This review has been submitted to The Australian Women Writers Challenge as part of their 2013 Challenge.

Image via Kill Your Darlings.

In the News: Beauty & the Bestiality.

On Friday morning I got a text message from a friend saying I should blog about Joel Monaghan, the Canberra Raiders rugby player who was photographed “getting blown by a dog”.

I had Sunrise and The Morning Show on in the background, whilst blogging and being domesticated, and heard snippets of another rugby player behaving badly, but I had no idea until I Googled Monaghan’s name with “dog photo” and put two and two together. (If you wish to see the extremely NSFW picture with only a red dot protecting Monaghan’s modesty, head to Deadspin.)

It seems that we expect abhorrent behaviour from sportsmen; Matthew Johns and the group sex incident, rape allegations against Collingwood players after this year’s grand final (take two), and now this.

But is the fact that Monaghan is in talks with NRL officials about where to go from here a sign that we have become so desensitised to the repugnant actions of those with the money, fame and power to get away with themsportsmen in particular? Is it just “boys behaving badly?” I feel like I, personally, have become so desensitised to the seemingly weekly sexual assault allegations brought against sports players, that I almost expect it (“Oh, he allegedly raped a woman? Well, he’s a footy player; what did you expect?”). But I certainly was not expecting this, and I think the NRL, RSPCA and the Australian public should come down on Monaghan like a tonne of bricks.

More to come on men who actually love dogs later today.

[Deadspin] What We Talk About When We Talk About A Dog Blowing An Australian Rugby Player.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do? Host a Seven Family Show.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Back to the Draw-ing Board: Australia’s Year of Indecision.

The Anti-Fag Culture & How It Affects the Female Species.

Hugo Schwyzer’s vintage (does 2007 count as vintage?) blog post about the “anti-fag” culture amongst young men is more relevant today than ever. It’s very thought provoking, and I thoroughly recommend it.

Here, some choice excerpts:

“… boys chronically used their access to girls’ bodies as a way of establishing credentials and escaping the ‘fag’ label.”

“When not in groupswhen in one-on-one interactions with boys or girlsboys were much less likely to engage in gendered and sexed domination practices. In this sense boys became masculine in groups…”

Sounds mighty interesting when put in the context of gang rape and group sex, doesn’t it, Matthew Johns? Mia Freedman deals with the issues of group sex and consent in her most recent Sunday Life column. Well worth a read, also.

“… women’s bodies are used as yardsticks for men to measure their manliness. When boys brag about their sexual conquests, or pressure young women for sex in order to have a story to tell ‘the guys’, it is women who are the chief victims of the fag discourse.”

Shades of this theory can be seen in Easy A, the premise of which is a girl who agrees to say she had sex with her gay male friend in order to ease his high-school torment. Looking at the storyline in relation to Schwyzer’s article makes me view the film in a different light. Maybe “not doing it but saying you did”, which is Easy A’s tagline, isn’t so much about young women being confident in their sexual selves regardless of their sexual experiences as it is about women succumbing to the patriarchy of “fag culture”.

“Women are harassed, assaulted, and taunted because we are raising generation after generation of young boys that sees no better way to establish their manhood than by demonstrating their ability to impose their will on the bodies of their female peers.”

Workmen wolf-whistling as a woman walks past, much?

[Hugo Schwyzer] Boys, Girls, The Fag Discourse & Compulsive Heterosexuality: A Review of CJ Pascoe’s Book.

[MamaMia] Agreeing to Go Home With Someone Isn’t Necessarily Code For “I Want Sex”.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do? Host a Seven Family Show.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Easy A Review.

In the News: Ex-Factor—Matthew Newton.

Earlier in the year, I wrote about (male) celebrities like Matthew Newton and Matthew Johns becoming hosts of television shows, despite their questionable behaviour in their private lives, which became very public.

It is no secret that I feel very strongly about the issue of famous men being rewarded for their indiscretions because “he’s such a nice guy” or “he plays that sport we like”, despite the fact that they are a known wife-beater and drug-addict (Newton) or have been implicated in a group sex scandal with their team-mates, which the woman involved later alleged wasn’t consensual (Johns).

I expressed my disdain for the situation at my workplace yesterday: “what does this guy have that makes beautiful, talented, successful women go after him when he is a known abuser?” One colleague replied that it’s not Rachael Taylor (his most recent ex-girlfriend who filed the claims) nor Brooke Satchwell’s (the first ex to cry assault) faults, which she thought I was insinuating, but let me make myself very clear, if I haven’t already: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS IT THE VICTIM’S FAULT. But seriously, I will ask the above question again: What does Newton have that makes beautiful, talented, successful women go after a known abuser? And what’s more, why would Seven hire him to host The X Factor, due to debut in less than a week, when he has expressed unreliability in the past.

I personally don’t think celebrities with addictions should be thrust back into work straight after attending rehab, or in the case of Lindsay Lohan, jail to boot. Addicts need time away from the stressors of everyday life and the entertainment industry, if that is their chosen field, in order to fully recuperate and overcome their demons.

Mia Freedman also commented on the incident, asking “what should Channel 7 do” with The X Factor’s already-filmed footage, which Newton is “all over”? “When will we stop enabling celebrities to behave in utterly unacceptableand possibly criminalways? And rewarding them if we think they’ll bring ratings?” Freedman asks.

But is The X Factor really aimed at a family audience? With Newton, who was given the hosting gig around the time he was admitted to rehab earlier this year, Kyle Sandilands, a shock-jock who is constantly in hot-water for putting his foot in his mouth, and Ronan Keating, who was recently embroiled in a cheating scandal, the show’s stars aren’t exactly family friendly.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Taking inspiration from Gala Darling: These stunning pictures make me nostalgic for summer days at the fairground… oh, that’s right, I never spent summer days at the fairground. And certainly not in a playsuit with balloons. Via The Cherry Blossom Girl.

Jezebel really has it in for Facebook, doesn’t she? My favourite anti-FB post from the site this week is “When it Comes to Women’s Issues, Facebook Still Hasn’t Figured Out How to Play Fair”.

I absolutely LOVED Through a New Lens‘s post on “How Your Audience is Like the Mogwai”! While I’m certainly not a Gremlins fan, Joey Strawn draws some good points from the film and how they relate to blog audiences. Will be keeping his thoughts in mind.

More Gala goodness; it’s an oldie but a goodie. Gala counts down her “Top 5 Fictional Female Style Icons”. I have to confess, I’ve never seen The L Word or Henry & June, so I’ll have to take her word for it. However, I am totes down with Cher Horowitz, Blair Waldorf and Carrie Bradshaw as 3, 2 and 1, respectively.

Following in the vein of her workaholism posts, Rachel Hills uses Zen Habits’ assertion “that, instead of scheduling our days and weeks and months with small tasks that eventually lead us to whatever place we’re trying to get to, we should just go with wherever our will takes us on any given day.” Like going to bed at 8 o’clock on a Monday night, sleeping through til 8 o’clock the following morning, doing a spot of blogging, and watching 90210 for the rest of the day? Definitely worth a look. 

Also at Musings of an Inappropriate Woman, Hills looks at the Kyle & Jackie O rape scandal, as well as the Matthew Johns group sex scandal (which continues to get my goat), and the issue of “grey rape”.

In other GG news, this circa-season one post perfectly encapsulates the addiction to the show its audience faces. Admitting it is the first step, right? More on this post here.

Styleite lists “6 Things Elle Magazine is Doing Right”, three being their heavy online and television presences, and their intelligence section, which I couldn’t agree with more. Half the reason (okay, more than half) I continually buy Elle is because of their great articles and book reviews, and their book blog Lit Life is on my blogroll.. “Think Vogue meets Vanity Fair“. 

Still with magazines on reality TV, The New York Times profiled Teen Vogue, which you may remember from (other than the newsstand/agency) The Hills.

Postcards to Alphaville “is a project dedicated to film characters featured in guest-made illustrations”. Below, my favourites. 

Finally, try an enlightening personality test this weekend, with the Myers-Briggs test. I got an INFJ result, which means I’m Introverted and expend energy in social situations; iNtuitive and focus on the bigger picture and the possibilities; prefer Feeling to thinking and give more weight to emotions than logic; and I’m Judgemental and like to have my plans made well in advance. Oh, how accurate!

Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do? Host a Seven Family Show.

Mia Freedman shares my sentiments about famous men getting a slap on the wrist for their indiscretions.

News emerged recently that Matthew Newtonhe of the Brooke Satchwell incident and recent rehab stintis set to host Channel 7’s The X Factor

Allegedly, “his audition was so good that he beat more established TV hosts including Sonia Kruger and Axle Whitehead.” So the guy may be talented, but should he really be hosting a family show?

Then again, the judging panel does include shock-jock Kyle Sandilands and cheater Ronan Keating (both of whom I legitimately like, FYI), along with the angelic and virginal Guy Sebastian. Three out of four ain’t bad, I guess… if you’re in to tuning into a “station [that] is chock a block full of bad boys on big pay packets who are being rewarded for their unsavoury indiscretions with higher profile jobs during the family hour,” as television commentator Andrew Mercado puts it.

Come on down, The Matty Johns Show.

Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

In Perez Hilton’s words, “2010 has really been the year of the cheater”. First we had Tiger Woods’ cheating scandal, which broke late last year but has continued to be a headline grabbing story, then Jesse James’ spiral of shame, and now David Boreanaz, who went public a few weeks ago with news that he cheated on his wife of almost nine years, Jaime Bergman.

And last year was the year of the sports scandal, you might say, with the Matthew Johns group sex story coming to light in May.

What do all these men, with, perhaps, the exception of James, have in common? Their shady pasts have virtually been forgotten in favour of their more positive talents. Boreanaz plays the lead in hit TV series Bones, Johns now hosts his own self-titled show, and Tiger is back on the Masters tour.

While the wrongdoings of the Australian underworld are being glorified on Underbelly no one bats an eyelid. To take it even further, O.J. Simpson, although acquitted of double murder, was held up as a hero amongst African Americans in Los Angeles following his trial, despite being thought of as guilty in the court of public opinion.

Perhaps this is just a sign of the times changing; that our society has become so desensitised to notions of war, violence, drugs and sexual depravity that they are not longer taboo. I would argue that this is true to some extent it is not reflected on the other end of the spectrum.

For example, a recently refurbished Heidi Montag admitted to undergoing 10 cosmetic surgical procedures in one day because she wasn’t happy with the way she looked. She obviously has deep-rooted body dysmorphic issues, however instead of helping and supporting her, the public has turned on her.

The same could be said of the Britney Spears’ and Lindsay Lohans’ of the world. A recent Jezebel article, “In Defence of Lindsay Lohan”, was in support of the former child star everyone loves to hate.

Sure, Lindsay has a father who “is a nightmare… and her mother is more of a friend than a parental figure. So perhaps she is lacking in guidance and role models. But who among us, in some way, is not? Her experience [of growing up in the spotlight]… is not one many people can relate to, anyway.”

The author surmises that the public’s fascination with Lindsay and their “build-you-up-to-take-you-down” mentality is much simpler: “She’s 23-years-old and being ripped to shreds in the press mostly because she goes out at night.”

Right. Someone like Colin Farrell has had a sex tape released, sexual misconduct allegations brought against him and has battled substance abuse problems, however he is still held up as a Golden Globe-winning actor. We all know Lindsay has the acting chops, it’s just a matter of her getting out of her own way. Double standard? In the words of Sarah Palin, you betcha!

The beautifully tragic Marilyn Monroe and Anna Nicole Smith were, and still are, vilified for being just that. Even in death, the girls can’t catch a break.

So that brings us back to the question, why do men get away with so much more than women can? Or, more to the point, why are men almost celebrated for their wrongdoings while women are banished into social oblivion?

I think, in a nation that celebrates sport as the highest level of achievement, especially, we want to give our sportsmen the benefit of the doubt. While I do think we focus too much on sport as the be all and end all of success in Australia, and the very nature of being “Australian”, it can be seen as admirable to offer someone a second chance. Johns, for example, could be seen as brave for coming forward and being the only one of his Cronulla Sharks teammates to own up to his mistake. But I do think it’s a bit soon to be running a television show off his back.

However, we also like to kick people when they’re down. Britney Spears, for example, was heralded as the princess of pop in her golden days, but when she started donning pink wigs, speaking to herself in a British accent in the gutter, and being carted off to the looney bin, we wanted nothing to do with her. Oh, I’m sorry, only to denigrate her on the cover of tabloid magazines.

Then last year she launched her comeback tour, and everyone was back on her side. That is, until, she lip synched (come on, it’s Britney! When has she ever not lip synched?) her way through Australia and out of our collective consciousness.

But how many second chances are we going to give these men, in particular? Charlie Sheen was embroiled in his latest domestic dispute over Christmas last year. But what of his past child pornography, prostitute and drug allegations? Not to mention the shooting of ex-girlfriend Kelly Preston in a domestic dispute. Do we just sweep them under the rug too so that Sheen can keep the $1.2 million per episode of Two & a Half Men coming?

When these mistakes are hurting people other than themselves, maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Do we really care if Lindsay, Britney or Mischa are off to rehab again? And shouldn’t we be caring that Jesse James allegedly ran dog fights out of his West Coast Choppers headquarters and is apparently a white supremacist? Or that Sheen is essentially being rewarded by the cash cow that is Hollywood for his reprehensible behaviour? Or that Tiger sleptand somehow found time to golfhis way across the country in a narcissistic bubble of admiration from his countrymenand women?

Related: All Eyes on Marilyn.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] In Defence of Lindsay Lohan.