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.

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.

The Anatomy of a Douchebag.

The other day, I was talking to my friend about a mutual acquaintance of ours, and how he is somewhat of a “douchebag”. He’s not malicious in any way (which might make him an “asshole”, “prick” or, depending on the severity of said maliciousness, something more severe, beginning with an “f” orGod forbid!a “c”), but some of the things he says and does can only be described as “douchey”.

Urban Dictionary ensures that douchebag (“Someone who has surpassed the levels of jerk and asshole, however has not yet reached fucker or motherfucker”) is “not to be confused with a ‘douche’”, “… an individual who has shown themself [sic] to be very brainless in one way or another.” So perhaps just plain old “douche” is the word I’m searching for here, but I still maintain that a douchebag is just a misguided knob who does things seemingly to look “cool” and gain others’ approval.

But you’ve seen the douchebag in popular culture; you know what I’m talking about.

He’s not the equivalent of Jesse James, who cheated on Sandra Bullock with tattooed fetish model Michelle “Bombshell” McGee, is an alleged Nazi sympathiser and ran dog fights out of his West Coast Choppers studio. He’s not in the same ball park as Charlie Sheen, who is a raging drug addict and wife beater. And he’s certainly nothing like Joel Monaghan, the disturbed and idiotic Canberra Raiders player who was in the news last week for engaging in a sex act with await for itdog! Tiger Woods, who is a massive dickhead for cheating on his gorgeous wife with the multitude of women, would probably be the closest thing to a douchebag out of the men I’ve listed above, for the simple fact that his acts hurt no one but himself. Sure, there was some very public pain and suffering from his wife, Elin Nordegren, and some of his floozies who thought they meant more to him than they actually did, but there was no drug use, animal cruelty, bigotry and/or violence against women.

But from my research (FYI, who would’ve thought there were so many websites dedicated to the phenomenon?!), I’ve found that the douchebag is most comfortable in their natural habitat; reality television.

I’ve always maintained that Spencer Pratt and Jon Gosselin are the douchebags du jour, pulling publicity stunts with on-again/off-again wife Heidi Montag and ordering Starbucks in Ed Hardy garb, respectively. More recently, the cast of Jersey Shore have been known to exemplify the douchebag attitude, with the women of the show inspiring me to coin my own personal term for the female equivalent of a douchbag: a douchebaggette.

Speaking of Ed Hardy; the fashion label favoured by Gosselin and the Shore cast (Pratt seems to have moved away from the brand and towards a more derelict, hippie look, in keeping with he and Heidi’s crystal-healing-meets-bankruptcy lifestyle. But Pratt surpasses the physical attributes of the douchebag; he is inherently and eternally a douchebag. Heidi, however, still gets her douchbaggette on in the label.) is a key ingredient in the anatomy of a douchebag. Other external ingredients might include, but are not limited to; men who think their ridiculous hair, which they’ve spent more time on than I spend on my own locks, looks good (Pauly D, I’m looking at you), with a special mention to rats tails; men who wear copious amounts of jewellery or blinged-out clothing; men who wear headbands; and men who insist on getting the perfect pose for their Facebook profile pic. Feel free to submit your own physical douchebag attributes in the comments!

In essence, though, I think the douchebag is an insecure bloke (bogans are not exempt from douchebaggy-ness; in fact, in Australia, I’d say bogans make up a significant portion of the douchebag population), who strives for the acceptance of others in the way he projects himself and the things he says and does. Again, the douchebag poses minimal threat to non-douchebaggy majorities (or is that minorities? The douchebag seems to be sweeping the nation in record numbers)… except when they blind you by flicking their rats tail in your eye and/or from the glare of their rhinestone covered Ed Hardy tee whilst photobombing you!

Related: Why Are Famous Men Forgiven For Their Wrongdoings While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

Beauty & the Bestiality.

Poor Little Rich Girl: Who Cover Girl Heidi Montag.

(Sex) Ed Hardy.

Extreme Makeover: Jersey Girls.

Things Bogans Like.

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.

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

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

Back to the Draw-ing Board: Australia’s Year of Indecision.

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