Thursday, October 16, 2014

How Society's Addiction to Masculinity Has Led to Sexual Hazing Between Men

Head boy's basketball coach, Saunders High School, Yonkers, N.Y.
Posted: 10/15/2014 5:00 pm EDT Updated: 10/15/2014

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.

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From 2006!

The Gay Side of Hazing
For the last couple of years we have all watched hazing in sports finally come into focus. The antics that have for so long gone on behind closed doors, and that have been dismissed by most as "boys will be boys," are finally starting to get the serious attention from sports administrators and the public that it deserves and that its victims need.
What isn't being talked about much is the elephant in the room, the issue that most people are thinking about when they hear about stories of what sports teams are doing to one another usually at night behind those closed doors: Both latent homosexuality and homophobia are playing a huge role in the hazing abuse our kids are experiencing, and our societal standards that dictate what a "real man" is are to blame.
Hazing is, for practical purposes, coercing or forcing younger athletes or students to do embarrassing things for the right to be a part of the group. Hazing can range from seemingly innocuous acts like wearing a dunce cap or eating a raw egg to dangerous or life-threatening things like drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, branding, or crazy stunts that involve water, fire or oncoming traffic. Hazing is against the policy of most colleges, and anti-hazing statutes exist in 38 states.
The Web site has played a huge role in forcing the public and sports teams and leagues to start having frank discussions about hazing. And while the few dozen incidents they and other media outlets have reported are an improvement over the dearth of reports just three years ago, the number of hazing incidents that has come to public light pales in comparison to the actual number that is happening at high schools, colleges and on professional teams around the country. In fact, an Alfred University study said that 80 percent of college athletes had been hazed.
Make no mistake about it – hazing is largely about sexuality, from two different angles. First is the notion of making someone submissive to prove your own masculinity. Whether it's sodomizing them or making them wear women's panties, the notion of forcing younger players to submit to team veterans comes right out of the handbook of anti-gay stereotypes.
Many of the acts that younger players are submitted to are also homoerotic or homosexual. Licking each other's bodies, simulating sex acts, forced sodomy with various objects – these acts work on two levels. First, they reinforce the notion that same-sex affection is weaker; the subjected men are rarely "hazed" with forced affection from someone of the opposite sex. Second, they serve to satisfy the latent homosexuality of many of the players involved.
While some may try to diminish the role of homosexuality in hazing, it can't be ignored. says that the most common reported hazing incident among high school students is sodomy with fingers or other objects.
"As a way of welcoming you to the team, my associates and I would like to give you your first proctology exam!" jokes.
I don't care how you slice it, there has to be some desire to sodomize the victim if you're willing to go that far with other people watching! Like rape (which it is), I find hazing of this kind to be not only an act of violence but a sexual act as well.
When I was a teenager, and I first started feeling a sexual attraction to other boys, I often thought that going to prison would not be such a bad thing. I had heard of the "forced" gay sex that happens in prisons, and I figured it would be the only chance I had to fulfill my growing desire to have sex with men. The forced sexual contact of hazing is certainly another way to fulfill those desires; it's no wonder that so many gay men are attracted to college fraternities, long the bastion of hazing in our culture.
It's not just the guys. In the last few months, reports of hazing on women's teams have started to capture headlines, most notably the Northwestern University's women's soccer team, which was suspended after photographs of alleged hazing surfaced.
While 10 years ago most people who reported hazing at the high school and collegiate level were considered "whistle-blowers" and threats to the performance of a team, that attitude is largely changing. Our culture seems to have started to handle hazing in two different ways, depending on who's involved.
High school and collegiate teams that coerce athletes to run around in their jockstraps are suspended and vilified in the media, some of them having their season cancelled. But when professional teams do the same exact thing, they are laughed at, as though hazing is a big joke that everyone is in on.
In 2000, various Tennessee Titans were recorded taping rookie OG Aaron Koch from Oregon State to a field goal post, pouring chocolate syrup on him, and spraying him with water. What was maybe worse was how ESPN's Sean Salisbury and NBA great Mark Malone celebrated and glorified it.
How can we celebrate hazing at the professional level, yet tell 17- and 21-year-olds that it's not OK if they do it? We can't chuckle with the Associated Press when they post pictures of rookies in training camp having to encircle the field in their underwear or sing karaoke in front of a stadium of fans, and then wonder where our kids got the crazy idea that it's alright to force new teammates to endure harassment and ridicule.
The deeper problems with hazing are the culture it breeds and the slippery slope it can lead to. The infamous 2003 hazing incident involving the Mepham High School (N.Y.) football team is a quintessential example. At a summer football camp in August 2003, team veterans sodomized younger players with broomsticks, golf balls and pinecones. It came almost 10 years after a player accused the coaching staff and several members of the same football program of a hazing attack that gave him a concussion; that case was settled out of court. After the 2003 incident, former players finally started talking about the culture of Mepham coach Kevin McElroy's football team, and how hazing had been a part of it for many years. It had likely started out "harmless" before involving physical attacks. Incoming freshman learned from the veterans that these things were part of being on the team; and when they became the veterans, the cycle continued down the slippery slope.
Experiencing the harassment and ridicule of hazing brings people closer, claim proponents of hazing (and there are many more than you could imagine), and it is argued that that bond is sacrosanct to the success of sports teams and fraternities.
This "bonding" argument has always troubled me. In a fraternity, the guys live together, shower together, eat together, study together. When one of their girlfriends breaks up with them, they're all there for him. When one of their parents passes away suddenly, they all attend the funeral. They become a family as close as they'll ever see outside the family structure they lived with for their first 18 years.
It's the same thing with athletics. A team practices together every day, eats meals together, travels together, rooms together, wins together, loses together, gets injured together, and builds a bond that each member will remember for their lifetime.
No amount of paddling, licking whipped cream off of each other, or running around in your jockstrap is going to add to the closeness of these experiences. A team is built around a common goal and the struggles that ensue from chasing that goal, not from the nonsense that surrounds it.
As long as gay people are marginalized by sports culture, and as long as being submissive to a man is considered feminine, hazing will continue, not only because it emasculates the victim, but because the perpetrator feels no other acceptable way to live out his same-sex desires.

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