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With a UK court finding cricketer Alex Hepburn guilty of raping a woman and bragging about it, I believe it’s finally time we throw back the veil on that culture that binds so many.
This morning, news arrived telling the jailing of Alex Hepburn, the Australian-born, British-based cricketer who was found guilty of orally raping a woman he found sleeping in a room. Per The ABC, “…the court heard he was as involved in a sexual “conquest game” on WhatsApp where its members kept a score and listed details of the women its members had slept with.”
While Hepburn will be spending the next five years in jail, and indeed, with justice seemingly done, the temptation is to quickly move from it. However, the obvious fact to address is that Hepburn obviously represents the tip of a very fleshy, very dangerous iceberg. The culture that enabled him still pervades professional sport, particularly in this country, and is seemingly immune to scandal, or the ruling of judges.
The NRL is a prime example. Earlier in the year, numerous women came forward with the same narrative, while they were consenting in the acts with those sportsmen (for the most part), they certainly didn’t agree to be videotaped. The motivator of recording who and what and where you fucked on a phone, or via a WhatsApp list is the same. It remains one of competitive conquest. Per News.com.au in reference to a Channel 7 interview on the culture of spreading of non-consensual sex tapes: “One exchange from the interview explains how a player would show pictures of his teammates for her to choose who would be involved in group sexual activities…to show off with because look what I can bring back to all the guys. Look what that chick’s going to do.”
The concept of recorded group sexual activities has long taken root, with it operating, for the lack of a better term, as a ‘team bonding’ exercise, where one’s masculinity must be proved amongst those men who have already proved themselves. To be fair, those who are having it are seemingly supported by those who aren’t, as some fans of the NRL gleefully picketed for the spreading of the material. Even legendary player Steve Mortimer proved the mindset, in defending the spreading of the tape, suggesting that the women involved may have been “looking for a little bit of notice”, before walking back his remarks.
Mortimer’s apology seems a microcosm of the culture writ large. In that boys will be boys, until the boys are forced to apologise, who will then say ‘sorry’ in front of everyone, and then repeat the dose. We never hear from the victims, just how that man has disrespected a shirt they all wear, or a fictional animal they concuss themselves over. It’s never about the actual damage they’ve done to actual people, or what that actual victim thinks, it’s about the magnitude of apology, and how hideous acts are harming the faceless institutions that pay the aggressors. It’s a game of pick the scandal, but while there are so many accusations to unpack, the subtext remains the same. Sex is currency, something to be proved, won and magnified. Whether the cases involving Jarryd Hayne’s Uber trip (or his similar accusation in the US) or Jack de Belin’s gang rape ends up exonerating the athlete, is irrelevant. It will continue to happen because the culture allows it. This is nothing new. Even the laziest effort at Googling will wind us back to 2004, and voicemails recorded in the same tone. Through the mangled prism of that sport, those who got caught are the issue, sure, but so are those who went crying to the media, or to the police are similarly to blame.
They’re a means to get your end off, and nothing more.