Stripping, respectability, consent and the Waikato Chiefs #rapeculture

You may be aware there is a rugby game on this weekend in which Lions are fighting Hurricanes. This would actually be the logical extension of Sharknado; maybe Liocanes. Surprisingly though, the Hurricanes have not been the Aotearoa New Zealand rugby team to garner the most media attention this week; they have been trumped by the Chiefs. The Chiefs don’t have anymore games to play, so they’ve let their hair down with a bit of a celebration over the weekend culminating in what they like to call Mad Monday.

Seriously, they call it Mad Monday.

Their celebration included drinks and a meal at the Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel. Whilst enjoying their evening, one of the players engaged in a little banter with Brendan Barraclough and his partner who were at the hot pools, calling out “here come the gays!” To clarify, the player in question claims it was directed at one of his teammates and just overheard by Brendan. In a nicer world, that may be true.

Then to top off their celebration, they had hired Scarlette to be a waitress and then strip for them. Prior to her striptease she made it clear that there was to be no touching, which the players seemed to have ignored, repeatedly touching her, licking her, going through her phone, throwing gravel and alcohol at her. Throughout the performance, she repeatedly asked and demanded that they stop touching her, which they again seem to have ignored. She had to physically defend herself at one point when players tried to grab her vagina. The players involved were beyond drunk according to Scarlette. The hotel management assures us they weren’t. Hotels aren’t legally allowed to serve drunk people at risk to the license, so I think I’ll go with Scarlette on this.

Again, this is actually called Mad Monday.

The Chiefs have been criticised for their actions. That is as it should be. But so has Scarlette. Gallaghers (the major sponsor) spokesperson Margaret Comer said  “If a woman takes her clothes off and walks around in a group of men, what are we supposed to do if one of them tries to touch her” and that “I’m reluctant to say that the boys were out of line.” On The Panel on Wednesday afternoon, there was an uncomfortable exchange about whether stripping was a respectable career now so could expect better behaviour from clients.

It’s this response to Scarlette that I have found most telling and infuriating. The respectability, even the legality of an industry does not dictate whether another person’s body is fair game for your non-consensual touching, grabbing, licking and throwing. Politics is not regarded by many as a respectable career, but we would not hesitate to condemn someone who repeatedly touched and licked them while they were making a speech on a street corner. It doesn’t matter what you think about the respectability of stripping; a woman’s body is hers to make decisions about, not yours. For some reason, the media, the commentators, the corporations, the management and the Chiefs players seem continually confused on consent. They have asserted that if a woman shows you her body, then that woman is consenting to you using her body. That is more mad than Mad Monday. Maybe this scenario will help clear this up for them:

You and 39 other mates are going to a boxing match. You all like boxing, you all get really excited by it. A man comes up and says the rules are you have to sit in your seats. The boxing match starts. It’s even better than you all imagined. You scream at each other about how you can’t believe you can pay to watch people punch each other in the face. You are all so happy and excited! So you all climb up onto the ring. The boxers and referee stop the match and say to you all that you can’t get in the ring. But they don’t understand how excited you all are! All 40 of you want to hit people in the face too! So a few of you punch the boxers in the face. They ask you all to stop; you all get angry because they seemed to like getting hit in the face and now you think they are being unreasonable, maybe even mocking your masculinity. Now they aren’t hitting each in the face and they won’t let all of you hit them in the face. They have made you sad, so you start throwing cups of beer and gravel at them. Your managers who are like your daddys make you feel better afterwards because they say that you can always find other people to punch in the face. You all leave wondering why people are so mean and won’t let you just punch anyone you want in the face. Mean people.

Over and over we keep getting this wrong. There’s no moveable line here. It isn’t a matter of judgement or an opinion. People are sacrosanct, and they have self-determination over themselves. Each woman’s body is hers to make her decisions about. Simple, straightforward, easy to understand. If she does not express enthusiasm and consent, you don’t do whatever cool thing you thought you were doing. We are raising young men like those in the Chiefs with flawed values and stunted social skills if we give them any other message. We are raising them to rape, sexually assault and sexually harass if we give them any other message. Let’s at least attempt to raise a generation of men better than ourselves.

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4 thoughts on “Stripping, respectability, consent and the Waikato Chiefs #rapeculture

  1. Great blog Graham. Still have some questions. In an ideal world your arguments stand – in a world of self-preservation and, dare I say it, commonsense, being in the right doesn’t always end in happiness. I note that Scarlette has decided not to do “group acts” anymore. She is also quoted in Stuff, “She said they could perform a sexual act on her for $50, she told Newshub”. To say that she was unwise does not mean I condone the appalling behaviour of the players. For all parties on that evening, the problem was not what was between their legs but what was going on between their ears!

    1. Kia ora Alex and thanks for taking the time to comment! I hope you’re keeping your house warm in this cold snap. I accept the complications, but I’m leery to comment on Scarlette’s actions as there’s so little connection with my experience as a middle class man. Hence I focused on a world I do understand: how we raise boys into men in this country. And the engagement of sexuality, thought and action, as you identify, is seriously flawed.

    2. I hope that I was not only commenting on Scarlette’s actions. There are no winners in this – questions remain as to the raising of both boys and girls surely. I have five sisters, one wife and three daughters and thus have little experience in raising the male of the species! There are also far broader issues (as I am sure you are well aware of) in play here. Such things as the role of pornography, alcohol, professional sport, misogyny, “role models”, privilege, upbringing and education to name a few! And of course all of the above living in the First World – not to mention or contemplate Manus Island or a camp in Palestine or etc!! Regards Alex

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