Australian sport is taking quite a hammering lately, with a number of sex scandals coming to light. The National Rugby League has especially come under the spotlight recently. The group sex saga involving Australian rugby players and a New Zealand girl has made front page headlines for the past week.
Many have noted a culture of disrespect for women in the NRL and other sporting bodies. Many of these sports heroes seem to think they can do what they like with women, and that sexual encounters of various kinds is somehow their right.
Of course these individuals all must take responsibility for their actions. But there is another individual involved who must also shoulder some of the blame. I refer to a Sydney academic who is paid by the NRL to advise them on gender relations.
Catharine Lumby is the Director of the Journalism and Media Research at the University of NSW and is described as “one of our leading feminist cultural commentators”. She’s a feminist alright, and a whole lot more. She is a sexual anarchist, or sexual libertine, who seems to think that any and all types of sexuality are just fine – provided it is consensual.
She has a record of defending the indefensible. In a 2002 article dealing with bioethics, she made this claim: we should “avoid asserting moral beliefs as moral truths – that, in public life at least, we accept the principle that there are no givens and that all ideas should be up for debate”. That’s one way to push sexual perversion – just throw morality out the window.
In 2006 she also made some revealing comments. Back then she was hired by Channel Ten to advise them on their bigtime sleaze show, Big Brother. When an alleged sexual assault occurred on the program, this academic once again sprang to the defense of her pay master, informing us that the incident was basically no big deal, and people shouldn’t get so worked up about such things.
Incredibly, when the whole world seems united on the sick sexual culture at the NRL, Lumby has again been defending what most others regard as simply unacceptable. Just last night on Channel Nine’s Footy Show she appeared as a commentator. Matthew Johns of course was given the axe from the show for his role in the Christchurch sex scandal. But there she was, still defending the activity.
All of the NRL heavyweights on the show were condemning the actions of the players who had sexual relations with the girl some seven years ago now, and were all talking tough. They were united in stamping out this horrific culture in the NRL. Yet Ms Lumby was still insisting that group sex is just fine. Hey it was consensual, she chimed in, and therefore nothing wrong had really occurred.
How bizarre is this? Big macho NRL blokes are all seeing the horror of this group sex act, while their paid advisor, Ms Lumby, is defending it. She has of course defended such actions by NRL players before. Miranda Devine of the Sydney Morning Herald had a good column on all this yesterday. She is worth quoting at length:
“Catharine Lumby, and the fellow feminist academic Kath Albury, helped design the NRL’s program to reform players’ attitudes towards women five years ago. But ‘Play By The Rules’ can’t be said to be a rip-roaring success. It would not be surprising if it has been counterproductive, when Lumby expresses unusually tolerant attitudes towards group sex, or, in the parlance of rugby league, ‘the bun’.
“In studies of sexual behaviour, less than 3 per cent of people reportedly admit to group sex. Yet ‘the idea that group sex is aberrant is a very particular view’, Lumby told the ABC in 2004, at the height of the Bulldogs rugby league sex scandal. ‘I mean, group sex happens in lots of kinds of communities and the issue should be about consent, not about group sex – it is my belief, having studied sexual and gender politics.’
“Lumby and Albury are also co-authors of The Porn Report. In a submission to last year’s Senate inquiry into the sexualisation of children they sided with those libertarians who view concern about the phenomenon as moral panic.
“This is the value system which informs the NRL’s gender re-education efforts for footballers as young as 17. Who could blame the players for being confused? Lumby emphasises ‘consent’ and this week she declared a tough line on misbehaving footballers. ‘It’s my view that, in all sports, if someone is charged with a serious crime they should be stood aside.’
“But emphasising a legalistic notion of consent, without moral context or any expectation of women to modify their behaviour, leaves players unmoored from the real consequences of their behaviour. It is putting an unsustainable pressure on the ability of young footballers, perhaps drunk, insensitive, or carried away by group dynamics, to discern the subtleties.
“As the Four Corners reporter Sarah Ferguson pointed out: ‘A woman involved in degrading group sex can still be traumatised whether she consents or not.’ Clare told the program she felt powerless to stop what was being done to her by a ‘long line’ of players. ‘I thought I was worthless and I thought I was nothing. And I think I was in shock. I didn’t scream and they used a lot of … mental power over me and, and belittled me and made me feel really small like I was just a little old woman.’
“Plenty of young women are neither assertive nor articulate enough to stand up to charismatic older football stars. Johns was 30 at the time, and married. He knew better. It would be a rare woman who would willingly consent to such an experience, without being damaged in some way, with low self-esteem or imperfect understanding of what was happening.”
Quite so. The Australian Christian lobby has urged the NRL to sack Ms Lumby. They are absolutely right. She is an absolute disgrace. Having her advise NRL players on sexual matters and respect for women is like having Hitler advise German citizens on how they can be more appreciative of, and sensitive to, the needs of Jewish people. If Matthew Johns was rightly given the sack, the very next person to go should be Lumby.