CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

The NRL: No Wonder it is in Such a Mess

May 15, 2009

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.

www.smh.com.au/opinion/morality-code-kicked-into-touch-20090513-b37j.html?page=-1

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16 Responses to The NRL: No Wonder it is in Such a Mess

  • Lumby: “we should “avoid asserting moral beliefs as moral truths”.
    If morality is relative, as she believes, then she should take her own advice and stop pushing her moral beliefs on everyone else.
    But morality is not relative; her beliefs about morality are wrong–and dangerous.
    Tas Walker

  • Very well said Bill (and Miranda), especially the last paragraph.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Thanks guys

    I see that Andrew Bolt today also weighs into Ms Lumby: http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25483701-5000117,00.html

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I believe that the terminology “Moral Panic” is a convenient terminology invented by deviant academics who have emersed themselves in pornography where they have become desensitized, because it is usually used in cases of sexual abuse. It is also used after the fact when the incidences have taken place as serious as they are. Also in cases of sexual deviancy such as group sex, there is no doubt that it is learned behaviour from pornography where the porn industry normalises such but whenever sexual abuse is linked to pornograhy, the porn industry remains silent. If group sex is normal why didn’t the sex industry back the NRL players in line with their other convenient terminology “civil or human rights?”
    Paul Hotchkin

  • Very interesting article and very disturbing. I recently had a conversation with some work colleagues about a Sex Expo in our city. My immediate reaction was disgust at the event and mentioned that it was degrading and objectifying women. To my surprise the women I was conversing with got very defensive and coudn’t understand why I would have such views about an expo “that explores and celebrates sexuality.” I was dumbfounded. Our society has truly begun to slide down the slippery slope of moral relativism.

    Back to the article, Ms Lumby puts things in such a way that it sounds right on paper (consent and all that), so you really need to get your arguments straight to stand up against such “political correctness.”

    Gerrit Kruger

  • Have to agree re Ms Lumby, a wholly inappropriate ‘advisor’ I would say.

    I disagree re the feminist lynch mob re the NRL players. Yes their conduct was not what Christians would describe as appropriate to say the least however lets not forget this young woman went back to the hotel room (CONSENSUALLY) with 2 blokes. What for? A prayer meeting? She did not object. If she indulges in group sex and experiences psychological trauma from that CONSENSUAL activity it is entirely her own fault. This feminazi and ‘liberal’ wailing and breast beating is truly astonishing playing to the crowd. Im struck by the irony of it all. Here we have our own government subsidising Gay Pride to A$30 million dollars to permit men and woman to prance around the street in their underwear saying they’re ‘proud’ to practice the anatomically questionable yet in a private situation there is this moral panic about CONSENTING adults in a private situation. I dont think either situation is anything to be proud of by why the different treatment?

    Doug Holland

  • we should “avoid asserting moral beliefs as moral truths”

    Hilarious, really, when we know she is doing exactly the same thing in reverse.

    Louise Le Mottee, Hobart

  • I have just as much respect for the 19 year old woman as I do for the men in this situation – None. They are all guilty and no-one gets my sympathy.

    As we have heard very recently, the young girl was proud of her accomplishment at the time. If girls want to avail themselves in such a degrading manner, be prepared for the consequences.

    And Lumby has her head in the sand. So much for the feminist movement.

    Jane Petridge

  • Thanks Doug

    Of course my article mainly dealt with one issue, that of the unhelpful role of Lumby in the NRL. I did not mean to weigh into the pros and cons of the case itself. I did mention footy players who think they can do what they want with women.

    But as you suggest, there is certainly another side to this story, one which I did not discuss. And we learned just recently that: “A former work colleague of the woman at the centre of the Cronulla Sharks sex scandal involving Matthew Johns claims her co-worker bragged about the incident”: http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,25477148-5005941,00.html

    So there is definitely more to this whole sorry story than what I discussed in my article. There seem to have been plenty of wrongs committed on all sides here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Doug, you said:

    “lets not forget this young woman went back to the hotel room (CONSENSUALLY) with 2 blokes.”

    However, many people are overlooking the fact that she wound up being trapped into having sex with over half a dozen, possibly more. Did she give consent to that? Did she even know that was going to happen, or was she trapped?

    And Mr Johns apparently left the room – a part of the emerging reaction is over his lack of responsibility, along with the crude culture of sports clubs where blokes simply indulge themselves with hedonistic abandon. Apparently there was no-one among those “tough guys” who was man enough to say “No”.

    And thirdly, since when does “consent” trump “doing what is right”?

    Nobody comes out of this grubby business smelling of roses, least of all the ABC program which raked over the coals after seven years.

    John Angelico

  • I wonder what might have happened if it was John’s sister (or any other players sister) found in the room. I suspect she would have been told do not be so stupid and may have been escorted home. As to the article, Msss Lumby does have a rather strange view of the world. It would seem that the NRL use such a person to try to put justification to some of their antics.
    Ben Green

  • Now we hear some uproar about an amateur football club having a stripper just before the game to hype the players up. This just goes to show that logic and reason are vanishing qualities for, afterall, what is the difference having a stripper before a game or at a player’s Bucks party?

    The error of the whole “It is OK so long as they are adults and it is consensual” rationale is being made clearly evident here.

    Jeremy Peet

  • Dear Bill,
    in 2004, I queried the NRL regarding their irresponsibility in engaging Ms Lumby (in view of her public abhorrent view re group sex), and regarding its executives’ consequent betrayal of the thousands of Mum & Dad grass roots volunteers. They did not reply. The NRL bosses were (or still are) derelict in their duty: Lumby was a known liability.

    And having a stripper before the game would make player attendance effectively compulsory. At a “social” function, atendance would be optional.

    Gerard Flood

  • After weeks of nonsense on the TV and radio. I have finally read something from a mainstream media person that makes sense.

    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/natural-men-scolded-into-timidity-20090520-bfn3.html?page=-1

    I would not have thought it possible I would agree with Miranda Devine on anything?!?!?!?

    Our society has separated sex from the relationship framework it was intended for (Marriage). Things like this will keep happening and our media, by and large, won’t know how to deal with them untill we put sex back in its framework and into perspective.

    Michael Hutton, Ariah Park

  • Bill,
    While agreeing with your comments here, I must point out that you made an error at the beginning of your article. In part, you stated that “some Rugby players and a New Zealand girl etc, etc,” I have often had to point out to Victorians, that Rugby is a different code from rugby league. If you use the term “rugby” that means Rugby Union. Rugby League is different. I haven’t heard of any scandals, which have occured in Rugby of late, but one of their flock reading that quote might become a little upset.
    Frank Bellet, Petrie Qld

  • Thanks Frank

    I stand corrected (and thus betray my ignorance of all things rugby).

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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