Greer: Male athletes behaving badly

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Stunning essay by Australian-born feminist Germaine Greer, author of The Whole Woman and The Female Eunuch, on the destructive and criminal sexual behavior of male athletes, such as that alleged against Kobe Bryant and assorted UK footballers (“Nothing New about Ugly Sex,” Guardian, 16 Dec 03). Among her insights is that men behave badly in groups, invoking the powerful bond of “shared transgression and mutual guilt.” Also, “Athletes don’t get involved in sordid behaviour because they need sex but because they need sordidness.” She does try to take a balanced view of these men’s actions, seeing the athletes as repositories of others’ desires:

All athletes (and managers) live on a knife edge. All are only as good as their last performance. All are incessantly reminded that there is only one way to go after reaching the top, and that’s down. The situation of footballers is the most precarious of all. As the last in the pecking order, after club owners, directors and managers, players are denied adult status. They are “lads” or “boys” to be bought and sold, transferred or dropped or left on the bench; as they are denied autonomy, we can’t be surprised if they lack responsibility. Their survival depends on luck and is as fragile as a hamstring. Much of the concerted misbehaviour that ends in catastrophe begins as an attempt to discharge accumulated tension, which is no excuse.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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  1. [...] palate, author Germaine Greer does not often get the chance to digress into sport (see also 16 Dec 03). But with the fastiduous Fabio Capello having been hired to graft Italian flair onto a [...]

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