Tag Archives: Rugby

Male sexual assault – dispelling the myths

Male sexual assault is a serious crime that is often “hidden” from the publics view for a number of complex sociological reasons.  For some this blog entry will be stating the blindingly obvious, for others it might be the first time they have thought about this issue.  For others however, I hope it will begin to break down some lingering myths around male sexual assault.

Male rape is not a new phenomenon, but it is only just beginning to be fully recognized by our legal system. It only became a specific legal offence in 1994.

Some people refuse to believe that male rape (or sexual assault) happens regularly enough for it to be considered as a serious policy issue.  This is far from the truth.  Although men are disproportionately the perpetrators of sexual offences, recorded crime shows that men are also victims of it.

There is an on-going myth that male sexual assault is somehow related to either the perpetrators or the victim’s sexuality.  Firstly, it should be noted that the majority of male sexual attacks are undertaken by heterosexual men on heterosexual men.  Secondly it should be noted that rape, in the act itself (whether it be on a women or a man) has been shown to be about control, power and dominance not about sex or sexuality.

Men are often considered to be in a better situation to “get over it” than women because they are more robust and do not risk pregnancy.  Rubbish, men have the same potential to feel shame, self-blame and guilt as women.  For some men, being sexually assaulted can lead to serious long-term consequences that should not be underestimated.  Whilst being assaulted some men experience erections and sometimes ejaculations.  This can lead to the victim questioning their sexuality; it can result in erection problems or an inability to ejaculate.  It can lad to the victim questioning whether they might have sub-consciously “wanted it”.  None of the physical reactions imply there was consent or even genuine sexual arousal.

It is often said that women do not assault men.  Rubbish again.  Although the majority of male sexual assault cases reported are men attacking men, women can, and do attack men.  Often men find it hard to report such a crime for the stigma attached to it.

People often think about male sexual assault in a stereotypical sense with it only occurring in prisons or Catholic churches. People find it harder to interpret the rugby initiations sessions, or the other “normal” activities as potential locations that can lead to male assault.  Male rape, like raping a woman is disproportionately likley to be undertaken by someone the victim knows.  As a man, you are very unlikely to be raped, but incredibly unlikely to be raped by a stranger.

Male rape remains an exceptionally large taboo.  The likelihood of a victim reporting an incident remains low.  The likelihood of the police taking the victim seriously and then undertaking a proper investigation that is not plagued by false assumptions and prejudices remains lower.  If someone confides in you remember it has taken a lot of courage for them to tell you. Do not assume that the victim “has to tell police” but hand power back to the victim by offering them help by simply asking what you can do.  You can always refer them to the specialist help centres set up to help people through such terrible incidents.

www.survivorsuk.org.uk or ring Survivors UK on 020 73576677

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Filed under sexuality

The only gay in the premiership

Gareth Thomas, the Rugby Union legend, has possibly taken the bravest step of his career.  He has “come out” that he is gay.  So what I hear people sigh!

This is a big issue for a number of reasons.

Gareth Thomas (Munster Vs Cardiff Blues) - Thanks to Clare Courier (flickr)

Firstly, Gareth is Wales most capped player, and perhaps more importantly he is still playing professional Rugby (for the Cardiff Blues). It is unprecedented for a Rugby Union star to come out whilst still a playing professional.  For a player of Gareth’s stature to come out it is incredible.  Players often shy away from this issue for fear of fans reactions, loss of sponsorship and lack of support from their clubs! For Gareth to face all this down and come out should be supported and acknowledged to be a truly brave act.  How the public reacts is incredibly important as it will set a precedent for all other gay sport stars who are thinking about coming out (at the moment in Rugby Union there is an openly gay referee but no player that I am aware of). 

Secondly, this is not just important for Rugby but sets a precedent for all other major sports.  At the moment, out of the 500 professional footballers in the UK, there are no openly gay footballers.  It is highly unlikely that this reflects the reality of footballer’s actual sexuality.  Footballers are role models for millions of people around the world.  To show that sexuality has nothing to do with your professional capabilities (or your ability to lead an ordinary life) would be incredibly positive.  Whether we like it or not, footballers are elevated onto pedestals by fans.  The only problem is they know more than anyone how easy it is to fall off that pedestal. Footballing history has not been kind to those who have not followed the script.

Justin Fashanu, the first million pound black footballer, came out and was hounded by fans and the public to such an extent that the coroner said it contributed to him committing suicide. We all remember the taunts that Grahame Le Saux received …all these chants seemed to be based on nothing other than the fact he read the Guardian and has a university education.  Le Saux was married…but he did collect Antiques!  Sadly, it was not just fans who taunted Le Saux, do you remember Robbie Fowlers taunts? http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/premier_league/article2419068.ece

Then there was the whole incident that involved heterosexual left back Ashley Cole.  The News of the World, wrongly, accused a premiership footballer of taking part in a Gay orgy.  This was not the interesting bit of the story.  What was interesting for me was despite not being named in the story; Cole went to extraordinary lengths to dispute the accusations even taking the paper to court.  Check out – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/article-378786/Cole-sue-gay-footballer-orgy-claims.html

I have said before and I will say again.  There is no social force in this world more powerful than football.  If you want to change anything in this world, start with football.  Sadly, for improving the lives of millions of people around the world affected by homophobia this looks like a slow process.  The Football Association (FA) has introduced a ruling that puts homophobic chanting on a similar scale to racist chanting.  There has been scattered reinforcement of this ruling (especially at the Seagulls ground who suffer disproportionate abuse).  To say that the FA is a slow moving conservative body would be an understatement.  This ruling however, at least sets a target to aim. 

Hopefully, footballers will follow in Gareth’s brave example.  Having openly gay footballers will be one of the biggest steps towards a more equal society that we could take.  All secretly gay sports stars though will be looking on with great interest to see how fans, sponsors and club treat Gareth.  Let’s hope it is with respect.

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Filed under Football, sexuality