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Not rape - just boys acting up

By Melinda Tankard Reist - posted Thursday, 28 February 2008


So, it has come to this. We have so failed in the very basics of civilised human interaction that the Australian Football League has been forced to hire a swag of actors and a film crew to make an interactive DVD to help players understand that perhaps it’s not a good idea to pretend to be your best mate so you can have sex with his girlfriend.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Let’s spell it out together, boys!”

The AFL wants to help the lads recognise that taking advantage of a woman who’s had too much to drink, doesn’t rank as the noblest decision they could ever made.

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“C-O-N-S-E-N-T: Shout it out for me, boys!”

What’s next: teaching men not to bash women over the head with a club and drag them into a cave by their hair?

The DVD is a rude wake up call on the state of male-female relationships in the 21st century. As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8, women’s advocates are forced to face the brutal reality that we haven’t come a long way at all. We may even have gone backwards.

The DVD is being produced as part of the AFL’s efforts to improve players’ respect for women. Respect and responsibility program co-ordinator Melanie Heenan says it’s to "prompt confident decision-making in situations that can be quite complex.” If this is what’s required, then we really are starting from ground zero in human relationships.

We haven’t seen the whole script yet, but three draft questions have come out. In one, a mate's girlfriend calls a player into her room under the mistaken impression he is her boyfriend.

"Do you: (a) go and hop into bed and pretend to be him or (b) do you walk away?" is the choice offered in this very complex situation.

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In another, a player is with a girl who is under the influence: “Do you: a) get her some water, (b) call her a taxi or (c) take her back to your place for sex?”

The next scenario is “The player’s mate and his girlfriend are having sex. You can see them. Do you: (a) watch or (b) not watch?”

Not only do our sporting role models lack a highly evolved view of women. They also seem to need a lesson in how to pull the blinds down and lock the door. Given the behaviour of some elite sportsmen, these questions could reinforce some of their worst stereotypes about women: dumb bimbo so thick she can’t tell the difference between you and her boyfriend; or another pissed sheila who wants you bad.

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First published in The Australian on February 25, 2008.



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About the Author

Melinda Tankard Reist is a Canberra author, speaker, commentator and advocate with a special interest in issues affecting women and girls. Melinda is author of Giving Sorrow Words: Women's Stories of Grief after Abortion (Duffy & Snellgrove, 2000), Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics (Spinifex Press, 2006) and editor of Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls (Spinifex Press, 2009). Melinda is a founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation (www.collectiveshout.org). Melinda blogs at www.melindatankardreist.com.

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