Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Story We'd Like to See about Duke Lacrosse

Gentle readers no doubt know about the alleged gang rape of an exotic dancer by members of the Duke University lacrosse team, not to mention the latest developments in the case. It seems that DNA tests yielded no evidence implicating any player in the alleged crime, but the prosecuting attorney is going forward with the case, as (how do we put this inoffensively?) not all rapists leave DNA behind.

Sides are being taken on this, of course. That's what happens to sides: people take them. Mostly the two sides are (a) this awful crime of white men against a woman of color was an expression of privileges of race and class in Durham, NC; (b) this false allegation by a woman of color against white men was an expression of the use of "hate crime" as a way to use the media for political and pecuniary gain.

Oddly enough, SWIND is not taking either of those sides. We say something else, a tertium quid.

Regardless of whether there was a rape or not, we say that the real story is this: at elite and not-so-elite universities all over the country, certain sports teams, mostly the ones that involve men who collide a lot (football, rugby, ice hockey, lacrosse), are havens for violent, misogynist, drunken, loutish, boorish behavior. To put it mildly. Universities know this, and they tolerate it for the sake of athletic recruitment and retention. This isn't just an issue with one team at Duke (but kudos to the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel for at least dealing with that). It's a lot of teams in a lot of places.

Let's assume the best for the Duke lacrosse players. Let's say that the whole rape story was made up. The fact still remains that as a "team," they planned and participated in an evening of alcohol-soaked revelry that featured a performance by an "exotic dancer." This may be perfectly legal in North Carolina, assuming that every member of the team is of legal drinking age. But it has nothing to do with anything that Duke University in particular or higher education in general is supposed to stand for. To put it mildly. We doubt very seriously that it's what donors to the university, even athletic donors, expect to be tolerated. We doubt that most students endorse such outrageousness.

By the way, don't miss this little nuance: has posted excerpts from an email seized on a team member's computer. We won't provide a link because the contents are disturbingly offensive, but we will indicate that the summary of the email describes the player's statement that his intention to act with unspeakably brutal sadism toward dancers at the party.

Sure, the email may be fantasy. But fantasy about rape, murder, and beyond is not harmless. We will assert that deeds are the expression of what is in the heart.

And we will assert that university students around the country can testify that on many campuses, certain athletic teams are known for extremes of hazing, drunkenness and sexual violence, enacted or imagined. They get plastered, listen to violent, misogynistic music, watch violent, misogynistic movies, and talk about violence against women. We are confident that, given the chance, many students would testify that their lives on campus are made substantially worse by the utterly destructive subculture of such teams, that they deal with noise, verbal abuse and threats from players who party with such teams, and that their universities do little to restrain such behavior. These are teams whose most prominent public behavior, on a good day, is aggravated menacing and public intoxication.

Too bad the attention that is going to the Duke case will not go to this systemic problem on many campuses.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

wisest thing I've read on the subject yet.

Anonymous said...

We should never take sides on any issue. Our positions should always be eclectic and pragmatic.

While it's harder to be thoughtful, it's foolish not to be.

Anonymous said...

The story is never the story. The real story is always the underlying assumptions. Whose assumptions? The assumptions of the story participants and the assumptions of the story writer (journalist).

Anonymous said...

Check out Ann Coulter's comments on this case in her article, "Lie Down With Strippers, Wake Up With Pleas." You can find it on her website. While virtually none of the rest of the media coverage deal with the immorality of what the Duke boys were doing, Coulter's article nails it.