On Superintendent Freeman and Horseplay

I was thinking again today about the tone taken by the Montgomery Co.  superintendent when a group of 7th grade athletes were caught attempting to rape 6th grade teammates. 

Yesterday I commented on Freeman’s lighten up interviews in which he chastised upset parents and press members for being overly concerned with the incident.  I was disturbed by his assertion that since the Gatorade bottles (the objects of convenience) were never actually “inserted into rectums” but were  rather wielded against fully clothed boys in attempts to “ram it up their rear”  this incident was resolved through a three game suspension. 

His tone suggested an irritation that this conversation was not over simply because he said it was over.  And so it seems he decided that from his position as the Superintendent of a school district he would take to the soap box and suggest that there is a world of difference between what he called horseplay and what I would call attempted rape.  A difference that at least one of the targeted boys appears to be willing to testify is non-existent.  But really, what can a child who has been horseplayed know about ‘real’ attempted rape anyway.

This overt minimizing if not condoning of the assault by the district’s superintendent will no doubt have a chilling effect on faculty, parents, and students hoping to address peer-to-peer dominance and violence among the communities adolescent young men. 

It doesn’t take a great deal of expertise in education, why even the armchair sociologist can point from this situation out to a myriad of male to male hazing/sexual assault incidents across the nation taking place in the locker rooms, travel busses, and sports camps of the superstar boys sporting world.

So just because it is frighteningly easy, I just decided to do a recent news search on school teams, hazing, and sodomy and immediately found this article in  today’s news.   Honestly I knew I would find another article, hardly a week goes by that this type of incident is not occurring somewhere in the United States.

And so in today’s news another group of teammates, high school football players in New Mexico, struggled with and of course crossed over the fine line between horseplay and sexual assault.   They are in the news this week as their criminal trial drags on with one issue and another as they each slowly are meted out some meager form of justice for the assaults.

Michael Gallegos, Lucas Martinez, Steven Garcia, all 18, and another 17-year-old boy each face felony charges in the assaults, where teammates were held down against their will and sodomized with broomsticks at a football training camp in August 2008.

Yes, it took me all of five minutes to find another example of a team using sexual assault as a tool against fellow team members. Well there are a few differences, these fellows in New Mexico are 17 and 18 years old, while the boys in Kentucky are still middle schoolers.   One group was football players, the other basketball….  but I suppose you get my point. 

And I could find more and more cases to illustrate this point through the magic of Lexis Nexus.  But that is a really depressing task I reserve for my research writing and you wouldn’t want to read it anyway.

The point here is that my worry, against the advisement of the likes of Dr. Freeman, is that a few more years of physical, social and sexual power over all of their peers may help boys like these middle school sports stars take the horseplay to a new level* by high school.  

Minimizing and normalizing what they are doing as horseplay while they are slowly perfecting this art promises to result in more and more of the same down the road. 

*While I note that the second incident of gang rape is a new level,  I want to acknowledging that the attempted rape the middle school boys are accused of is in and of itself already at a level far beyond horseplay.   

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Filed under Heterosexism, School Violence, Sexual Assault