Thursday, May 14, 2009

You could call me thoroughly disgusted.

Since hearing of the sex scandal involving former football player, Matthew Johns, I have been continually shocked and amazed at the response by people in my world - my very own friends. Female friends, even. I don't know what it is that is making people feel so sorry for him, but I have a theory.

Johns struggled through his interview with the Nine Network's Tracey Grimshaw. He choked up, he teared up, as did his wife who sat dutifully by his side. We have seen Matthew Johns as a football player and a television personality on The Footy Show - a fun-loving larrikin. That full-of-life character was diminished in this interview - he appeared broken. We could see it in the eyes and hear it in the voice of this person we are all too familiar with.

His accuser, an anonymous 26-year-old woman from New Zealand, also gave an interview on Four Corners. Her face was blurred, her voice digitally altered. We didn't actually get to see and hear her pain in all its glory the way we did with Matthew Johns. She is a faceless woman. She is a nobody. This, my friends, is where you can consider yourself sucked in.

Oh, I have no doubt that Matthew Johns is sorry. I can see that he was going through real pain and struggle. However, his main struggle was with oh so carefully finding the correct words so as not to incriminate himself any further! I have to say - he did a great job. He managed to barely say anything at that we hadn't already heard. If he had been almost anyone else, Tracey Grimshaw would have absolutely eaten him alive. Luckily for Johns, he has been around the media long enough to know not to be lead by a leading question.

Now, it's not that I am completely unfeeling for Matthew Johns. I feel sorry for him, because he has lost his job at possibly the worst time in the world to do so. He has been thoroughly embarrassed, his family life has been compromised and he is taking the wrap all on his own. No, it's not entirely fair, although being the only one on the chopping block is actually serving him well to make him out to be a victim (again, sucked in viewers!).

So, let's have a good look at how he got himself here.

He gang banged a nineteen year old girl seven years ago, cheating on his wife in the meantime - FACT.

He has admitted to doing so. He has admitted that it was wrong. He has said he is sorry "if she feels traumatised" - NOT that he was part of the cause of her trauma, but that SHE FEELS that way. Well done, Matty, carefully worded.

I suppose the big question is whether or not he should have been fired from his job as a presenter on The Footy Show. Does the punishment fit the crime (figure of speech!)? You know what? I believe so, and for a number of reasons.

1. He says she was a willing participant in the group sex. That she had gone back to the room with two football players, but that another ten or so had joined in and she willingly participated. I'm sorry, but agreeing to have sex with two men is a world apart from allowing a dozen to have a crack. Perhaps she was initially consensual, but when the other ten invited themselves in, it's not far fetched to imagine that she was intimidated and so went along with what was happening, only to feel taken advantage of later. Half of them were having sex with her, while the rest stood around masturbating. This is a vulgar image to be forced to conjure up, let alone find yourself a part of.

Matthew Johns, the rest of the gutless mob not taking responsibility, and half the men around the country seem to think that because she didn't physically fight them off that no wrong has been done. Well that is crap. At what point did that mob determine that this young girl was 100% consenting to what was happening? Did any of them stop and take a moment to consult with her and give her an option to back out? Doesn't sound like it. In fact, it doesn't sound like they were much concerned with her thoughts or feelings on the topic at all. They saw her as a non-person - nothing but a peice of meat to play out their fantasy with.

2. He is not sorry for what happened to this girl at all. It took an awful lot of coercing from Tracey Grimshaw for him to muster up anything that even resembled an apology directed at her. Clearly, he still thinks of her as nothing but a groupie slut. Apologies for his wife and children flowed like water - and so they should - but he has done nothing but the bare minimum to lessen the impact from the public. Take it from someone who has worked at a high level in PR - he's too concerned that there will be even more repercussions if he makes a proper apology.

He says he has been waiting in fear for seven years for this to come out - if that is not admitting his guilt, I don't know what is. What he did was officially not a crime, so he won't go to jail or have any legal repercussions - as long as he sticks to his story - so a sacking is not all that bad in comparison.

3. Part of being in the public eye is making sure that you live up to the responsibilities of your position. These football players are handed oodles of cash, adulation by the bucketload and they seem to think they are above the law, the rules and common decency. They break the rules of their own clubs and the NRL, and that's not right.

Very few aspiring athletes get to do what they do, and too many of them continually abuse their positions. They don't seem to have any concept of understanding that with all of that money that they make, there are a stack of other people whose livlihoods depend on the sport, too. They affect those people when they stuff up, because they affect their own fans who lose faith in them and stop watching the sport and going to their games and buying their merchandise. There is big money in NRL, and it's a big part of our Australian culture; they should have more respect for it. Their careers are a privilege. A privilege that doesn't give them a right to do whatever the hell they like.

When I hear of these things happening, I don't want my athletic little boy watching football and looking up to the players. I look at him and I don't want that life for him. I don't want him to be the kind of man who would think that it's okay to treat a nineteen year old girl like she is worth nothing more than sex with him and a whole bunch of his mates. In fact, just thinking about it for a second makes my skin crawl. It really makes me lose faith in the sport, and I'm not the only one. It's a real shame. So as much as all of these footy fans are saying, "Poor Matty, let's rally behind him" maybe think about how he has let you down, too. He's certainly not doing your beloved sport any favours. The Nine Network had to let him go - they would have lost sponsorship/advertisers if they didn't. Companies just don't want their products to be associated with men who participate in gang bangs with young girls and cheat on their wives. Call 'em crazy, but they don't see it as good image building for their brands.

You know, as much as I'm disgusted in Matty and the other men involved, I'm also disgusted in the reactions I have seen over the past few days. Even girls I am very good friends with have spoken out, saying they don't know why the woman accuser is complaining, because "she got herself into this situation". Well, this is my thought: This is as bad as saying a girl wearing a short skirt "asked" to be raped. Yes, this woman did get herself in the situation to a point - she can certainly take some responsibility, and she has. She obviously got caught up in the excitement of having some famous football players give her some attention. Many girls would. She probably made a stupid mistake by going back to their room and agreeing to have sex with two of them. But does this somehow exempt the men from their wrong-doing? Is she supposed to cop it on the chin because she was a bit naive and awfully silly? Do the men just get to get away with it? What they did was immoral, and just because it's not illegal, that does not mean that it should go unpunished. Since when did we become a society that puts such a low value on moral standard?

Matthew Johns said it - he has feared repercussion over this incident for years. Well, here it is. This is the consequence of your actions, Matty.