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College Football, Masculinity, and Sexual Assault

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September 15, 2016

It’s college football season!

From now until the Super Bowl, millions of Americans will dedicate their Saturays to college football and their Sundays to the NFL. They will prepare feasts composed of pizza, wings, burgers, and beer. They will watch the game at local sports bars, homes, and stadiums. They will be adorned in sports memorabilia. And many of them will fiercely defend their teams from negativity even at the expense of survivors of sexual assault who have been assaulted by a player on the team.

On September 13, 2016, Allen Artis, a football player at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was suspended from the team and a warrant was issued for his arrest, but the arrest warrant was only issued when the survivor went public even though the attack occurred seven months ago, and was documented and reported through the official procedure. In June 2016, three more women joined an a Title IX lawsuit against Baylor University because university “officials failed to properly investigate their claims of sexual assault and failed to provide them with academic and counseling support.”

In both cases, the survivors went through the appropriate procedures to file a Title IX claim against their assailants, yet because their assailants’ were college football players, their rights were denied. Regardless of a student’s extracurricular activities, investigating and charging an individual for sexual assault should not be disregarded by administrators. College football brings in millions of dollars in revenue for universities but at the extent of survivors of sexual assault on campus not getting the justice they deserve or receive the medical treatment they need to survive.

Survivors of sexual assault on college campuses should not have to carry the burden of seeing their assailant on campus daily, seeing their assailant on national television, and seeing their assailant get away with the removal of an individual’s dignity and autonomy of their body.

The hyper masculinity within college football must be held accountable as well, “we can no longer be naïve enough to think that worshiping at the altar of a sport that thrives on male aggression, physical domination over others, winning regardless of cost, and the complete absence of the feminine, has no impact on how we actually treat men and women day-to-day” (this quote does not take into account individuals that exist beyond the gender binary, I apologize for their binary). Physical violence and sexual violence are linked in football feeding into toxic masculinity that is damaging to the assailant. Combined with the psychological damage due to continuous hits and tackles, football players are being feed toxic masculinity that rewards aggression with praise.

College campuses need to stop the cycle of toxic masculinity on campus among football players. Stop rewarding individuals for violence against others. Stop elevating football players to be above the law. Stop allowing money to disregard an individual’s legal rights.

We, as reproductive justice activists and organizers, need to take a critical look at our colleges on game day and see what work there is to be done to stop sexual assaults on campus from college football players.

 

Image via AAUW

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