Booth babes and IT - and footballers and ethics

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jethro's picture

What has been a surprise this week is the explosion of news about rape and football players. Well maybe it is not a surprise to some. Many thought this sort of thing was in the past what with the sordid details of the last few years. To have it out in the open again this year shows that there are still underlying issues that are not being addressed. We have had in the last few years numerous public cases of footballers and women who are attracted to them getting themselves into messy situations. Most involving copious amounts of alcohol. Most of these involve the women making a complaint of sexual assault against one or more players. Football clubs and police cooperate fully, and there seems to no longer be the “code of silence” amongst players and clubs about “what happens on the footy trip stays on the footy trip”. Yet these incidents keep occurring.

I think Karen Willis, the manager of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, has written a very good article for the Sydney Morning Herald calling for ethical responses by men – who have to be leaders – in this area. And while I agree with her fully, I want to add a couple of additional elements.

Without trivialising the seriousness of the charges, the damage to “Clare”, and the fallout into the many peoples lives who have been affected by this, our society really doesn't care. Sexual assault of a single women in her home by a masked invader is considered brutal and fully punishable by the full extent of the law. these sorts of offenders usually get big sentences. Yet when a women who clearly made a number of wrong choices, not the least of which was allegedly consenting to sex with 2 men in a backroom of a drunken party, is then sexually assaulted by many, you can just see the pundits lining up to lay blame on her. And yes there is blame to lay. For being there in the first place. But that should not make the seriousness of the crime any less, or the penalties on the “men” who did this. We have the exact same parallel problem in our society with alcohol and driving. We turn a blind eye to those who have a couple of drinks and drive, but then at some arbitrary largely irrelevant point we determine that the blood alcohol of an individual is too high to drive and any individual causing an accident is lambasted by our press and public based on our societal mores of right and wrong. Why the arbitrary measurement of of a blood alcohol level of 0.05? Because we don’t really care about drinking and driving. If we did we would make it zero tolerance.

And back to the case in hand, why do we look at the case of a women who made wrong choices being taken beyond her choice and evaluate that differently from the case of an “innocent” women being attacked in the privacy of her home. I put it to you it is because we don’t really care. We really don’t. We judge her for her decision making and we excuse the “men” who took advantage of her because of the circumstances.

We want to have our cake and eat it to. Society says sexing it up is fine. Promoting IT products with sex is a borderline example, but one that is used heavily by the advertising industry, and for a lot more products than IT. There has been a lot of discussion around the IT “sex sells” concepts in the last few days here in Australia with talk of booth babes in skimpy and sexist outfits. I think like alcohol and driving, that we have allowed sex to be considered non dangerous in small quantities, and then suddenly at some arbitrary level to be bad. I think we have allowed our unethical thinking in regard to these things to promote an unhealthy culture about sex and acceptable behaviour in the workplace.

My position is that the ethical stance for men and women in our society to take is to agree that the best scenario is monogamous relationships where two partners submit to each other for life excluding all others. Thus women would not be going off to back rooms with 2 men, and two men would not be asking a women to go there. Idealistic? Maybe, but I think that should be the societal goal that addresses the underlying issue. Any allowed exceptions to this will create situations where these “consenting multiple partners” entanglements have the potential to get nasty. Like allowing some drinking before driving. We need zero tolerance on drink driving, and zero tolerance on group sex. Consensual or not.

My thoughts today are with “Clare” and her family. I hope that the “men” involved have grown up and learn to apologise and become ethical from now on. Prison sentences would have helped them learn that. No leniency should have been allowed. I also acknowledge that the families of these guys have been damaged. I hope they can learn to deal with it.

Happy to have comments and feedback on this one.

Links to IT booth babe articles:

Kate have you allowed your risqué approach to your article titles to undermine your otherwise good articles?

Interesting reading the NetRegistry blog on this Netregistry nurses at CeBIT: Naughty or nice? This comment underscores my points about accepting it – and the press is surely to blame here – as they use the titillating angle to sell their sizzle.

We shouldn’t be surprised - it made a more fun and titilating (sic) story for the IT sites to write about. Ironically, our stand and brand gained even more exposure because of the additional publicity.

is this a case of celebrities using the paparazzi or the paparazzi using the celebrities?

Ben Grubb’s article at Naughty nurses draw fire at CeBIT Australia

And to wrap it all up.

I considered the appropriateness of a photo with this article, and decided against it. The subject matter is too serious to trivialise with a photo. Ethics starts with the individual. Integrity is no compromise on ethics.


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Glebe2037's picture

Well written & well said ...

Well written & well said ...

Kate Carruthers's picture

Hi Tim Well thought out &

Hi Tim
Well thought out & argued post - can see your point re the titles of my posts.

I was trying to juxtapose the sexist terminology against the issue of women in technology. Was it seeking attention? Yes! This is an important issue - we need to start the discussion again while gender issues are back in the news.

Many young women & men have not even begun to consider gender issues and we need to engage them in the debate. So a catchy (perhaps even risque) headline is part of my plan.

Happy for people to disagree with my approach though.

best wishes

PS: "booth babes"????? ;)

jethro's picture

fair call - i was also trying

fair call - i was also trying to balance the way i presented it while making the issues obvious. don't disagree with your approach - just commenting on it. kudos to you on bringing this to attention also.

Kath's picture

While generally I agree with

While generally I agree with you, the culture of footballers and the girls who follow them for sex does not make a healthy environment, I don't think anyone should EVER blame a victim for sexual assault. As you say, women are sexualised in so many contexts, and it breeds an attitude that a woman is supposed to be perpetually sexually available, but a woman should be able to say no or stop at any point without blame being placed on her shoulders.

Yes, I agree, that promiscuous lifestyle is not one I condone and I do think it's a culture that makes the entire problem worse. However, regardless of her sexual choices, if a woman is engaging in sex with one, two or ten men, and she is not comfortable with something happening, feels forced, co-erced or pressured, or decides she has had enough, and it doesn't stop immediately - then that is rape and the victim should never ever be blamed.

And very often, while it is all happening, the woman goes along with it under co-ersion or pressure, and then it isn't until afterwards that she realises that she has been assaulted. Consent is very clear - yes I want to be doing this or no I don't.

We also need to remember that this is a 19 year old girl at the time of this incident. I consider myself an intelligent, assertive, no-bullshit kind of woman at 36, but I know at 19 I made some very foolish choices in my behaviour that could have placed me at risk of sexual assault, had I not been as lucky as I was.

Again, while I don't like the life choices that some people choose with promiscuity, a woman should not be forced to have sex with other men just because she has consented to one or more others.

There is simply no such thing as "she asked for it."

jethro's picture

Hi Kath I agree - no means

Hi Kath
I agree - no means no. Whenever. Fullstop.

Loquacity's picture

We also need to remember that

We also need to remember that this is a 19 year old girl at the time of this incident.

What are you saying here? Yes, she was 19. She is legally an adult. Are you asking for the legal age to be lifted? What to? 20? 25? 35?

At what point can a woman be expected to know her own mind, to be able to make a choice, and be expected to deal with the consequences of that choice?


jethro's picture

no difference for men and

no difference for men and women - and i hadnt considered the age of consent at all as this was more about the non consent.

KathKath's picture

As Tim says, the issue isn't

As Tim says, the issue isn't of consent but lack of consent.

However, I do believe that 19 years of age is too young to be considered at all wise in decision making for most of the population, male or female.

Loquacity's picture

My position is that the

My position is that the ethical stance for men and women in our society to take is to agree that the best scenario is monogamous relationships where two partners submit to each other for life excluding all others. Thus women would not be going off to back rooms with 2 men, and two men would not be asking a women to go there. Idealistic?

No. It's not idealistic. It's moralistic. I've been lurking on your blog for some time, and while I agree with some of your points in this article, I'm a little shocked by this. What you are asking is to legislate what two (or more) consenting adults can choose to do behind locked doors. You have arbitrarily chosen a sexual ideal (monogamous, life-long, heterosexual relationships) that, if enforced, would throw us back to the dark ages.

What about homosexual relationships? What about divorce? What about spousal rape? What about foot-fetishists? Are these people to be denied what they want because of your ideals? Why does the rest of the world need to conform to your (white, male, Christian) idea of what is "right" or "moral"?

You can't legislate for morality. You can only educate.


jethro's picture

ouch I think you missed a key

I think you missed a key word there - i said the "ethical" stance. not the legal one. I am not wanting to legislate anything here.

I'm certainly not in favour of legislating against consenting adults to do what they want.
however I don't think it is ethical for two blokes in a position of sexual power to consider it ok to take a single woman to a toilet cubicle, or a back room while she is drunk and take advantage of her - with or without her consent. gentlemen don't do that. why not? because they have a moral framework they base their lives on.

whether or not you and i agree on that moral framework is irrelevant here, though peripheral to the issue. the point is - does society condone or agree with this, or does it think it is abhorrent? either way it will still happen, but lets think collectively about what behaviour we expect from men, footballers and women as well.

be interested in your responses

Loquacity's picture

OK, so we agree that - in

OK, so we agree that - in this situation, anyway - nothing that occurred happened outside of the law. We also (correct me if I'm wrong) agree that the laws governing those things shouldn't change.

That's good.

So why are we still demonising the footballers in this? Why is it OK for Johns to lose not just one of his jobs, but all of them? If Johns was not a public figure, would he have lost his job? Should he have lost his job?

What Johns did is not something that I would choose to do, but then, what "Clare" did is not something I would choose to do either. But I might have, if I was a footballer. Or if I was 19 and approached by two very good-looking men who wanted me. In both cases, those people - as adults - chose to do what they did, and they now have to live with those choices. It's unfortunate that some choices that "Clare" made have led to her having PTSD, but she's not the first person that has happened to. It's also unfortunate that Johns lost his jobs. My point being that we can't hold "Clare" to a different moral standard to that which we hold Johns, or the rest of the men involved.

As for what is socially accepted, you've touched a raw nerve. It's no secret that footballers exist within a very strong rape culture. They also exist in a very strong pack-rape culture (using the term "sex" for this isn't quite correct, to my way of thinking). You may disagree, but society as a whole exists within a rape culture as well. The end result of this is that not only did the footballers think that what they were doing was accepted (and expected, even), but that "Clare" - living as she does in a rape culture too - went into that situation thinking however subliminally that she was going to get male approval for her existence (she's pretty, she's desirable, if one man's acceptance is good, then several mens' acceptance is great), that she was going to get street cred/social approval for her actions ("she had the whole football team in bed with her!"), and that she was going to somehow be vindicated as a desirable woman, and limitlessly accepted into society. It was when those things didn't materialise that her problems began.

That situation is not "Clare"'s fault. It's not the footballers' fault either. It's the fault of the culture that has been created around these people - around all people.

What really makes it interesting is the way we all take the moral high ground when these incidents occur. Because there's no way any of us would be dumb enough to pack-rape a young woman. There's no way any of us would be dumb enough to say "yes" to a couple of footballers.

And so what ends up happening? Some footballers take the fall for society's problems, and we all get to pat ourselves on the back that we've gotten another rapist off the street. And nothing changes.


jethro's picture

you are right -t he word

you are right -t he word scapegoat springs to mind, interesting to see that the broncos boys accused of similar behaviour have not been stood down. I noted they havent apologised - but stated what they did was not illegal.

my main issues with this whole situation were reflected in karen willis article. and they bounce back to us in the absence of illegal behaviour - what is the ethical position? what is the moral position?

if they have done nothing "illegal" why are we so outraged? because we have a "
moral framework" that we use to compare this behaviour against - both the womens and the mens.

the interesting thing about morals is their origin. if we evolved, there is no logical, philosophical or scientific explanation for their existence. By definition morals must come from a self determining external authority to mankind, or else they are not morals, but simply values that can change.

and thus we have a shifting sands of public opinion, inability to face the real reasons behind the problem, and the need for a scapegoat to assuage our public "conscience" (another theoretically impossible thing).

Loquacity's picture

Morals are not always

Morals are not always imposed. In fact, the most effective and persistent morals are self-imposed.

Let me explain ... humans move in a lot of different groups. I identify as an Australian; a woman; a mother; a divorcee; a girlfriend; a geek; a feminist; a cook; a writer; amongst many others. These groups help us to identify not only who we are, but who is "with us" and who is "against us". We naturally defend those who are "us", until we decide that they aren't actually an "us", but are more a "them". How does this shift happen? When someone breaks a 'rule' of the group, they get shifted to the outer. These 'rules' are not rules at all, really, but morals. And so we see what happened in Christchurch ... the footballers were conforming to their group-rape culture, the woman was conforming to her societal culture. Where it went wrong is when it got to a wider audience. Many people understand the woman's reasons for doing what she did (because that's a very broad "us" - the "us" of modern, Western society), and fewer people understand the footballers reasons (because they're a smaller "us" - the "us" of Australian males playing professional football). So, the bigger "us" (society) lashes out against "them" (the footballers).

The footballers have broken one of society's moral rules. Because these footballers (like all people, everywhere) straddle more than one group - footballers and society - the larger, and therefore stronger, group is going to sideline them. Society no longer wants footballers as part of their "us", so they become a "them", and they are criticised, not just for breaking the rules, but for not realising what the consequences of doing so would be. It's intolerance at it's best, really.

The fact that we (as a society) are happy to judge on morals over legality, and allow the media to become judge, jury and executioner even in the face of no crime, is actually quite worrying. What's even more worrying is what it will take to turn that ship around ...


jethro's picture


morality: in the strictest sense of the word, deals with that which is innately regarded as right or wrong. The term is often used to refer to a system of principles and judgments shared by cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts and beliefs, by which humans subjectively determine whether given actions are right or wrong.

I would agree with your way of describing what happened here, however I think we need to separate the moral objectives from the subjective values.

Society's subjective determination seems to be the basis of your argument. Mine is based on the principal of moral definition behind that. One that says there is a definitive right and wrong, as opposed to a subjective right and wrong. Definitive right and wrong requires a definer, which by definition cannot be human, or it would be subjective. The definer would also need to be completely unchangeable, else the separation between right and wrong could blur or change.
The alternative is that humans are the ultimate self definers, which puts us into the William Golding "lord of the flies" predicament. How do we choose what is right or wrong?

Loquacity's picture

Laws define the boundaries of

Laws define the boundaries of what is acceptable. Within that, though, it is entirely subjective. Consider how morals have changed over the years - men no longer bother to wear hats when outdoors, and it's far from outrageous for a woman to show her ankles or - heaven forfend! - her knees. That hasn't come about because some external entity stated that hats were out and legs were in some time during the fifties. As for the 'Lord of the Flies' comment, why do you think it's become such a classic? Because that behaviour lingers in us all, and in the society we live in. We are all only a very small step away from savagery, and the incident with "Clare" and the footballers proves that yet again.

An interesting article cropped up on sociological images with regard to 'tribes' that I thought you might find interesting, too:


Anonymous's picture

Great Blog Tim. I haven't

Great Blog Tim. I haven't seen it before, but from now on will check it out.
Re the above; You & 'Loquacity' have said enough, other than:
People keep getting into these messes, & probably will as long as alcohol, or some other mind altering dis-inhibitor is part of the picture.
Sex is such a vital component of the Human 'being' that it rears it's head at predictable moments; like: add a titillated [alcohol infused] female to the cocktail of alcohol & testosterone driven personalities required to win a football championship & Voila! They're all excited by the 'danger' & then it's too late! Someone is hurt in the frenzy!?

& GOSH or by JINGO [as my Grandpa would say] 'Loquacity', you must be or should be a Barrister, &or Lawyer at least!?

Anonymous's picture

Zero tolerance begets zero

Zero tolerance begets zero intelligence. The desire for zero tolerance policies stems from a desire to not have to think. I'd much rather not live in a world where thinking is avoided, thank you. You may as well take the extra step and ban cars and footballers.... Then no such problem could ever occur, eh?