Posted in Blog Posts

College football and rape: Privilege

Rape culture is evident in several areas of our society, and we often see it play out on college campuses. The film The Hunting Ground illustrated the stories from sexual assault victims, and some of them had a common theme – male athletes.

This is not to say that all male athletes are rapists. That’s not even close to true. The issue is when male athletes do commit crimes like rape, it is harder to bring them to justice because of rape culture. The biggest part of rape culture that helps out perpetrators is privilege.

We’ve talked about oppression, which keeps certain groups in a disenfranchised state. Privilege is the opposite. It keeps dominant groups in that position. There are lots of intersections for privilege, and the two that come into play in this scenario tends to be male privilege and economic or status privilege.

Male privilege goes back to us living in a patriarchal society. So that means that because men are already at an advantage without issues like misogyny, so society is more likely to cater to men. Also, men are viewed as more powerful than women generally, which contributes to how much people are willing to go against them. Economic privilege is, you guessed it, based on your economic status. We’ve all heard the phrase money talks, which correlates directly with this type of privilege. This doesn’t have to mean you are wealthy, but it means that money and wealth associated with you (like all the money schools put into sports) gives you leverage in a situation.

Let’s look at campus rape from Oregon University.  Recently, it came to light that a 1998 gang rape case was covered up systematically. Coaches, not law enforcement or admission officials, handled it. Two football players involved were made to do community service and suspended for one game. That doesn’t sound like justice does it?

The victim’s rape kits and other damning evidence was destroyed and covered up until the statute of limitations ran out. You might ask yourself how this is possible, and the answer is power and privilege.

Those players were more valuable to that institution than the rape victim, giving them economic privilege. If you factor that in with the fact that they are male and the coach was male, giving them more leverage in a war of words then that explains how privilege factored in to such an injustice.

Each situation is different, but privilege and oppression are at play in almost every area of our lives. I understand that some people want to deny that privilege exists or matters, but evidence supports it. So, next time you see a football player accused of sexual assault and the story just leaves the media sooner than later, maybe this will pop back into your mind and answer some questions.


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