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Sex and power in football and politics

  • 28 June 2013

Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport, by Anna Krien. Black Inc., 2013. Website


Sick of hearing about footballers using women as disposable items? A young writer has crash tackled the ugly questions of non-consensual sex, coercion and the male privilege and misuse of power that can flow from sporting success.

Feel the power of Krien's prose: 'suddenly sobering, she realises she is not one of the guys, that all this, that guy who is taking pictures with his mobile phone, the other guy who is waiting his turn, has nothing much to do with her ... She's the ball and everyone gets a touch — that is, if they're 'hungry' enough ...

'Treating women like shit shades into a culture of abuse, which in turn can shade to rape ... I feel like a slut. I thought it was you ... Don't let them leave yet, don't let them leave ... Can you finish me off?'

I'm sure you'll agree, Jen, that Krien's Night Games is a confronting, jarring piece of work. There were many times when, sickened by cruelty and indifference, I had to put the book down and walk my anger off.

Men taking liberties with women's bodies with seeming impunity is an old, old story but Krien has weaved this tale together during a new and increasingly diligent age of awareness. As hundreds of hirsute, highly-paid gladiators wade mid-season through our four major professional football codes and tens of thousands more romp through amateur comps, she pulls a big opponent to the ground and trounces him with relish.

This may well amount to a cultural game-changer. Part-speculative journalism, part court reportage, part meditation on human sexuality, Night Games centres around a recent court case alleging rape.

She consistently, sincerely poses big questions. When is something 'group sex', as opposed to a gangbang? Is it consensus, or coercion, when a woman enters into sexual activity with one young man, then finds his mates queuing up for their go?

Does the potent commingling of alcohol, drugs, testosterone and fame make everything up for grabs? Does consent have to be obtained for any and every act? If not, is it then a case of outright rape or a grubby encounter set to be legally dismissed as a 'he said/she said' game, to be abandoned after each tawdry melee?

Jen, I think Krien makes a devastating case for male contempt and abuse in this country. We need a re-examination of sexual