Returning to a theme I touched on in my last post, the perniciously perverse American attitude toward sex is really beginning to get on my nerves. John Edwards admits to having had a fling with a woman not his wife, and people who would ordinarily be leaping to his defense against the Bible-thumpers and the Puritan wannabes are suddenly howling for his head because he was almost sorta-kinda-maybe the Democratic
nominee frontrunner candidate for the presidency.
And now, via Towleroad, I hear that two wrestlers have been dismissed from the University of Nebraska team for "posing naked for videos and photographs on an Internet pornography site." The wrestling coach was quoted in the AP story as follows:
The history of behavior of these men, including the current matter, does not reflect the standard of excellence we aspire to on and off the mat. We have outstanding student-athletes in our program and we will move forward in a positive manner toward our goals.
I want to personally apologize for any embarrassment that may have been caused for our athletic department, the university and our fans.
The story further alleges that, along with a history of "past transgressions" in Lincoln that included underage drinking, trespassing, assault, and maintaining a disorderly house, the two violated an NCAA rule that, according to the Nebraska compliance director, "prohibits athletes from appearing in pictures for commercial use." I'm betting, however, that it has far more to do with the "embarrassment" that the coach alluded to than it does to any regulation--and, further, that the only reason anybody is or might possibly be embarrassed about this incident is that the two men appeared on a gay internet pornography site.
I haven't actually seen the photos or the videos that the two allegedly made (you can find the links at Towleroad, if you're curious). But from the descriptions of those photos and videos that I've read, it seems that all these young men did was to take off their clothes in front of a camera, display themselves in an aroused state, and then masturbate. That doesn't mean that either of them is gay. (Nor does it mean that either of them is heterosexual, though that would hardly be reason for anyone to be embarrassed about their behavior.) I did, however, actually take the trouble to download the NCAA's Division I rulebook (extremely large PDF file!), and looked up what I think are the rules the Nebraska director of compliance was referring to. And if the rules I saw are in fact the ones he's talking about, if I were his boss he'd be looking for another job right about now. Bylaw 220.127.116.11 states that, after becoming a student-athlete, an individual is ineligible for participation in intercollegiate athletics if s/he "(a) Accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind; or (b) Receives remuneration for endorsing a commercial product or service through the individual’s use of such product or service." I don't claim to be an expert in the NCAA eligibility rules (though I do happen to know someone who is--and believe me, I'm going to be asking her about this situation), but as I read the text of that regulation, I'm hard-pressed (no pun intended) to see how it could possibly be construed to apply to the two wrestlers from Nebraska. As far as I know, neither athlete allowed his picture(s) to be used to advertise or promote the site in question. Neither do I see how simply appearing on a site could be construed as an endorsement of it, except to the limited extent that they chose to appear on that site and not any of the hundreds or thousands of others like it. (Which would, obviously, pose more than a little logistical problem.)
Furthermore, if the wrestlers in question had begun modeling for that site before they enrolled in college and started participating in intercollegiate athletics, it appears that the NCAA wouldn't have had the slightest problem with them continuing to do so afterward. Bylaw 18.104.22.168 states that as long as the individual started doing the work in question before becoming a student-athlete, got the job because of something other than his/her athletic ability, doesn't endorse the commercial product, and gets paid at a rate commensurate to his/her actual experience as a model or a performer and not because of any athletic ability, s/he may continue to be paid for the use of his/her name and/or picture, under the same or similar circumstances and will not thereby lose eligibility to participate in sports.
I think I'm on safe ground when I say that it's a foregone conclusion that college athletes masturbate. I think I'm also on safe ground when I say that it's an established fact that there are people in the world who enjoy watching that kind of thing--and also people in the world who enjoy being watched doing that kind of thing. I'm also reasonably sure that, as long as the individual(s) in question are legal adults and were not coerced, harassed, or put in duress to induce them to participate, that their participation was entirely legal.
So what, pray tell, is there here for anybody to be embarrassed about? And how might the fact that these wrestlers posed nude on a website that caters to gay men constitute anything that would not reflect the "standard of excellence" that Nebraska claims to want to aspire to "on and off the mat"? Same with the "history of behavior" that he alluded to. From my days as a graduate student in Boulder, I have a certain degree of familiarity with the behavior of athletes from the University of Nebraska, given that the Nebraska game was always a
highlight lowlight of the football season. Indeed, if the behavior of the hordes of Nebraska fans and boosters that descended upon Boulder for every Nebraska game is any indication, a couple of busts for underage drinking and alcohol violations is chump change in comparison to the organized mayhem that always came to be associated with Cornhusker red in the mind of many Boulder denizens.
I'd be willing to bet as well that there is at least one amateur videotape or DVD of some Nebraska athlete having sex with his girlfriend(s) that's circulating somewhere on the internet--and that if it were to turn up tomorrow on a commercial website that catered to aficionados of heterosexual porn, the Nebraska athletic authorities would only smile, pat their charges affectionately and heterosexually on the ass, and say "Boys will be boys" or some such triviality. They might, to make it look good, suspend the player(s) in question from the team for a game or two, but I doubt he or they would lose eligibility or be dismissed from the team altogether.
That's not right. If it's "embarrassing" to the Nebraska image for two of its athletes to strut their stuff (without, to the best of my knowledge, revealing which school they attended) on a site that caters to gay men, it should be equally "embarrassing" for another athlete to do so on a site that catered to heterosexuals. Of course, my bigger argument is that it shouldn't be an embarrassment at all to acknowledge that young men do pleasure themselves, and that some of them are excited by the prospects of doing so on camera. As long as they aren't exposing themselves in the middle of the football field, or lurking in the bushes outside someone else's dorm room to do so, I don't have a problem with that. If they like to be watched and the people who are watching them knew that was what they'd be seeing when they clicked on a link or visited a particular site, I see it as no harm, no foul. Exhibitionism and voyeurism are only criminal when one or more of the parties thereto didn't consent or didn't know what s/he was getting into. Otherwise, it's all part and parcel of the varied and wonderful canvas of human sexuality.
I'd have thought that might actually be something that we taught in our universities. But apparently I'd be wrong.