Rape culture and the games men (and women) play

Colin Kaepernick will not be charged with sexual assault after an April incident in Miami.  Photograph by Mike Morbeck.

Colin Kaepernick will not be charged with sexual assault after an April incident in Miami.  Photograph by Mike Morbeck.

OK, so he didn’t do it – which was apparent early on in the story.

But now its official:  Colin Kaepernick, fellow San Francisco 49er Quinton Patton and Seattle Seahawk Richard Lockette won’t be charged with sexual assault in an April incident involving a woman who had had a brief affair with Colin.

She visited Lockette in Miami, where he, Patton and Colin were training together, in the hope that her “relationship” with Colin would be rekindled.  Then things got “Exorcist”-style crazy in Lockette’s hotel room, Colin split and the woman wound up in the hospital claiming that she may have been sexually assaulted.

May have been, might’ve been – that didn’t stop TMZ from portraying Colin as one knife short of Jack the Ripper.

TMZ’s reporting – I use the term as loosely as possible – is just one problem in a culture that has such a cavalier attitude toward rape and in which men and women leave themselves vulnerable to “he said, she said.”

Why, for instance, would a young woman go to a hotel room where only men were present, men who were said to be drinking and smoking pot?  Sounds like a 911 call waiting to happen.  But then, she was apparently trying to turn a one-night stand into a meaningful relationship even though Colin had cut off contact with her last year when she claimed she was pregnant as an April Fool’s joke.  Some joke.  Then she tried to cry rape.  It’s an insult to the men, women and children who have suffered such a heinous act and those who have been falsely imprisoned because of it.

Let’s be clear, however:  Colin and company may be innocent of a crime but they are hardly blameless here.  Given the woman’s history with Colin, why entertain her at all, even for a moment?  Why wait for her behavior to turn belligerent and then exit “terrified.”  (The word Colin texted to a friend.)  What made her belligerent?  Is she mentally disturbed, which would render her even more vulnerable?

It’s a no-win situation in a game known for its professional violence on the field and sexual violence off – a subject I explore in my forthcoming novel “In This Place You Hold Me,” the second in my series “The Games Men Play.”  There New York Templars’ quarterback Quinn Novak enters into an S & M relationship with his rival Mal Ryan, in part because he doesn’t think he deserves any better.

Football isn’t the only sport or aspect of our culture in which rape has occurred or been alleged.  Athletes will always be ripe for such charges.  That’s why today’s top male tennis players are particularly smart and blessed.  Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray bonded at early ages with the women in their lives.  Feddy and wife Mirka just welcomed their second set of twins, while Nole and Jelena Ristic are planning a wedding and the arrival of their first child later in the year.

I’m not suggesting marriage and children breed immunity from temptation, false assumptions and promiscuity.  (Tiger Woods, anyone? – or should I say – everyone?)  Nor do I think everyone can or should mate early.  There’s something to be said for being footloose and fancy free – as long as you’re responsible about it.

But that’s hard in a culture that’s so ambivalent about rape.  There’s an underlying assumption that it’s not as serious a crime as it is, that the victim asks for it, particularly if the victim is a woman.  We encourage this with our disrespectful attitude toward the feminine, from our unwillingness to take seriously hurricanes with female names (you just can’t make this stuff up) to the horrific sexual mutilation of African girls – and African-American girls who visit that continent for “vacation” – as a way to temper women’s “promiscuity.”

The media doesn’t help with sensationalized reporting designed to glue eyeballs to the screen and programs in which rape is presented for titillation.  Recently, “Game of Thrones” was taken to task for that.  (I stopped watching early on when I realized it was going to be nothing more than a parade of bare bosoms and thuggish sex.)

I even stopped watching “Downton Abbey” when the series introduced a plot in which the maid Anna was raped.  Why did “Downton” need that?

Indeed, I watch no movie or program in which there’s a rape scene and as a novelist I’ve been careful to show the effects of rape and not the act itself.

In “Water Music,” the first novel in my series, tennis prodigy Alí Iskandar is repeatedly raped as a child by his guardian.  The result is a kind of PTSD and an inability to trust that leads to more heartache.

Rape is a dehumanizing act of power – not sex and certainly not passion or romance – from which no victim ever entirely recovers.  It’s time we as individuals and as a society stop playing games with it.