The recent imprisonment of the Wigan Athletic footballer, Marlon King, for groping a woman and then smashing her in the face after she rejected him, was apparently his most recent crime in a line of convictions spanning twelve years. It is reported (Guardian, 2009) that the majority of King’s convictions involved violence, and in particular, sexual violence against women.
Cases such as Kings bring to light a small, but not insignificant number of male athletes who appear to be taking advantage of their status, money and high prestige to harm women (and other men). Coad (2009) and Benedict (1997, 2004) suggest these athletes are attempting to carry out ‘gender and sexual myths endorsed by jock culture’. According to them ‘jock culture’ codes involve dangerous, antisocial and often illegal behaviour. For male athletes subscribing to ‘jock culture’, one way of demonstrating those values is to sexually objectify women. The more sexual interactions with women, whether consensual or not, the more masculine they appear to themselves and others, since numerous heterosexual conquests are equated with masculinity.
Unlike the case brought against King, the majority of complaints against male athletes are dropped before they reach court (Benedict, 1997, 2004). However as Coad (2009) and Benedict (1997, 2004) report, crime associated with ‘jock culture’ appears to be on the increase. This warns us then, of the potential problematic outcomes of masculinities mixed with high prestige and status.
Marlon King’s criminal career off the pitch
A guide to the literature on aggressive behavior
Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL