News Violence

Three Penn State Hires Linked to Sex Abuse Cases at Other Schools

Tara Murtha

Two reports in as many weeks have revealed that three big hires at Pennsylvania State University, chosen in part to help the school move past the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case, are linked to football-centered sexual assault cases at other schools.

Read more of our articles on consent and sexual assault on U.S. college campuses here.

Two reports in as many weeks have revealed that three big hires at Pennsylvania State University, chosen in part to help the school move past the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case, are linked to football-centered sexual assault cases at other schools.

In January, Penn State officials introduced James Franklin as the new coach of the Nittany Lions football team. Franklin had been football coach at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Last June, four Vanderbilt football players were dismissed from the team under suspicion of raping a female student while she was unconscious. A security camera in the dorm where the rape allegedly took place captured multiple men going in and out of one room before junior football player Brandon Vandenburg emerged and threw a towel over the lens.

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By August, four players were charged with five counts each of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. A fifth player was charged in relation to assisting in covering up the crime. He pled guilty to lesser charges in exchange for testimony against the other players. He was sentenced to probation and currently hopes to join the NFL.

Police described the evidence against the four players as “unsettling” and “compelling.” From Deadspin:

It’s believed the woman was raped in the room and then moved while the camera was obscured. The woman was reportedly unconscious while Vandenburg had sex with her. After the other three players entered the room, she was penetrated with random objects. Vandenburg recorded and took pictures. The woman had no recollection of any of it until she began to hear about the pictures and video.

Deadspin also reported, back in September, that a “source close to one of the dismissed players thinks coach Franklin urged one of the players to delete a video after viewing it.”

Franklin denied those charges.

Then, on Tuesday, documents filed by the defense allege that both Franklin and Dwight Galt, Vanderbilt’s former “head of performance enhancement,” contacted the victim after the alleged rape.

Galt was also hired by Penn State.

From The Tennessean:

Referring to records, the attorneys said the victim was contacted by Franklin and Galt during a medical examination four days after the rape to explain “that they cared about her because she assisted them with recruiting.”

The newly released defense filings allege that besides contacting the victim, Franklin also invited her to a “private meeting,” and told her “he wanted her to get fifteen pretty girls together and form a team to assist with the recruiting even though he knew it was against the rules. He added that all the other colleges did it.”

Franklin was referring to the practice of hiring female “hostesses” as part of a recruitment strategy.

Last night, Franklin issued a statement denying doing “something wrong.”

In 2012, Franklin made headlines for stating that he wouldn’t hire an assistant unless that person was married to a woman Franklin perceived as sufficiently attractive. “I’ve been saying it for a long time, I will not hire an assistant until I see his wife,” said Franklin. “If she looks the part and she’s a D1 recruit, then you got a chance to get hired.”

The allegations about Franklin and Galt come on the heels of last week’s explosive news regarding another high-profile, reportedly profoundly flawed investigation that unfolded at Florida State University (FSU) under Eric Barron’s tenure.

Barron is Penn State’s new president. He’s not an outsider to Penn State; he previously served as an administrator for two decades.

Under Barron’s tenure at FSU, a female student accused star football player Jameis Winston of rape. A year into the investigation, last December, local authorities announced they would not pursue charges against Winston.

As ESPN reported, the “decision clear[ed] the way for Winston to finish the season with the No. 1 Seminoles.” Winston won the Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to the most valuable college football player in the country, and his team won the national championship.

Barron’s appointment at Penn State came under scrutiny after a recent New York Times report revealed that the investigation was profoundly flawed—that is, what little of an investigation actually existed. The report “found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.”

According to the Times, authorities didn’t follow leads, failed to interview Winston for the first two weeks after the incident, and never obtained his DNA, among other failures, errors, and omissions. Evidence “disappeared,” including—as in the Vanderbilt case—video.

As noted at The New Republic, the revelation should trouble Penn State administrators, who are still struggling to move past revelations of profound systematic failure and a football-first culture that helped enable former football coach Jerry Sandusky to sexually assault children for years, sometimes on campus.

It has not been reported that Barron had direct knowledge of the botched investigation, despite it involving the most valuable player on not just the team but in all of college football.

Meanwhile, Penn State is holding events on campus all month in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: World Cup Players Told to Abstain, Women Debate Penis Size

Martha Kempner

This week, women prefer different penis sizes depending on whether the man is a one-night stand or long-term lover, FiveThirtyEight looks at whether World Cup players should have sex before a big game, and vibrators go wireless.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Size Matters?

The ongoing debate over whether penis size matters to heterosexual women continues, as a new study has found that preferences actually change based on the kind of relationship a woman expects.

Live Science reports on the study out of the UCLA Sexual Psychophysiology and Affective Neuroscience (SPAN) Laboratory, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. For the study, women were able to handle penis models made by a 3-D printer. The 33 available models varied in both length (from 4 inches long to 8.5 inches) and girth (from 2.5 inches in circumference to 7 inches). Women were asked to choose two penises—the one they’d like a one-night stand to have and the one they’d like a long-term partner to have.

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There was no difference in the length the women chose—the preferred model for both one-night stands and long-term lovers was 6.5 inches long. However, women seemed to want a slightly thicker penis for a one-time thing. The researchers hypothesize that penises that are too long may put pressure on the cervix causing pain during intercourse, while penises that are slightly thicker may add to the sensation of fullness of the vagina and may push the clitoris closer to the vagina thereby adding to clitoral stimulation.

Researchers then asked participants to examine one of the models for 30 seconds before it was taken away. The women were then asked to pick that model out from all 33 either right after they had looked at it or ten minutes later. Interestingly, most women overestimated the size of the penis she had just seen and picked a large model. The study’s lead author told Live Science that “for men who are considering surgery to increase their phallus sizes, maybe they do not have to after all, if women tend to overestimate.”

Sex at the World Cup: Yea or Nay?

Another ongoing debate in sexuality is whether star athletes should abstain from sex until after the big game or tournament. Some in favor of waiting have argued that sex will distract and deplete athletes, and that unsatiated desires can fuel aggression and competitive spirit. Others, however, think sex is a nice way to rest and calm one’s nerves before a performance.

Leading up to the World Cup, a number of coaches said sex was off-limits when their teams got to Brazil. Mexico’s players were told not to have sex, and the coach of the team from Bosnia-Herzegovina told his players, “There will be no sex in Brazil. … I am not interested what the other coaches do, this is not a holiday trip, we are there to play football at the World Cup.”

Brazil’s coach took a slightly more balanced approach, if a more intrusive one. “Usually normal sex is done in balanced way, but there are certain forms, certain ways and others who do acrobatics. We will put limits and survey the players,” he said.

Writing for data journalism site FiveThirtyEight, Mona Chalibi looked at some of the studies that have been done on this topic. A 2000 meta-review of 31 studies on sex and sports performance found that most were not scientifically credible. The three studies that were methodologically sound found that sex the night before an athletic event had no physiological effect on performance but none of them looked at potential psychological impact. Chalibi notes a more recent study, which found that 40 percent of long-distance runners felt weaker while they were exerting themselves after sex, but the authors of that study noted that sex seemed to affect each athlete differently.

Other research considered whether the real issue isn’t the sex itself but the fact that every nighttime minute an athlete is “doing it” is one he or she is not spending asleep, and research has certainly found that well-rested athletes perform better.

A final set of research, however, could be used to support sex before the event, at least for women. In a number of studies, researchers have found that orgasms relieve pain (such as migraines and menstrual cramps) and increase a woman’s tolerance for pain.

In the end, maybe the Brazil coach has it right. Some run-of-the-mill sex that leads to orgasm but doesn’t tire you out too much or keep you up all night might be the way to go.

Safe Sex Poster Revealed During England v. Italy Game

Speaking of the World Cup, a sexual health organization in the United Kingdom took advantage of the fact that all eyes are on the sport right now. Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust revealed the first of three new posters during Saturday night’s England v. Italy game. The poster, which pictures a soccer ball being caught by a net, reads, “Planning to score? If you’re a player, wear a condom.”

iPhone-Controlled Sex Toy

And finally, long-distance relationships may get a big boost from the latest technology to hit the sex toy market. OhMiBod is currently in production on a vibrator, scheduled to ship next month, that can be controlled by your partner’s cell phone using Bluetooth.

Some couples may want to play from a farther distance than Bluetooth will allow, so the company is raising funds (through Indiegogo) to add WiFi capabilities—taking phone sex to the next level for sure.

Commentary Violence

Jameis Winston, and the Overlapping of Football Culture and Rape Culture

Jessica Luther

Florida State University star quarterback Jameis Winston was recently accused of raping a fellow student. Football culture clouds our ability to see him as anything other than a famous kid with amazing athletic skills, while rape culture demands that we mistrust the victim, question her credibility, and try to poke holes in her story.

Read Jessica Luther’s follow-up piece about the Jameis Winston case here.

Earlier this month, only a few days apart, the Tampa Bay Times and TMZ made public-records requests to the Tallahassee, Florida, police department. Both were looking for a police report filed nearly a year ago by a Florida State University (FSU) student who accused Jameis Winston—FSU’s star quarterback and the front-runner for college football’s top honor, the Heisman Trophy—of rape.

After TMZ broke the story, coverage quickly began focusing on the site’s credibility and a possible police cover-up, accompanied by every version of victim-blaming imaginable. Following positive DNA test results from the woman’s rape kit, which definitively linked Winston to her that night, the media boiled the case down to a typical he-said, she-said debate. Winston, through his attorney, now claims it was consensual sex. The victim’s family, in response, released a statement saying, “To be clear, the victim did not consent. This was a rape.”

FSU has more than 40,000 students in a city of less than 187,000. I attended the school from 1998 to 2002, and saw Tallahassee flooded during home football games; restaurant wait times were astronomical, and traffic was horrendous. It is not an exaggeration to say that on those weekends, football was life in that city.

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This season, after a long drought of disappointing showings, FSU’s team has finally returned to the top of college football. Many credit Winston’s play and leadership as pivotal to the team’s current #2 ranking in the polls. As Stassa Edwards recently wrote on the Ms. Blog, Winston is seen as “more than a football player” in Tallahassee— “[h]e’s a hero or a saint.” Not only do the hopes and dreams of millions of fans rest on his throwing arm, quick legs, and ability to read a defense, but the economy of the city and the university do as well.

A single weekend when both FSU and its opponent are ranked in the top five, over $10 million flows into the city. (That number dips when the games are not as high-stakes.) In 2011, the football team alone generated $34 million in revenue, a significant portion of the $78 million that the entire athletic program brought in that year. When large athletic programs do well, applications increase and more students from out-of-state attend and pay higher tuition. Alabama is a great example of this. College football is big business.

It is no wonder that this particular case of a football player accused of rape has made headlines, monopolized large portions of SportsCenter’s coverage, and become yet another public referendum on the veracity of rape victims. (Spoiler alert: a lot of people assume the woman in this case is lying.)

It’s also very tempting to see this case as an isolated incident, so as not to have to question if there is a connection between the most popular and lucrative sport in this country and the rape culture that permeates so much of our lives. But as history has shown us, we know that not to be the case. Earlier this year, at the end of of the rape trial involving two Steubenville High School football players, Dave Zirin at The Nation wrote about why its important to interrogate where jock culture and rape culture overlap:

I am not asking if playing sports propels young men to rape. I am asking if the central features of men’s sports—hero worship, entitlement, and machismo—make incidents like Steubenville more likely to be replicated.

And they are replicated. Winston’s case isn’t even in isolation at FSU. In addition to Stassa Edwards, Adam Weinstein and Marci Robin have written pieces recently drawing attention to how football culture and rape culture both operate within Tallahassee and on FSU’s campus. On top of that, less than six months ago, in June 2013, FSU wide receiver Greg Dent was suspended indefinitely from the team after he was charged with second-degree sexual assault. In the coverage of the case against Winston, there is almost no mention of Dent.

In 2013 alone, there have been cases reported at Ohio State, Arizona State, Vanderbilt University, McGill University (which is, admittedly, north of the border in Canada), and the University of California, Los Angeles; the latter two happened just this month. The Vanderbilt case, which involved five football players, is ongoing and has been for months, with very little media coverage outside of Nashville, despite how horrific the crime was, how poorly the prosecution seems to be handling the case, and how high-profile the school is.

Last year, in 2012, there were allegations against players at the University of Texas, Appalachian State University, and the U.S. Naval Academy. The Naval Academy trial is still ongoing. The U.S. military is dealing with issues of sexual assault across all of its branches, which has been major news recently due to federal legislation being debated in Congress. But the Naval Academy case from 2012 is very similar to a rape that occurred at the same school in 2001, the earlier one ending not in a trial but simply a dismissal of the accused from the academy. And the Appalachian State case is similar to one from 1997 at that school.

I can keep going: Miami and Connecticut in 2011; Notre Dame and Montana (coach and athletic director may have been involved in the cover-up) in 2010; Michigan in 2009; Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2005; Brigham Young University, Arizona State (the school knew the rapist was a threat and did little to protect his victim), and Kansas State in 2004; Notre Dame in 2002 (one player pleaded guilty, transferred schools, played at Kent State, and then went into the NFL); and the University of Washington in 2001. Colorado football players were accused of raping women in 1997, 1999, and 2001.

On the high school level, Steubenville has drawn attention to other cases, including one in Torrington, Connecticut, and, more famously, one in Maryville, Missouri, where the rape victim’s house was burned down in a likely act of intimidation by members of the community.

Sexual assault and violence against women are issues at the highest level of football: the National Football League. According to Forbes, the NFL is “the most lucrative [league] in the world,” with an annual revenue of $9 billion—it’s the ultimate money-maker. A 2011 Rewire article noted multiple rape cases involving NFL players, including one of the most well-known—that of alleged serial assaulter Ben Roethlisberger.

There is a reason I can rattle off these cases: The culture around (and therefore, the economy of) football today is dependent on a society that minimizes and/or ignores rape. College programs, in order to lure top players—who they are not allowed to pay—to their schools, stroke the players’ egos and present the fantasy that beautiful women will be their reward for living on their campus. Dave Zirin points out that the fact that players are “treated like gods by the adults who are supposed to be mentoring them” is a critical factor leading some men to expect others to simply do what they want. Yet, at the same time that they are being held up as gods by some, others see these players only as potential dollar signs. For those in charge of teams, departments, and leagues, football is all about using up bodies in such a way that they profit from them. The stripping away of the humanity of a potential rape victim by a rapist is similar in many ways—though not directly parallel—to the dehumanization that takes places when university administrators, team owners, and league commissioners commodify the bodies of these players.

I can imagine a football culture that does not work this way. It would involve including a lot more women in all kinds of roles within teams, university athletic departments, and league administrations. It would include mandatory annual rape prevention training focused on teaching consent and empathy for the victim. (That we don’t teach these things already was a takeaway from the Steubenville trial.) It would ban the use of college women in recruitment, and it would treat women as regular fans of football.

In the end, whether or not Jameis Winston is guilty, we know he is deeply invested in a football culture that is incredibly problematic, especially where it intersects with rape culture. Football culture clouds our ability to see him as anything other than a famous kid with a nice-guy persona and amazing athletic skills. Rape culture demands that we mistrust the victim, question her credibility, and try to poke holes in her story. It creates this familiar narrative in which people who have invested their own hopes and dreams in Winston claim his innocence immediately and refuse to hear anything else.

No matter what happens in the Winston case, I do know this: Money will continue to flow, and games will be won. Football will march on and over whatever bodies it must. And many will cheer it on as it does.