Look in the Mirror: The Hypocrisy of PSU Rage

Before we can properly punish Sandusky and those who protected him, we must first point the finger of blame at ourselves, Tom Matlack writes.

I tuned in to my favorite sports radio talk show again today just to check: is it still all pedophilia, all the time?

Yup.

The 20 minutes of the broadcast I caught centered on then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, what he failed to do to protect a child being raped, and how McQueary should have killed Sandusky with his bare hands—and, for failing to do that, he himself should get the electric chair.

Don’t get me wrong; I am all for a national discussion of child abuse. But my question really is: Where have you guys been this whole time? When the Catholic Church scandal broke here in Boston, no one called sports radio to advocate the firing squad for Cardinal Law. We don’t get hour after hour after hour of rehash on the national morning shows on the trafficking of minors for sex.

So why does this one pedophile make the collective male skin crawl when so many before were shrugged off?

A few days ago on the very same sports talk show, I heard an FBI agent who spent thirty years investigating child abuse explain that Penn State is no different than a thousand other schools, universities, camps, and religious groups whose mission is to care for children but where pedophilia has grown up, been protected, and continues to this day. “The idea that some stranger is going to rape your kids is exactly false,” he said. “It’s almost always someone who you trust, someone you probably like, someone you have a hard time believing is capable of such a thing.”

And yet none of us want to talk about the problem in our midst. We want to talk endlessly about Joe Pa.

Why?

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I think it has something to do with the idea that perverted sexual activity was occurring these last decades right at the very epicenter of masculinity—the PSU football locker room. We thought we knew what it meant to be male and good, and we have now found out the exact opposite is true.

What really fucking pisses us off isn’t the badness itself; as part of the great wave men buying pornography and sex overtakes our country, we have been perfectly willing to look the other way as sex crimes accelerate. It’s the hypocrisy. That shit brings up fantasies of ramming inanimate objects up Muammar Gaddafi’s nether regions before putting a bullet through his head, or tossing Bin Laden off an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

That’s what I keep hearing about over and over again: male rage. We can’t believe that this little boy was raped. That dozens of other little boys were raped. And that it happened inside the most venerated sports brand on the face of the planet, aided and abetted by Vince Lombardi himself (not really, but you know what I mean).

We like a constant world order, and this shakes up everything—even if you are a dumbass, beer-swilling college football fan. I really don’t want to think about child rape, but now I have no goddamn choice. So batten down the hatches, boys—I’m going to make sure all those perverts get strung up even if I have to fly down there to Happy fuckin’ Valley myself!

♦◊♦

Perhaps the hardest question of all: What do we do to punish Sandusky and those who protected him?

Let’s start with the problem. To date, we have been unable to bring hardcore pedophiles to justice because, frankly, not enough people cared or were educated on how damaging this behavior is to the victims. The instinct has been to try to sweep in under the rug and hope that it goes away. And when it doesn’t (Catholic Church, anyone?), the worst offenders are sent to prison, where they die or are killed and the victims are paid off in civil court for their hardship. Not a lot changes.

Joe Paterno is a devout Catholic. Don’t you think he might have connected the dots from the large number of priests who had done so much harm to the abuse happening right under his nose? The answer is an obvious no. We have not learned our lesson.

But amidst all this narrowly focused hate directed toward Sandusky, Paterno, and McQueary, I really wonder where we are in dealing with the underlying issue. You can give all three the death penalty (it is amazing to me that at this writing Sandusky is free on $100k bail, but that is a side issue) and that still will not do anything to protect the country’s children or deal with the much larger truth that angry callers on sports radio refuse to acknowledge.

We all share the blame here.

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I was brought up a Quaker pacifist and continue to believe that the death penalty is inhumane and inappropriate for any crime in a civilized country. That doesn’t make me a wimp—just a guy who would rather look deeper than frying criminals as a solution to society’s ills.

What little I know about pedophilia is that it is a very sick and perverted form of addiction. That’s why pedophiles are so manipulative, with each ending up harming so many children.

If we take the view for just a moment that a guy like Sandusky is mentally ill—pathological, if you want—what does that say about responsibility and the best way to punish those who are found guilty?

I’m all for preventing child abuse—and that means taking pedophiles off the streets and dealing with them in whatever way best insures no child will ever be harmed by them again—whether through long prison sentences, locked mental health facilities, or neutralizing the perpetrators’ sexual drives through drugs or surgery.

But the only way we are going to really deal with this problem is by admitting that we collectively have let it go on way too long—not just at Penn State, but also in our own churches, at our own schools, in our own communities. It’s the lack of action—the cover-up—that perpetuates the problem.

The pathologically ill pedophile is not ever going to stop. He (or she) will keep going until we stop that person—and up until now we just haven’t done enough to do that. Yes, we can rant and rave nonstop that those involved at PSU should be brought to justice. But that won’t change what happened—and it doesn’t acknowledge the real problem.

The real problem is that until now we haven’t wanted to look at sexual misconduct in our own communities. And it’s about time we did.

Read Hugo Schwyzer’s response to Tom Matlack’s post here.

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About Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack is the co-founder of The Good Men Project. He has a 18-year-old daughter and 16- and 7-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life. Follow him on Twitter @TMatlack.

Comments

  1. brilliant. heartbreakingly brilliant.

  2. I think the outrage at PSU as opposed to the Catholic church comes from a condition in this society that places sports, especially college sports above all else. When the glass menagerie of our favorite (or alumni) team is shattered our first reaction is too be outraged. Because of the crime but because deep down, we’re worried about what happens to the program after something like this. I’m not a PSU fan and I learned a long time ago I should like sports but love life. Not the other way around. “Men” don’t have that sort of connection (or sports talk radio shows to call) about church. Only gives us reason to not attend on Sunday and watch sports.

    • Men are outraged because the victims are male, and furthermore under their favorite ALL AMERICAN institution of football and a god-like coach JoPa. Men feel like they have been let down.

      Thousands of women are raped around the globe, in our communities, on our streets in broad day light – yet these haven’t gotten the same outrage from men as the Sandusky case. I don’t want to make light of the EIGHT boy victims here, but there are thousands of female rape victims in comparison – but rape occur so regularly to women that society’s become desensitized to these sexual violent cases. Who have let these women down? Men? Where are the good men to stand up AND stand beside our women, girls and boys?

      • Tom Matlack says:

        That’s the point of the post Taylor.

        • Yep, what I came on here to say. Thanks Taylor, you saved me some time! Tom, excellent post. I’ve been feeling like it’s “all PSU, all the time” in the blogosphere, and had told myself I needed a break from articles on this topic, but I’m glad I read just one more!

      • Maybe because the victims are boys, straight men can somehow relate and can understand rape as a violation and therefore become enrage. Whereas with female rape victims there seems to be less compassion – is it because straight men just see raping women as merely sex? While men on boys is vile and sexual violence in this combination deserves more outrage?

        Look at homophobic violence…it occurs mainly within the male gender…perhaps that’s an underlying catalyst for the extra attention and compassion which the Penn State story seems to garner from people, particularly the male population.

        • Tom Matlack says:

          Perhaps Taylor. I’m not sure it’s completely a gender issue since there is plenty of man on boy abuse that has not received hour after hour of sports radio attention.

          • Then it’s the prestige of Penn State that’s helped put a spotlight on male rape victims. A lot of men can relate to football, so like you mentioned – men have no choice but to sit up straight and listen. The love of football has inadvertently open the eyes and hearts of men to the serious issue of rape, hopefully regardless of gender.

        • I just have another thought on gender violence. There’s gotta be a correlation as to why I feel straight men are more compassionate towards men on boy rape violence as oppose to men on women rape.

          As I said in another post on here, I believe there are some men who think raping a women is just a sexual act. Why do I think this? BECAUSE men see enough graphic porn where rape, and gangbanging and violent scenarios towards women are the norm; so when there are news stories of women raped and murdered, no one flinches – some probably think it’s even “hot”. Hard-core porn is legal…subconsciously some deviant men probably equate rape as legal or their right also.

          • I don’t see any evidence that men are more compassionate towards men on boy rape violence. Maybe men on children violence.

            • Rape is violence, albeit sexual. Boys ARE children. Violence is violence. Why less compassion for rape vs. “regular” violence??? Why set up a distinction? What does that say about our attitudes toward rape in general? That it is less serious than other types of violence?

              Those EIGHT boys were lucky they were not murdered because had they been female they most likely would have been raped AND murdered. But in this case scenario there was a sense of trust and familiarity, and father-figure relationship – also Sandusky needed them around long-term. Whereas most instances of female rape go both ways where the perpetrator is either known (so perhaps will spare her life) or a complete stranger, but more often than not… females are raped AND murdered. Murdered to prevent identification of perpetrator to police and any chances of pregnancy.

            • The most vulnerable are women and children in society, and one would think it’s the strong ones who would come and protect them; but lately the opposite seems to be true – the “strong” ones, the almighty deviants would come find them and hurt them: the ones with more physical strength, more power, more affluence, more ego….

            • I have to say that saying those boys were ‘lucky’ is the wrong choice of words. I think I know what you were trying to say, but regardless of gender and not getting murdered, those kids were certainly not lucky.
              Also that it is not my experience that people don’t flinch when a woman is raped and murdered. I have found quite the opposite with anyone I’ve ever known.
              This cases received a more extreme reaction because the guy was deemed to be a ‘hero’. Same happened here in Canada last year with the Russell Williams case. (If you don’t know it, look it up). In short, he was also a ‘hero’, who turned out to be a rapist and murderer. His victims were all female and it also received an extreme reaction because of who he was. Another case was the bernardo/holmolka case, that received the same reaction, mostly because holmolka was a female killer who got off with a short sentence, a whole other issue.
              I feel that this case would have had the same reaction if it was girls involved, it’s not always about gender. obviously these crimes happen way more to females, I like to think most of us feel the same about them either way.

            • Taylor, I think about this a lot. There just seems to be so much anger at women. I’ll leave it at that, lest I write 5,000 words in a comment!

            • you SHOULD write 5000 words. I would like to know what you mean that there is so much anger towards women. I’m not disagreeing with you.
              What I have seen in general is that both sexes view the other as complete morons. Countless times I have heard a group talk about how the other sex are useless, lazy, dumb, etc. Obviously our media doesn’t help the situation. Nothing is more rediculous than the TV commercials that show ‘mom’s out shopping, dads too dumb too cook, were having pizza!’ To think, our children are bombarded with this stuff.
              We all need to have a little more tolerance and understanding with the other sex before we can start to see where the other is coming from.

            • I’m totally with you. I’m sure I notice the anger at women more than anger from women towards men because I have a skewed experience being a woman. So I get all the misogynistic anger…and not being a man, do not receive misandrist (sp??) anger. I may have to write those 5000 words (hopefully a lot less!), though, because I’m deeply interested in WHERE anger comes from. I perceive there to be a lot more lately. And look at what’s going on in this country. There’s a lot to be angry about, and a lot of people are hurting, and when people hurt, they lash out. There just seems to be this profound malaise, and I see men and women blaming each other, taking it out on each other, as if there are only so many pieces of the pie, and if one gender gets a piece, that’s one less piece for the other. Anyway, will contemplate a deeper post! :-)

            • I had never heard of this one, and it was male coaches (36 of them) with girl swimmers. Much bigger story, more victims and more of a cover up. Ya, I’d say we as a society pretty much expect our girls to be raped, and just turn the channel, if the media choses to tell us at all.
              http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/abc-news-investigation-usa-swimming-coaches-raped-molested/story?id=10322469&page=1

            • Julie Gillis says:

              Seems like we all could discuss anger as a topic.

            • If you wonder about the anger towards women, consider how men are portrayed each day; watch some TV advertisements, watch a couple of hours of a sit-com, read the reports of a male rapist in the newspaper, listen to a few hours of radio news. Then consider how women are talked about differently to men, how men are vilified, denigrated and ridiculed. Then consider the endlessly supportive comments women criminals get, the constant stream of excuses that no court or media would permit a man to even be reported as saying, let alone give any credibility to. Women support this misandrist behaviour by action and inaction.

              When a male rapist gets no gaol time nor a sex offender registry entry for raping four under 15 year old students because he is “emotional” and had “alcohol-related problems” then you’ll begin to understand. This has happened in my community, except the rapist was a women and the excuses for leniency would never be accepted if the rapist was a man. She was shown “understanding and compassion” for the difficult time she was going through; no-one cared four boys had been drugged and raped…after all they are only boys and evidently disposable.

      • martrevion says:

        A good majority of the good men to stand by good women are either locked up or dead or still exixting without ever dealing with the issue(s) of abuse that took place in their lives. I tried seeking help to deal with sexual trauma on several occasions. Unfortunately,(outside the VA, I am a Veteran) men have little to no resources, therapists, counselors, psychiatrists to offer any kind of treatment services. Women can goo damn near Any fucking place on the planet and get help for dealing with these kind of issues whereas we are left Stuck to deal with the bullshit on our own while at the risk of being mocked, ridiculed, talked down on, and stereotyped, MisUnderstood, you name it. As a kid I wondered why so many men were football lovers. Thank God for enlightment, clarity, Disernment. As far as same sex attractions, the world hasn’t even began to see what’s coming pertaining to that Even though the signs are all around us.

  3. I am at constant odds with my family and friends (the ones I have left) at the nature of my blogging and personal writing.

    They don;t udnerstand why I talk so openly, over Al Gore’s internet, about my social anxiety disorder, divorce, and odd belief system.

    My point is, especially in suburbia, talking about anything difficult or embarrassing is seen as weird and uncomfortable.

    I shared your post a few months ago about struggling with addiction and becoming a better man with family and friends. I thought it was brilliant. They squirmed and wondered why men like you and I would write about that. That’s insane, right?

    The web of wrong in the Penn State started decades ago when Happy Valley became this much too clean and perfect myopia run by a dude with black shoes, glasses, and a mumbling voice. Jerry Sandusky ran wild (allegedly) because no one in the idyllic area of Is Anyone Paying Attention, Pennsylvania thought asking questions was comfortable.

    Great post, Tom.

  4. There will always be stories that grab more people’s attention than others.

    There is no we, it’s only a group of people who’ll cover up crimes for the sake of their reputation.

  5. Interesting to watch your own move Tom from confusion and questions in your earlier post to rage and questions of rage. A move that I think is collective (there is a we. This is our culture).

    I think you’ve touched on it all brilliantly.

    A few thoughts in addition to yours – I think yours are all spot on and I’m not arguing differently, I’m arguing more.

    Perhaps male rage at this incident has something to do with fear. You are entirely right, this is not a new issue, it’s happening constantly. And when rape becomes not a women’s issue, men suddenly have to be afraid.

    They might also have to remember.

    There are different statistics. There is general consensus that all abuse is under reported. But many of those statistics say that 33% of adult American men – that’s near one in three, that’s our brothers and best friends and coaches and selves – were sexually abused as minors.

    Secondly, I would agree that there is an odd question as to why we aren’t so mad all the time, why a woman being raped does not get this same moral outrage. Perhaps, just perhaps, PSU made the mistake of assuming these children were categorically the same as women. The cover up, the overwhelming support of the community for the perp, the insidious institutionalization of the harm, is a known thing about college campuses. PSU itself had a frat finally come under fire when it’s pledges took to vowing “no means yes, yes means anal”. PSU is not unique. By flipping out about it, we manage to demonize a few and isolate the incident as strange. But it isn’t strange. This is our culture. These are our trusted and idolized. It has become okay to ‘consume’ gang rape porn, to call your consenusal partner a dirty whore mid toe curl, to be a happily married man who sleeps with call girls. It has become okay to rape children in our churches and our locker rooms. We’re a culture with a lot of secrets, and a lot of fear of what will happen when we tell.

    I, too, have had to stop reading and listening to commentary on PSU. Even as reports were breaking, my reaction was not rage, but fatigue. As it grew in national conversation, it became disgust. C’mon, people. This happens every fucking day.

    And disgust, too, that so much of our reaction feeds into the same violence. String em up. Castrate em. It it off and let him bleed to death. Or, as you point out Tom, those allusions to ramming inanimate objects up Qaddafi’s anus. Those images that came out of Abu Gharib are not so terribly old. Secrecy and power turn even pretty American girls into rapists.

    This is who we are.

    Writing like this, honest conversations about where the good men are and what they say or do not say, is perhaps the most important first steps we can be taking.

  6. This “out of sight, out of mind” thinking is hardly unique to men or to the “very epicenter of masculinity”. How many times do you hear people say, “I can’t believe that happened in my neighborhood” after some horrible account of abuse makes the news? The unfortunate truth is that people simply do not want to deal with child abuse. They do not want to see it, hear about it or talk about it. They want the abusers either locked away forever or killed, and they cannot stand hearing anything from the victims.

    Child abuse bursts our social bubble. We love to pretend that our private worlds — our homes, families, neighborhoods — are safe from “those” things. When we hear about child abuse, we realize all that was just a bunch of delusional nonsense. It is not the strange drifter who will hurt your kid; it is sister who loves to snuggle with your son. There is no guy in a trench coat hiding in around the corner. Instead, it is the coach who creates a group for at-risk boys.

    The Penn State and Catholic Church cases show how bureaucracy can make people ignore horrific acts, but it still plays on people simply not wanting to deal with child abuse. I think we will find that Paterno, McQueary, Curely and Schultz assumed someone else would deal with it rather than some grand conspiracy.

  7. The whole media coverage of this PSU case is absolute proof of gender bias in society.

    There have been so many other cases, and many worse than anything at PSU, but they have not attracted anything like the media Coverage, The Public Moral Outrage, Comment and supposed analysis. Why?

    It’s simple – the Sandusky case gives people a glimpse into a world they know about and the are unhappy about the results. The Media and others suddenly have a term of reference to work with and they are milking it for all it is worth.

    then it is driven by media testosterone – editors, reporters, ancheroids that are looking at the Figures and Media Revenue pay off – it’s warfare and using the Sandusky case and the victims as ammunition.

    The failures in covering past events is down to Gender Bias Induced Blindness. “We can’t find an angle of the story” is the cry – what they mean is we can’t see the benefit in time and effort.

    If the media and society were not riddled with gender Bias – then the victims and their damage would be the focus, and not that fact that a football was used and it was a foul ball!

    • I absolutely agree with your post. No doubt that there is a gender bias.

      You chose to call it “Gender Bias Induced Blindness”. I call it “SELECTIVE EMPATHY”.

      • i don’t believe it has anything to do with gender, it has to do with the position the offender was in. same as Russell Williams here in canada, he was deemed a sort of ‘hero’ until it was found he was a rapist killer. his victims were female and the case also received an extreme reaction, just like if this football coaches victims had of been female. I have personally never talked to people who were less outraged by an offence like this based on gender, that boggles my mind. Im sure it exists, but anyone I’ve ever talked to are just as angry and disgusted at a crime like this, regardless of gender.

      • I don’t see bias in the sense your talking about. I think what gets covered in news is a function of many things including
        1) what other news networks are covering (social proof is more powerful than you think!)
        2) unexpectedness (man bites dog is news, dog bites man is not)
        3) opportunism (media is very lazy…seeks out the easiest news stories to cover not the hardest)

        Man rapes woman is not news because it isn’t that unexpected. There are many pedophiles…why is it that pedophilia in churches is so heavily covered. Because no one expects this of a priest. Its very unexpected. It has nothing to do with gender bias.

        I think my media theory which I just developed in the last 10 minutes makes a lot more sense than either Noam Chomsky’s or the theories just presented. I guess I must be a fucking genius!
        After all Noam Chomsky’s a PhD. I guess it takes a PhD to be incredibly stupid.

        • Of course there is a gender bias. You pointed it out yourself “Man rapes woman is not news because it isn’t that unexpected”. So your argument is that anything beyond this is more newsworthy.

          Really you’re basically saying the same things I and the other have pointed out but in different words.

          I’m not even focused on the media point of view, I’m more concerned with the general apathy towards female rape violence, not just in our country – but on a global scale. This apathy has allowed rape and mass rape as weapon of war and so on, to continue to flourish. When women suffer, children and whole communities suffer.

        • “3) opportunism (media is very lazy…seeks out the easiest news stories to cover not the hardest)”

          Not only lazy in finding stories, but lazy in coverage and investigation too.

          The coverage and rate of regurgitation from one news source to another is all to do with Revenue and Jockying for position – very competitive, combative even and supposedly very male.

          It’s interesting to see which coverage and comment does NOT get wide coverage.

          Clear voices are rare – and I was glad to hear John Amaechi speak – http://tinyurl.com/7bw5o2f

          It can also be found http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kc8zGCpkh1o

          Hard Questions – and Surprising, Well Considered, Rational and On Point Answers.

  8. wellokaythen says:

    I haven’t followed the story very closely, so forgive my ignorance, but:

    Has anyone actually been convicted of anything or confessed to anything just yet? I’m not saying that sexual abuse is not a serious problem. I’m not calling anyone innocent. Don’t get me wrong. Just saying that maybe we shouldn’t actually kill someone without due process. Whatever happened to the words “alleged’ and “allegations” and “rumors”?

  9. John Hedtke says:

    You can speak for yourself on this one, Tom. I have been quite lout about the idea of jailing everyone up the chain at the Roman Catholic Church for their continuing failure to stop pedophilia, to condemn the actions of those who did this, and to reveal the full details of what they knew happened in individual cases. I am a strong proponent of arresting and trying the Pope for his collusion in covering up innumerable cases of child abuse when he was a Cardinal. The only reason that I haven’t phoned in to a sports talk radio show is that sports talk commentators usually have a room temperature IQ and it’s not a venue for civilized discourse.

    Yes, try Sandusky. He shouldn’t be allowed out on bail; the judge should have recused himself because of his close ties. And try the Pope for supporting similar behavior. I’ve been saying this since the first stories broke about the mountain of Roman Catholic abuse in 2002-2003. And I’m saying it still. This is not hypocrisy, this is consistency.

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    The news tells us some things, and not others. We heard endlessly about the Duke non-rape case, but not about Dukie Katie Rouse being raped at a Duke frat house. We heard next to nothing about the Duke Frank Lombard case.
    Other than picking stories that advance a narrative and skipping those which don’t, I don’t see why some news grabs us–PSU–and some doesn’t–the Catholics– and some gets media momentum and some doesn’t. Speaking of Catholics reminds me of a news report that an insurance company dealing with church liability coverage says the Catholics are about as bad as other denominations. But being so hierarchical, the stain can spread along hierarchical capillaries, unlike in a looser denomination.
    Personally, I’ve never observed anything that would lead me to think anything shifty was going on with guys and kids, so I’ve never had to ignore anything. So I’m not one of the “all of us” that Tom continues to blame for two of every three social ills.
    I should observe that the assertion that the RCs were left alone in the news is not actually true. Sometimes something is too big do serve as a focus for rage, or outrage. To call up a religion talk show–how many are there that take calls?–and holler that you want to kill all priests would be a bit more difficult than calling one of the bazillion sports talk show saying you’d like to whack Sandusky.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] for a writer to disagree with a publisher, but I want to take slight issue with Tom Matlack’s Look in the Mirror: the Hypocrisy of PSU Rage. As we start to gain at least a little more information and perspective on the Happy Valley [...]

  2. [...] Priests can’t have sex, but the Church—and law enforcement—has allowed pedophilia to run rampant for years (First One to Come Forward). Apparently the only place it every happened is Happy Valley (Look in the Mirror). [...]

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