Men and football: the assumption that these make a super-volatile combination that will lead to violence against women is everywhere, yet there is no real research backing it up. It feels intuitive, something like Oh my god, they get so worked up and nationalistic at those matches, they scream and take off their shirts, and look at how some hooligans bash each other, and they get so drunk they don’t know what they’re doing. Okay, but the connexion with sex is? Some think that these activities involve a rise in testosterone, which could mean fans become rapacious about wanting to have sex, and in their blind fervour go racing off to fuck anything in sight. Or, correlations have been made between drinking alcohol in heavy quantities and becoming aggressive – for some people, not all – but the aggression usually comes in the form of fighting amongst other drinking men. Or is the idea that some general amoral, violent side rises up via the enthusiasm for sport in a way that makes fans want to grab women? Sometimes the assumption is just that when bunches of guys get together they are liable to run amok. The World Cup is feared to bring out the worst in its fans.
It’s muddled thinking, however. Stag parties, in which groups of men ritualistically drink and whoop it up together, often have a sexual element, but that usually consists of paying dancers or sex workers to come perform. That’s a contract in a party setting, not the rape of the Sabine women. It’s certainly true that drinking men in celebrating groups like to flirt at or harrass women, talk about sex to them and tell each other about their sexual exploits. All that can be annoying or threatening but cannot be taken as evidence that these men are more likely to visit sex workers or behave badly with them if they do. And, of course, if they drink enough there is definite evidence that both the ability and desire to have sex diminish.
It seems some are also afraid that fans will contract hiv during the World Cup. Is the assumption that they will lose their heads completely and forget to use condoms, in the general havoc? This stuff gets pretty loony, fitting in with the false claim of 40 000 trafficked prostitutes in 2006.