A Previous College Football Scandal

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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18 Responses

  1. Mopey Duns says:

    Ah.  Statutory rape.  I  wish I could find something surprising about the players behaviour, but I really, really can’t.

    Does anyone honestly expect that a bunch of horny 18-21 year old boys are not going to try to have sex with a young, good-looking, and vulnerable girl?  Especially in a culture of entitlement for athletes?  It is not as if, after all, they were doing anything they weren’t used to doing with older girls.

    There are good reasons for segregating young men and women in certain situations.  It is ridiculous that anyone thought it was a good idea for a 15 year old girl to be allowed to live alone on campus.  People have a lot of sex at college.  The entire set up encourages it.  Throwing a kid into that mix is asking for trouble.Report

  2. Kolohe says:

    Sorry, not feeling the outrage on this one.Report

  3. Jonathan says:

    Sadly, I think the UAB case will be re-lived on another campus at another time (if it hasn’t already).Report

  4. Will Truman says:

    I am actually in favor of loosening age of consent laws to the point that a lot of what happened at UAB would either be not-illegal or a much lesser crime than it is now. Even so, given what the laws are, the lack of institutional control here was, in my view, quite problematic. And whether legal or not, the story was tragic all the same.Report

    • BSK in reply to Will Truman says:

      What exactly should the institution have done? Put armed guards outside her room? 24 hour surveillance? They told the players to stop. They questioned the girl, who denied the allegations. They claim they attempted to contact the parents.

      I think ultimate responsibility lies with the parents. Not only for sending their 14-year-old to college alone, but for what I suspect was a repressive upbringing that left their daughter completely unprepared for the world they rushed her into. Are there actions criminal? No. But they shouldn’t be shocked that a girl who I would bet dollars-to-doughnuts was denied an opportunity to develop healthily socially and emotionally lacked the necessary social and emotional skills and maturity to handle going to college. At 15.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to BSK says:

        BSK, my wife was enrolled in a program when she was 16, putting her on the campus of a major university. It wasn’t exactly Benefield’s case, because there was segregation involved, but it does strike a bit close to home. Before she was 16, she was raised in a way that (I believe) isolated her from her peers. Not religiously, but in a no-TV-no-video-games-you-live-to-study sort of way. Now, as in the Benefield case, this is not how I would choose to raise our kids (though, actually, my wife disagrees…), but it would nonetheless be shock-worthy for this to be in any way inviting the sort of situation that Benefield found herself in. And whatever the Benefield’s mistakes, they have paid for them dearly.

        But I don’t believe that the fault lies solely (or nigh-solely) with them. When UAB enthusiastically invited a 14 year old onto campus, they made what I believe are certain obligations. Including, if necessary, surveillance to follow up on rumors that she is sleeping with a dozen or so members of the football team. The college that my wife was at did this. So should have UAB. I might feel differently if they had been forced to letter her in under threat of an age-discrimination lawsuit, but they recruited her and, if the complaint is accurate, made assurances to soothe the Benefields’ concerns about what ended up happening.

        As for what they did do, we only know that Hale said in an email that he contacted the parents (something the parents dispute). Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. Or maybe he used the “hosting guests” terminology leading the parents to believe it was a sort of curfew violation. But knowing what we do about the Benefield’s (for the reasons you condemn them, actually), it strikes me as unlikely that they responded to being told “Your daughter is alleged to be sleeping with everybody in sight” with a shrug.

        When I talk about institutional control, though, my main thought was not so much the above as with the football team in particular. Football team members are not like regular students. They have curfews, they have tutors, and so on. They have an obligation to investigate misbehavior and do a lot more than making passing comments about, as much as anything, being careful and not getting caught.

        (All of this being said, I don’t think this is comparable in kind or scope to the Sandusky situation. And I question whether what the players did should be illegal to begin with. However… UAB screwed up. Coaches have been fired for much less. Watson Brown remained the coach for several years after and Larry Crowe is still there.)Report

    • Mopey Duns in reply to Will Truman says:


      It sounds like she was treated as a f**ktoy, which is horrible.  And she was obviously statutorily raped.  But we are often bad about conflating that with unwanted sexual contact.  From the article, it does not sound like she lacked consent.

      The idea that a 15 year old CANNOT mentally consent to sex is a legal fiction.  It may be a necessary one, simply to protect them from the deleterious consequences of sex with those much older than them, but the fact is that teenagers are sexual beings, and man do they act on that fact.

      Cases like this always highlight the cognitive dissonance so many modern Western nations have when it comes to sex.  We celebrate sexual freedom, spend our days immersed in a hyper-sexualized world, and then absolutely lose our shit when teens act promiscuously and there are negative consequences.  It’s weird.

      I think part of it is a general reluctance to recognize that there can be negative consequences to sex outside of a rape scenario.Report

      • The idea that a 15 year old CANNOT mentally consent to sex is a legal fiction

        We’re not talking about a 15 year old having sex with her 15 year old boyfriend. We’re talking about a 15 year old who is having sex with guys who are older, who are “heroes” and in a situation where she is away from home on her own for the first time. And an adolescent’s cognitive development is not complete at that point, particularly the parts of the brain that control judgement and impulsiveness.  Some legal fictions serve a really important purpose–fiction or not, there is a damn good reason to assume that a girl in that situation cannot mentally consent, even if she thinks she is.

        I think this line of argument is repulsive.  It’s hard not to wonder if some are just trying to excuse bad behavior–lower the age of consent so guys won’t get in trouble.

        And my wife read this and said, “And they wonder why they don’t have many female readers?”Report

        • Tom Van Dyke in reply to James Hanley says:

          There’s a vague sentiment for drawing lines re youngsters and sex, but aside from setting off children from adolescents-adults, there is no common moral language.

          16 is different than 15, we decree, but is a 30-yr-old with a 16-yr-old cool?  We aren’t anywhere near thinking seriously about these things: in fact, as James Hanley notes, the only movement seems to be toward lowering the age of consent, addressing the problem by defining it away.Report

          • It all depends on the state. In Alabama the law is as you describe, as far as I can see. In California, the age of consent is actually 18. In other states it’s 16 or 17. What some states do is issue shades of gray into the situation, where if you’re talking about someone 16 or 17 (sometimes 14 or 15), you get a pass if you’re within a certain number of years of the age. So in those states, what happened at UAB might be legal, but not if it was a coach sleeping her. In California the charge gets bumped down to a misdemeanor if you’re within 3 years.Report

        • Mopey Duns in reply to James Hanley says:

          I think  that if you read the rest of my post carefully you will realize we basically agree.  It is not good that these young men had sex with this girl.  It is bad; incredibly bad, actually, if the accounts of her current mental state in the article are accurate.

          I do not think, however, that the issue is primarily one of consent.  You can consent to things that are harmful to you.  Many people do.

          Yes, brains are not finished developing during adolescence.  Yes, teens can be incredibly dumb.  But they are not automatons.  It does not make sense to imply, as you seem to (unless I misread), that a 15 year old can consent to have sex with someone the same age as them, but not someone 3-5 years older.

          Anyway, the idea percolating in my skull, which I haven’t full fleshed out; consent may be a necessary but not sufficient  condition to protect people from harmful sexual activity.  I think this is what we are aiming at with age of consent laws, but we aren’t quite getting at what really makes us uncomfortable about it.

          A serious question: why is consent the only way we can articulate why a 60 year old man ought not to bugger a young boy in a shower, or a football team share a young girl like a pack of cigarettes?  Is our moral discourse truly that stunted?Report

          • why is consent the only way we can articulate why a 60 year old man ought not to bugger a young boy in a shower, or a football team share a young girl like a pack of cigarettes?  Is our moral discourse truly that stunted?

            I sincerely hope our moral discourse is truly that stunted.  I distrust most moral standards that don’t privilege the concept of consent.  Only consent allows morality to be both a standard that us from harm from others while allowing each of us to make our own moral choices for ourselves and direct our own life.  Stunted this vision may be, but it offers us an identifiable reality.  Other visions of morality rely on abstract unrealities; they are less stunted but they are also less real.Report

            • Mopey Duns in reply to James Hanley says:

              I don’t disagree that consent is important. But consent is no more innate than any other moral concept. You have to make a whole host of assumptions to arrive at the concept of consent as the only ‘real’ moral concept.

              Can you elaborate on how it is real, while all others rely on abstract unrealities? I am interested in your argument.Report