Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about the arrest of gold medalist Masato Uchishiba for allegedly raping a member of the university judo team he coached. Though the column references comments by journalist Yukari Yamada on the problem of coaching philosophy in Japan, which she believes is at the root of the Uchishiba affair, sex harrassment and sex abuse in sports, as indicated by the International Olympic Committee’s 2007 announcement, is a worldwide problem. The most prominent case is probably that of Paul Hickson, the swimming coach for the British Olympic team who was convicted of child molestation in 1995, since it led to the establishment of guidelines, in Britain, for how coaches should conduct themselves with younger athletes. The guidelines that Japanese sports organization are considering follow a similar way of thinking.
Such guidelines sound like common sense, though some people in the sporting world consider them interference in the special relationship that exists between coaches and athletes. Moreover, as the comments by Dewi Sukarno suggest, a lot of people think that the scrutiny of sexual relations that has become more widespread in recent years has led to an increase in sex harrassment allegations for behavior that is no big deal. Uchishiba, who is married and has a family, admitted that he had sex with his accuser, but insists that it was consensual. If the case proceeds to court, a judge will have to determine if it was, but lately there has been a lot of controversy about what constitutes actionable improper sexual behavior, prompted by the Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Julian Assange arrests. In both cases, famous men were accused by women of forcing them to partake in sex against their will. Strauss-Kahn has since had the charges dropped due to the unreliability of his accuser, a hotel maid; while Assange is still under house arrest. In relation to their predicaments, both men had supporters and detractors, with the former essentially taking the same tack as Sukarno but with more rhetorical rigor. Sometimes, this situation makes for strange–pardon the expression–bedfellows. For instance, the well-known writer Naomi Wolf, who calls herself a feminist, has received a certain amount of backlash for her support of Assange, which entailed denigrating the stories of his two accusers. The feeling is that Wolf is being swayed by her belief in Assange’s mission as the founder of Wikileaks, and so has to justify that belief by dumping on women who she feels are delusional about their sexual relations with him. This is not much different in substance than Dewi Sukarno imagining that the female judo-ka accused Coach Uchishiba of rape because he spurned her affections after sleeping with her during a night of drinking, since Sukarno seems somewhat in awe of Uchishiba for his Olympic accomplishments.
The fact that there is a controversy over the definition of sexual abuse in these cases points to their political nature; which is why they should be discussed in the media. If all the relationships at issue were, in fact, consensual, maybe the rest of us have no business passing judgment, but it’s difficult not to do so when powerful men are involved. If Strauss-Kahn’s, Assanges’s, and Uchishiba’s behavior still seems repugnant to some of us, regardless of their respective sex partners’ consent, then it only goes to show that there’s a long way to go before men get the message that just because they can have sex exclusively on their own terms it doesn’t mean they should.