Mitchell Pearce joins the lineup of men behaving badly in 2016.

We’re not a full month into 2016 yet but a cursory glance at the various headline-making stories from the year suggests a clear theme: men behaving badly.

First we had Jamie Briggs, the government minister who resigned following an inappropriate incident with a public servant overseas and leaked the woman’s image to the press.

Then we had another government minister, Peter Dutton, caught out for sending a text message describing political editor Samantha Maiden as a “mad f*cking witch“.

We had cricketer Chris Gayle’s proposition for Channel 10 host Mel McLaughlin in a post-match interview.

We had the NSW Labor boss Jamie Clements resign amid claims of sexual harassment.

We had a pair of ANZ traders, who were sacked last year for misusing their corporate credit cards and inappropriate behaviour, sue the bank for what they describe as a rampant culture of sex, drugs and alcohol.

Yesterday we were confronted with the sight of NRL player Mitchell Pearce, co-captain of the Sydney Roosters, make unwelcome sexual advances towards a woman and a dog.

It’s quite a laundry list. And what’s least inspiring is the common thread that weaves these otherwise disparate incidents together.

In every case we are viewing the behaviour of men in positions of relative power. These are men who are paid handsomely, have jobs others dream of holding down; jobs that, like yours and mine, carry with them some responsibilities.

In every case, these men failed to adhere to standards of behaviour it is not unreasonable to expect from teenagers or young adults. Let alone adults in positions of power.

And in virtually every case there has been a rousing chorus from those who wish to defend the individuals or the behaviour in question.

Can’t these men have a bit of a fun? Can’t you compliment a woman? He was having a few drinks! The world’s gone mad.

A counterview is this: if it’s too much to expect grown adults to refrain from sexually harassing a co-worker, a woman, or a dog – whether they’re drinking or not — isn’t that proof the world really has gone mad?


If it’s too much to expect decency and professionalism from the leaders in our midst, what exactly can we hope to expect from our children? Our peers? Our colleagues?

The revelations about Mitchell Pearce’s Australia Day antics are more loaded still. It is yet another incident in the NRL’s long and sordid history of players’ indiscretions off their field.

This is the fifth incident in Pearce’s playing book alone and it’s worth noting he’s not a junior recently recruited to the bright lights of professional sport. He is 26 and a co-captain of a team.

Even before you take into account the exorbitant investment in time and money the NRL has made in lifting the standards of behaviour from players, it’s not acceptable.

But the reality is that the NRL does invest time and money into its players to avoid exactly this kind of behaviour. The NRL’s welfare program LeagueWise is delivered to over 4000 players and 2000 staff to help them become CareerWise, CharacterWise and HealthWise.

Players from the most junior to the most senior are delivered courses and programs on everything from alcohol management, to respectful relationships, to illicit drugs education. And, without any doubt, there is merit in investing in this realm.

But it also begs this question: if, even with these programs and courses, a co-captain of a team, a player subject to previous warnings like Mitchell Pearce, doesn’t see the issue with behaving the way he did, is hope for behavioural change futile?

Personally, I hope it’s not. I believe that for every ugly indiscretion we see, there are countless unseen acts of decency taking place every day.

The trouble is those incidents aren’t making front page news. In the first month of 2016, it’s the men who are behaving badly who are front and centre and if we want that to change, we need to change.

Regardless of a person’s job, power or talent, we need to reject behaviour that we wouldn’t accept from our children. Unless and until we do that, the precedent for bad behaviour is clear. Are they behaving badly because they know they’ll get away with it? Seems pretty likely.