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"He asked if it was just for him, or all three of them": Inside the sex sharing culture in men's sport.

“He and I went into his room and after we had had sex he sat up at the end of the bed and turned to me and said, ‘I am going to send one of the other boys in’. It was as simple as that.”

This was the experience of a young woman, who had been having a sexual relationship with a professional A-League player, but didn’t realise he had other things in mind for their time together.

‘Sharing women’ is a concept that keeps creeping into the headlines. Groups of men, like sporting teams, passing women between them – or sharing their sexual exploits with group of guys – using photos or videos of their encounters, often taken without the woman’s consent.

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Lucy* was messaging said A-League player, who had invited her to come over to his house and stay the night. He lived with three other team mates.

“He was messaging me saying you’re welcome to come over and stay. Once I had agreed to come over, he asked the question [of whether] it was just for him, or for all three of them,” she told The Quicky.

“I said I am coming for you, you’re the one I am interested in. Then I got to his house and the three of them were up in the lounge room, I sat down and one of the other players pipes up and speaks about me in the room as if I wasn’t there and says ‘are you going to kiss your girl because if you don’t I will’.

Gender adviser Professor Catherine Lumby has been trying to stamp out behaviour like the above within the NRL.

“I feel some days like I have been banging my head against a particular wall for a very long time. There are pockets in society where we get a really toxic male bonding culture happening,” she told The Quicky host Claire Murphy.

Professor Lumby explains that it’s often seen in elite university colleges, so much so, she’d be appalled if one of her sons wanted to go to college.

“Usually these toxic bonding rituals involve a lot of alcohol but they also often involve guys bonding over women. The women are like this invisible currency, passed between them.

“It’s really infantile on one level, but on another level it’s really toxic and damaging to women.

“Sometimes it involves demeaning and degrading women while they are having sex with them. It’s certainly about sharing stories about their sexual exploits. It involves filming them and sharing that material,” she explained.

Professor Lumby and her team have done a lot of research into the phenomena, trying to work out why men do it, and how to stop it. She says men like this often compartmentalise women into two categories. There is the category that includes his mum, sister, the girl next door – and there is the women who agree to have casual sex who are branded as sluts and who they “can do what they want with.”

“It’s that Madonna-whore idea. That’s what we’ve got to attack at its root. This double standard around female sexuality, which says boys are studs when they start exploring their sexuality and girls are that terrible, horrible word – sluts. That double standard is still there in our schools.

“I just think we have to get a lot better about talking openly about how the gendered nature of our society is destructive for men as well as women. It cuts men off from being the carers and nurturers they can be,” she said.

The professor also thinks that diluting these gender stereotypes would help address some of the more serious questions around sexual assault and violence.

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ABC Journalist Jordan Hayne did an investigative report uncovering a culture of closed Facebook groups in Australia, where men shared and bragged about their pickups, often with accompanying picture and videos. They called them ‘lay reports.’

He explained to The Quicky it was a form of bragging, and it was most often done without the woman’s consent.

“One of the most concerning lay reports was a man who had a woman in his house who had told him she didn’t want to have sex. She had called an Uber, but he took her phone off her and kissed her.

“By his retelling, she complied when he tried to give her a massage and eventually they had sex. Afterwards she was upset and left without saying much. That was obviously a pretty disturbing account. Photos were shared of her getting dressed,” Hayne said.

ABC sex sharing
This image was posted alongside another of the man and woman having sex in a car. Jordan found it on one of these Facebook groups. Image: ABC.

Fellow journalist Nadia Bakody, who is also a sex positive influencer, has been the victim of this. A boyfriend shared an intimate photo of her with someone at a party, but couldn't understand why she was so upset.

"He tried explaining it away like there was alcohol involved and they were at a party and they were bragging about sexual experiences and he was just having a brag to a good mate, and he trusts this friend and he didn't see any issue with it. It was a complete violation of my privacy," she said.

Professor Lumby says, however, that despite the stories we keep hearing in the news, the tide is actually turning. Her latest research made positive findings. She also points out that she meets a lot of players, a majority, that are furious about this culture.

"A lot of footballers do a lot of community work, that they don't publicise. The vast majority are guys that step up the plate as role models to the community, and all of this stuff takes the focus off the good stuff."

Unfortunately, it's the 'bad stuff' that sets the headlines. But Professor Lumby is trying to change that - in the NRL at least.

She has this advice for any players that might not be getting the message:

"You have no excuse, you know what the right thing to do is and you don't care.

"If you don't get it, get out. I don't want to see them on the field," she said.

*name changed.

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