Offside, 23 October

Call me Caligula, but what exactly is wrong with footballers engaging in group sex?

Duleep Allirajah

Topics Politics

I return this week to the vexed question of ‘roasting’. Last week I bemoaned the fact that ‘roasting’ had acquired a dark new meaning following the revelations of Nicholas Meikle the ‘party fixer’ (ie, orgy organiser) that young footballers were partial to a bit of group sex. A perfectly innocuous verb – ‘to roast’ – had been irreparably sullied. The Age of Innocence was over.

No longer can we read that ‘Fergie gave his players a half-time roasting’ without imagining Phil Neville spreadeagled across the treatment table and…well, you know the rest. Even worse, there I was following a Delia roast pork recipe last Sunday when suddenly up popped a very unsavoury sexual image. Delia, pork, roasting, melted butter…yuk! Please God, stop me having these thoughts. Nigella and sexual fantasies – now that’s perfectly healthy. But Delia? She’s like your mum, isn’t she?

And what about the hitherto un-erotic act of beating a defender for pace? Was it just coincidence that I heard not one single cry of ‘roast him’ at Selhurst Park last Saturday? And this despite the fact that Palace have several fleet-footed attackers who are perfectly capable of outpacing their opponents. I guess we could have shouted ‘skin him!’ but we didn’t. Instead we roared ‘Grrrooo-aaarrrhhh!’ while desperately trying to block out all sexual thoughts from our minds.

There is an urgent need for new desexualised terminology here. Are there any other culinary metaphors, I wonder, that can be used instead? What about ‘braise’, ‘griddle’, ‘sauté’, ‘pan-fry’, or even ‘sear with chef’s blowtorch’? Nah, they just don’t sound right and, for all we know, may also be euphemisms for sexual acts (‘I was sautéed in butter by Premiership ace’).

In recent weeks the newspapers have been filled with salacious roast-and-tell tales from football groupies – or ‘goal-diggers’ as they are known. Most of these exposés are just variants of the titillating football love-rat stories that are familiar tabloids staples. However, in the light of the gang-rape allegations involving unidentified, pixelated-faced Premiership players, the roasting reports have attracted stronger moral opprobrium than usual.

Invariably, some people conveniently overlook that group sex predates the era of Sky TV and all-seater stadiums. Former Leeds and Scotland star Peter Lorimer has revealed how he and seven Scottish team-mates had group sex with a woman during the 1974 World Cup. ‘Players are no worse now than they were 30 years ago’, insists Lorimer. Today, however, there is greater public preoccupation with the private lives of celebrities. Apparently journalists knew about the incident at the time but kept it quiet – something that would be unthinkable today.

In the frenzied public discussion about the conduct of footballers, the practice of roasting is cited as evidence of the debauched lifestyles of millionaire footballers – with gang rape a little further along the same moral continuum. In many accounts roasting is conflated with the maltreatment of women. Jenny McCartney, writing in the Telegraph, describes roasting as ‘the worst kind of objectification – the simple, jeering reduction of a girl to a stuffed chicken’ (1).

A recent edition of ITV’s Tonight with Trevor McDonald, which purported to lift the lid on footballers’ lifestyles, adopted the same prurient tenor about roasting. The manner in which Martin Bashir gave Wimbledon’s Nigel Reo-Coker a grilling (you have to be careful with these cooking metaphors these days) about his sex life was tabloid television at its very worst.

Call me Caligula, but what exactly is wrong with footballers engaging in group sex? There is an important distinction – although some commentators don’t appear to recognise any – between consensual group sex, which is not to everyone’s taste but entirely legal, and gang rape.

Some journalists have detected a strong homoerotic undercurrent to the practice of roasting. ‘Men sharing a girl is, if you think about it, as gay as kissing on the lips after a goal; it is a way to have sex with your comrades without actually touching them’, argues David Aaronovitch in the Guardian (2). Well that’s one way of looking at it, though I’m not convinced myself. There is another possible explanation. Could it be that those who pontificate loudest about the sexual depravity of millionaire footballers are motivated by envy and sexual frustration? Just a thought.

Read on:

spiked-issue: TV

(1) How stars treat girls with utter contempt, Daily Telegraph, 12 Octoberv2003

(2) What footballers really want: each other, Guardian, 7 October 2003

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Topics Politics


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