My closest friends are women. I prefer a night at home with my wife to a night out with the boys. For platonic companionship I'd prefer the company of a woman to a man. Every now and again I pause and ask myself why.
And every now and again a group of guys like California's notorious Spur Posse comes along to remind me.
The "posse," composed of male athletes at the local high school, formed a "club" and awarded themselves points for each woman they either cajoled, enticed, seduced or coerced into having sex with them. Several were arrested for violating girls who did not find them as irresistible as they believe themselves to be. One girl was as young as 10.
They made the talk-show circuit, where they received money, gained celebrity and bragged about their sexual prowess. We should not be surprised if it transpires that they have built altars to their genitalia, before which they genuflect daily. Hubris comes naturally to them. One told a news reporter he was a "cut above" the rest of us. Another announced that he had put Lakewood, California, on the map. Such arrogance has not been seen since the days of Hitler's SS.
But let's not be too harsh in judging them. Society at large is partly to blame. This is not a case of a group of guys with too much testosterone or too many steroids surging through their bodies. They are, as previously mentioned, athletes. Having elevated athletes to the status of demi-gods, we should not feign shock or indignation when they presume to act like Zeus.
We have sown the cult of the athlete. We are now reaping the effects. When male athletes act toward women in a crude, boorish or violent manner, they no doubt feel it is their right to do so -- either a hormonal imperative or a macho prerogative.
Three New Jersey teen-age athletes were recently convicted in the rape of a retarded 16-year-old girl. Professional basketball and hockey players have been accused of rape. New England Patriots football players shook their private parts in a female reporter's face.
Boxer Mike Tyson is cooling his heels in an Indiana penitentiary, convicted of rape. His supporters claim he is oh-so-innocent, though his own lawyers conceded his conduct at a beauty pageant in Indianapolis amounted to a one-man orgy of grabbing and fondling as many women as his hot and eager hands could get hold of.
Cynics might suggest that male athletes be locked up 18 to 20 hours a day, allowed out of confinement only to graze and exercise.
That won't happen. But something needs to be done, for there are signs that the atavistic behavior of male athletes is spreading to the male population at large. A recent survey of teen-age girls revealed 89 per cent said they had been subjected to sexual harassment. A considerable number said they were harassed daily.
Some young men have expressed dismay, claiming they no longer know what is harassment and what is not. It's hard to believe that even men could be that stupid, but that might be a starting point to curbing excesses like those of the Spur Posse: coming up with a precise definition of harassment.
Allow me to offer a simple one. If a young man comes on to a young woman and she gives him a smile and encourages conversation, then both are engaged in the healthy art of flirting, which may lead to a relationship. If, on the other hand, the young woman looks at the young man as though he crawled out from under a rock, then the lad has crossed over the line into sexual harassment. He should apologize profusely and then go on about his business.
We can also begin to replace the cult of the athlete with the cult of the gentleman. I will cite an example of the benefits of the latter cult.
As a teen-ager I was part of an Upward Bound program at Johns Hopkins University. The gorgeous-hunk, athletic types in the program had their eyes on a comely lass who had a summer job at the university. They dusted off their best lines and went to work on getting that date. She showed up for an event with the corpulent, bespectacled nerd of the program who was, nevertheless, every inch a gentleman. The gorgeous-hunk, athletic types stared in disbelief. I cackled myself into convulsions.
Young women can reinforce the cult of the gentleman by insisting that only young men with class, dignity and proper deportment need apply for dates. Some of these young men may even be athletes, but you can rest assured that Spur Posse members won't be among them.
Gregory P. Kane is a Baltimore writer.