Over 35 years ago, at age 16, I played on a YMCA men’s basketball team in Palmerston North. My team mates were all older, most being in their twenties. Around Easter we travelled to a tournament out of town. After unpacking at the Motel we visited the stadium to watch some of the other teams play. Five of my teammates stayed behind. Later I found out they had played a game called sticky biscuit. This is a masturbation game, in which the players form a circle around a small number of biscuits. The aim of the game is to ejaculate on the biscuits first. The last man to ejaculate is then forced to eat the biscuits.
At the time I saw this game as a crazy sexual practise. Looking back I realise this was a hazing ritual which the players used to create cohesion, and maintain hierarchy between us all. To a degree my coach and manager protected me. Yet I felt a sense of threat when this group of men joked in front of me about playing the game. Their taunts of including me, even forcing me to play, created fear and anxiety of certain humiliation.
On the surface these men maintained a heterosexual facade. Their talk in the locker room was always about women. Yet somehow the act of masturbating together didn’t threaten this identification. Was this because the ultimate climax to the game, having to eat the other men’s semen, was a shaming form of punishment? The men ridiculed the loser for the rest of the trip. The time he took to ejaculate was proof he enjoyed the game too much, and desired to lose. This man was the release point for all the homoerotic tension between the men. He became ‘other’, in this case the denied homosexual part in all the men.
My older teammates were engaging in, and describing sexual acts that were beyond my comprehension at the time. I wasn’t ready to hear this type of talk. My mind and body were unable to integrate the reality of my social relations with these men, and what I heard of their private sexual lives. The holding of these two realities left me with overwhelming dread. They would talk in the showers of having anal sex with their girlfriends. The way they spoke was viscous and cold. The men divulged their relationships most intimate and vulnerable moments without consideration. They stripped themselves and their partners of dignity, rupturing any trust that may have existed between them. Later when I saw these women I was unable to make eye contact. As if, in listening to the stories I had also violated and exposed them. At the same time I felt unsafe expressing my disgust towards the men, instead I projected it onto the women.
A women’s team also travelled with us on this trip. Most of the women were in relationships with men. I remember seeing some of their boyfriends dropping them off before we left. As we travelled north on the bus the sexual banter between the men soon turned to which women from the team they wanted to have sex with. They boasted how they would ‘work’ on her over the week long trip, declaring without doubt, they would have sex with her by the end of it. The men had no enduring attachment to these women. They were objects for their immediate gratification, and status symbols to amass in competition with the other men. There was no consideration of the men these women were in relationship with. These men were also part of the conquest. My teammates could fuck over both the woman and the man. In the process they could kill the couple, which happened when at least one man found out about the infidelity.
My experience of this game took place some time ago. Is the sticky biscuit game a ritual of a past era, when homophobia in sports culture was more extreme? Today there is research to suggest that being gay is far more accepted within sports teams. While hazing is still used to initiate recruits and assert dominance within teams, it is more likely to feature excessive drinking, rather than sexual acts. The increased drinking and greater acceptance of being gay can ease sexual exploration between the young men. No longer shamed like previous generations, sexual hazing becomes redundant as an initiation ritual .
But what about my team mates attitudes towards the women’s team members? They treated these women like fast food trash. Has that changed? In one research example it has. Male players in a top UK University rugby team outwardly rejected misogynistic language and behaviour from team mates . They did, however, tolerate homophobic and sexist insults from their coaches. They were reluctant to challenge them because they feared sitting on the bench during the game.
The sticky biscuit game is part of many unwanted sexual experiences I was exposed to as a young boy and teenager. Together they have had a disturbing affect that has rippled through my life. They distorted my view of women, and reinforced the message from my father and other men, that women only existed to meet men’s needs. I fear I may not escape the effects of this hateful grooming into manhood. I have the sensation that the transfusion has gone into my core, into the marrow of my bones. I notice behaviours that are facsimiles of my fathers. I attempt to act in ways that do not perpetuate these behaviours. But under certain conditions of stress or ecstasy the dark presence of entitlement surges through me. In these moments I channel my old basketball teammates. They live on in me, and I battle against them. We like it this way.
. Anderson, E., McCormack, M., & Lee, H. (2012). Male Team Sport Hazing Initiations in a Culture of Decreasing Homohysteria. Journal of Adolescent Research, 27(4), 427–448.
. Anderson, E. ( 1 ), & McGuire, R. ( 2 ). (n.d.). Inclusive masculinity theory and the gendered politics of men’s rugby. Journal of Gender Studies, 19(3), 249–261.