I finally got around to watching the documentary Footy Chicks, which lifts the lid on the sexual gamesmanship between professional footballers and their groupies.
Women love watching football. But some footy chicks have more on their mind than just the game. Off the field their goal is to get up close and personal with the players. The possibility of sex with a football player is a fantasy for many women and a reality for some. Footy Chicks explores the scene off the footy field - a colourful world of players and the women who pursue them.
I found this a profoundly disconcerting yet unsatisfying film, telling some of the stories of a few different footy chicks without really putting it into a wider social or psychological context. In particular, there was no contrast with sexual gamesmanship outside of the football world: What makes this warrant a documentary? Nor was there any examination of the interaction between these two worlds: How does the footballer/groupie scene influence wider society? Still, I guess it's not a scholarly undertaking but an entertaining attempt to give outsiders a view into what goes on and (to a degree) the rationalisation of the men and women involved.
Some of the women from Footy Chicks
It's worth noting that the film is almost entirely devoted to rugby in its various forms (League and Union). I'd guess AFL-specific content at less than 10%. That said, I'm sure the rugby and Aussie Rules worlds are not so dissimilar that the scenarios aren't comparable.
Initially, the bravado of the women getting ready for a night of hunting down footballers was compelling and engaging. But then it sort of turned sour when we saw where it could - and often does - end up with the stories of group sex, attempted and actual rapes, demeaning and dehumanising behaviour, team bonding and sexual conquest. While some stories recounted suggest empowered and sexually confident women, others paint a picture of debasement, exploitation and self-subjugation that I found staggering. Honestly, can you still be enjoying yourself when having sex with the eleventh man? Or does being a vessel through which the team bonds carry its own special satisfaction? These are questions beyond my ken.
Interestingly, this link between group sex (in all its forms: simultaneously, sequentially and in parallel) and team-bonding was drawn out in some analytic detail. While the Footy Chicks shared some anecdotes, it wasn't clear how they saw it and their role in it. That said, one woman relayed that her girlfriend during one session was upset at being "the pig on a spit". Other women recognise that they're "just pussies" to the men, who don't care at all what they look like yet alone who they are. I'm not sure if this awareness is a good thing or not.
Suprisingly for me, the worst stereotypes are confirmed. The women involved in the active (in many cases exclusive) pursuit of players are young and fairly attractive, but we won't be seeing them on the cover of Ralph or Zoo. Pointedly, the one cheerleader interviewed (who could be in those publications) was wary of footballers as partners on the grounds that they're stuck up and prone to cheating. The Footy Chicks are primarily motivated by the physicality of the footballers, in particular their height. And their social status and, well, achievability.
Certainly, sex is the big driver. One woman had a collection of photos of naked players on her phone as trophies. She also pointed out the footballers she'd had "Ronnie" (her slang for sex) with and rated their competence. Yet in fantasising about players, this same Footy Chick talks about having her hair noticed, being picked up, getting married and making baby footballers. This somewhat infantile remark seemed at odds with the rest of her actions and attitudes. Is that deep down what she really wants or even expects? More realistic motivations (ascribed to others) are limited to bragging rights amongst other groupies and "tickets to the Brownlows". While some of the women some talked of being "elevated" to the realm of girlfriends or even wives, comments from the men indicated that in their minds there is a clear distinction between "girlfriend material" and, well, the others.
This tension - get noticed, get known, but don't get labelled a slut - wasn't really teased out, but would have made for some interesting analysis. In particular, interviews with women who "made it" as players' girlfriends and wives asking how they dealt with that tension and the widespread infidelity would have added emotional depth to the film. Is there a bargain? How is struck? How is it monitored and enforced? Perhaps these are topics for a follow-up documentary.
If you're at all interested in the sexual politics of Australian footy, this is a must-see doco. It's not for the squeamish and, while it didn't drive to the misanthropic despair it seemed to inflict on Speccy regular Ben Wallace, the ugliness and baseness with which people can treat each other certainly left a nasty taste in my mouth.
Trailer on Fairfax
Web Chat on SBS
Please be advised that this disturbing documentary is re-screening on SBS this Friday, 1st of June, at 10pm. Anyone with a strong stomach and an interest in footballer behaviour should check out this insiders' account of sexploitation and predation.
Word Count: 929