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ROBIN ABCARIAN

Spur Posse Case--the Same Old (Sad) Story

April 07, 1993|ROBIN ABCARIAN

In 1991, a torrent of publicity followed the release of Wilt Chamberlain's autobiography, nearly all of which focused on the basketball player's sexual scorekeeping.

In 1993, an avalanche of publicity followed revelations that members of a Lakewood boys clique named for a professional basketball team were accused of coercing sex from girls and keeping tally.

A lot has been written about the Spur Posse sex-for-points scandal, but one question has gone begging:

So what else is new?

For those who have followed the Lakewood story, certain unfortunate stereotypes have only been reaffirmed:

* Boys often think sex is a form of conquest. Their role models glorify such behavior. Their fathers do not teach them otherwise.

* Girls continue to submit to sexual aggression when they don't want to. If they complain afterward, they are told they wanted it. Or they are called "sluts."

* Unsympathetic peers mock girls who claim boys have forced them to have sex.

* And anyone caught up in such a made-for-the-tabloids mess will inevitably be the subject of a three-page spread in People.

Last month, nine members of the Spur Posse were arrested on felony charges, ranging from rape to molestation, though prosecutors have chosen to file rape charges against only one boy.

Those rape charges involve a girl who was 10 at the time of one incident. (By way of explanation, one 15-year-old boy, a friend of the accused, told a reporter that the girl may have been 10, but she claimed to be 15. )

Lakewood High School and its community have reeled under the glare of all the negative publicity. The mayor has said he hopes the town can learn something valuable about itself, but isn't holding his breath. After all, some are treating the alleged culprits like hometown heroes.

A lot of people--particularly the Spur Posse and its defenders--think the story has been blown out of proportion.

I would like to believe that the extraordinary attention given the Spurs--including national TV coverage and a story on the front page of the New York Times--is partly due to the increased interest in sexual harassment on campus. (One recent magazine survey found that almost 90% of 2,002 high school-age girls had been sexually harassed.)

But this is probably too rosy a view.

The real reason for the explosive interest is that this tawdry little tale offers time-worn themes combined with strikingly salacious details: high school students and rampant sex; and belt-notching boys, including one who claims to buy condoms by the case at Price Club.

What happened in Lakewood is more than a boy's club joke that got out of hand. It is a phenomenon that happens to one degree or another in every high school in the country. I'd put money on it turning up as a plot next season on "Beverly Hills, 90210."

While there may be no single legal truth in this tangle, there is an inescapable social one: Someone is doing a terrible job of teaching young men about respect and restraint.

After the arrests, some Lakewood High School students took to wearing black armbands in protest. In statements to reporters, the denial that there is any kind of problem bordered on the astonishing.

From posse members:

"They (girls) have sex with all these guys and expect to be boyfriend and girlfriend, and then they're not and they claim rape."

"They pass out condoms, teach sex education and pregnancy this and pregnancy that. But they don't teach us any rules."

From fathers of posse members:

"Aren't they virile specimens?"

"Nothing my boy did was anything that any red-blooded American boy wouldn't do at his age. . . . Those girls around my son are giving it away."

"I don't see these kids acting much different from professional athletes."

And from girls:

"There are so many girls out there who want to sleep with these guys. They are so fine. They wouldn't have to rape anyone."

"They take advantage of girls and treat them like crap in the morning. But they didn't rape anyone."

It leaves you wondering where these people have been in the last few years, when so much attention has been paid to the fact that rape is not just something a stranger does to a woman who wanders down a dark alley at 3 a.m.

At least one boy has it right: Someone's got to teach those kids some rules. Wilt Chamberlain isn't the man for the job. And their parents seem to have abdicated responsibility.

A woman I know who works with victims of sexual assault found the tacit approval of some of the boys' parents one of the most disturbing parts of the story.

"To me," she said, "a lot of this is coming from their fathers. To prove yourself to your father, you have to do this because this is what being a man means. Women are objects."

And what else is new?

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