Selwyn Duke
Wrestling with morality: boys vs. girls on the mat
By Selwyn Duke
February 28, 2011

Imagine that you're a young adolescent boy. Like many your age, you're shy around girls, perhaps to the point at which even talking to one might make your heart race. You also like sports, so you go out for your school's wrestling team. Then, lo and behold, you're at a meet, and something hits you like a load of bricks.

Your opponent is going to be a girl.

You're going to have to grapple with her. In front of spectators. Touching — and being touched in — intimate places.

You'd have to be touched to think this is okay, but it's precisely the situation that confronted sophomore wrestler Joel Northrup at the recent Iowa State Championship. His response, as many of you already know, was to default his match against 14-year-old Cassy Herkelman and relinquish the chance to win a coveted wrestling title in deference to his moral convictions.

While this story made national news, it wasn't even close to the first time a schoolboy wrestler found himself pitted against a girl. A product of Title IX, the phenomenon usually occurs in the low weight classes (Northrup's is 112 lbs), where the boys are generally quite young and not very developed, which accounts for why the exceptional girl can sometimes make headway. It also isn't the first time a boy defaulted rather than engage in impropriety.

And every time it illustrates how reality has been turned on its head in today's America. Sure, many in the media applaud Northrup — a stellar athlete with a 35-4 record who was a favorite to win the Iowa championship — for sacrificing success for principle. Yet few will unabashedly say what should be said: Having girls and boys grapple on mats in front of spectators is nothing short of social perversion.

This is where many, imbued with equality dogma, will be outraged. How can you deny kids opportunities just because of their sex? I mean, "She wants to wrestle," we have heard. ESPN columnist Rick Reilly, in a remarkably stupid piece, even went so far as to say that Northrup was morally wrong to not treat Herkelman just like one of the guys. So let's talk about equality.

After golfer Annika Sorenstam was given a sponsor's exemption to play in a PGA Tour event in 2003, struggling golf professional Brian Kontak tried to enter the qualifying rounds for the United States Women's Open. Yet he was denied the opportunity. But why? He worked hard. He had a dream. And he wanted to do it. Why was there a grass ceiling?

This is where many will roll their eyes and say that while men don't need protection from female competition, women do need protection from male competition. But not so fast. Doesn't that sound an awful lot like chivalry? Haven't we been told that equality is the overriding principle here? And equality is this: Everyone competes in the same arena — and the chips fall where they may.

Given the gap between the sexes in sports — boys' American high-school records in track and field are better than women's world records — this would suit thousands of struggling male athletes just fine. They would then have access to the millions of dollars in women's athletics, an earning opportunity currently denied them solely because of their sex. So let's eliminate the separate tours, leagues and teams for women. Equality demands it.

It really would be for the best, too. After all, to use a variation on Lincoln's famous saying, the best way to get an unrealistic social norm eliminated is to enforce it strictly. If the equality-on-the-brain types had to live with the results of complete equality of opportunity — instead of just the rhetoric of it — the principle might start to lose its allure.

Of course, the above will never happen. Our modern "equality," you see, is much like that thing that promises economic equality, communism: It can be praised but never practiced because it's fatally unrealistic. Yet it's even more insidious because it's ill-defined. Equality has taken on the flavor of a ploy; it is an ever-morphing weapon of mass destruction. When a wall of tradition needs to be breached, it is that oh-so noble Equality of Opportunity. When this yields favored-group failure and a level field must be tilted, it becomes Equality of Outcome. It is a mercenary of the social moment in the service of the Man Who Would be Queen.

Getting back to my proposal, however, the point is that to reject it is to admit that "equality" is neither the only priority nor an all-trumping one. It is, in fact, to admit that it is a lie. Once you support divisions based solely on sex — something we don't do based on race or ethnicity — you cannot castigate someone else for doing the same. You are then acknowledging that the sexual distinction is a unique one, which of course it is. Oh, this doesn't mean that, like Muslims who'll cloister a woman in a seventh-century drape, every sex-specific norm is just. But it does mean that there is a good reason why we have two standards: We have two sexes. It also means that if you want to eliminate a sex-based double standard, crying "inequality!" isn't enough. You'll need to mount a mature argument.

As for allowing girls and boys to wrestle, it's only a degraded society that has to even debate the issue. First, such contact is plainly immoral, and this was widely understood until relatively recently. Also note that this is part of a phenomenon whereby the relationship between the sexes is being undermined. For example, it's the ultimate mixed message to instruct boys to be gentlemen but then say, in the name of "equality," "Oh, remember, you little chauvinist piglet, girls are just like you. Treat them exactly like anyone else." We put boys — whose natural desire to be a knight in shining armor and protect girls should be cultivated — in an unreasonable position: They either have to contribute to the defeminizing of the fairer sex or the emasculation of their own.

Then there is the other half of the equation, almost universally ignored because the Western man has been emasculated: At the level of population, a prerequisite for men being gentlemen is that women are ladies. To expect otherwise is like someone supposing that you'll abide by Queensberry Rules in a fight against a no-holds-barred opponent. Yet what happens if you dare talk about teaching girls to be ladies today? You're cast as a bearded mullah with an iron burka.

The result of this sexual confusion is that we have boys going to school pretending to be girls and girls acting like boys. I won't shrink from saying that a girl who wants to engage in organized wrestling simply hasn't been raised correctly. And, by the way, the Herkelmans' case only supports this assertion. Note that when Bill Herkelman, Cassy's father, addressed his daughter's wrestling ambitions he said, "She's my son. She's always been my son."


Although I don't support it, it's one thing to give a nod to a girl's tomboy tendencies. But to characterize her as your "son"? Does it occur to this man (who looks like a hippie, mind you) that his daughter will grow up and have to find happiness as a woman? And is it a stretch to say that little Cassy might have gotten the message that to get the approval of a father who perhaps wanted a boy, she'd have to act like one? Sorry, folks, but I won't mince words: What we have here is twisted and a form of child abuse.

But child abuse is now de rigueur. To be honest, I find it a tad embarrassing being an adult nowadays with the guidance we're giving the young. Can you look a Joel Northrup in the eye, point to our decadent culture and say we are proud to bequeath it to him? We don't teach boys to respect girls or girls to respect boys — and kids don't respect adults. And who can blame them? An older generation will not be respected if it's not respectable.

The good news, and the bad, is that this will end. The consequence of undermining traditional sex roles is what has beset the West: Career-driven women, frivolity-obsessed men and demographic-death-spiral birth rates. I would say that this portends the death of civilization, but that's not entirely accurate. In reality, it only happens when civilization has already died.

© Selwyn Duke


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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