Leicester City sex tape: So the lower ranks of football are as sordid and sinister as the top

This is about men degrading women, giggling with joy at the unfairness which lets them

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The Independent Online

As I watched footage of the Leicester striker Tom Hopper, 21, naked, on his back, his ankles adjacent to his ears – while Twitter exploded with gleeful fury – my initial thoughts were about Britain’s curiously wonky attitude to sex tapes. “It’s just what young people do nowadays,” I'm invariably told, whenever I lament the rise of explicit sexting in schools or the explosion of sex being taped by young men for trophy, revenge and blackmail purposes.

“This is normal, calm down,” I’m told when I berate the fact that so many modern young men want to emulate the porn they’ve watched since children, then bandy the footage around, with themselves starring as the proud victor and the woman as the humiliated “slag”. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, I’m assured. But then clips like the Leicester City players in Thailand surface – naked and having sex on camera – and it is almost the only thing social media can discuss.

Suddenly – bang! – we remember that leaked footage of oneself having sex is potentially career-ending. Or how it will severely sadden one’s family. Or it will stay around until the day you die as leverage every time you open your mouth or attempt to better yourself.

If there’s any miniscule thing that can be said in defence of Hopper – and God knows it’s a tough call, as I’ve seen him snidely commanding a Thai woman to shove her face in a crevice that a proctologist would want hard cash to inspect – is that he was born in 1993 and we’ve not done much of a job, over the past 21 years, of telling him that any of this was frowned upon.

Hopper, James Pearson and Adam Smith are the bleak sum of several rotten parts. They grew up during the smartphone porn era where access was limitless to porn clip aggregators full of a million other men’s sex tapes. Plus, of course, plain old run-of-the-mill hardcore porn with its bleak never-ending dialogue about what bitches want or don’t want but are getting anyway.

These boys matured at a time when gang-bangs – for everyone, not just sportspeople! – were suddenly considered a jolly rite of passage. Then the boys were thrust into the World of Football where the pastime of finding women to have sex with as a team-building activity – on tape – is at very best tolerated and at worst merely part of team culture. Go on, lads, help yourself.

“But, of course the lads gang-bang hookers when they’re on tour!” many will say, before adding: “What else are they going to do? Have a few drinks then, um, speak to females in bars like equals? What cloud do you live on, love?”

I must stress at this point that there is no evidence to suggest the Thai girls in the Leicester City sex tape are prostitutes. Yet – after seeing Tom’s approach to personal hygiene and witnessing the part where one girl was called racist playground jibe “slit-eye” and another “minging, an absolute one out of 10” – well, I hope they were paid.

Still, if Tom’s journey to his starring role – nude, with his nude mates, with him in a wheelbarrow position, grunting orders  – was a common one, this sex-tape has created the perfect storm of media joy. Behold, we have Premier League footballers on a “goodwill” trip to Thailand and the involvement of James Pearson, who is the manager Nigel Pearson’s son.

Then there’s the club’s family orientated image and, importantly, the club’s Thai owners, Vichai and Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, who have worked hard to form a partnership with the Tourism Authority of Thailand. For many people, this is a big, juicy sporting story about club politics, the “Kick It Out” anti-racism initiative, players’ wages and team discipline. But for me this is about women.

Because the thing which will always stick in my mind about the Leicester City tape is the boys’ utter, spitting contempt for those girls, while at the same time remaining aroused. That isn’t about sex, it’s about power.

It is about a lovely end-of-season gift to themselves of a few hours spent treating women like a grubby sub-species. It’s about men degrading women, commenting on their supposed ugliness and using racist words against them, giggling with joy at the state of worldly unfairness which allows dieux de stade, as they are, to act so badly to the dirty, lowly, stupid inferior beings they believe these Thai women to be. And when the camera pulls towards the footballers, they aren’t embarrassed. No, they’re ecstatic to be filmed. This – they seem to say – is the sort of life achievement which needs to be documented and shared with our peers.

This isn’t a football thing – although the adulation that football brings doesn’t help. It’s a virulent, modern form of women-loathing and our only answer is to bring our young men up better.

Leicester City have absolutely no choice but to sack these players. No matter how much contrite snivelling is going on – or how many goals these players might score in the future. It is wrong to take the Thailand’s tourist board’s money and then employ young men on the pitch who show the very worst side of the Brit abroad.

It is wrong to hope wives, daughters, sisters and grans come to your games at the King Power Stadium in Leicester to enjoy the great family atmosphere, then turn a blind eye to misogynistic bilge when the lads are “On Tour”.

It is wrong that thousands of pre-teen boys will watch this footage on smartphones  now and grow up to think this is just the sort of thing successful men do. It isn’t football’s job on its own to change lad culture – it is one for all of us, women and men – but football is certainly one of the main strikers.

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