“Locker Room Talk” at Harvard University (of all places)

A closer look at the lewd “scouting report” written by the Harvard men’s soccer team about female recruits

Art by Katie Heywood

Art by Katie Heywood

I would rate the collective Harvard men’s soccer team approximately as a zero out of 10.

Correction: I would rate the collective Harvard men’s soccer team approximately as a zero out of 10 if rating other human beings—multifaceted, intellectually profound creatures full of feelings, dreams and passions—was appropriate in any way, shape or form on any planet in the known universe.

Student-run publication The Harvard Crimson recently unearthed a 2012 “scouting report,” evidence that the student-athletes who make up Harvard’s men’s soccer team—yes, that Harvard, you know, the Ivy League home to our nation’s best and brightest—have a standing tradition of rating female soccer recruits on a 1 to 10 scale.

Even more disturbingly, the ratings in this “scouting report” are accompanied by sexually vulgar comments regarding the women’s appearances and perceived sexual histories. For instance, a 2012 report written by one prestigious scholar stated about a female recruit: “She seems relatively simple and probably inexperienced sexually, so I decided missionary would be her preferred position.” Another equally intellectual gem said: “She seems to be very strong, tall and manly so, I gave her a 3 because I felt bad. Not much needs to be said on this one folks.”

Zero out of 10.

Clearly, there’s something wrong with this picture. But how does it actually affect the women, you ask? They don’t normally read these reports, right? So why should it matter?

These types of questions have been circulating the media as of late. They’ve been especially prominent in the responses to President-elect Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” scandal. Here’s the deal: Even if, in theory, the ladies of the Harvard women’s soccer team never found out about the scouting report, it is chilling to consider that men who attend such a prestigious university condone speaking about women in such a manner. Isn’t it concerning that these men—men who could quite likely go on to hold jobs in law enforcement, journalism, even politics—have such a blatant disrespect for women? These are men who could very well end up running our country one day. In fact, it’s already happening.

The women who were subject to this sickening “locker room talk” had a powerful response. In an op-ed column run in the Harvard Crimson, the women collectively addressed the issue, not only discussing their shared experience, but offering advice to other women: “Band together in combating this type of behavior, because we are a team and we are stronger when we are united.” The team also extends this invitation to men: “Ultimately we are all members of the same team. We are human beings and we should be treated with dignity.”

Isn’t it concerning that these men—men who could quite likely go on to hold jobs in law enforcement, journalism, even politics—have such a blatant disrespect for women?

The women then directly address the issue of “locker room talk,” stating, “‘Locker room talk’ is not an excuse because this is not limited to athletic teams. The whole world is the locker room.” Again, the overtly damaging nature of this type of dialogue is raised.

Condoning contempt for women, even within the confined atmosphere of a locker room, isn’t just “boys being boys.” It’s men—powerful, Harvard men—being blatantly sexist and normalizing it in their communities, making it seem like a standard practice and one that is natural in expressing masculinity. I cannot stress enough how damaging this is.

I’m not saying this issue only applies to men who attend Ivy League schools. I’m simply pointing out that this case is especially egregious because of the fact that these men attend Harvard University. Objectification and disrespect of women is never acceptable; however, when “locker room talk” originates from the educated mouths of world leaders and supposedly intellectual scholars, the issue becomes worrisome on a terrifyingly grandiose level.

It wasn’t an uneducated slacker who decided a woman’s sexual position ought to be missionary. It was a Harvard student. It wasn’t a reckless burnout who said, “I did try and fuck her. She was married.” It was our president-elect.

As men who condone this type of insolence continue to rise to power, it becomes increasingly important that we heed the advice of the Harvard women’s soccer team and stick together to prevent this behavior at all costs.

The women end their letter on a particularly striking statement. Here, they speak directly—and in a manner truly befitting Harvard students—to any men who may erroneously “lay claim” to their bodies in the future:

“I can offer you my forgiveness, which is—and forever will be—the only part of me that you can ever claim as yours”