Watch my conversation with writer Anna Krien about her new book Night Games.
It’s our Monthly Book for June, a razor-sharp analysis of how sport reflects our culture. The book centres on an incident that occurred in the wake of the 2010 AFL Grand Final: after Collingwood’s post-match celebrations, a young woman accuses a young man of raping her in a South Melbourne alleyway. Anna Krien follows the rape trial from the back of the courtroom, and all that she sees and hears ultimately resolves into a nuanced, complex and confronting portrait of what happens when there is a jostling for position between women and sex and football and power.
Anna Krien has written about the conflict over Tasmanian forests, about justice and our treatment of animals and now, in this new book, about sex, consent and power in the heady world of sport. She says the book is “not anti-sport”, and she writes about how defensive she became in response to some people questioning her right and motives to write about football. In many ways, sport takes place in a sacred space that sets it apart from the everyday: players to go head to head in public, proving their prowess and their masculinity. This is often combined with a taste of power, money and adulation that makes heroes of young men who are in many ways immature and irresponsible.
And what of the women? There are those who are after the notch in the belt, as seen in the rock world with groupies. There are those who are dazzled by the possibility of being the glamorous wives and girlfriends of players, wearing fashionable gowns at the awards nights. There are those who get mixed up in this world against their better judgement, or simply by dint of the confusing time that is late adolescence. And there are those who challenge the idea that women are simply part of the reward for the exalted sports champions.
Anna Krien examines the relationships between clubs and the police, the culture of sports journalism and the battle women journalists have simply doing their jobs, the women in sports administration and those on boards and the difficulty young people face as they cross the often foggy borders of sexual transactions. There are lots of questions dealt with in the book, and many raised by it. It’s not a black and white world where men are rapists or women are asking for it. That’s what makes Night Games a perfect book to discuss for the Monthly Book.