Transcript of my interview with Anna Krien on Night Games for The Monthly Book

Anna Krien – Night Games – Black Inc.

For those who like to read rather than, or as well as watch:

RAMONA KOVAL: Anna, you’ve written about the conflict over Tasmanian forests, about justice and our treatment of animals, and now in this new book, Night Games, about sex, consent and power in the heady world of sports. And you say in the book, “This book is not anti-sport” at one stage. And you write about how defensive you had to become because some people were questioning your right and motives to write about sport at all.

Did that surprise you?ANNA KRIEN: No, it didn’t surprise me. I mean, I think the football world in particular is a very protected universe. I always knew that people weren’t going to like me writing about the issues. That was fairly obvious. But I do really want to emphasise that it’s not anti-sport, because that’s the last thing I want to be, and I love sport. I actually admittedly love watching football. There is this great quote from Robert Lipsyte, who I quote in the book; he’s a sports writer in America. He said, “Jock culture is a distortion of sport”, and that’s what I’m writing about. I’m not attacking sport; I’m attacking jock culture, and using sport as a tool to express these personality traits and this culture of entitlement.RK: So, what has your relationship been to sport?

AK: My personal relationship? Ah, if I don’t do sport three times a week, I go a little bit nutty, basically. I have always been a big player of sport. I’m not much of a fan. I like watching football.

RK: What do you play?

AK: I play basketball.

RK: So a team sport. You understand what it means to be in a team?

AK: Yeah.

RK: And the striving, the physical striving?

AK: Yeah, and the love of being in a team. That beautiful feeling of finishing a game and you all played well together, you all caught each other’s catches. You did some good moves and everyone played well together: that’s a great feeling and I’m not really out to attack that. It’s a really special moment and a special thing about sport.

RK: Were you brought up in a football-loving family?

AK: No, no.

RK: Because you know there are people who are brought up in families where the team of the parents is handed down like some kind of very important thing from one generation to the next.

AK: Yeah.

RK: So, it’s more than sport, isn’t it?

AK: No, my family was very sporty; we played a lot of sport but we weren’t watchers. We weren’t spectators, not that there is anything wrong with that. We were more, I was more inclined to be on the field, rather than watching.

RK: You seem to be attracted to stories that present themselves as very complex. I mean, all of the things I said before are very complex things to write about. But they almost beg you to take a side, don’t they? Even though in their complexity, in the impossible-ness of their complexity, people have to come down for or against.

AK: Mmm, yeah and I guess that what is really interesting about following, trying to write about a rape trial is I kind of discovered [that] for a sexual assault complaint to go to trial it wasn’t about whether it could be proven to be true or false, it was more about whether or not there were enough angles of a story, versions of a story to be tested, and whether they were reasonable versions and whether they could stand up in court. So in a way that’s kind of my own approach to what I write, and I’m not looking for something to be true or false, or for it to be black and white, I’m just looking at all the different angles and the different ways it can be interpreted.

RK: And you don’t go for stereotypes, do you?

AK: I hate stereotypes.

RK: Why do you hate stereotypes?

AK: Ah, because they are really damaging to the reader and I think they are lies. I mean, there may be a seed of truth as to why a stereotype has come about, but they can be, people can become stereotypes as a result of constantly spouting that sort of perspective. And they can be quite straitjacketing; you can find that people don’t see another way out of it, or they don’t actually have to be that. And especially in writing, Zadie Smith talks about writing clichés and that they are actually the equivalent of lying and they are short cuts and they are lazy ways to write. It’s the same with stereotypes, I think. In a sense it makes people think they are not feeling the right thing. So there’s that idea: say you write about a funeral and everyone is sad at a funeral, but there are a lot of people who aren’t sad at funerals, a lot of people are feeling really relieved, and to say that that shouldn’t be the way is really damaging to people who aren’t feeling the “right way”.

RK: And in this case there are stereotypes of women who are asking for it, around these famous sportsmen or all men are rapists; so all of these young men are out to rape. I mean these are the two stereotypes that you look at and you analyse. And your book begins with a verdict in a rape trial. It’s a great way to begin the book, the verdict of not guilty; you are hugging the grandmother of the defendant. And you say, “That’s a problem, don’t you think?”

AK: A huge problem.

RK: Why?

AK: Well, I’m supposed to be objective, right? I’m supposed to be detached and not on anyone’s side and yet I got uncomfortably close to the defendant and his family over three weeks. I got uncomfortably close, and it was really hard for me to see the trial in a black and white way. And I think that was sort of reciprocated. I know that the defendant and his family appreciated my company, and I know that I was a source of comfort to them, as opposed to the other journalists who never spoke to them, who just came in and out.
But that’s a really dangerous terrain to be on when you are writing a book, you’re writing a book about rape and consent and you are looking at someone and you are trying to work out if they are a rapist or not. And yet this person is quite endearing. I found the defendant, Justin Dyer, really gentle and really quiet and I found it really hard to fathom, to marry this image of him with what he was being accused of.

RK: Well, let’s … For those people who haven’t quite finished the book, or perhaps they have just bought it and are just about to start, let’s just give a brief outline of what this trial was. Tell me who was accused of what.

AK: All right. So it begins in 2010, it begins after the second grand final between Collingwood and the Saints and basically by the time the grand final was over and it was morning the next day, police were rounding up a bunch of footballers, one of whom actually played for Collingwood in the grand final, to question over a complaint by a female who I call Sarah Wesley in the book. And there were two incidents that night, one incident in a bedroom back in a townhouse, where the girl found herself confronted with more than one man, more than the man she came home with, basically, and found herself in a situation, where she feels, or she said, she claimed that she was raped.
Then there was a second incident, where my main protagonist, Justin Dyer, comes into it, where he offered to take her home, and they ended up, his version being they had sex in the alleyway and her version is that she was raped in the alleyway, after the bedroom incident. So it’s a tangle of events and what ended up going to trial was the incident in the alleyway, not the incident in the bedroom. And what I found really fascinating was that before the trial commenced, before the jury were chosen, the lawyers and the judge had to work out what they were going to present to the jury, what kind of version of that night they were going to present to the jury, and they decided to censor the events in the bedroom. They decided to not let on that [that] happened to the jury and went straight to the alleyway.

RK: Is censoring the right word here? Because isn’t this what people do, I mean, they work out how much evidence there is for one part and then the next part. If they don’t think they can bring that scenario to trial because of the lack of evidence or I’m not sure but they say, ok well this is the bit we feel we can actually argue around.

AK: Yeah, well, I really struggled with it and in a way the word “censoring” …  I struggle with that word as well but it really did feel like a portion of the night was being erased. And a portion of the night that had potentially, most likely, precipitated what happened in the alley. So I found it really difficult to disentangle the two events and I can understand why they did it because they thought the early event would contaminate the event in the alleyway, but as far as I’m concerned that is exactly what happened, it did contaminate what happened in the alleyway, because I doubt what happened in the alleyway would have happened without what happened in the bedroom.
So, and I guess that is what a large portion of the book is about: can the adversarial court system, can it really encompass the nuances of these kind of encounters?

RK: So the fact that you found yourself in the arms of the grandmother of the defendant, that’s also interestingly a result of the way the court is organised, too: that you’re feeling, well, this situation with this young man didn’t occur without all sorts of other things happening first, on the one hand. And on the other hand, tell us about the testimony. How was that treated in the court? And how much access did you have to her story? And therefore how did you think about what you knew, what you had to play with.

AK: Well, her testimony was in closed court, she chose to do it by remote camera. So everyone was taken out of the court except the defendant, Justin and the jury and the lawyers and the judge.

RK: And didn’t he have a relative [present]?

AK: Yeah, and his mother also stayed, as long as she sat outside the camera view, so the girl couldn’t see the mother or Justin.
So, I didn’t have access to that and I was panicking because I didn’t have her voice, I couldn’t get her voice. I tried numerous times to get in contact with her and each time I was trying I was getting closer and closer to the defendant and his family, which was making me really nervous. And it seems to be the way with so many of these books.

RK: Closer and closer, because?

AK: Because I had spent day in, day out sitting with them in the foyer and they opened up to me.

RK: Because you were a familiar face?

AK: Because I was familiar.

RK: Because any court case is difficult for anybody involved.

AK: Yeah.

RK: But they knew you were writing a book?

AK: Yes, I mean, it was potentially naïve that they opened up to me.

RK: Was it naïve of you to open up to them?

AK: Potentially, yeah. I do feel like, I did feel that they had a hold on me, and I was becoming more and more sympathetic to their view. I could see their suffering but I couldn’t see hers. And I was really struggling with that, and I also desperately didn’t want to replace her experience with my experiences. I didn’t want to say well this happened to me when I was a teenager, so maybe that’s what happened to her.
I was really wary of putting my life into her gap. So I really struggled with that and her absence is quite clear. And I also did wonder whether it was healthy for her not to be there, and that was a tough thing to say out in the open as well: “Should she maybe not have the protection that the court offers her? Should she maybe actually sit in court, day in, day out and be part of this process?” ’Cause I do feel that maybe she would have got some kind of justice from seeing Justin in the docks. Because he got not guilty, he got off, he walked away and she never got to see him broken, and she never got to see him suffering, and —

RK: But if he’s got not guilty, why should he be suffering?

AK: Because he suffered throughout the trial and he suffered for two years, of being accused and —

RK: And how would that make her feel better, if she saw him suffering, and then the result being not guilty?

AK: It might help. It might help. Apart from being just not guilty, never being there, never being able to see what happened, maybe even creating an image of him as this footballer that can’t be touched, this impenetrable being, maybe even creating an image of him being a monster. Whereas if she was in court day in and day out, she might have been able to rehumanise him.

RK: I’ll come back to the writing in just a moment but we have talked about the law and how it is set up, which influences how you write about a case like this. There is a lot of money in sport, isn’t there? It always occurs to me that every news bulletin that we listen to or watch has got a tenth or a fifteenth of it devoted to sport every time, and they are often not saying very interesting things. Every time they are not usually saying very interesting things but it is obviously a very important part of the culture. But there is a lot of money behind it, and power. What’s the effect of that? Money and power on the way cases like this might be reported?

AK: Well, initially, there were quite a few problems with this particular rape trial in the sense that after it became known that players were being questioned in regards to a rape allegation, it was leaked to journalists that there were two Collingwood players involved and that they were being questioned. There was a lot of tussle about whether that should have happened and whether these two young men should have been named and whether the radio station and journalists should have gone ahead and printed their names. And there was also speculation that there was a bit of argy-bargy from Collingwood and some threats to sue the news outlets that did name them.
You have to have your reputation in order to be able to make those kind of threats, and you have to have a bit of weight in order to make those kind of threats, and it’s pretty obvious that football has a lot of weight when it comes to what the media can and can’t say.
It’s kind of amazing considering how much of the news sports seems to take up; it doesn’t seem to say anything. There’s groin injuries, there’s statistics. The recent story of drugs and sports scientists, no sports journalists broke that. How could have they not broken that story? What were they doing? How did they have 30 pages at the back of newspapers and still not manage to break that story?
It’s kind of one of the angles that I look at, that it took female journalists to be really persistent, with really thick skins, to stay in the game. It was their presence that started to reveal these stories that male journalists just ignored, which was stories of sexual assault, hush money being paid, not necessarily rape but just really appalling conduct when it came to females. It took female journalists to stay in the game.

RK: You write about the relationships between police and football players, which was fascinating, I thought. Talk a little bit about that because it seems that the police are not beyond being star-struck by the footy players.

AK: Yeah, the things you’ll do to be one of the boys. That’s the impression that I got from a lot of angles of society. This idea of female groupies – there were male groupies long before female groupies came on the scene.

RK: And what did they do?

AK: Well, in the police episodes, it’s hard to say exactly what they did. They made police work difficult. There was one particular policeman in New South Wales who got in the way of an investigation involving a rugby league player and two other men, and there is this amazing police integrity investigation into his conduct and it’s fascinating the things he did to get close to this rugby league player.

RK: The text messages.

AK: Yeah, the text messages back and forth between the rugby league player who is a suspect, he is being questioned but he is also a suspect.

RK: Including one at one o’clock in the morning to say —

AK: Great game … yeah, good luck with your game. Yeah, and football tickets are changing hands and just stories, being in with the boys. This particular policeman called up the rugby player’s coach because he wanted to talk to him about what was happening in the case, but he just wanted to have a coffee with the coach. He just wanted to hang out with rugby league illuminati and be a part of it, and it’s blatantly obvious when you read the transcripts that I republished in the book.

RK: Then there are the women who hang around the famous footballers and you quote Alan Dershowitz, lawyer for Mike Tyson who was on a rape charge, and regarding groupies he says, “All they get is bragging rights.” More or less everyone knows that the sex is bad and it’s going to last 15 minutes and all they get are bragging rights and this is what we all know.

AK: And they are the rules and groupies should know the rules.

RK: But there are groupies.

AK: Yeah, there are groupies, definitely, and they are part of the culture that supports these guys and lets them do what they want. Groupies enable that kind of behaviour. Groupies are a really interesting sort of dynamic because you could say that they are empowered, you could say that they are there for sex’s sake and they are getting what they want from the deal and that’s great but what happens when a girl doesn’t know the rules, when she finds herself in a room with a footballer and no one told her the rule, which was: his mates want to get involved as well. What happens to that girl?

RK: It seems in this case there was an intent on the part of Sarah to meet up with a footballer that night.

AK: No, I don’t think she was intending on him being a footballer. I never got that impression. He was a guy that she had been with, at a bar a couple of weeks prior. I had no, I got no … there was no feeling from me that she was someone who was interested in footballers. He was a young guy and she was attracted to him and he was attracted to her. I don’t think football really came into it. It only came into it when she went home with him, and his football mates were there.

RK: What about the team bonding that goes on in the footy world? You said you understand about being in a team, the team of basketballers and how good it is to be a member of the team. How do you understand the kind of team bonding that comes with a group of men and their bonding around sexuality?

AK: Mmm.

RK: Is it such a foreign planet that it can’t be imagined?

AK: It is incredibly foreign to someone who is not a footballer to contemplate how you could bond over a woman, and how there could be a few of you in the room. It took a bit of twisting to get my head around how that would happen. What I came to conclude, and so many people would sort of tease footballers after these stories and say, “Oh ,they are obviously just homosexual. They just want to be with one another and the girl’s just an excuse”, and I can’t quite go with that one either.
To me there’s not really a hell of a lot of homosexuality going on either. If there was I think it would be better for it. To me it was aggressively heterosexual and the fact that the female was in the room, she was there to make it heterosexual. She was there [so they could] prove to one another just how hetero they were, and, I guess, in the way they were allowed to bond, right? They were allowed to bond through this woman, but it didn’t strike me as gay, it just struck me as a deep love for one another. That they didn’t know how to express it or they are not allowed to express it in their world. They are not allowed to express it in this macho, masculine world and the only way they can express it is if they get a female in on the act, and I think that is really sad.
One of the most beautiful things about football to me is not just the athleticism or the biffo, it’s the tenderness between players: when one of them falls over and another one helps them up and ruffles up his hair, and there is this beautiful unadulterated joy when one gets a goal …

RK: There is a lot of hugging in there.

AK: It’s great. It’s the face of a child on a man when he gets a goal. It’s beautiful to watch, and yet I get the sense that they don’t know quite what to do with all that love, and they are perhaps even a little bit embarrassed by it, and they need to prove again and again to one another that they are aggressively heterosexual.

RK: You wrote an essay about Kimberley Duthie, the “St Kilda football schoolgirl” as she was known at the time. That was a couple of years before this publication and that seems to sit in a different place, that girl, from this girl. How does this story sit in your development of this interest in men and women and sex and power and football? Because you describe her as an athlete who was punishing the culture that sidelined her.

AK: Yeah, I think Kim Duthie was a really naïve girl.

RK: She seemed so knowing, or she seemed to be reported as being knowing.

AK: Which is a problem full stop for teenage girls, right? Which is: you look so confident but really on the inside you have got no idea what’s going on.

RK: Just remind us what happened with her.

AK: Basically, she went out with a St Kilda player and in response to him breaking up with her, told him that she was pregnant, and no one knew that she was lying for a long time, and she basically caused the entire AFL to freak out. St Kilda panicked, the St Kilda Club panicked when she told her teacher that she was pregnant and that she met the St Kilda player on a clinic that he taught at her school. And then the AFL panicked because this was the last thing they wanted to have smeared on their name and she just got more and more notorious. She used social media to make a name for herself, to voice her discontent with how St Kilda was treating her.

RL: And she showed photos?

AK: She released photos of a few of the players in St Kilda, naked photos. Very odd photos: you get the sense there were “before stories” to these photos. And again she lied: she claimed that she took them. Turns out that they are from an end-of-year footy trip and she stole them off her ex-boyfriend’s computer. But what a lot of the mainstream media didn’t seem to make the connection between was her releasing those photos and [the fact that] she wrote this italic font over the top saying from the St Kilda schoolgirl. And she was actually replicating a couple of viral emails that went around about her, taking the piss out of her and what happened to her. Three men and a baby, with Duthie in the middle of it, a picture of her taken off her Facebook page with the italics scrolled over the top. And this went from players to football staff, to police; everyone was sharing this email. So when she released the photos she had definite revenge in mind and not many people made that link. And then she was threatened with litigation for the next 15 years of her life by the club.
Anyway, it just got trashier and trashier this story and Victorians were mesmerised. Journalists couldn’t help themselves; they were clustering around her. Blurring out her face, which made her young body and really skimpy clothing really obvious and tripping over themselves to follow her next tweet, and it just got more and more ridiculous. She set up a honey trap for Ricky Nixon, a player agent, and a tabloid Herald Sun journalist helped her set up this honey trap and caught him in action in her hotel room.
It just kept avalanching from there until she admitted that she lied about being pregnant, and then everyone just went silent. No one knew what to do. The only person who said anything was Andrew Demetriou of the AFL, who said basically he chastised the media and said, “We knew there was something wrong, which is why we haven’t been making a big deal out of this.” So it was kind of handy for him.

RK: In a sense did the St Kilda football schoolgirl story balance up the role of a woman in a sex scandal? That she had a little bit more agency than some of the other women that we have talking about?

AK: Yeah, I mean, she was very slippery, wasn’t she? She did everything you didn’t want her to do, for feminism, she lied about being pregnant, but a the same time, she was —

RK: She stirred it up.

AK: She stirred it up and she owned her story, at least she tried to own her story, on social media and she didn’t just take it. I think that was probably what was admirable about her: she didn’t just take what the football club dealt out to her. She tried to fight back.

RK: And because you said she was an athlete; she was a runner, wasn’t she? A really good athlete, she was really surprised that the fact she was a good athlete didn’t count for anything.

AK: Yeah, I think she was naïve. I don’t think she ever realised that; I don’t think she had ever had that experience where she realised that all she was, was her sex. I don’t think she was prepared for that and she was really knocked over about it. She thought she was the boy’s equal. She had never considered that she was just this plaything for them. I think it really surprised her and it really shook her world, her world view. She had this idea that she could do anything: she was incredibly fit, she had endurance, she could have outrun all of those guys, she was a mountain runner. Then suddenly they made her feel like she was nothing. They made her feel like she was worthless, and you know she reared back at that. She didn’t take that.

RK: You are very interesting when you say you try to resist imagining yourself back into the role of Sarah, whose voice you can’t get access to. You are very interesting about what sex is like: that all kinds of complex things happen and when you describe what happened in the alley, imagining if it wasn’t rape, it was kind of fumbling, of a couple of drunk young people in the alley. They are doing the basics of sex, without much enjoyment, particularly, but getting the deed done in a sense, which is sometimes what sex is like. How did you think about writing like that?

AK: Well, I have always sort of struggled with this idea that there is consent and then there is rape and that it’s obvious. I have always struggled with that idea that no means no and that’s really obvious again. And I know from my own experience it doesn’t boil down to yes or no: there’s a whole vast plain between yes and no, of awkwardness, of not being able to articulate what you want, and finding yourself deeper and deeper in a disturbing situation and not sure how to get yourself out of it, and coming out of it thinking: “What happened?”
I didn’t say yes or I didn’t say no, but I feel dirty, or I feel like I have been used and why don’t I have a language to articulate that. I think that again it’s a dangerous thing for us not to have a language to talk about disturbing encounters, sexual encounters, without being forced to decide whether it was either rape or it was your fault because you were up for it and you didn’t say no. I feel like there is a whole world of language that we are missing out on.

RK: Or is it the position of a bureaucracy – of tick this box and then that box and then this box – that doesn’t actually work, does it?

AK: It doesn’t work.

RK: Not in my experience.

AK: Not in a lot of people’s experience, I think. And as I was writing this I was talking to people and the more stories they told me … one woman was talking to me about how when she was about 19, a man who was about 40 sat next to her on a tram and he just didn’t let her go. And he said, “You should come back to my house” and she did. And the whole time she was like, “Why am I here? What am I doing?” And he never threatened her, he never used violence, never even verbally threatened her, but she was kind of —

RK: Mesmerised.

AK: Mesmerised, like a rabbit in the headlights.

RK: Or like someone who’s wondering how the story was going to end.

AK: Yeah, there is a curiosity.

RK: Well, there is a curiosity.

AK: That’s the sort of idea of testing the limitations of what it was to be a child and now you are becoming an adult. You’re pushing the tape, you are trying to work out how far you can go.

RK: Well, how confusing for a man, too.

AK: Exactly. So I was exploring that as well in that sense. There was some witnesses in the house when we talked about the rape trail, who said that the complainant, Sarah Wesley, was smiling. And this was said as if to say, “See? She was smiling.”

RK: Someone saw her smiling in the morning as they walked past.

AK: Yeah, as they walked past, so she was fine. Whereas my thought is, usually when I am most uncomfortable or most upset, it’s usually when I am smiling. It’s not to say my other smiles are not … (laughs).

RK: But how would we tell?

AK: How can a young man … how can he decipher this? To say, “Oh, that’s an uncomfortable smile”; that’s a “I’m not happy with this” smile; that’s a “happy smile’”. How can he read the signs? To me, I think that’s a real failure of both sexes. We lack a language, and we lack a language that we share, which is how these situations happen.

RK: Did you find it frustrating to be in the court, where the shades of meaning, like what we have been talking about, are not really received very well, or are abused in some way? Or just assigned to obvious guilt or obvious innocence, instead of something in between?

AK: Yeah, I found it really frustrating because it became really clear that no one was going to leave the court any smarter than when they walked in. If anything, they were going to have their own ideas and their own stereotypes even more affirmed. Justin went in there thinking that Sarah was a liar and a slut, and he came out of there thinking the exact same thing.

RK: And vindicated because he was now not guilty.

AK: Yeah. Whereas I don’t really see how helpful that could possibly be. And same with Sarah. I mean, does she think … I can only speculate. Does she think that she is a victim? And is she a victim that has been failed by the system? And, to me, that doesn’t seem like a very healthy result either.

RK: So back to the idea of writing. So you’ve got this woman who doesn’t want to give evidence in the same room – fair enough. She doesn’t want to give evidence that’s reportable either; that’s another door that’s being closed. Doesn’t want to talk to you.

AK: Yep, and then I also have to weigh up: is this just frustrating because it’s me, because I’m a writer and I want to write a story? I mean, maybe getting her story told in court is enough, and maybe me saying her story needs more airing is me just being selfish, because I want to write her story.

RK: But then, clearly, she doesn’t want you to write her story, does she?

AK: No.

RK: Do you know what she thinks of you writing her story?

AK: No.

RK: Does it matter?

AK: No, because now she has become just “every woman”, hasn’t she? She’s become this common woman, but I find that a bit disturbing as well: that with all this cloistering and with her being so invisible, she becomes a cipher for people’s ideas, or a reflection. People just see their own experiences in her reflection. It’s not her story. And, again, what kind of understanding can we draw from that?

RK: How did the experiences of other writers like Helen Garner, writing The First Stone, for example, help you to work out what to do, because she had a similar issue, because the girls in that story – the women who complained of sexual assault with the master of Ormond College, or inappropriate behaviour – they didn’t want to talk to her either.

AK: The book, to me, was a real touchstone. It gave me some strength to read it, and to go, “OK, well, this is the journey I am taking and I’m not going to be able to speak to her.” It also made me really nervous because I know how attacked she [Garner] was, for that book. Also I feel a little bit bad for her because she broke ground and here I am enjoying the ground she broke. So I felt a lot of things especially towards that book because I think that Helen Garner really touched on something there. She talks about that strange place between a man’s action and a female’s reaction and what happens in that place and why does it take females so long to react? What is that? And what is sex without a bit of persistence?

RK: And resistance.

AK: And resistance. So how do you navigate that and how do you learn a language for that, that avoids it going to court, that avoids it going to the police. Because I think if Sarah stood up in the bedroom and said, “No”, I don’t think anyone would have stopped her, so if only she had had the ability to do that. And that’s a really sad situation that we are in, that we find ourselves in places where we can’t talk, and we can’t say what we want. So, yeah, I was nervous about writing that.

RK: You seem nervous about the response, the readers’ response.

AK: Yeah, everyone is nervous about that, aren’t they?

RK: Well, they might be nervous about whether they think the book is well written or not – it is well written, you don’t have to worry about that – but you’re nervous about whether people will think you took the right line or not.

AK: Yeah.

RK: What is the right line? Their line would be what?

AK: I guess it’s been so hard for rape to get the kind of awareness and education that it finally has now. It’s been so hard for females to report sexual assault and it’s still incredibly hard for it to get into a court, and for me to come out saying, “Well, maybe it’s a much more murky than the slogan ‘no means no’ has been pushing for the last 30 years. Maybe it actually is more difficult and maybe consent is murky and maybe we are not going in the right direction with this.”
I feel very bad for bringing that up because the last the thing you want to do is undo all that good work, but it’s obviously not working anyway because very few rape cases are going to court, even less are resulting in convictions and it’s pretty clear it’s not working so something needs to happen. I don’t think progress happens in the courts, I think it happens somewhere else. Maybe that can happen before things go to court.

RK: In what sense?

AK: In the sense that, I think there is room for mediation, I think there is room to negotiate a common truth. I think Justin Dyer just wasn’t a rapist, but he did something wrong and that nuance just didn’t happen in the court, and I think that’s really sad.

RK: Do you have anything to do with any of these people now?

AK: I would have liked to have kept in contact with Justin Dyer, but he’s cut me off. Part of me thinks, fair enough. I mean —

RK: He’s over it.

AK: He’s over it. He doesn’t want to go back there.

RK: How do you think he’ll feel about the book?

AK: It may take him a few years to appreciate it. I think it will be really hard for him to read, but —

RK: What are your hopes?

AK: I think, in a way, I feel quite bad for Justin because in a way he has become a scapegoat for me as well, in the sense that I am using him to tell a bigger story and I can only hope that by me using him to tell a bigger story, [it] has an effect on people and understanding the grey zone of sex and rape, and understanding that they may be crossing a line and being able to be aware of pulling back at the right time. And whether Justin can understand that or whether he comes around to that point of view, I don’t know.
It would be great if he did but I can understand if he doesn’t, I can understand if he wants to bury that book really, really deep into the ground.

RK: Well, we don’t: that’s why we have chosen Night Games: Sex, Sport and Power to be the Monthly Book. Anna Krien, thank you for talking to me.

AK: Thanks, Ramona, thanks

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