by Conor Friedersdorf

A reader writes:

As a former athlete and wrestler, and as a parent of a wrestler, I find the alleged behavior abhorrent, plausibly criminally abhorrent. If the coaches were not aware of the broader situation of bullying -- and if that broader allegation is true -- then the coaches were negligent. If they WERE aware, then they were complicit and deserve to be fired.

While I too am nervous about involving the criminal justice system too readily in schoolyard disputes, bullying of teammates has no legitimate place in sports. It should not be tolerated. This story, as framed by Conor, treads dangerously closely to blaming the alleged victim.

It certainly isn't my intention to blame the victim or, presuming his account is accurate, to excuse the behavior of the instigator. By pointing out the ubiquity of locker room antics and aggressive physicality within the culture of high school sports, I wasn't justifying it or implying that the status quo is desirable, or that it shouldn't be brought under control. At the same time, I don't think the kid should be thrown in jail and put on a sex offender list.

Another reader writes:

I wrestled at both the high school and college level and the butt drag is a very well-known and effective move if executed properly. However, there are some unspoken rules about using it properly and fairly and not every wrestler/team/coach abides by those unspoken rules.  You aren't supposed to use your fingers and no penetration should ever occur.  The move is effective in trying to gain control of your opponent by getting behind him (resulting in either a takedown or reversal).  I learned the move from a former Olympian and he taught us to use an open palm and place the backside of your thumb in the opponents "crack".  Then you use that leverage to get behind your opponent.  Occasionally I would wrestle a kid that would just try to grab a buttcheek and maybe stick his finger or thumb in my butt.  This didn't work and usually meant my opponent wasn't a very experienced wrestler and didn't fully learn the move or it was taught to him wrong.  

From what I gather, the kid who is being charged with sexual batttery did the move wrong, while he was horsing around and not during a competitive match.  He obviously wanted to inflict pain on and embarrass the much younger kid who he wrongly performed the move on.  He should be kicked off the team and not allowed to return until he admits what he did and apologizes to the kid and the entire team.

Says this former wrestler:

The butt drag is indeed a common wrestling move, has been forever. But it has nothing to do with the case you mentioned. The butt drag is simply grabbing an opponent's butt cheek for leverage. If your finger penetrates his anus, it is accidental and, in my experience, very rare.

Whereas another veteran of the sport disagrees:

Finally! A discussion that I can contribute to.  I wrestled competitively for 20+ years and can say without hesitation that the butt drag is entirely common.  We called it "checking the oil" and used it just as much as the "ball grab".  I would often times get questioned whether I was ever concerned that I would end up in a match with a homosexual who was just out there to get a feel- and the question always came from someone who had never wrestled.  It's really a ridiculous question on a number of levels.  Putting aside the silly stereotype assumed in the question, I always answered the same way – if someone wants to get on the mat with me and take the physical abuse that comes with it- just to cop a feel – then I'd say they earned it.

Several other emails from wrestlers are at odds with one another when it comes to how common the more invasive version of the butt drag is or isn't. I am beginning to suspect that there are regional variations in the sport.

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