A controversy brewing in the Puget Sound region has national implications. Should middle and high school boys be required to compete with girls in wrestling matches? According to a report in The Seattle Times, girl wrestlers and their parents are indignant that some boys are forfeiting matches, refusing to wrestle girls. In particular, boys from Tacoma Baptist Schools and Cascade Christian Schools are at the center of the controversy. Schools in the Rainier Valley League have honored the right of the schools to forfeit matches rather than have a boy wrestle a girl. League President Dan Petersen advises that the current policy allows any wrestler to forfeit for any reason. “If a person chooses not to wrestle, they don’t have to wrestle,” he stated. Now, at least one parent of a girl wrestler is ready to take legal action. Jerry Connors, father of wrestler Meaghan Connors, has filed a complaint charging the league with violating Title IX, the federal law that bans discrimination against girls and women in schools. Connors, described in the paper as “a former Episcopal president and one-time pastoral assistant for social justice at St. James Cathedral in Seattle,” says he is just standing up for his daughter: “My daughter’s rights are not going to be bargained away for any reason.” What about the rights of the boys? Girls won the right to compete on school wrestling teams twenty years ago, and a handful of girls participate on wrestling teams in the Rainier Valley League. The Christian schools claim a right to follow their own convictions, arguing that boy/girl wrestling matches fall short of proper behavior or sportsmanship. As Cascade Christian Schools superintendent Don Johnson explained, the school “does not want to put our young men in a situation where they would be inappropriately touching a young lady.” That makes sense to me, and my guess is that this would make sense to most parents. After all, the sport of wrestling requires close–very close–physical contact. The holds and moves required for the sport mean that wrestlers will grab each other and struggle for physical supremacy. That pretty much defines the sport. As Andrew Spradlin, a former All-American high school wrestler, reported on my radio show Monday, wrestling with a girl would require a boy to initiate contact that would be considered sexual assault in any other context. Parents and wrestlers are not supposed to worry about that? Boys are to be encouraged to pin girls down on a wrestling mat? What’s wrong with this picture? This controversy will continue over the summer, and it bears close attention. If these Christian schools can be excluded from competition in the Rainier Valley League for this reason, religious liberty is at stake in a whole new arena.
Here’s another thought: What should we think of a litigation-fixated society that would put these boys in such a compromising position? Why would parents want their daughters to compete against boys in wrestling–or to wrestle in the first place? Furthermore, putting adolescent boys in the position of wrestling adolescent girls undermines and violates the natural and necessary responsibility of men and boys to protect girls and women–not to wrestle them to the ground. Boys should be taught to respect female modesty, not to grapple with girls wearing spandex. This represents further evidence of a dangerous confusion over gender combined with overtones of overt sexuality. Masculinity and femininity are effectively destroyed as meaningful concepts. That’s an incredibly high price to pay for “gender equity.”