Fallen Idols

Why professional athletes make bad role models

UPDATE Since publishing this article, more sporting ‘heroes’ , with impeccable timing, have gone on a rampage. Or, more likely, a keener post-Armstrong media scrutiny in a gold-rush manner has dug up more nuggets of scandal for the headlines. See: AFL/NRL drug scandal, Australian men’s swim team culture, widespread football matchfixing and of course the OJ Simpson-esque Oscar Pistorius trial.

Lance Armstrong On Podium

To many, Lance Armstrong’s confession meant the world had lost another hero… but what really makes a hero in the first place?

The Bible warned us not to worship false idols. I’m not religious and I realise the ancient tome is pretty kooky if read literally, but I will admit that sometimes the bedrock philosophy is solid enough to stand on today. The term ‘false idols’ as carved into Moses’ tablets may have literally meant other gods or faiths, whose worship would presumably result in a bolt of lightning to the eyesocket. Metaphorically, however, it could mean the gratuitous praise of things that offer no soulful fulfilment; to kneel at the altar of the gods of superficially: materialism, vainglory and – shudder – celebrity. It could and should be interpreted as a simple warning. Beware whom or what you put on your personal pedestal, the place where you derive your own values. Don’t be so easily spellbound by those curious forces that make fame and success such seductive attributes in others. Don’t be so quick to worship, for example, certain individuals who captivate the world by overcoming adversity and soaring to unequalled heights of triumph… and then reveal 15 years later that they lied and were all hopped up on goofballs the entire time… The. Entire. Time.

Lance Armstrong

The truth hurts.

You know who I’m super-subtly referring to here: Lance Armstrong, the disgraced American cyclist who finally confessed his career-long doping sins before Oprah Winfrey and many millions of viewers around the globe. Twelve years of accusations and two years of US federal prosecution couldn’t budge him, but two hours on the couch with Oprah had the skeletons hurtling from the closet. For almost the entirety of his professional career, Armstrong aggressively denied persistent allegations that he ever cheated. The world believed him, and those few who doubted were non-believing, heathen naysayers. But, in June 2012, an investigation by the US Anti-Doping Association sensationally found him guilty of using and distributing performance-enhancing drugs and stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles. It rocked the world to its molten core. Until then, he was not only a prodigy on two wheels but one of the world’s most inspirational figures, particularly to cancer sufferers, his countrymen, and other athletes. He was the shining beacon desperately needed by a sport choked by the sinister fog of controversy. When the awful truth finally passed though the same lips that passionately denied allegations for 14-odd years, it sent the world spiralling into a sea of disillusionment Armstrong’s revelation murdered the infallible sportsman icon, and his confession was a eulogy for the death of all things honourable.

His downfall pulled immense strain on the already-brittle tether between ‘professional athlete’ and ‘role-model’. The same questions arose – should athletes be more responsible as role models? Are they role models? How can we make them more accountable for their actions? The most common argument in this troubled discourse rails along the concept of noblesse oblige; that by virtue of their elite status, athletes are duty-bound to behave honourably. That, however, is ridiculous. Professional sport is a self-serving career – athletes honour their contracts, not some high-minded sense of purpose. Former NBA star Charles Barkley once told reporters, “I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids”. He was dead right. No matter how famous or wealthy or influential an athlete becomes, they don’t assume any responsibility as some generic, universal role model.

The onus – and this is important – is on us. ‘Oh, but children look up to them…’ Forget the children. Children have children’s logic. Which is to say, none. Kids will idolise anyone they see on TV, so long as they have outstanding comedic fart timing or appear in a music video. The proper role model for a child is obviously the parental figure, as Mr Barkley rightly observed.

The point here is that even after we outgrow our childish frivolity, we still need role models to guide us. The people we, as adults, choose to idolise and perceive as role models are measures of our own intelligence and maturity. It’s for that reason sport stars can make pretty awful candidates.

A moral victory?

Now, let me be clear – I love sport. I follow virtually every code or discipline; I exchange my money for flags, scarves, hats, shirts and other crap bearing the crest of my favourite teams. My life is incomplete without my soccer, or tennis, or social touch footy. I’ll even throw on a netball bib when the opportunity presents itself. I revel in the highs and lows of competition and for that reason adore a great number of top athletes. I’m amazed and thrilled by their particular skills, their style, and – importantly – their dedication to the pursuit of their passion and their dreams. Names such Lionel Messi, Fernando Alonso and Roger Federer evoke images of greatness in my mind. Great athletes wow me and inspire me to try hard at what I do. So, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take inspiration from professional athletes and their achievements. But as people? Well, I don’t know them – but I can certainly imagine that on some level they are outstandingly selfish people, regardless of how humble and good-spirited they seem – because you must be selfish to succeed in sport. You’re a winner or you’re nothing, literally.

Sport turns success a hardcore fetish. In every corner, victory is obsessed over – from the competitors battling to win, to the flag-waving fans in the stands, to the punters feeding a billion-dollar gambling industry. At the end of the day, sport is no more than as an exhaustive series of numbers: records, rankings, time, distance, kilometres per hour, kilograms, goals, points, runs, baskets, medals, knock-outs, and so on to infinity. Success for an athlete is defined by the statistics beside their name. The ‘greats’ are the best, but does that mean the best are great?

Nobody achieves any form of greatness without incredible sacrifice. Sacrifice, though, can still be a selfish act. It just depends on who eventually is to reap the rewards. Athletes make tremendous sacrifices to their lives, socially, financially and emotionally – nobody simply breezes their way to a bag of gold medals and photo on the Weet-Bix tin. But single-minded dedication to the pursuit of glory is exactly that – single-minded. Elite athletes are certainly driven people, hard-working and ambitious people… but does that make them good people?

We decide the answer to those pseudo-rhetorical questions, but to do so properly we must understand there’s difference between admiring an achievement and admiring the person who achieved it. I believe that to truly hold someone in the highest esteem and call them a role-model, their achievements and their journey are no more important factors than the deepest motivations in their hearts. Ambitions and goals are good things but there’s a fine line between personal aspiration and self-aggrandising greed. You shouldn’t necessarily identify a role model by the loftiness of their success; but by the direction in which their moral compass points. Ambition to someone truly great, is not to set out to conquer the world, but to contribute to it in a meaningful way – be it pushing the boundaries of science; advocating social justice and change; or simply striving to make life somehow better for others. There’s an old Greek proverb that declares, ‘a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in’. It’s not about environmentalism, but altruism. A cyclist doesn’t enter the Tour de France to impart some positive effect on the world of cycling – they pedal away for days desperate to be the dude on the podium in the yellow duds being smooched on either cheek by some French hotties.

Jocks and nerds

So, why do we gravitate towards the athletically-gifted members of our species? From the moment we introduce ourselves to this world as drool-soaked, babbling blank-slates, we observe and imitate with awe. Our simian DNA instructs us to learn by example. It begins with our parents, our siblings and then maybe our schoolyard friends, until eventually we achieve self-awareness of this vast world around us, and notice how it’s populated by regular people like us, and larger-than-life figures who inexplicably arouse our fascination. We take a real shine to people whose imprint on us speaks more for fantasy than practicality. We call them celebrities and channel a disproportionate amount of adoration to them. It’s a lamentable aspect of today’s society, as renowned historian Daniel Boorstin said many years ago:

“Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but are famous because they are great. We come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety.” 

Forever heroic.

Forever heroic.

Sport stars are a unique brand of celebrity. We live vicariously through them to taste not just glamour, but glory. We cheer and scream from the grandstands and share the euphoria of victory, but just imagine being the one in the centre, showered in confetti and holding the trophy aloft while Emilio Estevez looks on proudly. Who wouldn’t want to rule the world for even a fleeting second? Athletes have been these heroes for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks portrayed them as physical superhumans, commemorating them in marble as they would Zeus or Apollo. Today is no different – we still call them gladiators, warriors and champions. We commemorate them in posters, advertisements, action figures, brands. So rousing is the unique, intoxicating drama of sport that it’s impossible not to admire the protagonists.

Is this a bad thing? Not really – there’s nothing wrong with passion, but the absurdity of an obsessive love of sport stars becomes apparent when the image of heroism is shattered by a shameful act.  How can you idolise someone whom you can’t respect as a person? They abandon you, leaving you disenchanted and tasting scowling, bitter betrayal. That’s the risk of idolising even the most pious superstars of sport. Four years ago, who’d have envisaged the names Woods and Armstrong to mean what they do now? Nobody. And that makes us the fools. If these titanic figures run afoul on their own iceberg-sized hubris, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to go down with the ship.

Ultimately, it’s our own fault if we go through life revering superficial qualities over true character. After all, it’s easy to bear witness to and be seduced by impressive feats of physicality or skill and overlook feats of intellect or compassion. How many Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, Victoria Cross medallists or Templeton Prize winners can you name? These are extraordinary people who have achieved extraordinary things – but, for obvious reasons you’ll be buggered to find posters of them to adorn your walls (with the possible exception 1961 Nobel prize-winner Rudolf Mossbauer – it wasn’t only gamma radiation that succumbed to the Mossbauer Effect, if you know what I mean).

The Winner Fakes All

The Lance Armstrong media maelstrom was so violent that it almost erased from our memories the past (and inevitable future) athletic falls from grace. The list is huge, but let’s start with Tiger Woods. The squeaky-clean, Disney-approved savant of golf, made a gigantic splash a few years back when it was revealed he was as proficient with infidelity as he was his fairway approaches. Neither his reputation nor his game has recovered since. Major League Baseball is still affected by the mid-2000’s Barry Bonds/Mark McGuire/Sammy Sosa steroid saga, particularly whenever home-run records are mentioned… which in baseball is pretty much always. American quintuple gold medal sprinter, Marion Jones forfeited her glory in 2007 after she was also exposed as a big-time user of the juice. O.J Simpson… full-stop.

Even Tiger done bad.

Even Tiger done bad.

And no, it’s not just those from the U-S-A (‘U-S-A!’) either; in 2000, South African cricket legend Hansie Cronje was caught fixing matches, earning him a life ban. In 1994 Michael Schumacher won his first (of seven) world Formula One world championships by literally crashing his opponent into a wall – he somehow escaped punishment, but no-one ever forgot. Even the beautiful game has an ugly side. Diego Maradona – regarded by most as the world’s greatest footballer – eventually degenerated into a drug-addled lunatic; current England wonder striker Wayne Rooney was busted on separate occasions cheating on his wife with prostitutes, while former England skipper John Terry went and shagged his own teammate’s wife, taking a leaf from the playbook of former AFL great Wayne Carey. The less said about rugby players the better… The list goes on and remember, these are only the big fish who get caught. The amount unreported or unresolved anecdotal evidence of misconduct on or off the field is alarming. It’s systemic, from the lowly grades to the elite leagues, in team sports especially. This type of deviant behaviour is another topic unto itself, but goes to show that the egocentric mental conditioning for intense competition can manifest itself elsewhere, in less-savoury ways.

‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?’

Scandals or not, the world needs sport. In its many forms it creates camaraderie; it is a healthy pastime; a stimulating entertainment and at its very core, teaches good human values. But choose carefully to whom you bestow the word ‘hero’. That title carries a contradiction. Should it be someone whose desire is to conquer the world, or someone who wishes to make the world better for others? Athletes become heroes for themselves, not for us or any other. No famous athlete ever aspired to greatness so as to improve the lives of others. Save for the occasional sick kid in hospital.

So, is it really an omen that civilization is in freefall because a once-respected professional cyclist cheated in order to win, and lied for as long as he could get away with? Of course bloody not. It’s foolish to trust blindly the word of somebody who’s conditioned to covet success and victory above all else. Armstrong proved that eventually the yearning for glory can overpower all honourable intentions – like an Anakin Skywalker in lycra. There are better-qualified people in far less-glamorous circles who can shoulder the collective hopes for human dignity. Think about those risking their lives fighting for equality and freedom against oppression [Burmese woman]; think about those committed to expanding our understanding of the universe; think about the philanthropists, the thinkers, the real movers and shakers. Think even of everyday people who are just really freaking wonderful. Athletes, as remarkable and awe-inspiring as they can be, must do more than break records, sign autographs and do the odd charitable deed to deserve our deepest, sincerest admiration.

History teaches us that the most persevering judgement rests with one’s character. You can accumulate all the glory, all the wealth and all the adoration – but all it takes is one loose thread in your moral fibre and everything about you is unravelled. Athletes are humans and humans are prone to error. So many influences can draw an athlete to poor judgement, and it doesn’t necessarily make them objectively evil people, but that is why when we look to someone for true personal inspiration, it’s wise to look outside a world obsessed with ego and success. Instead, look to the impressively courageous, the awesomely intelligent or the inspirationally kind. It’s easier to find such people outside the world of sport. A good place to start is with another bit of advice carved into Moses’ tablet – honour thy father and thy mother.

Winning a wardrobe full of yellow jerseys is one mark of success; but being a good and dependable person is an even better one.

Spice for life


Until relatively recently in life, I saw eating spicy food as a cruel and unusual masochistic punishment. Intense spice destroyed taste, burned like hell and caused the same bodily reactions as those invoked by panic and fear. Chilli simply made meals a traumatic experience. Two traumatic experiences, in fact. It baffled me why some people willingly surrendered themselves to this torture – but then again, I never exactly understood why some people like stapling chunks of metal into their faces or watching Beauty and the Geek. But people do. Chilli-eating isn’t genetic, it has to start somewhere, right? Well, here’s the thing: I am literally typing this less than half an hour after eating lunch – a big $6.50 lunch-special chilli pad khi mao. The Thai food equivalent of eating a flamethrower that has been set on fire by another flamethrower. So, how did I come to be the taste-bud murdering masochist I once thought I’d never to be?

The answer, according to new research, is that it could be because I’m a thrill-seeker. A recent study by Nadia Byrnes (an apt name if there ever was one) and John Hayes from Pennsylvania State University, suggests that people with a fondness for thrill-seeking or adventure are more likely to develop a habit of eating spicy foods, despite the discomfort or pain – or possibly even because of it.

While are other factors such as cultural upbringing and previous experience, the UPenn study reveals a clear connection between sensation-seeking personality types and the love of a spicy spanking to the oral receptors. The most intriguing part of the study is that those who eat chilli often feel just as much pain as those who don’t. “This suggests chilli liking is not merely a case of increased tolerance with repeated exposure, but rather that there is an affective shift towards a preference for oral burn that is not found in chilli dislikers,” write Byrnes and Hayes. “That is, chilli-heads like the burn more, not just perceive it less.”

Personally, this is somewhat validating news, though for a reason not necessarily mentioned. See, I know my turnabout from chilli-spurner to chilli-yearner wasn’t because I actually enjoyed the burn – at least not at first – but it was indeed from satisfying an addictive thrill. This study oddly enough tells me that perhaps ‘thrill-seeking’ is more than being stoked about gnarly tubular epicness, dude, but can be to find personal exhilaration in small and symbolic deeds. My brave entry into the world of chilli (or mundo del fuego, as I prefer to call it) was actually a by-product of my desperate attempts to impress someone. It was my dedication to earn some form of respect of someone else that saw me through the agony, politely nodding while the nerves in my mouth died horrible deaths, screaming out ‘Judas’ as they burned from existence. It wasn’t personal curiosity, it wasn’t a culinary revolution – it had nothing to do with food at all. And it worked, to a point, which kept me coming back for more. What I came to love was not actually spice, but the spice of life (yes, surely you knew that was coming). Seriously though, as was also pointed out by Byrnes and Hayes, I never physically felt the hot sensation less, but instead grew to love it more. Not from increased tolerance or toughened-up nerves, but instead that emboldening feeling of tenacity and self-sacrifice, even gallantry. This all might sound a more than a little overwrought for the simple of act of ordering a beef vindaloo over butter chicken, but symbolically it’s no less important as any other of those little things in life to which we attach deeper meaning. Sometimes the spice of life (as in, the proverbial phrase coined by William Cowper) really is the little things, such as the spice of life (as in, capsaicin, the plant chemical that makes chilli hot).

Anyway, that was a couple of years ago and now, with nobody to impress, I still kick my food up the Scoville scale at every opportunity. No food I prepare is truly a meal until I have rained enough chilli flakes upon it to expect a small phoenix to rise from every finished plate. At one point after watching too much Heston Blumenthal, I even tried to make my own chilli chocolate, and then tried to make chilli-chocolate pancakes. Let’s just say Heston’s mantle of number one crazy-awesome chef was never challenged, but nor was my love of chilli. Now, eating spicy food is simply for the excitement of eating spicy food. The mist of sweat on the cheeks, the rise in the heart-rate, the shortness of breath – it’s now simply the chilli doing that to me, whereas once I could have mistaken it for something else. Chilli always hurts. It hurts like a bastard. But it’s no longer a form of torture; it’s a small, powerful reminder that the most powerful thrills can be small. Call me a silly, sentimental, thrill-seeking chilli-lover – and damned proud to be so.

BONUS: Chef Chris’s Top Six Spicy Dishes:

Chilli Pad Khi Mao
Easily an all-time favourite of mine. Flat noodles covered in delectable garlic soy sauce strewn with chunks of fresh chopped chilli and holy basil. The dish is also known as ‘drunken noodles’, because its tongue-immolating spiciness often leaves the eater pouring down drinks to douse the flames. Awesome.

Dandan Sichuan Noodles
Best with pork, this Chinese dish has perhaps the best spicy sauce known to man. It’s eye-watering spicy, mouth-wateringly tasty, and often served in massive portions. Like anything cooked Sichuan-style, it contains near-criminal levels of chilli. Eat it and die happy.

There are many variations of goulash, but the traditional Mark-1 Hungarian Goulash is super-generous with the paprika. It’s a thick, stodgy stew with potatoes, meat, potatoes, noodles and potatoes. Without flour for thickening, chefs resort to spicy paprika. Lots of it. It’s the perfect dish for cold weather and cold wars.

Chipotle Nachos
Of course, no list of spicy dishes can go without an entry from Mexico. You could pick any meal really and it’d count, but a big plate of nachos is hard to beat, especially when coated with a big helping of chipotle sauce – and not the impotent supermarket kind the gringos like, but the jalapeno-enhanced, high octane stuff that makes hugging a cactus positively cosy in comparison.

Spaghetti Bolognese with Chilli Flakes
This is poor man’s spaghetti arrabbiata. Or the man’s man spaghetti arabbiatta… it depends. Either way, spaghetti bolognese is all-but a staple these days. It’s simple and easy to make, and a Sunday afternoon’s vat of sauce will feed you and guests for a week. But, while arribbiata sauce is the official Italian spicy sauce, it lacks the meat and charm of Bolognese. So, the solution? Chilli flakes. A goddamn red blizzard of chilli flakes. Only stop adding the flakes when you see the ends of the noodles catching alight. Then enjoy.

Jerk Chicken
I always figured ‘jerk chicken’ was the menu trying to justify my choice to eat meat by revealing the chicken to have been a mean prick, but it’s much more than that. It’s a palate-pleasing exotic concoction of allspice, cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme and garlic; with a few palate-pulverising scotch bonnet peppers thrown in to melt your face right off your skull. There’s a reason Jamaican sprinters dominate the Olympics, and I’m certain jerk chicken is behind it.

Objectifried Out

I am usually quite adverse to wandering into the minefields of sexual politics. On no other subject is every single word you commit to print scrutinised so ruthlessly. I learned long ago that even a completely ironic, satirical piece will invite scorn and being labelled a bigot and a misogynist. And don’t even try to point out that you were only trying to be funny, it won’t fly. So, I sit by day by day and do my best not to weigh in on the latest story or editorial that pops up bemoaning the latest sin in the male rap sheet of chauvinistic shame. The many indefensible crimes of the penised ones.

Recently, SMH published a piece by Clementine Ford entitled ‘How to demean a woman’, which says it all really. Long story short, Ford rightly criticised Zoo Weekly’s Facebook photo feed that asks its 33,000-strong band of boofheads to choose between two scantily clad women. One particular example (and a kind of bizarre one, even for Zoo) asked users to choose between top or bottom half of a woman, and explain why. No prizes for predicting the resulting outpour of painfully unfunny sexist ‘jokes’,  uncouth remarks and general meat-headedness. Given the context, it’s hard to be shocked. As NME is to musos, Gardening Australia is to greenthumbs and IKEA catalogues are to anyone moving house – so Zoo Weekly is to boofhead bogans. It exists purely on the profitable earthly elements of ‘blokedom’: beer, women, cars and sports. It shares the same shelf as trashy celebrity mags and those thick, scented, glossy numbers that will always advertise 50 ways to be thinner, 36 ways to improve your sex life and 128 must-have shoes. In other words, it’s endlessly-recycled, one-dimensional crap.

Which half?

I’d choose the left, obviously. You can’t build a kickarse mega sandcastle with a pair of legs as your castle-buddy!

I choose to ignore all that nonsense. I don’t believe that such blatant objectification is a good thing – nor do I agree that it’s fair to use these blokes mags as a brush to tar all malekind. Likewise, men can’t point to celeb pulp to label all women as mean gossips. I just choose not to rub grubby shoulders with the respective audiences. But Ford also raised an important issue related to all of this. A side that she certainly described with ruthless verbosity – but didn’t really explore.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t just about the antics of a bunch of perpetually juvenile men and their light-hearted fondness for female objectification. It’s also part of a much broader attempt to limit the roles women are allowed to play – to offer a retro system of reward for those who play along, and punishment for those who don’t. It explains why a handful of fans and commenters on Zoo Weekly’s Facebook page are women, why so many of them send free photos of themselves in g-strings and disembodied poses… The world is full of the kind of female chauvinist pigs that Ariel Levy wrote about in her polemic of the same name; women who prostrate themselves before a cavalcade of men, whose mutually shared view of their value is inherently tied up in female willingness to subjugate itself for approval.”

The point she makes is this: the little ‘Left or Right’ game set up by Zoo exemplifies an unfortunate trend that demands we objectify ourselves to achieve urgent ‘validation’ from the opposite sex. Yes it does and it reveals the aching absence of simple respect. I also agree that it is in no way does ‘empowerment’ even warrant a mention. The women who offer themselves up to the altar of perve don’t legitimise the practice any more than they earn themselves any respect. However a problem here is that Ford seems to imply that this is a scenario unique only to realms ruled by male opinion, such as Zoo. She offers no other examples of how immediate objectification is a universally human trait – and that online media just so happens to be the perfect arena to view it in all its gruesome horror. This, to me, is problematic, because it adds more weight to the perception that ‘objectification’ is a specifically gendered concept; that as if by default men are lust-driven perpetrators while women are vulnerable victims. Such perceptions do nothing to help us better understand the roots of the issues of true sexist discrimination. Sexism is far more pervasive than simple female objectification. It’s denying opportunity, perceiving inferiority, stereotyping, manipulation and so on. Bringing up endless examples of objectification in motion is just going for another whirl around the rhetorical ‘body vs substance’ carousel. Can all this ‘Left or right?’, ‘rate me’,  ‘who wore it better?’ objectification of our bodies just be the fault of institutionalised patriarchy? Not quite. The blame rests with that age-old human flaw that befell great emperors, lovers and thinkers long before magazines or Facebook could: narcissism.

The  word objectification has just about become a loose synonym for ‘misogyny’. By definition, to objectify something is to remove all the intangible qualities from something and present it as purely an object. A thing, externalised, understood only by sight, touch, sound and smell. Artists do it to deconstruct a concept. Directors do it to dress a set. And we ourselves are all objectified in some way-  guys and girls, by guys and girls. We simply cannot say that we don’t instantaneously – almost subconsciously – judge a person of the opposite sex with the receptive tools of our anatomy. It’s just how we work. Degradation, though, is judging someone only this way. To demean someone is to ignore the higher values we humans (should) require for meaningful relationships: intellect, empathy, honesty, patience, loyalty, devotion, charisma and so on. Qualities of character that are invisible to our senses, but are felt by the heart and the mind. The problem is these values pretty much universally lose the struggle for attention when up against abs, breasts, biceps and booties. On paper, anyway.

It’s wrong for someone to morally castrate themselves and act as it they are above their own instincts of attraction. What differentiates those who really do see all women as Zoo attractions,  and the rest of the rational, reasonable world, is how far-ranging and complex our instincts go. The science on how tethered we are to mammalian needs is a controversial one. However, while I believe we are upright beings with the gift of rationalisation, incomprehensibly complex instincts and the ability to invent microwave popcorn; there’s no denying that by the very laws of biology we are bound to satisfy certain needs. Not just popcorn cravings. If you are to believe that we are very much prone to animalistic impulse, the idea that we are in perpetual competition with one another might offer an explanation to why we are driven to act certain ways. To an extent, I believe it. We don’t beat our chests and toss leaves about the forest floors – but we still (to varying degrees) fuss over our appearance and feel the pressure to be attractive, to be worthy. It also goes some way to explain the phenomena of jealousy, rivalry and intimidation. Again, the difference is how far we can distance our evolved, sophisticated selves from the egocentric, jealous, lusting creature lurking deep in our DNA. We can’t hide from our feelings – but most of us can (and should) conquer them with our big, rational sexy brains. The lack of respect these men show towards women is not simply the work of the bastardly Y-chromosome, but could possibly be related to the equal lack of respect they show towards their own cranial potential.

Unfortunately, though, it seems that just too many – of both sexes – cannot escape far enough from this beastly impulsiveness. Both sexes are guilty of objectification, it’s just that the ‘blokes’ among us are so boorishly unsubtle about it