By Conor Young
Quick! While people are still paying attention! You want a swimmer’s take on the Brock Turner case? The boy’s a terrible human who deserves a more George R.R. Martin-esque punishment than the slap-on-the-wrist delivered by his trial’s judge — not very different from everyone else’s opinion. Now you expect me to defend the sport and tow the #NotAllSwimmers line but truthfully, I don’t really need to. Whenever an athlete of a less familiar sport — or participant in something like Greek life — commits (or is accused of committing) a sexual assault, think pieces hit the blogosphere calling for the removal of such organizations from campus life. With this case, however, writers have taken special consideration to avoid discussing Turner’s athletic participation, which undersells the issue. This isn’t to excuse Turner or his actions, or even to rationalize them. To solve a problem, we must first understand all of it. Instead of forcibly ignoring his athletic participation, we must understand how training as a competitive swimmer contributed to Brock Turner committing rape.
Swimming saved my life. In my thirteen years of competition, I have seen it do the same for countless other athletes. Men and women train and compete on the same teams in a way not seen with a more segregated sport, like basketball. No matter how you identify or express yourself, no matter what body parts you have, you still do the same things with the same goal in mind: going fast. Swimmers not only become incredibly close, but also develop respect for each other. In this way, the sport fosters respect between men and women. So swimming can — most of the time, does — prevent the kind of thinking that contributes to a man becoming a rapist, and yet it contributed to Brock Turner becoming a rapist. How?
So his hard work consistently yielded desired results, leading to Turner achieving absurd amounts of success during his formative years. Symbolically or literally, he never heard the word “no.”
Every swim coach and competitor, current or former, can tell you swimming teaches perseverance. The training is some of the most, if not the most, arduous in the sports world. Given that, you can still train and train and do everything right, and still not make your goal times. It happens to the vast majority of swimmers. It has happened to me more times than I care to think about. When it happens, you get up in the next morning and you power through. You keep working hard and eventually you reach your goals. Get knocked down and get back up again. It would seem that this never happened to Brock Turner. Very rarely a swimmer comes along that doesn’t have to pick himself/herself back up, that never gets knocked down.
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He set his goals, worked his tail off, and reached them. Combine this with another interesting fact about swimming: athletes can achieve an incredible amount of success at a shockingly young age. Turner himself had become a multiple USA Swimming Junior National and NCSA Junior National medalist, a USA Championship Series finalist, a state champion, and a USA Olympic Trials qualifier — all before he turned 18. In fact, at 17, he was fast enough to earn a varsity scholarship at the absolute swimming powerhouse that is Stanford University. That’s like starting for the New England Patriots at 17! So his hard work consistently yielded desired results, leading to Turner achieving absurd amounts of success during his formative years. Symbolically or literally, he never heard the word “no.”
So, the stage is set. All of the success he achieved in swimming contributed to the building of a boy who — according to official reports by his own female teammates — was uncomfortable to be around. To put it simply, was already “rape-ey”. Court testimony reveals that on the night of the assault, he danced erotically with and was turned down multiple times by his eventual victim. All the hard work he sunk into hooking up with this woman was amounting to nothing. All of this effort, and no payoff. Not accustomed to that sort of thing, the barely-conscious 22-year-old’s lack of consent was all the consent Turner needed. A large majority of the outrage about this case has pertained to the fact that after the jury found him guilty of sexual assault, he only apologized for excessive drinking, not the crime he had just been convicted of committing. That’s because, in his own dark mind, he never raped anyone. He simply persevered to achieve the result he desired, as he had been conditioned. This is not to say that competitive swimming is a terrible thing and everyone should quit, or that people who experience his kind of success will inevitably rape someone. Brock Turner is not a respectable kid whom swimming turned into a rapist. Rather, in this particular case, the success he was able to achieve so early and consistently in swimming, contributed to his committing this crime.
Conor Young is a Senior Biology Major and Varsity Swimmer at Trinity University.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer, The Contemporary takes no position on matters of policy or opinion.