Rape and the Boxing Ring – By Joyce Carol Oates | Essay


Added on  2019-09-27

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English 101 OL1 – Midterm After reading Carol Oates, write an essay contrasting their very different approaches. Angelou depicts the fight she describes as possessing cultural roots, a test of skill between an African American hero and his Italian opponent. Oates does not focus as much on the cultural component (though she certainly alludes to it); instead she speaks of deeper roots, specifically male- female relationships that transcend race and are infused with sexuality.“Rape and the Boxing Ring – By Joyce Carol OatesOriginally published in Newsweek, February 24, 1992. Mike Tyson’s conviction on rape charges in Indianapolis is a minor tragedy for the beleaguered sport of boxing, buta considerable triumph for women’s rights. For once, though bookmakers were giving 5-1 odds that Tyson would be acquitted, and the mood of the country seems distinctly conservative, a jury resisted the outrageous defense that a rape victim is to be blamed for her own predicament. For once, a celebrity with enormous financial resources did not escape trial and a criminal conviction by settling with his accuser out of court.That boxing and “women’s rights” should be perceived as opposed is symbolically appropriate, since of all sports, boxing is the most aggressively masculine, the very soul of war in microcosm. Elemental and dramatically concise, it raises to an art the passions underlying direct human aggression; its fundamentally murderous intent is not obscured by the pursuit of balls or pucks, nor can the participants expect help from teammates. In a civilized, humanitarian society, one would expect such a blood sport to have died out, yet boxing, sponsored by gambling casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and broadcast by cable television, flourishes: had the current heavyweight champion, Evander Holyfield, fought Mike Tyson in a title defense, Holyfield would have earned no less than $30 million. If Tyson were still champion, and still fighting, he would be earning more.The paradox of boxing is that it so excessively rewards men for inflicting injury upon one another that, outside the ring, with less “art,” would be punishable as aggravated assault, or manslaughter. Boxing belongs to that species ofmysterious masculine activity for which anthropologists use such terms as “deep play”: activity that is wholly without utilitarian value, in fact contrary to utilitarian value, so dangerous that no amount of money can justify it. Sports-car racing, stunt flying, mountain climbing, bullfighting, dueling—these activities, through history, have provided ways in which the individual can dramatically, if sometimes fatally, distinguish himself from the crowd, usually with the adulation and envy of the crowd, and traditionally, the love of women. Women—in essence, Woman—is the prize, usually self-proffered. To look upon organized sports as a continuum of Darwinian theory—in which the sports-star hero flaunts the superiority of his genes—is to see how displays of masculine aggression have their sexual component, as ingrained in human beings as any instinct for self-preservation and reproduction. In a capitalist society, the secret is to capitalize upon instinct.Yet even within the very special world of sports, boxing is distinct. Is there any athlete, however celebrated in his own sport, who would not rather reign as the heavyweight champion of the world? If, in fantasy at least, he could be another Muhammad Ali, or Joe Louis, or indeed, Mike Tyson in his prime? Boxing celebrates the individual man in his maleness, not merely in his skill as an athlete—though boxing demands enormous skill, and its training is far more arduous than most men could endure for more than a day or two. All athletes can become addicted to their own adrenaline, but none more obviously than the boxer, who, like Sugar Ray Leonard, already a multimillionaire with numerous occupations outside the ring, will risk serious injury by coming back out of retirement; as Mike Tyson has said, “Outside of boxing, everything is so boring.” What makes boxing repulsive to many observers is precisely what makes boxing so fascinating to participants.

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