Moon over Knoxville

Last spring Peyton Manning delighted Tennessee sports fans by announcing that, instead of entering the NFL draft, he would return for his senior year at the University of Tennessee as quarterback. But at least one person in Tennessee was not glad to see Manning return. The sight of Manning—or at least, the sight of his derriere—so traumatized this woman that she was recently awarded a $300,000 out-of-court settlement. Her case makes me wonder if anybody takes any responsibility for his actions anymore. In 1993 the University of Tennessee hired a female trainer named Jarrie Whited. Last year Ms. Whited entered the men’s locker room and squatted behind Manning to examine his foot. Manning and a teammate were exchanging friendly insults, and at one point, Manning dropped his pants and mooned his friend. Unfortunately, Whited glanced up at just that moment. Whited filed a complaint against the University, citing the Manning incident as part of a pattern of sexual discrimination. Last month, the university gave Whited $300,000 in exchange for her resignation. Now clearly, Manning’s behavior was insensitive—indeed, boorish. Gentlemen should not behave that way. Still, one obvious question does come to mind: What was a woman doing in a men’s locker room in the first place? Before you dismiss me as a Neanderthal, ask yourself this question: Why should a man in a men’s locker room be required to look around before disrobing? That’s what locker rooms are for—to undress in privacy. In the name of equality, we are throwing common decency and modesty out the window. And it’s not just happening in locker rooms. In our prisons, male inmates are forced to shower and even use the toilet in front of female guards—and vice-versa in women’s prisons. Of course, some people believe equality demands that Whited and other women be allowed access to men’s locker rooms. But I have another question: Didn’t Whited assume the risk that she might be exposed to vulgar behavior or, at the very least, naked bodies? The common law we inherited from Britain contained a doctrine know as "assumption of risk." It means that when people voluntarily engage in an activity, they freely accept reasonably foreseeable risks associated with the activity. This doctrine, like most of the common law, was rooted in an explicitly Christian worldview that expected people to take responsibility for their own actions. Nowadays, people engage in foolish conduct—and then ask someone else to pay the price—in this case, the taxpayers of Tennessee. The Whited fiasco presents us with an opportunity to tell our neighbors what happens when a culture turns its back on Christian ideas like personal responsibility. In this case, we end up with a ludicrous agreement that will cost innocent people lots of money. It was Manning’s arm, I thought, that was supposed to be worth millions in the NFL; it turns out another part of his anatomy is worth thousands in the courts. I’ve got an easy solution that will save the taxpayers money, save females like Ms. Whited embarrassment and emotional distress, and allow both men and women the privacy they are entitled to: Keep men out of women’s locker rooms and women out of men’s locker rooms. Sounds simple enough to me.


Chuck Colson



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