I saw this article published Sunday about the murderer of University of Virginia student and lacrosse star Yeardley Love, and was puzzled by the headline that appeared to juxtapose the life of “privilege, [and] rage” he led. The lede in the story then contrasts the murderer’s appearance on the links at an exclusive country club just hours before he murdered Love. But, privilege and rage aren’t opposed to each other–in fact, they’re deeply intertwined in the lives of American ruling class men. Consider please a few excerpts from the story, which look like textbook examples of how ruling class men presume to use other people, and women in particular, as part of their performance of dominance:
[George] Huguely[V] finished the eighth grade at Mater Dei School in Bethesda and matriculated to nearby Landon School, an elite boys’ private school. He did not want for confidence. Thrust into a football game as a freshman, he promised a coach he would make a big play — in exchange for a kiss from the coach’s fiancee, according to a Washington Post profile in 2006. Huguely promptly intercepted a pass, then walked off the field to ask for the fiancee’s number.
. . . . . . . .
Huguely also displayed an irreverent side. Once he stole his coach’s car keys from his office, pulled his car onto the lacrosse field and, from the driver’s seat, struck up a conversation with the coach. The team burst out laughing, according to Huguely’s account.
See what I mean? These are textbook preppy douchebag stunts that should not have been encouraged or rewarded, but they apparently were. This is what happens when anyone tries to interfere with the privilege exercised by ruling-class men:
One November night in 2008, a police officer found Huguely stumbling drunk into traffic near a fraternity at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. The officer, Rebecca Moss, told him that he’d have to find a ride home or go to jail. At this, Huguely unleashed racial and sexual epithets and threats that ended only when she was able to subdue the much larger Huguely with the help of a Taser after a three- or four-minute struggle, she said.
Ross Haine, Huguely’s attorney, said his client was “just so drunk, he did not remember doing or saying any of those things, really.” Huguely pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and public intoxication and completed 20 hours of substance abuse education, according to court records.
Rage was the inevitable result of the failure to let little Georgie do whatever he wants to do! Why didn’t this result in his expulsion from UVA?
The university would have suspended Huguely for the arrest, according to President John T. Casteen III, but it never learned of the incident from Huguely — who was required to report it — his parents or the police. Yet it was not a well-kept secret among lacrosse players. A former player and the father of another player said the incident was common knowledge on the team because Huguely himself recounted a version that cast him as the victim of the officer’s aggressiveness.
U no haz public arrest records in Virginia? Yeah: relying on students self-reporting their arrests is an excellent policy! But, UVA is only the last (or latest?) institution in a long line of schools and teams that should have beat the sociopathy out of this man, but didn’t, because they are the institutions that create and maintain class privilege. And of course, one of the features of ruling class men’s privilege is their unobstructed right to any women they choose. These women have no right to pursue any other romantic interests, of course, or to refuse the advances of ruling-class men:
Clear signs of trouble in Love’s relationship with Huguely emerged in February 2009, when a teammate of Huguely walked Love home from a team victory party on The Corner, a strip of burger joints and bars near campus. Word reached Huguely, who believed the two had kissed.
Huguely went to the teammate’s apartment, where he was sleeping, and pummeled him, according to accounts confirmed by the university.Later, in a tavern with some teammates, Huguely recounted the assault “like some cheesy action movie, where he stood above the guy while he was sleeping and said, ‘Sweet dreams, punk,’ and then just punched him in the face,” according to a bartender who heard the account.
. . . . . . . .
At a celebratory party after back-to-back victories by the men’s and women’s teams, Huguely jumped on Love and began to choke her, according to an eyewitness.Three current and former lacrosse players from rival University of North Carolina pulled him off Love. One of the UNC men drove Love, who was shaken by the attack, home to suburban Baltimore for a break from Huguely.
The whole time I was reading this story, I kept thinking about Bertram Wyatt-Brown’s classic study of white Southern manhood, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (1982). It’s been years since I read it–of course, Wyatt-Brown didn’t cast his book as a study in masculinity, but that’s what it is. (Wyatt-Brown spent a few years early in his career teaching in my department at Baa Ram U., before he got the call to come out of the wilderness.) This story isn’t so much a Southern story as it is a story about the corruption and violence of ruling-class masculinity and the failure of schools and universities to discipline and punish students who attempt to exercise this kind of privilege. (Maybe a university president who didn’t have a roman numeral after his name would understand this better?)