Thursday, June 18, 2020

Keep Abusers Out of Wrestling and Leftist Spaces

Starr is a predator but he's far from the only one in wrestling OR on the left
Photo Credit: Grenwail
Yesterday, David Starr, the most outwardly leftist wrestler on the scene to the point where his agitation for things like unions and protections may have gotten him blackballed from major companies, faced allegations from an ex-girlfriend of being a sexual abuser. These allegations are not new, to be quite clear, or at least the specter of them weren't. The same main accuser came to the surface years ago to talk about everything but the sexual abuse, to say that Starr was mentally abusive. The newest allegations accuse him of the sexual assault. Starr refuted those claims that he was a predator via the most hilarious way possible, a Notes apology, where he admitted to what he called "gray rape." To be honest, if you have to talk about a term that has "rape" in it, you might want to pump the brakes on denying that you're a predator.

Whether anything else will happen with these allegations against Starr remains to be seen. Several promotions where he has worked and been relied upon as a feature attraction have remained silent. Thankfully, his peers have not. Either way, I don't want to focus too much on Starr himself because while he deserves to be dealt with in a just manner that is fair to his victims, he is not really special in the wrestling community. The amount of wrestlers who have sexual assault or domestic violence on their ledgers is astounding. To be clear, one predator in the biz would be too much, but when you have a rogues' gallery that stretches from the well-known and egregious like Chasyn Rance to the ones only talked about in whispered tones like the Crist Brothers, you can't point only at Starr and make an example of him as if he hasn't shared locker rooms with wrestlers who have equally bad histories.

Starr positioning himself as the leftist voice of reason in wrestling presents another problem in that leftist spaces, places that honestly should be safe places for women and other marginalized people regardless of gender or sexual orientation have far too many rapists and abusers in their midst. There always seems to be a story about marginalized, victimized people leaving organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America because their inaction with regards to the abusers makes the work they do not worth it. Another place where left politics intersect with wrestling is with Jetta Rae in the East Bay DSA. In case you thought you could trust anyone based who they are, she is a trans woman who has been accused of preying on more vulnerable members of the DSA. When met with the accusations, she went on a rant against cancel culture and then started training to be a wrestler at Hoodslam. In case you think it's just the wrestlers who are creeps, look up the names of people like Connor Golden, Michael Curry, "Jeevesmeister," or "Lana del Raytheon." Predators always seem to be popping up, and the bare minimum steps are taken to shoo them away if those steps are taken at all, and they're taken far too late.

Wrestling and leftist organizing placed on diametric positions on the fun/work axis, but they share a common goal of the need to be safe places for people to congregate. Going to wrestling shows should be a blithe experience, a place to live vicariously through the pantomimed violence in the ring. You shouldn't have to worry about being groped in the entrance line or raped in the bathroom. You shouldn't have to worry about your experience at the show tainted because a friend you met through wrestling or in the business itself harmed you. In turn, going to the DSA meeting or marching in the streets for social justice for Black people, or doing door-knocking for a leftward candidate should not make you fear for your safety. It's important work that should in theory be done in order to protect future victims of sexual assault or domestic violence from ever having to become victims. The fact that it happens in these places and that no one seems to care shows how fucking far humanity has to go in order to destroy the old hierarchies and power structures in order to have true justice. No matter where potential victims, and yeah, cis men can be and have been victims, are, the fact that they have to fear for their safety makes things rotten to the core.

The accusations against Starr only highlight how perilous the navigation of life in total can be for potential targets, and his should be a lesson that it's almost never just the singular actors. Gloating over finally "getting" someone like Starr is hollow and ignores the fact that he comes from a system where abusers and rapists continue to get bookings with the shield of locker room omerta, or that the left has finally rooted out a bad actor when there are still people within organizations who cape for folks like Jetta Rae or Golden. The worst part is that the greater population of people who consist of victims and those who are neither victims nor predators does not have the support of power structures. Even the superstructures that don't contain actual predators, and let me tell you, both politics and wrestling contain rapists and abusers from top to bottom, look the other way if the accused can draw money or has a uniquely gifted voice for organizing.

The best the community can do is to not only believe victims, but protect them. That may not feel like much if you get promoters defiantly bringing Starr back in a month after this all "blows over," but reaching out to those who don't feel safe at shows or meetings and offering them even just some idle conversation to ward off creeps doing creep shit can mean the world to someone vulnerable. Mass action and organizing within these spaces can help root out the rotten actors. Overall, the greater population overwhelms those in numbers who want to keep creeps and predators in their midst, or at least I hope it does. Until then, cases like Starr's will continue to expose how badly equipped places that should be safe are to remain truly sanctuaries for the victimized and at-risk. The goal should always be to eject those who make others feel unsafe out of supposed safe spaces. If any community can't promise that, what fucking good are they?