A penchant for violence

Dianne Klein

September 17, 1991|By Dianne Klein

Los Angeles -- THAT MIKE Tyson can be a violent SOB is not under dispute. As a boxer, you want to play this up.

You might growl for reporters, or describe, rather crudely, what you are going to do to anybody who thinks they can take you on. Heavyweight boxing is blood and brawn, guts and a lot of hot air. This makes for a great show.

Mike Tyson, who hopes to win back his heavyweight tilater this year, is good at all of that. His upcoming fight promises to be the richest on record, with revenue nearing $100 million. Very big time.

Now Mike Tyson is under indictment, on rape and three other felony counts. It breaks down like this: two counts of criminal deviate conduct -- for oral and digital sex -- and another for restraining his alleged victim against her will. And one count of rape.

Boxing insiders say this is boffo stuff. It sounds so brutal, so criminal, like something an animal might do. Bingo. Now even more people are going to want to catch the wild man's act. Translation: more money in the till.

The crimes with which Tyson has been charged allegedly occurred in Indianapolis this past July. He was in town for 38 hours, all of them accounted for, now, by a special grand jury that heard 45 hours of testimony before handing down its indictment.

A contestant in the Miss Black America pageant, 18 years old, a college freshman on the East Coast, said she and the former champ had agreed to meet after a concert.

The prosecutor says the young woman, who has not been publicly named, thought that she'd be meeting Tyson as a "friend." She went to his hotel room, alone, in Tyson's limo, and met him upstairs.

The prosecutor says that Tyson wanted sex, but he says that the woman in question said no. The rest is in the indictment, which could conceivably -- hypothetically -- cost Tyson 63 years in jail. (Hint: I wouldn't bet a dime on that.)

"We don't harbor any illusions of this being an easy trial," the prosecutor said.

Hmm. Let me fathom why. Rape victims have heard this time and again, if not to their faces, then muttered under somebody's breath.

Why would a woman agree to a date if sex were not part of her plan? And meeting someone in his hotel room? Ha! Why not just wear a sign? I mean, what did she expect? Respect?

All of this, by now, has a numbingly familiar ring. Date rape is the trendy oxymoron that describes it today. But nobody's talking about date rape much when they bring up Tyson's name. Why should they?

"Date rape" makes sexual assault sound so tame -- like something that an upper-crust Bostonian might do to a woman after cocktails at a chic Palm Beach bar. Not Mike Tyson, baby, he's wild!

Yet the alleged scenario here is the same as another that may have involved William Kennedy Smith. She said "no"; he said what that must really mean is "yes."

What becomes her horror is his wild sex.

"I've never done anything to hurt any woman," Tyson called the New York Post to report. Guess what, Mike? She says something else.

The World Boxing Council, meantime, has ratified the bout that Tyson is scheduled to fight in Las Vegas against heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield on Nov. 8. All lights are go.

The council, and Tyson's lawyers, issued the standard statements about believing in the American justice system, about how, at least in this country, people are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and about how they have full confidence that Tyson is an innocent guy.

Which may well be so.

Except let's get real. Nobody really believes that, not in the purest sense, without quibbling over terms.

The fans, Mikey, they want to believe that you may have had to get rough with the you-know-what, if for nothing else than to show her who's in charge. Tyson has said all along that he had sex with a woman in his hotel. You know, guys, like it comes with the job.

Such is the stuff of which tough-guy heroes are made. Which is the bigger, sadder, subtext here. These women, they gotta learn the rules.

"I have to go take care of business," Tyson told the New York Post the day before he went to post his $30,000 bail, "but everything will be OK."

For Tyson, regardless of the outcome of his trial, that might be true. He is a wealthy man; he makes many other people wealthy too. The trick is to keep him out of too much trouble, trouble that could potentially dry up a cash cow.

There have been lots of allegations about Tyson before, fondling here, harassment there. Robin Givens, his former wife, says he beat her up.

None of this, however, has given the fans much pause. The old double standard exempts Tyson from too much grief.

The woman who says he raped her, meantime, has hired a lawyer. She was forced to, the lawyer says, after the supermarket tabloids began attacking her for speaking out.

"I am satisfied the victim's history can withstand any assault from Mike Tyson," the lawyer felt compelled to say.

Now that sounds more like how these things go. His word against hers; her reputation against his.

So here's a funny thought. What would you think of a woman who was repeatedly accused of fondling men?

Maybe the fans should try that on for a while. Just to see how it fits.

Dianne Klein is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

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