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Posted May 11, 2014 by Sydnie Jones in Editorials
 
 

Prominent grappling instructor has student pantomime hand job in front of class, but it’s Dean Lister so NBD

Update: I address the response to the piece here.

Dean Lister, former UFC fighter, world grappling and Brazilian jiu jitsu champion, and current instructor at Victory MMA & Fitness in San Diego, is seen in a video uploaded to YouTube having a female student pantomime masturbating him, and having her continue despite her protests (skip to :57 if you just can’t wait). The video purportedly was filmed in Oslo at Miller’s Martial Arts Academy, and a photograph from their Facebook page appears to confirm he did a seminar there around the time the video was posted to YouTube.

Under the guise of demonstrating a technique, Lister says he needs someone with short arms and asks for a suggestion. As with most grappling seminars, the class is comprised primarily of men, in a variety of sizes and heights and limb lengths, but the instructor suggests a student called Rebecca. She’s pretty clearly delighted that she was chosen to work with Dean Lister.  The move entails figure-fouring one of the attacker’s arms after a rear clinch break. He explains that with this move, even if they tap, he just keeps “doing what (he’s) doing.” Lister, now controlling one of Rebecca’s arms, uses his grip to make her arm do the universal hand job motion.

People start laughing, Rebecca laughs and looks embarrassed, Lister keeps having her fake-jack him. She slaps him on the back and says no, appearing to be uncomfortable (at best), and Lister says, “No, don’t stop!” Eventually, she manages to straighten and lock her elbow. Lister can no longer continue the motion without a degree of forcefulness that would make the joke even more inappropriate, so he releases her arm and gives her a weird hug. Rebecca’s smile fades rapidly as they separate and she pretends first to slap him, and then pulls her arm back like she’s about to sock him one. She’s served her purpose, so she walks away.

The instructor then says they’ll take a short break, the room breaks into applause, and the instructor and Dean enthusiastically shake hands. Yeah, bravo, guys.

So…what was the thought process here? Let’s do some brainstorming.

For any unfamiliar with grappling, you get comfortable with a lot of physical contact, pretty fast. You can have entire conversations where someone is sitting on you, or has their legs wrapped around your waist, or is controlling you from behind in an all-limbs-involved bear hug, and it doesn’t feel weird. Grappling is an intimate sport, no question. So the degree of comfort with physical contact (off the mats) between teammates is often considerable. And, when people train with the same people for years, certainly, they can become close enough that it’s feasible raunchy jokes made at each others’ expenses offend neither party. But, since grappling is so intimate, you have to be 100% certain it won’t make the other person uncomfortable.

This was not that. This was a world-renown athlete, an expert in grappling, who came to a school in Oslo and was, it appears, asked ahead of time to pull this prank on Rebecca. It wasn’t random. It wasn’t funny on just anyone. It was funny on Rebecca, who thought her instructor took her seriously enough as a grappler to suggest Dean Lister use her to demonstrate technique. Psych! He just wanted to use Rebecca as a joke for everyone to laugh at (and if she laughs too, bonus!)!

Dean Lister apparently thought, “Yeah, this is a good idea! I’ll ask a woman I (probably) don’t really know to help with a technique, and then I’ll pretend she’s masturbating my (erect?) penis in front of all attendees, including her instructors and training partners, and everyone will think it’s a super funny, clever joke to play.”

I guess there is some question whether women grapplers deserve to be taken seriously. Sure, you can train here, just as long as it’s clear that we still think the idea of you servicing men, while in a grappling capacity, is hilarious, understood, and accepted. Was that the thought process?

If it was a prank for the prank’s sake, then it wouldn’t have mattered who the short-limbed student was. Of course, we haven’t even touched on whether the idea of using martial arts to force someone to perform sex acts on you is funny (spoilers: no).

There is already an imbalance in grappling between men and women – the sheer numbers, the size, the strength. It can be an intimidating sport for anyone to start, and even moreso for women. Why? Because of things like this, and this, and a highly respected expert using a female student to pretend she’s masturbating him. That is not an environment that says, “hey ladies, we have mad respect for you and your body, so come on down and roll around with a bunch of dudes!”

It’s unfortunate that this cavalier mindset has the potential to sour the sport for so many women, when most BJJ/grappling practitioners condemn this type of ‘humor.’  But maybe Dean Lister didn’t realize it could make her so uncomfortable (I’m trying to be gracious).

Maybe, but then someone on YouTube using the handle ‘Lister Dean’ doesn’t seem to think so. Although it’s not confirmed anywhere (that I could find) as his official account, the defense and familiarity in the comments suggest it certainly could be.

dean listerIt was the joke of the night, and if you think otherwise, you have serious problems. This leaves no room for criticism, especially not from women. Because this is just how men are? They want the freedom to play sexual innuendo-based practical jokes that embarrass women without recrimination and if you disagree, that’s on you? Well, bullshit. That’s not how men are. That’s how assholes are.

But even if that’s not really Dean Lister, this is:

listerfb

 

And so is this:

It sounds stuck-up but I got used to dating all these supermodels, like really … Miss Brazil, Miss Switzerland, Turkey. You get to the pinnacle of what western society would consider a beautiful woman and then it’s like, “What’s more than that? Nothing.” I was married to one of the most beautiful woman in the world and it was boring. Boring. Boooooring.

So, yeah, I guess when you’re convinced women are money-hungry gold diggers and/or trophies you get when you’re famous because you deserve it, women probably don’t have a voice about the things you do to them. At the very least, this was ill-considered on the part of Dean Lister, who is a semi-public figure and has an image to maintain.

Lister Dean on YouTube is right about one thing. No one had to get killed and no one had to register as a sex offender. But this isn’t about turning a “prank” into a sexual assault charge, this is about how humiliating it is for a woman to assume she’s respected enough to not be turned into a crass masturbation joke, only to be shown, in front of everyone, that she’s mistaken. She’s still considered fair game for sexual mockery by her instructor, training partners, and an expert in the sport she trains.

No doubt her instructor and training partners actually do respect her and take her seriously. But for her instructor to orchestrate this prank, without fully considering how it could make her feel and why, is careless. It makes the sport look bad, and no cult of personality around Dean Lister makes it more acceptable.


Sydnie Jones

 
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