2 Or 3 Things I Know About Jelly Wrestling

Jelly wrestling is a fine continuation of an ancient tradition and should not be suppressed by spoilsport feminists, argues A SENSITIVE SCHOLAR.

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The petition is a powerful instrument. It has the capacity to bring about great change, or simply to express a much-needed thought. I think of the Petition of Right of 1628, the Beggars’ petition to Parma, and an e-petition I recently started calling for Michael Portillo to throw out some particularly hideous items of clothing.

The same cannot be said of a recent petition started by a self-promoting Cambridge feminist, who readers might remember from beautiful Max Toomey’s groundbreaking TabTV series Cambridge Cribs. In it she calls for the gentlemanly drinking society of Magdalene College to end its long tradition of promoting female jelly wrestling at its annual garden party.

The document, currently sitting at around 700 signatures (all, of course, intimately associated with this university), is problematic in a number of ways. Firstly, its prose is disappointingly plain. Of greater concern, however, is the extraordinary paucity of its argument – a trait common in a great deal of this unpleasant killjoy literature, always looking for something to complain about but never looking for sufficient justification to do so.

Are they just jelly?

The first claim made is that jelly wrestling makes men see women as only good for their bodies. I couldn’t care less about the female body (no homo). But even if I could, I fail to see how this follows at all. It’s more than possible to admire somebody for something without admiring them for it alone. This piece of text shows me to be a fine writer of keen insight, but I hope this audience appreciates that I’m also worth admiring for my sensitive soul, and that I’m also good at being a sweet and tender lover (on top).

The most problematic aspect of this petition, which runs throughout its entire body, is the assumption that jelly wrestling has no merit in itself. It seems obvious to me, and perhaps to many others who enjoy this event, that the annual jelly wrestling competition is part of a noble tradition of Greco-Roman wrestling that dates back to antiquity – a tradition in which females are historically under-represented.

Inheritors of a two-thousand year old sporting tradition

In fact, last year, I even saw the use of a firm and well-practised bear-hug. This traditional embrace of flesh against flesh was made all the more potent by the presence of smooth jelly, which not only added a rich visual texture which enhanced the experience for spectators, but also added a new level of challenge to the sport for the athletes themselves.

If the petitioner is so concerned about gender issues, she should encourage this event. In many ways the Wyverns’ jelly wrestling is the May Bumps of the Cambridge wrestling calendar, and I’m pleased that in at least one sport our sisters have taken centre stage.

Given its rich cultural heritage, one actually wishes the Wyverns would make a great deal more of this aspect of its yearly festivities. After all, what really marks Wyverns’ as such a good garden party: its lousy supply of watered down alcohol and lukewarm pizza, or the ritual of watching two top-tier physical athletes enter a pool full of jelly to test themselves against one another? Rather than cave in to this petition and cease this activity, the Wyverns really ought to cultivate it – God knows they have little else going for them.

This brings me finally to the enduring popularity of this most wonderful tradition. My memory of the Wyverns’ jelly wrestling differs from that offered by the petition. Instead of the picture painted there– of people feeling uncomfortable, not happy with what was happening, upset that they had to passively condone this event in order to attend – I very vividly remember everybody present actively endorsing the behaviour by gathering around the pool in a large circle and chanting enthusiastically as the event took place. This is my recollection as somebody who has actually been to Wyverns’, but maybe the petitioner (a first year undergraduate who no doubt has vast experience of May Week) can correct me.

Uncomfortable hostages to pernicious misogyny

“Paying women to wrestle half naked,” writes the petitioner, “is not entertainment.” Wrong.

For many people it is. I’m reminded of Lord Denning: “In summertime, village cricket is the delight of everyone.” If this was true in 1977, the same is true of half-naked jelly wrestling in 2013. Everybody loves cricket, and if you don’t you shouldn’t move into a house next to a cricket pitch. If you’re uncomfortable with what happens at the Wyverns’ Garden Party, nobody forces you to attend. I’m sure you’d be more than comfortable at other well-regarded May Week events such as the annual CUSU Women’s Campaign Kumbayah solidarity circle – I hear they even serve jelly with ice cream, rather than with half-naked flesh.

You enjoy yours, but leave the rest of us to enjoy ours.