Male Sexual Harassment Take #3
Here we are again. Over two months have passed since the New York Times published its bombshell story about the abuses and predatory behavior of film producer Harvey Weinstein. That single story set off a chain reaction throughout multiple industries and has led to the revelations that a good amount of high profile and beloved men have done terrible things in the past, and have treated women equally as terrible. As it seems to be 2017’s nature, a lot more news has broken since the last story on sexual harassment. The key ones being that celebrity chef and restaurant Mario Batali has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment. These claims stretch over the course of two decades. Batali, to his credit, admitted as much and stepped down from his culinary empire. He was also let go by ABC as host of “The Chew.” Senator Al Franken resigned amidst a growing number of women who have accused him of groping them and making repeated unwanted passes. The Today Show host Matt Lauer was swiftly fired after a highly detailed report broke that listed his numerous offenses, which may or may not include rape. Mogul Russell Simmons, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, and Congressman John Conyers were also brought low by their past transgressions. All of these men held positions of power, and all of these men preyed on younger and more vulnerable women. It is exhausting and disheartening. It is very important to note that while the overwhelming majority of outed abusers have been men, there are a growing number of reports alleging improper conduct on the part of a woman. The most high profile of this is an accusation of sexual assault against pop singer Melanie Martinez. Martinez is accused of coercing a female friend into having sex with her.
There is a bright spot for all of these revelations, however. Women are finally able to take control of their agency and livelihood in a powerful way. Women are more emboldened than ever to stand up and shut down this sort of predatory behavior. This is a cultural moment. It has opened the doors for many talented women to come forward and assume more active roles in leadership positions.
This revolution against the pigs and harassers is a just and moral cause. These people may never be formally and legally charged with any crimes, and we should note that, but the court of public opinion is a different beast entirely. Different and far more important. The court of public opinion dictates what we consider to be true and legitimate allegations. Public Opinion is favoring the victims, as it should. Public Opinion, combined with the overwhelming amount of terrible men, have also led to a mini-crisis. Male victims already faced an uphill battle when it came to reporting sexual abuse and harassment. Now, in light of all these allegations, they face an even greater challenge to be taken seriously. The reputation men have as predators is a deeply toxic and flawed one that is hurting male victims. This is exemplified by the cases against Mariah Carey and fashion photographer Bruce Weber.
The allegations against Mariah Carey are older, dating back to November 8th. The allegations of sexual harassment were put forth by her former bodyguard. For those who are not aware, her bodyguard has come out and said that Mariah Carey regularly sexually harassed him and used racial slurs. She would reveal herself to him, despite his objections, and would not let him leave her. She would also perform sexual acts with the full intent that he would see her. This story was met with a shrug in some cases and deafening silence in most others. One can imagine the scandal if all the details were the same, but the two genders were flipped. Mariah Carey is an iconic performer and these allegations were mostly ignored.
Then there is the case against Bruce Weber, a well-regarded fashion photographer. Male models Jason Boyce and Mark Ricketson have launched a lawsuit against Weber saying that he sexually harassed and assaulted both of them. The claims against Weber include asking the models to disrobe, ordering them to touch their genitals while shooting, and forcing the two men to grope him. Weber is also accused of forcibly kissing the models on the mouth. These are terrible allegations and they fit perfectly in with the multitudes of other allegations made since October. Why then is this story not lighting up with other similar stories? Terry Richardson, another famous fashion photographer has been ostracized after numerous allegations were made against him. It is because it is men who are doing the accusing.
It is tough for a man to come forward and admit to being sexually assaulted. There is still the stigma associated with being gay. A wrong and foolish stigma that I cannot believe is still around in 2017. There is also the belief that men always want sexual contact, and that they don’t care how they get it. You can see this strain of sexism in all the reports about female teachers who have slept with their students. There are the predictable comments of older men bemoaning the fact that they never had a teacher that good to them. These comments ignore the fact that it is sexual assault against a child. The same thing that Roy Moore was battered and shamed with. This stigmatization needs to stop. If we are going to truly advance as a society, victims need to feel safe coming forward with their stories. Men need to feel safe. Men need to be able to be open and vulnerable in the public eye. More importantly, we men need to allow ourselves to do all those things. The lack of faith and trust male victims feel, and the fact they do not speak out in the same volumes as female victims is a testament to that. 1 out of every 10 victims of rape is a male. That number is staggering and hardly reported on. We need to be able to have the type of culture that allows men to come forward and name accusers. Men need to be able to admit they were hurt and attacked. It is not weak to admit these sorts of things. If we want to achieve true and lasting equality we need to rectify this imbalance in the way we talk about victims. We all need to do better.