On the rare occasions when the media is awash with stories of outrage over women getting sexually assaulted, females assaulting males frequently gets swept under the metaphorical rug.
When a woman is assaulted, but when a man is on the receiving end, people think he was lucky to “get some action,” and it remains unreported. Many men cannot reconcile the reality of their assault with the hyper masculinity forced upon on them by society, and neither can society itself. Sexual assault is a terrifying thing no matter who it happens to, even though society’s expectations impress upon us that men can’t get hurt. Frequently, people believe that man cannot be assaulted, because they are often bigger and stronger than the women they are attacked by, but they can. Anyone can be hurt like this, no matter the gender, and it’s up to us to make sure the get the justice they deserve.
Additionally, women are not taken seriously as being harmful; our anger is viewed as inferior, or worse, endearing. My anger isn’t cute or funny, and neither is the women who assaults others. Just because it’s a women who assaults someone, does not mean she isn’t as twisted and horrible as a man who rapes a woman, and it definitely doesn’t render the effects negligible.
Even celebrities are not immune to this. While filming a scene on her show, The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling couldn’t resist the “temptation” of her co-star for the scene, Lee Pace, and planted an unscripted kiss on him. Pace was understandably confused, and Kaling’s producers warned her that she could be sued. Kaling didn’t seem to care, as has taken this problematic event in stride. In her interview on Conan, Kaling said “He didn’t complain about it. It’s fine. No one said anything, no one reported anything.” That’s nice for Kaling’s legal team, but it does not mean that it was an okay thing to do, and she seems to be much more entertained than troubled by her actions. While this may not seem like assault, it is: Pace didn’t want it, didn’t know it was going to happen, and if was the other way around, there would be a public outcry. (But he’s a man, so clearly he doesn’t care, right? Wrong.)
Increasingly popular comedian Amy Schumer recounted a story of a dubious sexual encounter in college with a drunk male peer. Obviously it isn’t my place to say what a women cannot make light of when it comes to her own life, but when you read Schumer’s Gala speech, it’s clear that the intercourse was fairly nonconsensual on both sides: he was drunk and she was uncomfortable and did not seem to want it the entire time. (Now is a good as time as any to remind you: if someone is drunk, they cannot consent to sex with a sober person. Ever.)
In the midst of Shia Labouf’s widely publicized breakdown, he participated in #IAMSORRY, his performance art in which he sat in a room with a paper bag over his head for five days. A mystery woman and her boyfriend, who have remain unnamed, entered the room, and whipped Labouf’s legs, stripped him of his clothing and proceeded to rape him. (Dazed) People were quick to disregard his claims and toss them aside, both because he’s a man and because he is not widely liked.
Lastly and least recently, Madonna and Drake were performing at Coachella when the 50 year old pop singer decided it would be a good time to plant an aggressive kiss on the unsuspecting Canadian, and when he tried to remove her, she slapped his hands away. This is not okay, people. This is not empowering, or feminist, or brave. If it was a PR stunt, it was a terrible one, because there’s nothing subversive or sexy about sexual assault. Drake has since called it a “moment to write home about,” but who says that means Madonna is free of guilt?
What’s important to remember in all of these situations are the drastically different reactions when the victim’s gender is reversed. If a man had kissed his female co-star without her consent, many would be in an uproar. We as a media-consuming public are so easily accepting of these things, and that needs to change. Gender, fame, sexuality, etc., should never change the way you respond to sexual assault and rape. We need to change, and remember, as always, consent is key.