Unchecked Assault in the Entertainment Industry

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You may have heard the buzz going around about rapper Danny Brown receiving unsolicited oral sex while performing on stage. Going from witness testimonials and cell phone photos, the story is that a woman in the front row grabbed him without consent. Brown continued his performance without acknowledging the act. When questioned, Brown dismissed the incident as being a rumor. But that didn’t stop the buzz and barrage of differing opinions from around the net. The incident received so much attention that tourmate Kitty (Kathryn Beckwith) began referring to it as “The Thing.” Kitty has written a few pieces addressing “The Thing” on her Tumblr page in an attempt to set the record straight. An article was posted on Noisey with the declaration that what happened was outright sexual assault.

Kitty herself is all too familiar with uninvited physical interactions on stage. During a concert in Vancouver this past March, two men in the front row reached out and attempted to undress her. Kitty recalled not knowing how to react, and continuing her set. The security didn’t escort them out until the act was over. For new musicians, security is usually poor or nonexistent. Unfortunately, these kinds of attacks are very common at shows regardless of an artist’s level of fame.

“i don’t HAVE a security guard and i know people think that’s just something that exists but it isn’t

What’s troubling about these two incidents is how differently they were viewed by the public. People were quick to demonize Kitty’s attackers and reach out to her. When people

Imagereached out to Danny Brown, they did it in a completely different way. The response Brown received could be seen as congratulatory. Kendrick Lamar publicly sent Brown a tweet with the message “u really just got the head on stage stanny???[sic]” Brown first responded positively to the attention, but then later began denying the entire “Thing” as rumor.

Kitty has been Brown’s most outspoken supporter during this time, shining a light to how gender roles have influenced both cases.  She has made it clear that her belief is that this could happen to anyone:

“think about what justin bieber and one direction and justin timberlake and elvis and johnny cash and the beatles and every other teen girl heartthrob has gone through????? it’s not just men being gross, it’s people not understanding that just because someone is performing for you, that doesn’t mean you own them.”

In her tell-all article on Noisey, Kitty even went so far as to claim that social expectations leave men unable to defend themselves from assault.

“ … he would’ve had to either pushed her face or kicked her, and even the most gentle of either motion would immediately be labeled “abuse” by anyone watching.

…I am a small white girl who does have society’s permission to at least attempt to kick the shit out of you.”

This new perspective on what was originally a purely feminist issue created a whole new discussion. Was Kitty on to something here? Should an assault on a male be taken as seriously as an assault on a female?

Sexual assault can be as difficult for men to report as it is for women. For men, unwanted sexual advances are unheard of. The expectation is to always be welcoming sexual stimulation;  any surprise sexual encounters are seen as things to be celebrated. It is even common for a male to not even realize that what they are experiencing is sexual assault — receiving unwanted attention can be seen as a lack of control, or a lapse in masculinity.

The startling conclusion is that no matter who the victim is, sexual assault is rarely taken seriously. We live in a culture where victims of all genders are made out to be liars. We assume the victims are either lying that the act took place, or lying about whether they enjoyed the act.

The fact that any claims of sexual assault should be scrutinized by the public is outrageous. Regardless of the situation, the only people who know the details are the ones directly involved and direct witnesses. Anyone on the outside trying to analyze the attacker and the victim’s intentions are not only wasting their time, but are dangerous. Any bias that comes out of this uninformed scrutiny has very real power to affect the outcome of a case. Stereotypes and assumptions have the potential to overshadow any real evidence.

Singer/songwriter/producer Grimes (Claire Boucher) recently posted a piece titled I don’t want to have to compromise my morals in order to make a living that has since spread like wildfire. She mentions celebrity assault:

“i dont want to be molested at shows or on the street by people who perceive me as an object that exists for their personal satisfaction

i dont want to live in a world where im gonna [sic] have to start employing body guards because this kind of behavior is so commonplace and accepted…”

The only way to successfully stamp out sexual assault is to treat it seriously. Get angry about it. Make it known that assault is wrong, and there will be consequences. Until then, public groping and assault will continue as long as it is accepted as the norm.

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