Last week, American Idol made its return debut on ABC. Many were happy to see the return of the original singing competition, while others were skeptical as to whether it would do well or not. What no one foresaw was that one of the judges would sexually assault a contestant during an audition, but that is exactly what happened. Benjamin Glaze, a 19-year-old male from Oklahoma, was hopeful that his audition for American Idol would land him with a golden ticket to Hollywood; unfortunately, he left with something else.
During his audition, Glaze encountered Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan: this season's judges. Glaze revealed that he had never been kissed before, since he had never been in a relationship, stating, "I can't kiss a girl without being in a relationship." Katy Perry beckons Glaze over to where the judges are seated, with the clear intent to kiss Glaze. Clearly uncomfortable, Glaze asks, "One on the cheek?" to which Perry agrees. After kissing Perry on the cheek, she asks for another one. As Glaze leans in to kiss Perry's cheek again, she quickly turns her head and kisses Glaze on the lips, to which he acts stunned, saying "Katy, you didn't!" At this point, Perry, along with Richie and Bryan begin to cheer and celebrate.
Some might ask what the problem is. As the episode continues, we see Glaze smile, telling Perry,"I wasn't expecting that," as he continues on with his audition. Unfortunately, Glaze doesn't make it past the initial audition, but hey, he got to kiss Katy Perry, right? Wrong.
The problem is that Glaze didn't consent to the kiss. It was obvious that he wanted to save it for someone who he was in a relationship with because that's what he said. It was obvious that he didn't want to kiss Katy Perry when he deflected her advances. You might ask why Glaze even let the situation progress to that point if he were so uncomfortable. The answer is that he is in what is already a high-pressure situation, trying to impress people that have now made him uncomfortable. When something like that happens, the human mind begins to think of the best way to diffuse the situation without causing more harm, which is why Glaze didn't run from the room screaming that he was scared.
Some might ask, "What's the big deal? Who wouldn't want to kiss Katy Perry?" The big deal is that Perry is in a position of power, just like Harvey Weinstein and many other men in Hollywood who have recently been called out thanks to the #MeToo movement. Gender roles don't matter here. Imagine if it had been a 33-year-old male judge demanding a kiss from a 19-year-old female contestant. The other two judges wouldn't have cheered, and viewers wouldn't be saying how lucky the contestant is to have kissed that judge. The narrative would be a lot different, and that judge would be removed immediately.
In a statement made after his audition, Glaze says that he does not consider what happened to him to be sexual assault, but that had Perry asked to kiss him on the lips, he would have said no. Sexual assault is defined by Merriam-Webster as "illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent or who places the assailant in a position of trust or authority." I'm glad that Glaze seems to have come to terms with what happened, but by definition, what Perry did was sexual assault.
Viewers have pointed out that throughout this season of American Idol, Perry has done her fair share of flirting with male contestants. While this may seem like harmless fun, Perry is using her position of power to make contestants feel uncomfortable. This is not the first time Perry has done something like this; at the 2017 iHeartRadio Music awards, Perry grabbed Shawn Mendes' butt, who was stunned and uncomfortable after the interaction.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, it is important to remember that women are to be held accountable for the same actions as men. Sexual assault is not a joke, and although Perry's actions may seem innocent, this is a woman who is using her position to harass young men. ABC's and Katy Perry's degressive attitudes towards sexual harassment and sexual assault are extremely unsettling and unfortunate.