You know that statistic you learn in Health class about how one in four women will be sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime?
Thanks to recent events, we can see the validity of that statistic with our own eyes.
Dozens of women are now coming out to share their stories and experiences of sexual assault; but what makes the stories of these women more polarizing is that their assaulters were all men that are either very popular or in high-ranking positions: Harvey Weinstein, Russell Simmons, Ed Westwick, Donald Trump, and the list continues...
Reading their stories and hearing them speak out against the culture of victimization and sexual coercion that is highly prevalent in Hollywood was refreshing and empowering -- the gross and immoral instance of elitists using their power and wealth to abuse others should be exposed -- and I am only disappointed that it took so long to do so.
The stories of these women were more controversial, but they've been heard and told many times before: a woman is taken advantage of by a more powerful man — either physically or socially.
The tale is as old as time, leaving many of us frustrated, saddened, and — terribly — desensitized to the whole issue. We expect women to be raped or assaulted and we teach our girls to be aware of the possibility from a young age.
But let's take a look at the other perspective, the one where the woman is the disgusting and more powerful being. It's hard to take a look through this lens because it's almost non-existent — and it is not because women like that do not exist.
This lack of acknowledgment of female predators persists because oftentimes, people are unable to see men as vulnerable, even as young children or teenagers. Take the case of Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher who raped her 6th-grade student and later became impregnated by him (twice).
She received jail time (only seven years, which is pretty skimpy for the severity of the crime; and that was not the length of her original sentence, which was only six months at first). She took a plea deal (that she later violated), which allowed her to forgo registering as a sex offender, as long as she promised not to contact the victim ever again. The boy later appealed to the court (when he was 18) to repeal the no-contact order — and the court allowed it.
They allowed a victim of sexual assault, sexual grooming, and emotional manipulation to have contact with his abuser, who took advantage of him while he was young and vulnerable — and who, to this day, continues to excise her control and influence over him.
Why does the media treat this family dynamic like it is normal?
"What if they're genuinely in love?" People say, but to that, I reply "hell no!" What 6th grader is 1. capable of engaging in sexual and romantic intimacy (in an emotionally healthy way) and 2. develops a (deep) attraction to a 34-year-old?!
I find it hard to believe that people would be singing the same tune if the roles were reversed and a 12-year-old girl was being raped by a 34-year-old man. Not only would they be disgusted, but they would treat the situation as it should be treated: as an instance of a perverse, manipulative adult exploiting and grooming a child in order to gain sexual gratification. The fact that the court did not originally force Letourneau to register as a sex offender shows that they believe that what she did was not assault at all. Anyone that is attracted to an adolescent has a problem and no empathy should've been offered to Ms. Letourneau.
The problem of people perceiving men as emotionally and physically indomitable does not only occur in instances where women are involved.
Terry Crews, a well-known actor, bravely shared his experience of sexual assault at the hands of another man. Terry Crews, being a large and muscular man, was scoffed at and made to feel inadequate because critics believed he should've 'defended' himself and that he behaved like a 'wuss' for allowing himself to be taken advantage of.
Women are shamed for being too vulnerable, while men are shamed for being vulnerable at all.
And it is from this biased view of women being weak and sensitive, that when they are exposed as sexual predators, their actions are (slightly, but obviously) justified — while some even outright deny their wrongdoings, unable to see them as capable of deviating from their standard position of the soft, gentle, nurturing creature that does not hunt, but is hunted.
In a way, it's offensive. The role of 'sexual predator' is yet another role only reserved for men. Of course, I have no desire at all to be a sexual predator; but hell, if I believe in gender equality, then I want women to be able to acquire any title that a man can, even those which are shameful.
The most recent person accused of sexual assault was a woman; a woman I have considered myself a fan of for many years: Melanie Martinez.
When news broke of her being an alleged rapist, I was shook. She always seemed so sweet, delicate, and fragile — how could she rape someone? Then I remembered that I didn't know her personally and I owe it to the victim to support them at this time (until any evidence suggested otherwise).
Some people didn't take that approach, however. Some fans burned her merchandise and promised never to support her again, but just as many began to make excuses for her, urging others to not 'jump to conclusions.'
I agree that that is a logical course of action to take, but I couldn't help feeling as though if Melanie Martinez was "Marcus" Martinez, those same fans wouldn't be so quick to think rationally. When the news of Ed Westwick allegedly raping someone hit the media, I wanted to cry. The charming, hunky British guy I have had a crush on since I was twelve was now a rapist. Not many defended him, rather they made remarks like "I can believe it, his character on Gossip Girl was creepy."
I get why when men are accused of rape, many people take it as truth — these events occur often and we have made the mistake in the past of not believing these allegations, which has damaged the lives of and psyche of many women. And many men do get free passes for their abuse, either because they are well liked or their victims are unknown and deemed insignificant. I am not blaming us for our biases, which have formed over time due to trends and what we've observed; but I am blaming the sexist culture we live in.
Men, deemed threatening, strong, and violent, are able to fit into the mold of what a sexual predator is, while women, deemed weak, non-threatening, and submissive, do not fit the archetype of a sexual predator. Once again, our gender-based biases and skewed perceptions cause us to make assumptions about the opposite sex; except in this instance, sexism allows women to benefit from these ignorant views.