In the wake of recent reports from both The New York Times and The New Yorker that reveal Hollywood industry juggernaut Harvey Weinstein allegedly sexually harassed and abused actresses over the course of decades, a somewhat surprising invocation happened: famous men shared their own stories of being similarly targeted by powerful industry executives.
It began with actor Terry Crews, who claimed that the Weinstein scandal gave him post-traumatic stress, and in a series of tweets, alleged that a "high level Hollywood executive" groped him during an industry event he attended last year.
"Jumping back I said What are you doing?! My wife saw everything n we looked at him like he was crazy. He just grinned like a jerk," he tweeted, adding, "I was going to kick his ass right then— but I thought twice about how the whole thing would appear."
Indeed, the optics of Crews, a Black man who stands at 6’3 and weighs 245 lbs, kicking the ass of some presumably old, entitled, perverse White man would likely have led to him being vilified in the press for justifiable anger. After all, no matter the age, any Black male is susceptible to being depicted as a Black brute — a trope not even innocent children murdered by law enforcement have not managed to escape. The executive in question was not named, though Crews notes that the man called him the next day to apologize, albeit he "never really explained why he did what he did."
Crews shared his story in solidarity with Weinstein’s accusers and women in general who are victimized, and yet, let it go because of the sort of influence powerful men yield over them.
As he explained: "I understand and empathize with those who have remained silent. But Harvey Weinstein is not the only perpetrator. Hollywood is not the only business [where] this happens, and to the casualties of this behavior— you are not alone."
Joining Crews was actor James Van Der Beek, who on Thursday offered his account on Twitter.
Van Der Beek said he was motivated to open up in order to help thwart the public from "judging the women who stayed silent.” Moreover, he sought to take on the “boys will be boys” defense that’s long been cited to make the indefensible sound permissible. For Van Der Beek, "What Weinstein is being accused of is criminal. What he’s admitted to is unacceptable - in any industry. I applaud everybody speaking out.”
While their courageousness has been widely applauded, there has been another response that is asinine, but not atypical given how unbearably sexist and patriarchal our society is. None of those individual social media idiots deserve their dumb opinions magnified. Still, as a man who cares about the humanity of women and men being equally respected and consent, I and others like me, must speak.
To the men who think men cannot be sexually assaulted, don’t confuse the fairy tales you’ve been told about what makes a man with the realities of the world before you. We may not hear many men discuss sexual assault, but we know the issue of sexual assault is not limited to women. There are men who have been violated as young boys and grown men. Sexual assault is about power. And those who flex their power by violating another do not limit their targets to gender.
For Van Der Beek, as a younger man, it is not shocking to learn that older, more powerful men felt that his ass was something they could grab, regardless of whether he wanted that to happen or not, with the mindset that they could do so without repercussions.
In the case of Crews, stature does not matter for him or any other man or women. Again, this is about an abuse of power. Whether anyone wants to acknowledge this or not, many of us have had folks far more powerful wield that power over us. And while a violent reaction may make sense for some, truly measure what would have happened if Crews, an actor, would have stomped the hell out of a powerful executive at an industry event. Imagine what would have happened to his career and the impact that would have had on him, his wife, and their family?
This is exactly why Crews did not react in that way because he knew that in the end, it would have been his career he was stomping out. And that is the power these executives wield over these actors, regardless of their gender. Anyone who can’t see this is purposely choosing to be ignorant. So many of us are fast to clearly call out racism, but needlessly complicate sexual assault — a matter so profoundly easy to peg down. It is about consent and not doing anything to another without explicit permission to.
Anyone doing otherwise is upholding the patriarchy and adding to the problem — and making all of our lives more difficult than they need to be.