BY CHLOE JENSEN ’20
This past October, actor Anthony Rapp alleged in a Buzzfeed article that actor Kevin Spacey made advances towards him when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. In many ways, the response to Rapp’s accusation was immediate and heartfelt: many media outlets such as CNN, NPR and the New York Times placed the blame on Spacey, and Netflix pulled Spacey’s show “House of Cards.” This response differed from many celebrity sexual assault accusations, where a woman accuses a man of assault and is met with skepticism and no results. Rapp’s believability is based on two factors: first, Rapp is a man himself, and second, that Rapp accused a man rather than a woman, further projecting the idea that gay men are predators.
When I scroll through Twitter after a woman has accused a male celebrity of sexual assault, I find the following: “why didn’t she come forward sooner,”; “how can we believe her?”; “how do we know she didn’t just make this up for attention.” Comparatively, Rapp has a lot of support on Twitter. As a culture we believe men’s words more than women’s, and take action when we hear them rather than excuses. And while male sexual assault survivors absolutely deserve to be heard and deserve justice, so do women.
We also believed Rapp because he accused a man of sexually assaulting him, and not a woman. Often, women are victims of violence and men are perpetrators. When these roles are reversed, when women perpetuate violence against men, male victims are immediately casted as weak.
The media also believed Rapp because his story happened to play into the common, homophobic trope that gay men are child predators who want nothing more than to chase after young boys. In the early days of LGBTQ rights, many anti-gay activists promoted the idea that LGBTQ people were predatory and perverted in order to further their agenda. One famous example of this was when country singer Anita Bryant launched the “Save the Children” campaign, a movement that spanned multiple states and sought to ban openly gay men and lesbians from teaching in public schools based on the idea that they were predators. Although this rhetoric is not as public or common as it was in the 1980s, it can still be found in the rise of discriminating “bathroom bills.” This legislature blocks transgender individuals from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity on the claim that they would use their access to bathrooms to sexually assault people, namely children.
In this context, Spacey’s decision to come out immediately after the publicity of his wrongdoing is all the more troubling. By coming out Spacey was hoping to garner sympathy and support, but ended up throwing the LGBTQ community under the bus by playing into this narrative.
Sexual assault survivors deserve justice, regardless of gender. If Rapp’s story enraged you, ask yourself if you would have felt differently if Rapp had accused Angelina Jolie rather than Kevin Spacey, or if Rapp was a woman.