There is a reckoning happening in America, and it’s been fomenting with each new claim of sexual harassment, abuse, or rape coming out against household names: Among them Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., George H. W. Bush, James Levine, and, let’s not forget, President Trump.
But an uncomfortable question we have to ask ourselves, especially men, is are we more comfortable with hearing stories of sexual harassment, abuse, or rape of women?
Beyond our initial reaction of “Oh, that’s wrong,” does it pack as much of a punch as say… the stories we hear of older men abusing younger men?
I’m speaking of the varying levels of societal abhorrence we have for particular acts based on nurtured and deeply embedded beliefs about gender roles and the value society places on a person based on their gender.
American and Western society has deep roots in the idea that women are chattel, or property, to be bartered and traded or arranged into marriage; often reduced to a life in the kitchen, procreation, and child-rearing.
Without a doubt, these roots still have a hold on American society today; the deep problems of which manifest in systemic sexism, pay disparity, job classifications, and, yes, sexual violence.
I was at a Friendsgiving this past November and, being among a group of woke folks, our discussion had turned to the news about all the various sexual violence claims that had come up and resulted in the downfall of many stars and public figures.
That’s when I brought up the recent news about Kevin Spacey, who’s been accused by a number of men of committing sexual violence against them when they were minors. This was upsetting to me as an out, gay man. For me, the fact that someone would use their position of power and influence to commit sexual violence against a minor or someone in a subordinate position, was gut-wrenching.
But my friend Kelsea made a poignant point: “It’s easier to believe it when it’s men, isn’t it?”
I stopped and pondered this. It was easier to believe in my head both men and women. But when it came to believing with my gut and with feeling? I paused to consider this. What was I more outraged at?
I still ponder it as I hear these stories. And I think it could be proven by tracking the level of media coverage of stories involving sexual violence against women versus men.