October 2017 saw the rise of the #MeToo movement, a hashtag spread across social media to demonstrate the widespread frequency of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Started by Tarana Burke and popularized by Alyssa Milano, the hashtag and accompanying stories were primarily shared by women and more effeminate men.
So, what about masculine-presenting men?
It is easy to hear sexual assault victim and picture a woman, a more effeminate-presenting man, or a child. People heap pity on the survivors, seeing them as “poor things” and inherently “weak” individuals that need protection to prevent further assault. The stereotypes are strong. However, approximately 1 in 6 men are victims of sexual assault. In a room of 100 men, approximately 16-to-17 of them have experienced sexual assault to some degree.
Surely, that statistic does not only apply to effeminate men or men assaulted as children. What about larger men? Stronger men?
Men like Terry Crews?
You see, during the wave of #MeToo revelations that set the stages of Hollywood ablaze and tossed chaos into the impending awards season, Terry Crews announced that he, too, is a victim of sexual assault. Despite his size and stature, Crews’s assailant—William Morris Endeavor agent Adam Venit—held power over him. As a high-power agent that producers were protecting, Crews was limited to what he could do.
“The producer of [the Expendables] called my manager and asked him to drop my case in order for me to be in the fourth installment of the movie,” Crews shared in his courtroom testimony on June 26th, 2018. “If I didn’t, there would be trouble.”
Crews ultimately chose to leave the movie installment and pursue his case.
“The assault lasted only minutes, but what he was effectively telling me while he held my genitals in his hand was that he held the power,” reported Crews. “That he was in control.”
Sure sounds like sexual assault to me.
Why didn’t you fight back? People often ask victims of sexual assault, including rape. As someone who unfortunately has close friends that are victims, their responses mirror those shared in news stories and crime shows:
I was afraid he’d kill me. I figured if I laid there and took it, he’d get done and leave me alone.
I didn’t want to lose my job/scholarship. My assailant had power over me.
I couldn’t risk making a scene and losing everything for my family.
In response to these claims, many sexual assault victims are told that they deserved it, that they are weak, or that they are lying. Their assaults are trivialized unless they legitimately mauled their assailant, regardless of the repercussions that would have caused.
Crews has another issue on his hands: ridicule. His assault has not only been trivialized, but he is being ridiculed for his admissions.
Celebrities like shot-many-times rapper 50 Cent and accused rapist Russell Simmons have responded to Crews’s allegations with laughing emojis and memes on their social media pages. Despite Crews’s typical Herculean display of strength, admitting to assault without striking his victim has rendered him as “weak” and “emasculated” in the eyes of other men.
Crews has spoken of the shame he suffered post-assault, and how it tormented his thoughts. He has spoken on how the mistreatment of his case is why more men do not come forward when they are assaulted. He has even spoken up and revealed that the reason for not beating the shit out of his assailant was to avoid being labeled as a “big, black thug” and getting blacklisted from an industry that was already protecting his and other sexual predators over their victims.
Let us recall what happened during Crews’s assault: another man held and fondled his genitals for several minutes while reminding Crews of his lack of power.
Now, let’s look at what Crews’s Expendables producer, Avi Lerner, told Crews in regards to his assault:
“I was told over and over that this was not abuse. That this was just a joke. That this was just horseplay. But I can say that one man’s horseplay is another man’s humiliation.”
I am all for innocent fun. I think a lot of people in society overreact to many things nowadays. But what Crews is describing is neither a joke nor horseplay.
Jokes are funny phrases or pranks played Jackass style on friends and family.
Horseplay is what adolescent boys do in high school when they chase each other through the school hallways, tackling one another to the ground, and wrestling.
Fondling someone’s private parts against their will and reminding them of the repercussions of revealing their assault is sexual assault plain and simple. It doesn’t matter if the victim was male or female, young or old, or punched you in your rapist face or not. It is assault.
And while Crews shouldn’t need to explain his reasonings at all, the frequent discrimination against black men, the words of Venit and Lerner, and the blacklisting of Chloe Dykstra by her own assailant are more than enough proof to illustrate that Crews’s concerns were indeed valid.
While we need to be there for all assault victims, male assault victims hold a dear place in my heart. Ever since I was old enough to understand the concept of rape, I have heard people laugh at men who are raped and assaulted. These victims are told that they clearly wanted it, that a woman can’t rape a man, that they’re gay if they let a man rape them, or that they’re gay for not enjoying “good sex”.
For starters: Being gay is not a bad thing. Let’s go ahead and clear up that misconception. It’s 2018; what the hell is wrong with y’all?
Secondly: Anytime someone touches you when you don’t want them to touch you…it’s assault. Regardless of gender.
These are not hard concepts, y’all.
I am pleased to see that many people on my Twitter timeline have sent Terry Crews tweets of encouragement in recent days, assuring him that he is strong, he is a victim, and that he is doing the right thing for himself and for all other victims of assault…especially men.
Take a moment and send Crews kind words to combat the trolls and perpetuators. Support his shows (Brooklyn 99 is excellent!) and his projects. I can only imagine what sort of inner turmoil this poor man is going through, but even one tweet of support can make his day a little bit brighter and help other victims watching to see that they, too, have support.