All sexual assaults are not OK, regardless of who the perpetrator is. The truth is that anyone can be a sex offender, and their age, gender or level of attractiveness does not change that sexual assault is a heinous act.
It takes time for victims to find the strength to report or talk about sexual abuse. This happens for many reasons, but it is possible that the offender is very well known or popular. When this is the case, victims may fear their voices will not be as powerful as those of the offenders.
Celebrities are not exempt from this. Although it is not uncommon for accusations to be placed on famous people, these people are often defended, both in court and in society at large, because they have a large fanbase or posses the ability to win over a crowd.
We all have our favorite celebrities who seem to be incapable of harming anyone, but giving them that pedestal is the reason they continue to get away with assault. We do not know them personally, which means we do not know how they spend their days away from the public eye. While it may be hard, we need to keep in mind even the most popular celebrities may not be worthy of our respect.
Actor, singer and dancer Ansel Elgort was recently accused of sexually assaulting an underage girl in 2014. The young woman posted her story on Twitter in hopes that other victims would also speak out against Elgort. In the comments, people began defending Elgort and shaming the young woman, saying she should feel lucky because he is attractive and famous.
A similar example became more prominent after documentaries about Ted Bundy were released on Netflix, and also at the time of the trials when women supported him through rape and murder. People felt that Bundy was not at fault, or not guilty, for the numerous rapes and murders of innocent women because his looks made him seem nonthreatening. He used his charm to lure women into inescapable situations. Decades later, the internet still talks about how attractive Bundy is to them.
Those who have been sexually assaulted are not “lucky,” and the perceived attractiveness of the perpetrator does not change they violated another human being’s autonomy and should face sanctions for their crime, period. Consent is only achieved when freely and enthusiastically given by all parties involved, it is not obtained just because of one’s attractiveness or level of status. In simpler terms, attributes of an individual does not automatically constitute consent.
Rape myths such as this contribute to society’s acceptance of rape culture, which leads to a variety of adverse implications, such as survivors not being believed and justice not being served. Telling a survivor of sexual assault or sexual harassment that their experience was OK because of who the perpetrator was is unacceptable: It’s invalidating and downright disrespectful. In addition, those who sit by and watch survivors being belittled are part of the problem as well. We all need to actively resist these harmful narratives, whether it’s by admitting we are wrong or calling others out.
Defending rapists should never be acceptable, and disregarding a sexual assault or accusation because the perpetrator is attractive is disrespectful to the victims.
It is possible that a person is attracted to someone without giving consent, because it is human nature to be attracted to other people, but it is also human nature to decide on your own terms who you want to be intimate with. Stating that you are attracted to somebody does not give consent either.
Sex offenders can be anybody. People of any race, gender, age, social status and sexual orientation can be abusive. Sometimes they are the people we walk past on a regular basis, or they are people we look up to, but abusers should not be defended because victims deserve justice.