By Fran Rattle
This article is exclusive to the online Edition 2 (Wrap Edition) of VARSITY Newspaper.
Recently on American idol, a huge controversy took place. Katy Perry, award-winning singer- songwriter, and one of the judges of the show, kissed one of the contestants without his consent. The occurrence brought about a vital discussion on the double standards of sexual harassment, particularly when the perpetrator is female. Without the intensive media coverage on it, we might not have thought any differently about the kiss, but with the roles reversed, say if the kiss had been between a 35-year-old man and a 19-year-old girl, things would have been a lot different and serious legal action could have taken place.
Women live in perpetual fear of threat of harassment and abuse. It is extremely rare to come across a woman who does not have her own story of experiencing harassment; just look at the #MeToo campaign. However, this does not mean that sexual harassment is gender exclusive. As such, it is important to treat the American Idol issue seriously, ensuring we hold women like Perry, accountable for their actions.
Although the American Idol contestant has stated that he doesn’t feel that he was harassed by Perry, the kiss did make him very uncomfortable. It is undeniable that the dynamic between older women and younger men are not necessarily the same as the other way around, and therefore, if it was an older man with a younger girl, it is likely that she would’ve felt harassed. This is because men do not have the same experiences as women when it comes to the threat of harassment or abuse and fearing the opposite sex. What men fear will happen to them going to prison, women will fear when walking down the street alone. Women’s “predator-radars” are more alert, but this doesn’t mean that women have a free for all when it comes to being sexually forward with men, without asking their permission.
If you had to name every known perpetrator of sexual assault or abuse – you would probably be able to name 1 to 3 off the top of your head – it’s much more likely that you would first think of ones that identify as men. What about female perpetrators and male victims? Just because we don’t hear about them often, it does not mean they don’t exist. And just because the American Idol contestant’s response to the kiss was fine, it does not mean that all men would have had the same reaction.
Even with the societal norms of slut-shaming and victim-blaming, sexually active women make them feel too ashamed to tell someone what happened in an instance of sexual assault. It’s much more common to hear of women having experienced sexual assault than men. Due to toxic masculinity, men are subliminally taught that “real” men are strong and don’t show emotions. This makes the statistics of how many male and female perpetrators they are out there inaccurate, but just because a lot of men don’t voice their experiences with sexual harassment as frequently as women may, it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the fact that it happens, and not hold female perpetrators accountable for their actions in the same way we would if they were men.