We’ll believe almost anything rather than believe our favorite male celebrities committed sexual violence

Picture_1_400x400As more women–up to at least eight now, perhaps ten-come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against Canadian radio personality Jian Ghomeshi, who preemptively tried to make himself out to be the victim of some vengeful ex conspiracy twinged with anti-BDSM bias, please read this great piece by Kate Harding.

She explores, in infuriating detail, the long history of male celebrities–from Woody Allen to Julian Assange–being accused of sexual violence and “people eagerly latch[ing] onto any bonkers theory that might explain away the allegations, while ignoring the simplest explanation: They’re probably true.” 

I do not know for sure whether Ghomeshi is an abuser or the victim of an elaborate revenge campaign. But here’s what I do know for sure: He is asking us to believe that multiple former sex partners have chosen to accuse him of sexual violence—not the fun kind—in solidarity with one particularly bitter ex.

It’s not just that one woman is so angry about being rejected by him that she falsely accused him of criminal behavior. It’s that she rounded up a bunch of other women, who all agreed they would lie to reporters in an effort to smear an innocent man. He has done nothing wrong, nothing non-consensual, yet all of these women hated him enough to conspire to get him fired and publicly humiliate him. They “colluded” to establish a false “pattern of [nonconsensual, potentially life-threatening] behavior.” Because one of them was rilly, rilly mad.

Can we take a moment to think about how incredibly unlikely that is? That doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be the truth—sometimes, as they say, that’s stranger than fiction. But goddamn, it’s unlikely.

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And yet, the rush of Ghomeshi supporters willing to propagate this ludicrous—not impossible! But ludicrous!—narrative on social media feels awfully familiar. It seems that every time a male celebrity is accused of rape or sexual assault, people eagerly latch onto any bonkers theory that might explain away the allegations, while ignoring the simplest explanation: They’re probably true.

We’d much rather think, for instance, that the victims are seeking money or fame, not justice. The woman Mike Tyson was convicted of raping—like one of the ones who reported being raped by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the victims of former BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall, and the woman who reported that two New York Police officers assaulted her, and a woman who accused college football star Jameis Winston of raping her—was repeatedly called a gold digger. But the stereotype of the lying bitch looking for a payday is as ridiculous as it is pernicious. Putting yourself through the public scrutiny and inevitable harassment that follows accusing a beloved figure of rape, on the off chance that it might lead to a hefty settlement, is really not a super-effective get-rich-quick scheme. Why do we so easily believe that’s the “real story” behind reports of famous men committing sexual violence?

We were just as inexplicably quick to believe that Roman Polanski’s 13-year-old victim “looked older” in the 46-year-old director’s eyes. Football coach Jerry Sandusky was engaging in typical athletic “horseplay,” not molesting boys in the showers. Dominique Strauss-Kahn thought the woman wearing a hotel maid uniform, and identifying herself as a hotel maid, was a prostitute. Cee Lo Green slipped a woman a mickey, sure, but the sex was consensual. Bill Cosby’s been accused of sex crimes, frequently involving drugged victims, no fewer than 13 times, but it can’t possibly be true!

Like Kate, I was perfectly comfortable believing Ghomeshi is an abusive predator when the number of allegations was three–or had it been one. Perhaps now that it’s up to nearly ten, this absurd tendency to believe literally anything over women will stop. Then again, we’re up to 13 accusations against Bill Cosby, so I’m not holding my breath.

Read the rest here.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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