Hollywood men are burning at the stake of their own creation. We’ve entered a news cycle that’s holding men accountable for their actions. Their shows are being cancelled. They're even being removed from completed movies. We're talking about actions, like those that comedian Louis CK stands accused of— as of today’s NY Times piece.
(Side bar: in light of this, we feel compelled to revisit Samantha Bee's Penis PSA sketch on Full Frontal a month ago. “Fellas," the host said, "I’m a big comedy star slash Hollywood executive, and I’ve found that it’s quite easy not to masturbate in front of my employees. In fact, it’s one of the easiest things I don’t do. Every day, I wake up, get dressed, take the subway to work, and then don’t masturbate in front of anyone.”)
But there is a name that’s been thrown in the accused mix that some are having a harder time accepting and/or reconciling.
As of publication time, the former Gossip Girl star has been accused of rape by two women. Deadline writes, “A former actress has come forward accusing Gossip Girl star Ed Westwick of raping her in 2014. The allegation comes just days after actress Kristina Cohen claimed Westwick raped her in February 2014. Westwick denied Cohen’s claims on Tuesday, writing on Twitter, ‘I have never forced myself in any manner, on any woman. I certainly have never committed rape.’”
Today the actor Tweeted, “It is disheartening and sad to me that as a result of two unverified and provably untrue social media claims, there are some in this environment who could ever conclude I have had anything to do with such vile and horrific conduct. I have absolutely not, and I am cooperating with the authorities so that they can clear my name as soon as possible.”
Before Westwick tweeted his denial, his girlfriend Jessica Serfaty took to Twitter to defend him against the allegations. Writing, “I know you, I know the truth. Such sadness in my heart. I love your kind gentle soul. Bless.”
She then posted the below on Instagram, which at the time of publication has over one thousand comments.
The comments range from angered support in favor or the couple: “Just 2 stupid women who as last class actors and dont [sic] get the attention they think they deserve…so how could they get better publicity. Ur both better than this shit.” To victim blaming, “Yeah, right. I’m sure all these Women probably threw themselves at him to get a part in the movie, whores,” and “I believe he didn’t do it!! Too many woman crying wolf all of the sudden, with zero evidence and a half plausible story.” To those who support and believe the victim. “Thanks for discrediting a rape victim everyone, rape culture is your fault,” one commenter wrote.
The allegations against Westwick bring up a lot of interesting and difficult questions. Why is it easier to believe/support sexual assault allegations when they are brought against older, less ‘handsome’ men? Why do we choose to believe some victims and not others? What is the “right” way to support your partner when they are accused of vile acts?
Is it as black and white as saying #metoo and I believe all women? Are there people for whom we don’t want the allegations to be true? Certainly. Inherent biases abound when dealing with such highly charged conversations.
These are questions to which we hold no easy answers.
An often-cited Violence Against Women report states, “within the domain of rape, the most highly charged area of debate concerns the issue of false allegations. For centuries, it has been asserted and assumed that women ‘cry rape,’ that a large proportion of rape allegations are maliciously concocted for purposes of revenge or other motives.” Other motives in the case of Ed Westwick would be— fame? Notoriety? When faced with questions like these many women wonder why anyone who make up such a horrific story. According to the same report, the prevalence of false allegations is between 2% and 10%. Although false rape accusations are statistical outliers, they do exist.
“Rape allegations also draw attention to an uncomfortable contradiction. One of the core beliefs of our legal system is that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. On the other hand, many people—after an entire recorded history that has often assumed the opposite—have a default response of wanting to support and believe those who say they’ve been sexually assaulted. So how do we handle the fact that these two stances are fundamentally irreconcilable? If we believe that alleged rapists are innocent until proven guilty, then on some level, we have to believe that victims might be lying until they can prove that they’re telling the truth. We don’t want to automatically assume that everyone accused is a rapist, but we also don’t want to assume that accusers are liars. There is no unequivocally safe ground from which to judge.”
That doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s an incredibly touchy subject for all sides, espeically when women are banding together more so than ever before. Thousands of women have broken their silence. On Instagram alone the #metoo has over 550,000 posts. But what happens when we don’t like the narrative or have a hard time stomaching the accused as "rapist?" Harvey Weinstein fits our internal descriptor of a rapist. He looks like a monster, we think. But what about when the curtain doesn't match the drag?
Dallas Clayton, the illustrator and author who is behind the “Stand Here and Think About Someone You Love” mural in LA, was accused of rape by Dawn Baston last month. Despite his popularity, at least on Instagram where he has 243k followers, there was no real backlash. Only a few reacted. Sophia Amoruso and Girl Boss took a bold stance, covering up one of his most popular LA murals. Vans pulled a shoe line collab from their website. Rudy's Barber Shop cancelled their a collaboration. However, he has his own book deals and a movie that he co-wrote with Sia, starting Kate Hudson (you know, the one for which she’s famously shaved her head) called Sister coming out in 2018. There is no news. No coverage. There are more stories covering Kate’s hair than Baston’s story. A Google search of "Dallas Clayton rape" turns up zero results.
Is it because Clayton, like Westwick, also doesn’t fit our idea of rapist? How could the guy behind “An Awesome Book!” do such a tremendously not awesome thing?
We don't have the answers, but we'd love to hear your thoughts below.