I wasn’t planning to write today, but then I stumbled upon Rebecca Bratten Weiss’s article “Consent is Necessary. It’s Also Ambiguous.”
Source: American Idol on Youtube
Bratten Weiss’s article is about this occurrence on American Idol this week. As always, she articulated a clear and logical analysis of how this situation fits into the issue of consent following the #metoo movement.
If you’re looking for a clear, logical analysis like that, go read hers.
It’s really good.
I felt compelled to write on a much more personal basis. I’m 23, I’m a woman, and like the American Idol contestant Katy Perry kissed, Benjamin Glaze, I’ve never been in a relationship. I’ve never been kissed.
I, too, was raised in a conservative family. Now, my family took conservatism to a fault, and I’ve sloughed off most of it by now with my rebel feminist Catholic ways. One of the few remaining elements from my childhood, however, is how lovely I think kissing sounds, and that I want my first one to be special. To be meaningful. To be with someone I care about.
I watched the video of Glaze’s audition, and I felt sickened. The kiss itself was cute, but the situation was awful. The judges were mocking Glaze—all three of them—for never having kissed a girl. And then Katy Perry insisted he come up and kiss her cheek.
I hated the mocking. As Rebecca points out in her article, it’s symptomatic of our culture’s pervasive toxic masculinity. I wanted to tell the judges to shut up and then take Glaze to get a smoothie so I could tell him I thought they were asses.
But then Perry mocked Glaze some more, and made him kiss her again.
And this time, she twisted and kissed his mouth.
The mocking continued and got worse. Perry gloated like some 16-year-old high school jock who’d just grabbed a cheerleader’s ass, and gotten away with it. And her fellow judges egged her on. What is wrong with these people?
Yes, I know Glaze has said that it wasn’t sexual assault (which, personally, I disagree with, given what we now know as the nature of sexual assault) but regardless, it was wrong. So very, very, wrong. I get that this is entertainment and often, the more shocking the better, but this was also this boy’s chance to reveal his talents to the world. And these judges fucked it up for him, and then had the audacity to condescend to him about his lacking talent: “I really enjoyed meeting you,” Perry told him. But “there are some people who are just out-singing you right now, so I don’t think it’d be fair to put you in that kind of competition.”
This isn’t about being able to perform under pressure (as Glaze said he “should have been able” to do). This is about a judge having kissed a young, clearly unwilling young man, mocking him about it (“Oh, don’t even try and get cocky now!” She responded when he asked her “how was it?”) and shaking him up so badly that he needed water to try to calm himself down enough to perform. Which, unsurprisingly, he couldn’t.
As other women have said already, if I imagine the tables being turned, and me standing there in front of a male judge, a male judge who’d kissed me and was crowing about it to his friends, I’d have called it assault. If a male judge had kissed me, despite my obvious discomfort and unwillingness, and then gloated to the other judges about it in front of my face as they told me how honored I should feel that a celebrity man just kissed me—given me my first kiss, no less— I’d be raising hell.
But Glaze is a man.
Calling it assault that a hot, rich celebrity woman kissed you would simply merit him more mocking in our world. And that’s hideous.
Glaze said later that he’s discussed the situation with his friends and they agreed that “[the kiss] didn’t really count. It was lip contact versus a romantic situation with someone you care about. That’s what a real first kiss is.”
To me, this sounds like the things countless woman have told themselves after being raped. “It didn’t really count,” they mutter over and over. “I’m still a virgin.”
Whether we call what Perry did assault or not, it was wrong. And I’m pissed about it.