So here’s a thing that happened: Shawn Mendes was being interviewed on the iHeartRadio Music Awards red carpet, when he suddenly looked behind him, saying someone had been grabbing his butt. “Oh, it was Katy Perry who was touching my butt,” he said, clearly flustered. “I should’ve turned around.”
It was a weird, awkward moment, but there are a few things we know about what went down: Mendes laughed it off, but was also visibly uncomfortable. He said he and Perry had never met before the butt-grab happened. Perry just broke up with her longtime casual fling, Orlando Bloom. Because Perry is newly single, some sites are making this all into a big ol’ joke.
Here’s the reality: When Perry grabbed Mendes’ butt, it was sexual assault. Full stop. No discussion.
A lot of people are going to deny that fact. They are wrong. Perry grabbed a body part of a person she had never met without his consent. That is not OK.
Even Mendes acknowledged that what Perry did was wrong. When asked by the interviewers if he was going to go grab her ass in retaliation, he responded, “No, that’s not a game.”
People are going to make the argument that because Mendes is a man and he didn’t seem terribly offended, Perry’s actions were OK. But those arguments actually bolster rape culture by normalizing sexual assault — saying that because Mendes didn’t seem to mind, it’s fine — and perpetuating the dangerous misconception that men can’t be victims of sexual assault. The truth is that 1 in 10 rape victims is male.
Many of those who will decry the reality of this assault will also illustrate a dangerous double standard in rape culture: It isn’t considered such a big deal that Perry, a 32-year-old woman, assaulted Mendes, an 18-year-old man. Had the roles been reversed — had a 32-year-old man groped an 18-year-old woman on a red carpet — outrage would ensue. Why is this situation different?
Perry hasn’t publicly addressed her actions, but the very least she needs to do is apologize. Perry is a self-proclaimed activist and feminist whose Twitter bio claims she is “conscious.” If that’s true, she’ll see that her choice to assault another celebrity was incredibly inappropriate and harmful.
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