Content note: this post discusses sexual abuse and sexual harassment
Latest in the string of awful opinions about Hollywood’s structural problems with sexual abuse and sexual harassment comes Matt Damon, who first spouted off about “degrees of abuse”, before being heroically taken down by Minnie Driver, and then continued talking, because nobody loves him enough to stop him, this time saying that we need to talk more about all those oh-so-lovely men who aren’t sexual predators.
Now, I’m not in the business of giving out cookies, but all right then, Matt, you want a conversation about the men who are not sexual predators? Here goes.
Any Hollywood man who is not personally an abuser, but remains silent, is complicit in sexual violence. He is enabling sexual violence. He is also, probably, benefitting from it.
Silence is violence, and what men need to be doing right now is nailing their colours to the mast in support of victims and survivors speaking out. They need to unequivocally side with those who have named their abusers. Those who do not are making it easier for abusers. The only words one of these lovely Hollywood non-predatory men need to say is “I believe her. I stand with her.” No more, and no less. We do not want to hear about your opinions of the accused. We do not need to hear about your opinion of what counts as sexual violence. And finally, we don’t want your silence.
The path to dismantling rape culture needs everyone to explicitly reject it. To stay silent is allowing the problem to continue: it allows abusers to feel like they will not be challenged, and discourages survivors from speaking out.
While we’re talking about the men in Hollywood who are not, personally, sexual predators, we might as well also talk about how all men benefit from a culture of sexual violence. Yes, all men.
Let’s take Hollywood as an example, since that’s what Matt Damon wants to talk about. Sexual harassment is rife there, and many women have found themselves party to sexual coercion. This affects women in numerous ways. Firstly, it tells women that they must make themselves sexually available in order to work, and that they must not reject men, or they will face serious consequences. This benefits abusers, but this mindset forced upon women benefits all men who seek sexual access to women. Outside of sex, the threat of sexual violence also seeps into women’s general attitudes towards everything, and they are less willing to rock the boat in any way, lest it damages them–which means Hollywood remains horribly unequal. Relationally, many heterosexual women think a man who is not a complete piece of shit rapist is therefore a good man. It lowers the bar. “He treats me well” translates to “he isn’t physically or sexually violent towards me”. Professionally “this is a good job” translates to “well, he didn’t sexually harass me, even if I am being paid significantly less than my male co-star.”
So yes. Let us talk about the men in Hollywood who are not predators. They shoulder guilt and complicity, too.