If you’ve been following “American Idol” this year, you’ve probably felt uncomfortable several times while viewing interactions between judges and contestants, specifically between judge Katy Perry and the male contestants. Perry’s awkward and sexually charged interactions with male contestants escalated to an unfortunate, but predictable boiling point when Perry stole a kiss from 19-year-old contestant Benjamin Glaze.
Katy Perry did not steal just any kiss from Glaze; she stole his first kiss. Because of her position of power and elevated social status over the cashier from Enid, Oklahoma, she expected that he would be grateful for the favor. She could not have been more wrong.
“Would I have done it if she said, ‘Would you kiss me?’” Glaze later asked The New York Times. “No, I would have said no…I was uncomfortable immediately. I wanted my first kiss to be special.”
While there are so many questions we should be asking, perhaps the most obvious is: How would we respond if the roles were reversed? In the wake of the #MeToo movement, how would we feel if fellow judges Lionel Richie or Luke Bryan stole a kiss from a young female hopeful. If a man in a powerful position forced a sexual act even an “innocent” kiss on a younger woman in a vulnerable position, we would have his head— or at least his job.
Glaze was stunned by Perry’s actions and visibly uncomfortable. He asked for a drink of water before being sent home by the judges. Glaze later tried to make light of the situation.
The New York Times reported that Glaze did not feel sexually harassed and was grateful for the exposure.
“So in that way, I’m glad she did it because it’s a great opportunity to get my music out,” Glaze said.
The problem with this statement is that no one has heard Glaze’s music beyond his audition for “American Idol.” No news outlets are focusing on how great he can sing, and no social media is blowing up with clips of his performances. What is dominating the conversation is the kiss. This mentality of “It helped me instead of hurting me” exposes another problem. Sexual acts of any kind should not be used to advance careers. If Glaze was a woman capitalizing on a kiss from a male judge to advance her music career, society would inevitably have a few derogatory names for her. We’ve seen it before. We’ll see it again.
Here’s the thing we have to get behind. Acts of sexual misconduct committed by women are still acts of sexual misconduct. The recent movement to prosecute and expose male figures who have committed these unwanted acts should not give women false confidence to commit those acts themselves.