Before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements became mainstream, Taylor Swift held a man accountable for inappropriate behavior. After being found guilty of assault and battery of pop star Taylor Swift in 2013, radio personality David Mueller accepted a job in January as the co-host of morning show “Jackson and Jonbob” in Greenwood, Mississippi.
Swift was posing with Mueller and his then girlfriend at a RED tour meet and greet when Mueller allegedly lifted her skirt and touched her backside. Mueller lost his job at country music station KYGO and proceeded to deny the story, suing Swift for defamation at the price of $3 million. The $280 million-star Swift then countersued for sexual assault, asking for only $1.
“She’s just trying to tell people out there that you can say no when someone puts their hand on you.” Swift’s attorney J. Douglas Bardridge said. “Grabbing a woman’s rear end is an assault, and it’s always wrong. Any woman — rich, poor, famous, or not — is entitled to have that not happen.
Swift won the case and eventually donated to several organizations dedicated to giving women legal support.
“I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this,” Swift said in a statement. “My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.”
CEO of Delta Radio Larry Fuss has been ignoring the five-year-old allegations, telling CNN he believes that Mueller is innocent and “sincere.” As expected, Mueller and other employees at the Greenwood station received backlash from Swift’s fans “as far away as Sweden and Saudi Arabia” according to Greenwood Commonwealth. The station even had to evacuate after Mueller was emailed a bomb threat.
Fuss only agitated fans more with this insensitive message, “I’ve been getting calls and emails from people saying, ‘My uncle molested me when I was 14’ or ‘My boyfriend beat me severely,’” Fuss said. “I understand that and I’m sorry for those people that had to go through those ordeals, but what does that have to do with me and what does that have to do with David Mueller?”
Fuss later told The Washington Post, “It’s extremely difficult to get people to come to the Mississippi Delta to work. I felt like he needed a break or a second chance.”
Fuss’ argument echoes the problem that some supporters of #TimesUp have been wrestling with since comedian Aziz Ansari’s scandal in January: Does everyone who commits an act of sexual misconduct deserve to be blacklisted like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and James Franco?
Ansari’s accuser by the fake name of “Grace” told babe.net writer Katie Way that Ansari was unreceptive of her verbal and nonverbal cues that signaled her disinterest in engaging in sexual activity. “Grace compares Ansari’s sexual mannerisms to those of a horny, rough, entitled 18-yearold,” Way writes. Feeling like she couldn’t say no, Grace eventually gave into Ansari’s persistent requests for oral sex.
Way and Grace were criticized by multiple news outlets for “lazy journalism” and unfair reporting; some even blamed Grace herself.
Michael Cunningham, a psychology professor at the University of Louisville told Time, “It appears that Grace wanted Ansari to treat her as a potential girlfriend to be courted over multiple dates, rather than a pickup from a party engaging in a mutually acceptable transaction. When he did not rise to her expectations, she converted her understandable disappointment into a false #MeToo.”
New York Times opinion writer Bari Weiss tweeted, “It sounds like a terrible night. And I’m sorry she experienced it. The idea, though, that this is assault is quite terrifying. If this is assault than I don’t know a person – man or woman—that isn’t a survivor.”
What victims of sexual misconduct find relatable in the stories of Swift and Grace is that they are perhaps even more common than the severe stories told by the victims of predatory, Hollywood men who showed their power by manipulating women into sexual situations even after hearing the word “No.”
The idea that one must be violently raped or molested to be a member of the #MeToo movement is tone-deaf and reminds me of “the oppression Olympics.” There is a spectrum of sexual misconduct. Swift suffered only from a tasteless butt grab, and yet, she was still violated. Grace, after showing signs of disinterest in sexual activity verbally and nonverbally, performed oral sex on Ansari. She was still violated. They were violated because they did not show consent, which is necessary for even the smallest sexual acts
Women have the right to not be touched by men, and they also have the right to change their mind in the middle of sexual intercourse. And as for the men who assault them? Well, for acts like those listed above, they deserve to be reprimanded. Depending on the severity of the situation and input from the victim, everyone doesn’t have to lose their job, but they do need to be educated on what sexual behavior is welcome and unwelcome. With that knowledge comes the idea that consent is not solely verbal and that how your partner reacts to sexual advances is also important.
Maybe by women bringing attention to “minor” acts of sexual misconduct like these, more aggressive acts like rape can be avoided.