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Kevin Spacey gave homophobes a stick to beat all gay men

OPINION

ACTOR Kevin Spacey could not have done a worse job in responding to claims he sexually harassed a 14-year-old boy when he was 26.

Talk about stuffing up an apology. It may have started well, but the wind shifted and blew the ashes of his contrition back in his face.

Worse, in crafting a message to weave in genuineness and repentance, he mixed unrelated issues.

How dare he conflate an allegation of child sexual abuse with homosexuality.

How dare he use a man's statement about his secret feelings of shame to vent some of his own - and to reveal his homosexuality.

Spacey spun the spotlight. Maybe that is just what proficient actors do; perhaps his House of Cards political persona has become habit.

Regardless, the twist in the tale means the public is not given the space to step back from actor Anthony Rapp's story and ruminate on what a 14-year-old was doing as the sole child at a drunken adult party 31 years ago.

They cannot ponder the destructive cultural norm of people - celebrity or not - in party situations being so drunk they have no recollection of intimate encounters.

They can't discuss the ripple effects of such sloppy and base-level behaviour on the drunkard and others.

Kevin Spacey came out as gay and apologised to actor Anthony Rapp, who accused the Hollywood star of making a sexual advance on him at a 1986 party when he was only 14 years old. (Pic: AFP)
Kevin Spacey came out as gay and apologised to actor Anthony Rapp, who accused the Hollywood star of making a sexual advance on him at a 1986 party when he was only 14 years old. (Pic: AFP)

They can't question why a boy actor could be put in a position where Spacey, whom he did not know well, could allegedly carry him to a bed and lie or fall on top of him.

Once a person claims they have been abused, we do not question them for fear of being seen to be "victim blaming".

Perhaps the worst part of the Rapp revelation is that he has secretly harboured feelings of pain and shame for so long. No one should have to endure such torment. It took the bravery of Harvey Weinstein's victims speaking out for Rapp to find his voice and go public.

That so many - including Rapp - stayed quiet for so long meant the sordid, predatory culture within show business has become fortified by the steely frameworks of hierarchy and position.

The travesty and tragedy has proliferated.

Spacey apologise to Anthony Rapp regarding his inappropriate behaviour on his Twitter account.
Spacey apologise to Anthony Rapp regarding his inappropriate behaviour on his Twitter account.

Another response the Weinstein watershed elicited was the viral social media #MeToo status update, which is a conflation of sorts.

No definition of sexual harassment is offered, so the multitude of public claims to be victims might be prompted by anything from not liking a wolf whistle to being raped.

Feelings and behaviours should never be grouped together. It demeans what victims of violence and physically lewd activity have endured. It muddies the waters and dilutes what should be sharp concern and deep compassion for them.

With so many posts by those claiming to be victims, it is apparent that a person is vastly more likely to feel like one than to have journeyed through life thus far without feeling abused or harassed.

 

Isn't the effect therefore to normalise harassment? To give those feeling hurt the warm comfort of knowing that almost everyone else is in the same boat?

Surely that is not desirable.

Netflix has now cancelled Kevin Spacey's hit series House of Cards
Netflix has now cancelled Kevin Spacey's hit series House of Cards

The pursuit of greater detail about any claim publicly made by one person against a named other is surely important and fair, but where sexual matters or children are concerned, the alleged victim is immediately placed in a golden bubble.

I am not suggesting Rapp is not telling the truth, nor that a 26-year-old Spacey allegedly preying on a 14-year-old is anything short of horrific, but I do feel there ought to be some pause for consideration.

Memories do not always mimic the reality of a moment - they are layered by the senses and affected by intellectual capacity and life experience - and children look at the world through a different lens.

And because Spacey says he does not recall the incident, the public only has one rather rudimentary version of events.

Being or feeling abused is, without exception, a terrible thing and if Spacey did attempt to prey on a boy, that is shocking for that child.

But what he did in response to the claim was dreadful for many more.

He loaded a gun and put it in the hands of homophobes.

In coming months, they will fire it off repeatedly, using his statement as proof that homosexuals are a threat to children.

He has reinforced the idea that being closeted means frustrations are likely to be expressed in using young people. And they will use Rapp's homosexuality as proof gay people will "turn" others.

Spacey has combined and clouded and conflated issues for his own interests and that will have ripple effects.

For that he should feel very ashamed.

Dr Jane Fynes-Clinton is the journalism co-ordinator at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Topics:  entertainment gay homophobia kevin spacey lgbt opinion


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