I am appalled that pop singer Katy Perry planted an unwanted kiss on an American Idol contestant during her judging duties for the show. Although the contestant, Benjamin Glaze, says he does not consider it to be sexual harassment, by definition it decidedly is. Glaze was even asked if he would have consented if Perry would have sought his permission for the kiss and he said no. Yet radio hosts are giggling about it like nonconsensual kissing is funny. In particular, they are having a good chuckle at Glaze’s comment that he “didn’t like it.” But “It’s Katy Perry!” I keep hearing, as though the fact that she’s a cute celebrity makes any difference.
This all reeks of the double standard that harms both men and women. In this case, the lack of consent for an intimate moment is being trivialized because it was a male on the receiving end. It is also supposedly funny, just like so many popular culture references to men “wanting” to be raped by “hot” women. Neither is good for men, who often struggle to report abuse and assault for fear of stigma. Nor is it good for women to reinforce the notion that unwanted sexual behavior is OK if they do it, or if the person is famous enough.
Still worse is the way the show is glorifying the moment. American Idol promoted it heavily before the show aired, despite Glaze saying he was a bit uncomfortable. Lionel Richie even egged her on as she did it.
I appreciate Glaze’s right to react as he wishes, and he has said he is simply happy for the experience of being on American Idol. Having been grabbed and kissed without my permission, I can say it made me feel dirty and disgusted, angry and sad. But the show, its fans, and the trolls on radio, TV and social media who think that makes it all OK are all simply wrong. It is very definitely not OK. To engage in or condone such a repulsive ratings ploy is no better than to say it was OK for Harvey Weinstein to kiss Cara Delevingne without her consent.