Katy Perry hasn’t necessarily been a stranger to controversy this month, and the less-than-great publicity continued with a recent American Idol contestant.
Last week, the show had on Contestant Benjamin Glaze, who had apparently never been kissed before, claiming he wanted to save his first kiss for his first relationship. Upon telling the American Idol judges this, the situation took a turn for the awkward.
After hearing this personal insight, Katy stood up and told Benjamin to “Come here. Come here right now,” and had him give her a kiss on her cheek. Okay, kinda weird. But maybe harmless enough, I guess? They do it over in Europe all the time.
But then after demanding a second, she swung her face around and kissed him on his mouth unexpectedly. He seemed really surprised, asked for a glass of water and then delivered a performance that was clearly negatively affected by the proceeding events, before being rejected by the judges.
Katy Perry went on to tweet about the ‘stolen kiss,’ which was met with a lot of backlash from social media users, as well as popular feminist sites and news outlets. Much of the internet collectively feels that this was unwanted sexual contact without consent. One viewer expressed that the kiss “was a forced sexual act,” and raised the question “Imagine if this was from a male judge. Has @katyperry not taken anything from the #metoo movement?”
Now, it’s obvious that Katy Perry most likely didn’t mean anything by the kiss, and this was confirmed by Benjamin, who stated “I do not think I was sexually harassed by Katy Perry.” So what’s the point of talking about it?
Well, the fact that Katy — a very strong recent advocate for progressivism and, more specifically, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the true gender equality movement — felt it was appropriate to do this in the first place remains a warning sign that something is still very wrong in our culture.
Let’s be totally real for a moment — if the roles were reversed here, we would be up in arms about this kiss (way more than we already are), and the male judge in question might even be facing sexual harassment charges. People would (rightfully) say the stunt was a misuse of fame and power, especially with the recent #MeToo movement and the contestant also being significantly younger than the judge.
However, our culture still has this backwards assumption that men are automatically going to like it if they are met with sexual advances from an attractive and famous woman. Incidents like this are hurting the movement toward true gender equality, and give anti-feminists fodder to complain that “reverse sexism” is a thing. Let’s get something straight: “reverse sexism” is pure and simple sexism in itself. The whole point of feminism is equality for everyone. That means all sexes.
However, there is a catch to the idea of “reverse oppression.” We exist in a society still riddled by structural sexism. Women are financially disrespected through unequal pay in the workplace, depressingly underrepresented in politics and higher positions in companies and are subjected to sexual violence and abuse at a higher rate than men.
As long as we have structural sexism, it is difficult to totally compare sexism against men to that enacted against women, because that implies, to some extent, that women would somehow stand to benefit from being sexist, i.e. through holding political, cultural and economic power.
Katy didn’t benefit from this; it was more of a publicity stunt. However, the point remains that it is wrong to exercise the perceived benefits of power in an invasive way upon someone else and to disregard someone else’s chastity for the sake of a publicity stunt. In order to change both toxic masculinity culture and the internalized misogynistic values and beliefs society has instilled in us, we first need to acknowledge that they exist.
Hence, the importance of calling attention to this story. Ladies, if we went to advance women’s right issues today, the fact remains that we need the movement to benefit everyone. Feminism is about empowering women, yes. But it is not about belittling our male counterparts.