Saturday, May 10, 2008

More on Johnny Vegas

Johnny Vegas update:

Apparently the comedian has threatened The Guardian with legal action over its article about his on-stage sexual assault. The original story by Mary O'Hara has been removed from the website, along with a follow up article also condemning Vegas. Apparently the UK has pretty strict libel laws, so there's a chance Vegas could make a libel case. Cara at The Curvature makes a good point that in everything she's read, there's no dispute over the assault itself, but over whether he penetrated the victim.

Does the guy have to be convicted of sexual assault before it's allowed to be identified as such? I know journalists have to be careful about describing supposed crimes, but O'Hara was in the audience. If she saw him sexually assault the girl, shouldn't she be able to say so? I don't really feel like using "allegedly" here works, because she witnessed it, along with everyone else in the club. I'm guessing the issue is with the fact that it was printed in a newspaper as opposed to her testifying in court or something.

Steve Bennett at Chortle, a UK comedy website, was at the gig and didn't perceive any molestation (at least from where he was sitting). He, at several points, tries to explain Vegas' behavior.

"The fact it was Johnny Vegas rather than another comic is important. This wasn’t a swaggering lothario using his charm to seduce a woman, but an overweight, desperate loser trying to do the same, and failing miserably. Again, that’s not enough to excuse him if the woman did feel assaulted, but it may explain his motivation."

Somehow I don't think being an "overweight, desperate loser" is credible motivation for sexually assaulting a person. If Vegas met the victim in a bar and sexually assaulted her there, it would still be considered sexual assault and his image as an "overweight, desperate loser" wouldn't be an excuse for his motivation.

Bennett makes a point that lots of people all over the internet (including me) have been discussing what occurred on stage. He says "offense is in the eye of the beholder" and that most people writing about what happened didn't actually see the show. While I think it's important to be knowledgeable on what is being discussed, such as seeing a movie before reviewing it, I do think people can, and should, speak out when a person's rights have been violated. After all, if no one in the audience who did see what happened stopped it or called it out as sexual assault, it's important that someone does.

"Until the young woman herself comes forward, we will never know whether Vegas did go too far, or whether she took it in the spirit it was intended...

The unavoidably conclusion is that, except from the woman herself, everyone there – let alone everyone who wasn’t - just doesn’t know whether Vegas strayed into the criminal."

Thoughts on this last part? I personally think it was a criminal act because he didn't obtain her consent. He can intend for it to be comedy, but that doesn't mean it's not sexual assault. As for if she wasn't offended by it, is it still sexual assault? I say yes. Often times victims are raped but don't identify it as such due to various reasons. Doesn't mean they weren't raped, though.

EDIT 5/12/08:

Here's a video of Vegas on Jonathon Ross' BCC talk show. It's from May 9 and Vegas talks a bit about the incident at the show, then quickly moves on to insulting other women. Lots of fun. It's the second half of the interview - Ross introduces the controversy a bit at the end of the first section, and actually makes some insightful comments about how Vegas' act is based on doing unpredictable things, and if someone has a reputation of being edgy, they have to keep doing more outrageous things to keep their rep. I wouldn't call sexually assaulting a woman on stage "edgy," however.

Thanks to Amberwolf for the link.


Amelia said...

Bingo. As I was reading this, I was thinking of a million possible reasons why this woman might not come forward. Does that mean it wasn't sexual assault? Does that mean that it was absolutely not traumatic for her? No and no.

I agree, as far as I can tell, no consent was ever asked for. Therefore, touching her at all is unacceptable.

Putting the name of "comedy" with it doesn't make it any less violating, any less wrong.

La Pobre Habladora said...

This idea that Vega's looks might somehow serve as an excuse is really repugnant. Assault is not a dating option, even for those who haven't had much success in the dating world in the past. Sexual assault is a crime.

Ryan Capuano said...

I really don't understand how this issue is being debated by some people. I think it's pretty clear cut what sexual assault is, and this was pretty obviously sexual assault, penetration or not. I swear, the insensitivity of some people is incredible, and the semantics people will argue over this are baffling.

exelizabeth said...

It drives me crazy when people say you can't talk about something (and usually it's sexual assault) because it didn't happen to you, or you weren't there. We talk about the ethics of a lot of things we didn't directly witness or things that didn't happen directly to us, and while of course misinformation can be spread, *not* talking about it is complicity.

Also, accusing people of not having a sense of humor or not being able to take a joke is a cowardly way not to take responsibility for your own actions. Sorry, buddy, but it's the effect, not the intent, of your so-called joke that matters. If you tell a stupid joke, and no one laughs, that's not the audience's fault. If you sexually assault someone as a joke, and you get arrested, that's your own fault, too.

amberwolf said...

Jonny Vegas was interviewed last week on a BBC late night chat show (Jonathan Ross), where this incident was discussed. He seemed to think it was just a storm in a tea cup.

You should be able to watch the clip on you tube.
(Sorry, not sure how to post a link properly!)

Lindsay said...

Thanks for the link... What a jerk.

Then later in the interview, he assumes women are prostitutes because of their "short skirts" and "clean feminine products." That's one less person we need out in public.

Mick said...

No assault took place. Mary O'Hara's Guardian article has been comprehensively discredited by numerous eyewitnesse who posted on the Guardian blog.

Unfortunately the blog with their testimony has also been removed along with the possibly libellous article

The victim here is Vegas, an innocent man shamefully accused of a serious crime by a powerful journal.

Lindsay said...

Even the article I quoted from and linked to didn't deny what occurred on stage.

That's assault, regardless of if you're a famous comedian or not.

Dave said...

I am attempting to find out what's happening with Vegas's lawsuit against the Grauniad. Anyone know?