Friday, May 2, 2008

Sexual assault on stage is still sexual assault

I've been thinking about this story for awhile. The article goes into greater detail, but essentially a British comic, Johnny Vegas, is on stage during a comedy show. He sees a girl he likes in the front row and has people bring her on stage "pallbearer" style. As she's lying on stage, he starts touching her breasts and legs, pulling her skirt up as she tries to pull it back down. He straddled her and kissed her, open-mouthed. Additionally, he was allegedly "fingering her through her clothes for a second or two" (James Williams, NOTBBC).

The article goes into much greater detail about the whole "act," so I'd suggest checking it out.

There's been a lot said on other sites - that it's comedy and things shouldn't be off limits for comedy, that she probably liked the attention or enjoyed it, etc. The F-Word does a pretty good take of the people writing about it and different responses.

I'm going to riff a bit on the Portly Dyke and say this - if that girl on stage wasn't giving repeated postive affirmation, saying "Yes, yes, please continue touching me in that way," it was unwanted and very much sexual assault.

I don't care if someone says "she enjoyed the attention," or "she probably liked it." If audience members didn't hear her give explicit permission to start and continue touching her, it's NOT ok. It's sexual assault and a crime, regardless of who is doing it and if it's in front of a group of people.

The fact that it occured in front of a room of people who didn't do anything (or weren't successful) to stop it just makes it all the worse.

I've thought about what I would do if I was in that audience. Would I have said anything? Mary O'Hara, the author of the article in the Guardian, wrote, "I shouted 'get him fucking off of you' but obviously not loud enough." I'm glad she shouted - but she shouted to the woman, not to the perpetrator. Again the woman is responsible for stopping the attack, not the person who did the attacking in the first place. Not that the audience or the woman is to blame - it falls squarely upon the shoulders of Johnny Vegas, so-called comedian.

Would I have said anything? I don't know. I'd like to think so... but you never know until you're face to face with making the choice.

And by the way, if this passes for comedy these days, count me out.

Links to Jezebel, Feministing, and The F-Word.


Amelia said...

Yeah, this pissed me off. What an...uggh.

I am glad you mentioned affirmative consent. Great point to make. How can people think something as graphic as that is funny if the woman didn't even give her permission to be touched?

Johnny Vegas is disgusting and he needs a good long dose of sexual assault 101.

Yeah, I really don't find most comedians funny at all. This would be a great example of why. >_<

JPR said...

wow... and here i thought i'd seen so-called "comics" cross lines. i agree, this was despicable and totally inappropriate... does anyone know if there's prosecution forthcoming?

Amelia said...

I have been looking for something in regard to luck.

(The Korean) Andrew said...

It makes me sick that people like him can pass that off as comedy when people like me work hard to come up with material that our intuition tells us will engage audiences positively. If I had more time I would have done way more stand up on campus... if this had happened before I had started, I'm not sure I would be willing anymore; I really don't care to share a title with something so vile.

Lindsay said...

It's an abuse of power... I mean, there's something about being on stage and famous that seems to give the idea that you can do anything. If it's part of an "act," to interfere would ruin the show. The performer/audience dynamic hinges on the fact that the audience payed money to see the performer. I'm still working out some of these ideas, but it all seems very contingent upon him being a famous comedian and her being a random audience member.