Trigger warning: This post and video contain language regarding male sexual assault and the physically and psychologically traumatic effects.
In the past few months, the topic of assault has come to the forefront of cultural consciousness in a productive way, what with the debate around rape culture (and its backlash), Woody Allen (and his backlash), and the endless mess of the Dartmouth "rape guide" (and its fallout). But, those conversations have been almost exclusively limited to violence against women — while male sexual assault remains little more than a punch line. And, that shouldn't be the case. Just last week, we reported on a new study on young-adult males finding that a staggering 43% had experienced sexual coercion, and one in five of those instances resulted in these men having sex against their will.
Staggering, right? But why? Ask an average, informed adult for their thoughts on sexual assault, regardless of the target's gender, and they'll naturally reply with outrage and repulsion. Because that's the message we get from an early age. But, as Bailey's monologue points out, while "it's horrible when it happens to women...men getting raped is hilarity — in Adam Sandler's comedy, That's My Boy, and in Get Him To The Greek, Horrible Bosses, Wedding Crashers..." In these films, non-consent isn't just a passing, poor-taste joke, but a running gag throughout the movies.
Two years ago, Bailey created this now-viral monologue after watching That's My Boy (which begins with a 13-year-old having sex with his female teacher). In the monologue, Bailey's character, Will, is fictional, but his story is based on the actor's own experience. Bailey tells PolicyMic, "When I was 13, I was groped and sexually harassed every day at school for about half a year. And, it was expected that I enjoyed it."
Because teenage boys are hormonal sex-monsters, not real people. That's a fact made rock-solid by our own pop culture, and it's what instigated Bailey's justifiable anger. Think about it: What if the roles had been reversed in Wedding Crashers with Isla Fisher's character constantly being groped, slapped, and forced into sex by Vince Vaughn? What if there had been a 10-minute dinner scene with his hand under the table, roughly fondling her genitals as she tried to squirm away? Well, we wouldn't even be talking about it. The script wouldn't have made it to the second draft. But, with the roles reversed, the film became a financial and, yes, critical hit. The New York Times applauded Fisher's breakout performance as the "considerably naughtier sister."
Photo: Courtesy of New Line Cinema.
This is not to say that raunchy comedy doesn't have a place in film. It's an established sub-genre, and there is no video so viral that it will unmake Wedding Crashers a legitimate hit. But, just as undeniable is the fact that we, as a culture, don't give male sexual assault the attention or gravity it deserves, and for a truly insidious and ignorant reason: We don't believe in it.
Individually, we might be more enlightened, but as a people, we can't seem to unseat this stigma. This two-minute video spells it out perfectly, as Bailey's character breaks down, insisting, "I wanted it. I must have wanted it, 'cause I got an erection from her stimulating me."
It's this crucial element that lurks in the back of everyone's mind — even Time, which reported on last week's study, asking: "But what about the, urm, erectile aspect of sex?" Doesn't an erection imply consent? The answer being of course not. It's a bodily function. And, though cultural consciousness might not believe it, teenage boys are more than just their stimulated bodies.
Andrew Bailey's trauma was real, as is that of all those 43% of males who've been the victims of rape, molestation, or coercion. But, in a world where sexual assault is only real for women, where Mary Kay Letourneau married the man she molested as a 12-year-old, and where female characters who force men into sex are simply "naughty" — those men and boys are left with few options but to shrug it off and try to laugh.
"Sometimes, as a guy you have to hide your pain, and humor is a great way of doing that," Bailey's video concludes. "That's why I sincerely think that rape is hilarious. Because I have to."