Section: Opinion

Kevin Spacey: Excusing the unexcusable

I write this with two hats: one as a gay man and one as a fan of Kevin Spacey and his acting career. As both, I’m very mad.

House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey was recently accused of sexual assault by Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp. Rapp said that in 1986, Spacey had lain on top of him when Rapp was only 14 years old. Obviously, the allegation has disgusting implications, but Spacey’s reaction is even more infuriating.

Spacey apologized in a statement, while also implying that other accusations could be forthcoming. He blamed his actions on being drunk, which is never a legitimate reason to commit sexual assault. This excuse should indicate the kind of person we are dealing with, but his statement continues. 

Spacey also came out as gay in the statement, saying that he was choosing “to live as a gay man now.” Spacey’s sexuality had long been a topic of celebrity gossip. But to come out because “this story has encouraged [him] to address other things about [his] life” is baffling to me because Spacey suggests that there is some connection between the two.

I am not faulting Spacey for coming out. Every person has the right to come out, but the way in which he did it and his timing were dangerous and irresponsible.  Bigots and homophobes have long believed that LGBTQ people are predatory and abnormal. Spacey’s statement will reinforce the view that gays are pedophiles and predators.

Was Spacey explicitly and purposefully saying that gay people are predatory? I certainly hope not, but even if it was just poor phrasing, he should know better. His words have damaged the LGBTQ movement in a way that may never affect him. He benefits from his wealth, and fame. I do not know Spacey’s life story, but I imagine he has never feared for his life due to his sexuality the way many of our gay siblings have at various points in their lives. He has not been affected by the murders of our transgender siblings, especially those of transgender women of color — a crisis in itself that has been swept under the rug.

Already, some conservative pundits are connecting the dots for themselves. S.E. Cupp, a popular right-wing commentator, wrote on Twitter, “It’s sad but revealing that Spacey thought ‘coming out’ to tap dance over child molestation accusations … might actually work in Hollywood.”  Spacey’s coming out after his sexual misconduct reinforced  horrible misconceptions within 24 hours of his statement.

There is some truth in Cupp’s commentary, too. She is right to consider the way Spacey’s coming out might deflect the charges of sexual assault. This makes Spacey’s action even worse, because he thought being an openly gay man would excuse him from accusations of rape. This notion is just patently untrue. A gay man can be a rapist, and a gay man can be raped. Everyone can be affected by sexual assault. 

Rape culture is not limited to Hollywood, as Cupp and others have said. This is not a Hollywood problem; this is a pervasive problem in America. It affects every single one of us — man, woman, nonbinary, gay, straight, pansexual, asexual, transgender and cisgender — and every person from every walk of life is affected by a culture that dismisses accusations of sexual assault and elects an alleged sexual predator to the White House.

With the discussions we’ve been having these past few years about Title IX and how Kenyon should deal with cases of sexual assault, we cannot ignore the larger implications of what Spacey did. We should pay attention to Anthony Rapp’s allegation as a wake up call — not that we should need another one at this point. To limit this crisis to Hollywood alone is dangerous, and attempts to brush away this horrible problem add fuel to the fire.

Nate Rosenberg ’18 is a religious studies major from Lancaster, Pa. You can contact him a rosenbergn@kenyon.edu.

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