Joking about his enthusiasm for rough sex

Gaby Hinsliff on why it matters when a sleb dude is revealed as not entirely a feminist:

The most haunting moment for me of last weekend’s joint investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, the Sunday Times and the Times wasn’t the admittedly horrific allegations of rape and sexual assault (which Brand denies, insisting that even at his wildest all the sex was consensual). It was the way Dispatches spliced footage of Brand onstage – joking about his enthusiasm for rough sex, for blowjobs that left women choking and gasping and with mascara running down their faces – together with footage of a woman named only as Alice, describing how she allegedly experienced just that with Brand when she was only 16 and he a grown man of 30. When comics talk about themselves on stage, often it’s an act. But what if it wasn’t? What if the audience laughing eagerly along were really rewarding and normalising something we now call abuse, while behind them the mainstream TV and media industry he now makes a career out of railing against was enthusiastically doing the same?

Making women the butt of jokes has been a commonplace of pop culture as long as pop culture has existed. The point of view is the male one; the plot is will he or won’t he succeed in nailing her. She isn’t a person, she’s a goal. Score!

Listening to clips of that show now – the interview in which he offers a female aide to Jimmy Savile effectively as bait, or the lewd remarks about a female newsreader – it’s hard to believe they were ever broadcast.

Is it? (I don’t know, I haven’t heard them.) Lewd guy v frigid bitch is a staple of movies, tv shows, pop songs, novels, you name it.

Some will question why the allegations against him are only surfacing now, though the obvious answer is that the timing matters a whole lot less than the substance of what these women have to say. But look how long it took female surgeons to volunteer last week’s awful accounts of being groped in operating theatres, only to be lectured by one retired anaesthetist in a letter to the Times about needing to “toughen up”. Imagine how police might have responded a decade ago to women reporting being attacked by a notorious womaniser, after willingly entering his home; consider too the torrent of hate and threats that has previously greeted women identified online as accusing high-profile footballers of rape.

Nothing new under the sun.

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