The recent controversy surrounding Celebrity Big Brother contestants Chloe Ferry of Geordie Shore fame and John Grimes of Jedward raises some rather important and difficult questions for us all.
On the 17th of January edition of the Channel 5 show, Ferry emerged from the shower in only a towel and proceeded to gyrate against one half of the Jedward duo, proclaiming “This is what you call a real girl, that’s a real woman’s bum.” Classy. I don’t watch Big Brother, and I don’t plan on starting anytime soon but one would imagine this sort of behaviour deems removal from the series?
What is truly galling about said incident is if the genders here were reversed, all hell would break loose. Theoretically speaking, if John Grimes decided to prance about the residence wrapped only in a towel, rubbing his genitalia against fellow contestants, The Daily Mail would campaign for his public execution.
This entire debacle raises the issue that, as a society, we are vicious purveyors of double standards when it comes to sexual assault. This incident on Big Brother did not make the front pages of the papers; rather, it was something minor that has gathered momentum over time. In recent years we have all become susceptible to over-reacting; we live in a hyper-sensitive, uber politically correct environment and if someone is seen to have crossed a line, they are berated and belittled by mainstream media, then in turn by the general public.
The outrage to this misdemeanour has been incremental, as more and more people began to highlight that Ms Ferry’s actions were not okay, the incident began to register. However, there was no hysterical calls for her head on a metaphorical platter. Why? On average, Big Brother receives just over 2 million viewers per night. Over 2 million people saw this incident happen in real time and it can be guaranteed that 3 quarters of the viewership deemed Ferry’s actions to be just playful banter. This is evidence enough to show that sexual assault against males is merely not something we are concerned about, or even acknowledge that it does indeed occur.
The Guardian presented a wonderful piece on this issue all the way back in 2013, addressing how a fan at a Danny Brown concert made her way on stage and began to fellate the rapper without consent. This piece highlights the rather problematic manner in which mainstream news outlets report these issues, preferring to present them as raunchy and lascivious. They’re not.
My generation more so than others have been correctly taught the importance of consent. Where’s the consent in the above issue? There isn’t. By sheer definition alone, that is sexual assault and as a recurring theme, male victims of sexual assault are generally seen as a punchline, that it can’t happen. The Big Brother incident is nowhere near as extreme as this, but it still goes to demonstrate how numb we are to a very real problem.
Women have unfortunately been subjected to horrific atrocities both historically and currently throughout the world, however we must take it upon ourselves to accept men can
also be victims and move away from our culturally archaic thoughts on male sexual assault. The Big Brother incident will not change the way we think, but perhaps it will open more eyes. Time will tell.