By Michael Arceneaux
At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Tarana Burke, the activist and founder of the #MeToo movement, released a series of PSAs focused on sexual assault. In the animated videos, we hear the voices of survivors as they chronicle their own experiences with sexual violence. Among them include actor Terry Crews, who in response to the allegations of sexual assault leveled against Harvey Weinstein, revealed in October 2017 that he was the survivor of a sexual assault by a “high-level Hollywood executive” (later discovered to be Adam Venit, now formally of William Morris Endeavor).
Burke spoke on the importance of incorporating male voices into the #MeToo movement as it moves forward. “As a first media project that we’re coming out with, it was definitely important to include male voices, because we’re really trying to underscore and emphasize that this is not a woman’s movement,” she explained in an interview with Refinery29. “There’s just not enough conversation about male survivors, about men and boys who survived child sexual abuse, or men who experienced sexual harassment.”
Touching on Crews specifically, Burke went on to note, “As we’ve seen with Terry Crews, it’s very evidenced by his case, that men who come forward are ridiculed, and shunned, and treated unfairly.” It is not easy for any survivor of sexual assault to come forward, but there are specific challenges that a male survivor may face. Most of those challenges are a direct result of the attitudes of other men, the pressure that urges men to be unassailable.
That has been the case for Crews since he shared his testimony of being sexually assaulted on Twitter. In having a large platform and speaking openly about his experiences, Crews has done everything in his power to prevent his story from being silenced or misconstrued, but all too often, voices like his are suppressed. Last June, I wrote about the taunting Crews faced from the likes of other famous Black men like 50 Cent and Russell Simmons (the latter has been accused of rape and sexual misconduct by about a dozen women, which he has denied). Their jeers mirror those of the non-famous men who have, too, attacked Crews and faulted him for his victimization.
Their line of thinking is pathetically banal and unproductive, but to Crews’ credit, he has consistently answered his detractors. Regardless, I am exhausted for him. Even if the president’s Twitter timeline suggests otherwise, rampant stupidity is still a choice.
That message ought to be relayed directly to comedian D.L. Hughley. On Sunday, Crews and Hughley had an online exchange about comments Hughley made about Crews’ assault in an August 2018 interview with VladTV.
“God gave you muscles so you could say no and mean it,” Hughley explained at the time, even though Crews had already said that when he was assaulted, he did indeed push Venit away.
“If you truly feel that is a correct way to deal with toxic behavior,” the Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor tweeted in response to Hughley. “Should I slap the shit out of you?”
It’s quite easy for anyone directly involved in a predicament to talk all this shit. But if you are itching for a life hack to avoid shoving your foot towards your tonsils, try not telling anyone how to handle their victimization. It might help you not get popped.
Following that exchange, Hughley claimed on his radio program, The D.L. Hughley Show, that Crews drudged up his past remarks to deflect from criticism some leveled at Crews over comments about actor Gina Rodriguez, who has recently had to answer for questionable comments made about Black people in Hollywood. That’s a convenient theory for him. What really tickles me, though, is the nod he gave to Crews. “Now that you see that we can be victims, too, apply it more evenly,” Hughley said, before he just as swiftly ruined the moment. “You can speak out when a black man is fondled but not when he’s shot.”
“America has a habit,” Hughley went on to say. “We pick our victims, our causes, and our heroes, and we look the other way when it doesn’t fit the narrative.”
However, Hughley is no less selective.
In 2014, actor Columbus Short, was accused of domestic violence by his estranged wife, Tanee McCall. She claimed Short beat her in front of their child and proceeded to place a knife to her throat, threatening to kill her and himself. At the time, Hughley defended Short by referring to her as a “thirsty bitch” and “thirsty hoe” on his nationally syndicated radio show. Even after being confronted by his co-host, Jasmine Sanders, he continued to berate McCall.
“I’ve been in situations where the police were called,” he claimed. “I don’t believe that every time someone says something in the heat of anger, they actually mean it. Everybody want a thug dude, a passionate dude, until you gotta live with your mother in an undisclosed location. You know what kind of dude you picked. Stop it.”
Two years prior to that, Hughley appeared on NPR to tell host Michele Martin, a Black woman, that he had never met an angrier group of people than Black women. He then defended his defense of fellow radio host Don Imus, who, before having his show cancelled by CBS Radio, once notoriously referred to Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy headed hoes.”
And last December, Hughley defended the homophobic tweets that ultimately forced Kevin Hart to turn down his opportunity to host the 2019 Oscars. Hughley sent a pointed message of support to the comedian in an Instagram video: “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke. Well played, Kevin Hart.” He also branded one of Hart’s critics, Pose star Indya Moore, a “pussy.”
If Hughley cared so much about victims, his concern would prove to be far less selective. And therein lies the problem with Hughley’s critique of Crews, and by extension, all of his detractors: They are upset with Crews for standing tall and defying their flawed lil’ image of what makes a man, and in Crews’ case in particular, a Black man.
Crews is 6’2” and 235 pounds. He is a former NFL player, and now stars in action films like The Expendables. He is the shirtless muscle man from the Old Spice commercials. In their minds, he is not supposed to be a victim because he is big, strong, athletic, and has literally embodied their myopic view of masculinity.
To wit, in Hughley’s original interview with VladTV, he joked that he was “not sexy enough [to be assaulted by a man].”
“Low-key, I feel like I’m inferior,” he said. “I’ve always had to talk women into sex with me, so I imagine it would have to be the same way with a gay dude.”
What saddens me about that quote is that it is the root of the types of criticism Crews will now be subjected to for the foreseeable future by sad little boys packaged as men, who hold onto images of manhood inspired by cartoon characters and action figures. They see vulnerability as a weakness for a man. The only real weakness is having such a limited view of what makes a man.