Star Trek actor Anthony Rapp has alleged that when he was just 14, more than 30 years ago, he was sexually harassed by Hollywood A-lister Kevin Spacey.
Spacey responded swiftly, saying “if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour.” He then goes on to confirm that he is now “living as a gay man.”
Let us not examine too closely the details of the alleged assault, which involved Spacey carrying Rapp on to a bed and then lying on top of him, but instead focus on what is so wrong with Spacey’s statement, a form of words which bears only a passing resemblance to an apology.
— Kevin Spacey (@KevinSpacey) 30 October 2017
Spacey claims that he does not remember the incident and here we must give him the benefit of the doubt, although failure to recall assaulting a child does seem odd for someone whose job involves remembering lines. Yet, by using the phrase ‘if I did behave…’ implies that the incident may not have happened, introducing the possibility that his accuser may be lying. Not a good start Kevin – especially as Rapp has discussed the incident with friends and family over the years. You’ve managed to make the story about yourself, with no more than a passing nod to the pain caused to Anthony Rapp.
We then come to the first excuse, Spacey’s self-confessed ‘drunken behaviour’. I don’t know about you, but many people I know sometimes get drunk. I have to admit that even I have occasionally had one too many at a party. And, yes, I accept that, when drunk, we sometimes say and do stupid things. But sexually assaulting a minor is not something that can be excused by too many G&Ts, and describing his own behaviour as ‘inappropriate’ is unacceptably dismissive. ‘Inappropriate drunken behaviour’, Mr Spacey, doesn’t begin to cover it.
Sadly, in the age of Weinstein and those who, inevitably, will follow, the fact of the alleged assault is no surprise to me. I have no doubt that allegations against Weinstein, and now Spacey, represent the tip of the iceberg. What is especially galling is Spacey’s implication that being ‘in the closet’ somehow contributed to his behaviour, and that because he is now ‘living as a gay man’ he is coming to terms with his past and ‘examining [his] own behaviour’.
As the publisher of lesbian title DIVA and LGBT+ news site OutNews Global, I can confirm that Spacey’s sexuality has been an open secret for years. Choosing when, or if, to come out is a matter for the individual, and it is not for the press to ‘out’ people, unless we are exposing the hypocrisy of public figures (for example MPs who vote against LGBT equality while gay themselves). But by addressing the allegations and admitting his sexuality at the same time, Spacey has given new life to the age old homophobic trope that male homosexuality and paedophilia are somehow connected. This can only fuel the fires of homophobia which, let’s face it, is unhelpful in a world of Trump, the rise of the European far right, and the horrific suicide figures relating to LGBT+ youth. It’s bad enough for young people to have to struggle with their sexuality to the detriment of their mental health, but throw in a connection between child abuse and homosexuality, and Spacey is not only guilty of the alleged assault, but of linking a perfectly normal sexual orientation with a predilection to child molestation.
Many people I know have come out in the face of huge adversity, facing many hardships, yet have been true to themselves and faced down whatever difficulties their coming out has presented. For Spacey to acknowledge his sexuality only after it has been exposed reinforces the view that being gay is something to be ashamed about. It is clear to me that Spacey has many things about which to be ashamed, but his sexuality is not one of them.
Spacey, Weinstein and those who will follow put the parents of aspiring performers in a quandary. I have twins, one of which wishes to become an actress. Were my daughter, or anyone else, to follow their dream and wish to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood, they’ll be looking to work in an industry where the abuse of power – almost always by rich men – is endemic, and often finds its form in sexual harassment, abuse and rape. As long as people like Kevin Spacey try to excuse their misdeeds as somehow a result of too much alcohol, being in the closet or both, Hollywood remains a place where young men and women either have to risk being abused to succeed, have their careers ruined for refusing sex (as has been alleged in the case of Harvey Weinstein) or have to forget about their career aspirations and do something else instead.
Kevin Spacey is a powerful figure in American movies and on the London stage. He had an opportunity to do the right thing… to apologise unreservedly and to accept what Rapp’s allegations. Instead, he has issued an apology so feeble it hardly counts as an apology, and has succeeded in conflating child abuse with being gay.
It’s too late for Anthony Rapp, but not too late for Spacey to make amends. I urge him to rethink and to apologise properly.