Unless you’ve been living under a rock, by now you’ll have heard about the latest “bombshell” MeToo revelations targeting none other than self-confessed former “lothario” and sex addict Russell Brand. You’ll likely have watched them, too: Channel 4 Dispatches released their “special investigation” containing a whole host of damning allegations about Brand on Saturday night, as part of a joint investigation with the Sunday Times. It included allegations of rape, sexual assault and abuse. Brand denies the accusations. For serious allegations to come out about a well-known male comedian – it’s big. It’s shocking. But surprising? Not so much.
The 90-minute special dissected the alleged behaviour of the comedian-turned-conspiracy theorist with a hefty messiah complex (who, among many other things, once admitted that he became a postman purely so he could bed women). Brand, who publicly endorsed Neil Strauss’ pick-up artist manual The Game, has denied the “litany” of “serious allegations”, releasing a video in which he maintained that while he’d had many sexual relationships with women in the past, they were “all consensual”.
There’s now talk that comedy is having its “MeToo moment”, as film, TV and publishing have had before it. To which I would say – as a woman who’s experienced the usual number of grim encounters with men, some of them famous – well ... blow me down. Tell me something I didn’t know.
It’s shocking, yes. It’s always shocking when some men allegedly choose to abuse their power, whether it’s in a club, a local pub, an office, a brightly-lit TV studio or backstage at a comedy gig. But given the various MeToo movements in recent years, it’s hardly surprising.
Ask any woman and she’ll have her own story to share: if I told you that I was openly crotch-grabbed by a stranger in the street, would it surprise you? Would it shock you to know that it happened closer to home, too – that a work colleague years ago made me feel so uncomfortable by grabbing my body (he was drunk, I was pregnant) that I fled the office Christmas party in tears?
How about the time a man stuck his hand so far up my skirt in a bar that the bouncer threw him out? The university lecturer who fondled me in a dark room? Or the “host dad” on a school trip who insisted on a full kiss on the lips every night before I went to bed? (I was only 13, then.)
Perhaps hearing that a man rubbed his penis against my face while I was asleep on a train will tip the balance? Or... how about the famous household name who groped me at the Baftas?
None of these unpleasant experiences are particularly unique, or special, and I’m not looking for sympathy (though renewed commitment from good men to call out their mates for their disgusting behaviour would be nice).
Almost every single woman I know has experienced exactly the same, or worse. I have friends that have been raped on first dates; and catcalled while taking their toddlers to nursery. We routinely message each other the addresses of men we might choose to go home with, with a dash of gallows humour: “So you’ll know where to find my body.”
Sexual assault is part of everyday life as a woman. You might be floored by the onslaught of MeToo revelations, but we’re not. We’re just tired.
So, when a report was released this week detailing that one in three female surgeons had been sexually assaulted in hospital operating theatres (we spoke to one of the co-authors of the report, here), I shrugged. It pains me to admit it, but I just found myself saying, “of course”. Of course women are being sexually assaulted in hospitals, in green rooms, on stage, in the street, live on air – there are men there.
We don’t yet know what Brand may or may not have done, and he has come out with a denial in the strongest terms. But if it is proven that he has done what he’s accused of? I won’t be surprised, not because it is him specifically, but because I know first-hand what some men are capable of. Women have far too much experience with bad men (or, men who seem good who turn out to be bad) to be astounded by any of it, anymore.
And before I’m branded a rabid, man-hating feminist, well: men, prove me wrong. Please. I’m begging you for it.