Terry Crews is a swan. His preternaturally humble, good-natured personality never gives way to the reality that he’s forever working double-time to remain accessible. He knows his brawn is an asset to his vocation, but he has the brains to recognize that his strength must be presented carefully. Because despite the fact that Crews’ infectious alacrity has graced film and television screens since the early aughts, he knows that one public misstep could lead to a career-ending headline. One that goes a little something like: “240 lbs. Black Man stomps out Hollywood Honcho.” The latter is a headline Crews came up with on his own in the form of a tweet. This tweet is just one of 16 in a thread where, amid the maelstrom of predatory Hollywood men being outed, he chimes in with his own experience.
For some time, a Terry Crews film role, television appearance or press junket not marked by a dance of the pectorals begged the question of whether he was even there. And the same rings true today. But the generous benefaction of an occasional pec dance does not an open invitation make. Cue Adam Venit who is now dealing with the consequences of his unwanted overtures in the form of a lawsuit against William Morris Endeavor and himself.
Abs, biceps and pecs are often trotted out for public consumption, and to be a jacked male celeb is to inevitably be an objectified and exposed one.
Since Crews has managed to maintain an approachable quality, most appear undeterred by his stature and feel comfortable in his presence. In the case of Venit, far too comfortable. Venit appeared to forget that he’s a sizable black man for long enough to publicly grope him at a party, right in front of his wife. But Crews doesn’t have the luxury of momentary forgetfulness when it comes to his identity. As he alluded to on Twitter, he was painfully aware of his limited options. He knew that taking immediate action—à la physical retaliation—would mean potentially endangering his livelihood. Or worse, his life. The cops would be called, the headlines would turn him into a dangerous monstrosity, and that would be that. He knew better. And so he prevailed by turning a despicable incident on its head for the greater good. He risked it all to show that while it’s not the most convenient moment to sympathize with the cisgender man, #metoo can and does include men.
And then there’s the somewhat consensual groping of conventionally attractive, fit men. Your Channing Tatums, Zac Efrons and Michael B. Jordans who are unfailingly coerced into revealing their hard-earned six-packs. Abs, biceps and pecs are often trotted out for public consumption, and to be a jacked male celeb is to inevitably be an objectified and exposed one. Usually on daytime television. And usually for the entertainment of women of a certain age. Harmless? Perhaps. But to navigate the politics of men’s bodies is to embark on a labyrinthine journey of words chosen wisely and stacked precariously.
Right now, we are witnessing women receive public atonement as more vile men are turned inside out by the hour. And to present cis male victims complicates things. Admittedly, Crews’ story was—after an initial silence—met with much compassion. It even landed him the title of Time’s “Silence Breaker” alongside others who came forward about the sexual harassment they’d experienced.
The use of muscular men’s bodies as a source of entertainment is a popular artifice for the boosting of ye old ratings. Nary a talk show viewer or YouTube watcher can resist a clip of Channing Tatum doing his Magic Mike thing. Granted, he does it of his own volition and his audience is mostly comprised of the eager, yet non-threatening guests of The Ellen Show—and as of recently, tipsy bachelorette biddies at the “Magic Mike Live” residency in Las Vegas. These instances don’t necessarily put his life in jeopardy, but alas, speculating over what constitutes assault and attempting to discern between various levels of sexual misconduct is a game of apples and oranges. While some narratives might contain analogous threads, at the end of the day, each experience is unique and deserves respect no matter the scale of the affliction.
This potential trauma we make handsome, rugged men endure is but a speck of dust compared to the mound of sexual harassment women and queer folks deal with on the regular, but it’s still another ethical dilemma. Is it enough to write these more minor, innocuous occurrences off as a well-earned balm for femme folks who are used to being the ones ogled? The jury is still out. That said, Terry Crews has generated a handy blueprint for other men to build from. Creating, almost overnight, an open forum for men to discuss the sexual harassment they’ve endured alongside women. It seems we are witnessing the early stages of efforts toward dismantling double standards.