Let’s talk, sexual harassment: It’s time black men stop getting a free pass

If you’re an avid social media user, I’m sure you’ve seen or at least heard of the Surviving R Kelly docuseries that recently came out. For those of you who don’t know, this docuseries is a series in which “survivors and people from R Kelly’s inner circle come forward with new allegations about his sexual, mental and physical abuse.”

I personally haven’t watched the docuseries and don’t intend to but for the many that have, the general response online was one of utter disgust and disdain, as you would expect. However, there was another rather concerning response that truly took me by surprise… R Kelly’s appearance in Chicago sold out and women were screaming “take me hostage”. This really got me thinking about a whole host of issues regarding R Kelly’s controversy. Firstly, there is nothing new about these allegations, they’ve been made for DECADES yet despite this, R Kelly has grown from strength to strength within his music career over the years. Secondly, I’m not feeling the same level of energy on social media surrounding this as I felt with the whole Harvey Weinstein situation. Whether this is because a lot of Harvey Weinstein’s victims were well known celebrities or because he’s a white male, I don’t know.

Although R Kelly’s situation is a very extreme example, the response I’ve seen to it does make me wonder… do black men get let off too easily when it comes to sexual harassment/ inappropriate sexual behaviour?

Many of us probably can’t relate on a personal level to what R Kelly’s victims went through but if we really look at what sexual harassment/ inappropriate sexual behaviour is you might be surprised. According to the Equality Act 2010, sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature that is meant to, or has the effect of violating your dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment[1]. Before I jump into anything else, I’d like to address the fact that this is unlawful behaviour and it should not be tolerated by anyone regardless of race, age, gender etc.

With that in mind, the scenario I’d like to put forward, that may be a bit closer to home, is the last time you went ‘out out’. When I was in uni, I never thought much of the guys in the club with wandering hands or the overly persistent guys that just would not take no for an answer. I’d usually just ignore them or bat them away. It wasn’t until recently that I actually realised that these behaviours are extremely inappropriate, they are not normal and they need to be checked. The thing that made me realise how inappropriate these behaviours are, was social media. More women were sharing their experiences and thoughts on the issue and this was a lightbulb moment for me. It’s weird to think that I thought that behaviour was normal because if it wasn’t in a club, I wouldn’t even have to think twice about whether it was normal or not.

Sexual harassment is a really difficult topic to discuss because there are so many different levels to it and I don’t want to demean it in anyway. I’ve used the example of clubbing because I feel like it’s quite relatable for many people and I believe that these are the types of sexual harassment/ inappropriate sexual behaviour that can be improved through educating people. If I didn’t realise as an 18-year-old fresher that that behaviour was inappropriate, then how many other girls out there are same? Also, how many other guys out there are the same? We need to keep discussing these issues not only on social media but within our friendship groups and with our family members so that people fully understand.

Paula M

[1] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/26

2 thoughts on “Let’s talk, sexual harassment: It’s time black men stop getting a free pass

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