The first accusations brought against Chris Noth was in 1995, by a former partner. This was before he reached peak fame, and was able to take advantage of the heartthrob status bestowed on him by Sex and the City to rape a woman around 20 years his junior. 1995 was 20 years before he was given a platform to sexually and inappropriately touch and harass women in clubs he owns, as well as colleagues on set.
The all-too-loud rallying cry that emerges from internet discussions when men in positions of power, or in this case, heartthrob status, are accused of horrifying acts always encompass the same questions:
- Why now?
- Why not then?
- Why are these women trying to cash in on Chris Noth’s fame?
If the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have taught us anything, it’s that Hollywood will go to extreme lengths to protect and glorify its assets and moneymakers, while silencing and vilifying women who bring accusations against those assets. They do this by offering inordinate amounts of money in exchange for a signature on an NDA, or they threaten to publicly shame them, and ruin their chances of career by, once again, wielding their power to close doors and opportunities to victims.
These are not the actions of innocent men.
Yet, every time an accusation against an actor or a famous business person or sports personality, or musician is brought forward, those seeds of doubt are planted in our minds, yet again.
However, what I’ve also noticed happening in recent times is that when accusations are brought against men, there’s almost like an Uber-style star rating given to the level of accusation, as though it can only be a five star accusation where we unequivocally believe women if it meets certain criteria:
- how we feel about the celebrity
- how long ago it was
- who the woman is
- if it was rape or not
Let’s be clear: unwanted sexual contact is still sexual assault. Sexual harassment is and can be just as harrowing to victims as being raped or sexually assaulted.
Just because one rapist was given a slap on the wrist, doesn’t mean that someone who accuses another man of unwanted sexual contact is wasting people’s time.
It’s all wrong, and it all needs to be addressed to disempower these men from using their position and celebrity to force victims into uncomfortable, dangerous and terrifying scenarios.
And yes, this also includes Zoe Lister Jones’ accounts of Chris Noth being drunk and sniffing and touching her on the Law & Order set.
By making statements that one woman should stay silent, because another woman was actually raped, only reinforces the narrative we’ve been forced to accept: in order for women to make it in Hollywood or have successful careers, they have to be willing to Play The Game – and this game all too often, as per Harvey Weinstein, expects women to offer themselves up as a human sacrifice in the powerful man’s game of sexual chess.
Clearly, this is a new tactic, and one that will only result in the further disenfranchisement of victims of any form of sexual abuse by emboldening and empowering predators everywhere to abuse and force their victims into scenarios where they feel trapped, uncomfortable, harmed and taken advantage of.
But it’s also what normalises rape culture among those of us not in the public eye too. Further blurring the lines between what we accept as bad, immoral and illegal behaviour, and what is regularly referred to as something someone regrets in the cold light of day.
In Noth’s case, he used his heartthrob status as Mr Big to blur the lines of consent and ignore the boundaries of women in inferior positions to him professionally, without shame or fear.
These actions have real life consequences, and the fact that these things are happening to celebrities in Zoe Lister Jones’ case of unwanted and inappropriate sexual touching as Noth’s co-star, with responses wavering from unequivocal support, to support because they didn’t like Mr Big’s character, to disbelief because it’s not as bad as being raped, are all being witnessed and absorbed by men who don’t understand that predatory behaviour is just as bad and has just as much negative impact on women as sexual assault.
As always, when I talk about things like this, I can’t help but feel as though the conversation is starting again; like we’re right back at the beginning of the fight and struggle to simply exist as women without being seen as a conquest to be won by men with inflated egos.
I feel like it’s no longer enough to simply believe women, when the go-to response from men is to vehemently deny allegations in a statement delivered to the media and that’s what is then headline news… We need to hold men responsible for their response to sexual assault allegations too.
While it would be a response for someone innocent to vehemently deny those allegations, it feels like these regurgitated soundbytes are now carte-blanche for men to then absolve themselves of accountability or guilt.
The tragedy is, I feel like the only way that predators will ever be truly held accountable for their actions is by pulling their Peleton ads, by having other men in positions of power to point their fingers and decry ‘shame’… and perhaps they should, perhaps this is how the world changes, right?
But it feels like such a shame that, yet again, when women are leading the charge and putting themselves in the line of incessant fire, it’s ultimately men who will reap the rewards for solving rape culture, simply by pulling an ad from their Instagram.
But at least we now know for sure why Carrie didn’t ring 911, right?