This week, actor Shia LaBeouf claimed to have been raped by a woman during his art installation, #IAMSORRY. The installation involved LaBeouf sitting in a room while members of the public were invited to sit with him one-to-one in silence. It was during one of these sessions LaBeouf claims, that a woman assaulted him.
Piers Morgan has vocally dismissed LaBeouf’s claim on Twitter, saying “Shia LaBeouf’s ‘rape’ story is an insult to all REAL rape victims everywhere”. LaBeouf has also come under fire in the media for not fighting this woman off.
There’s something sinister and sexist in insinuating that if this was a real rape, then La Beouf, as a man, should have been able to fight the woman off. We live in a society which is often preoccupied with female victim-blaming, but it seems that those men who are brave enough to speak up can’t escape it either.
Furthermore, for Morgan to talk of what constitutes ‘real rape’ is quite obviously absurd. He has decided that it is only rape if LaBeouf had fought off the woman, notified the police immediately and had been able to talk about it with his girlfriend immediately afterwards. What authority does Morgan have to decide upon this narrow definition of what kind of violation deserves to be believed?
There’s something sinister and sexist in insinuating that if this was a real rape, then La Beouf, as a man, should have been able to fight the woman off.
The wide-spread rejection of LaBeouf’s claim out of hand is not only unkind, but also shows how far we still have to go as a culture in terms of how we view rape. Whether the victim is male or female shouldn’t affect the validity of their claim. A history of being slightly erratic isn’t relevant either. When someone says that they have been raped, we should approach the issue in the same way we do in court: innocent until proven guilty. When someone says they have been raped, it is our duty to take them seriously.
There is certainly a possibility that LaBeouf’s story could be fabricated. But we should be wary as a society of assuming that it must be, simply because of his recent erratic behaviour, or because some aspects of the story do not align with how we might imagine rape to be. The accusations of plagiarism against him in the past do not automatically indicate that he is a liar now, nor does his questionable decision to go onto a red carpet with a paper bag on his head.
Our temptation to disregard LaBeouf’s claim can be explained by the media’s continuing construction of him as an unstable and attention-seeking. But the fact is this: unstable and attention-seeking people can be raped too.