During “30 Rock” last night, I saw a couple of news-teasers wherein anchorman Chuck Scarborough informed us that “a sexual predator stikes again, story at 11.”
I planned to watch the news, anyway, and the story, reported by Pei-Sze Cheng, was about some creep who has been physically assaulting boys (11 to 15 years old) in the Gramercy area. (You can see the story here.) The predator’s MO is to come up behind a boy and, in Cheng’s words “[grab] his rear-end.” Let me put aside my quibble with the word choice there and think about this for a second. Grabbing someone’s butt (or their anything) without their permission = assault. I’m totally down with that. The dude in question has allegedly perpetrated five such assaults, and he should be held accountable. This is gross and wrong and criminal, no two ways about it.
But as I watched this story, though, I wondered: would this be a heavily promoted story if the assault victims were girls or women? Because even if we’re limiting our definition solely to ass-grabs, I’ve been sexually assaulted at least five times. And not once has it made the news. Neither have the vulgar propositions, sexual threats, subway rubs, handsy barflies…shall I go on? If I reported the behavior (to school authorities, the police, transit authorities, whoever), I was more likely to receive a look of disbelief and a feeble explanation that “there’s nothing we can do,” than assistance with filing a formal complaint, or the suggestion that I go to my local media outlet.
My guess is this story is being told because the victims are 1) underage (won’t somebody think of the children???) and 2) male (and thus deserving of bodily sovereignty); and because the perp is also male, and possibly Teh Ghey! Cheng describes the perp as “this fiend.” The dudes who grabbed my ass? They were, at worst, “jerks” who thought I was pretty but “didn’t know how to tell [me].”
While I’m glad that sexual assualt is being recognized as such, I long for the day when women, thousands of whom deal with this–and worse–every single day of their lives, get similarly sympathetic treatment from the media. Can you imagine if every sexual predator got a one-minute story on the news? We’d have to set up a 24-hour network.