The #MeToo movement has brought sexual harassment into the spotlight, along with gender inequality and discrimination. Danny Corvini explores how the movement could present us with an opportunity to discuss sexual harassment in the gay community.
When I came out at 18, I moved to Sydney and got a job working as a cleaner at a sauna.
It wasn’t a glamorous role. I would run from Surry Hills to Kensington to start my shift at six in the morning, just as the sauna was closing for the night.
For the next six hours I’d wipe down mats, mop floors, pick up condoms, and deal with whatever surprise I’d find along the way.
On several occasions, the night manager, an older American fellow, would corner me up against a locker while I was half-undressed.
It never went further than that, but was it harassment, or just something to brush off and laugh about? It certainly affected how I felt about going to work each morning.
Perhaps an out-of-his-depth twink might be funny to some who would reason that, ‘you chose to work in a sauna, so you were asking for it’. Others might reason that ‘the night manager didn’t touch your genitals so it wasn’t sexual harassment’.
However, there was a clear power imbalance.
He was much older and much more experienced than I, and as he was in a position of control, I naively expected him to set a good example.
The topic of sexual harassment has been blown wide open since the first allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein were published in the New York Times last year.
The ongoing furore cost Weinstein his powerful position in Hollywood and gave birth to the #MeToo campaign, which is having an incredible impact in society right now.
As well as highlighting sexual harassment in the workplace, the movement is empowering many to address related issues such as gender inequality and online bullying.
It has also presented gay and bisexual men with an opportunity to look inwards and discuss the sexual harassment and assault that persists within the gay community.
This includes but is not limited to: the stranger who won’t leave you alone in a gay bar, despite you showing zero interest. The unwanted kiss or touch that you didn’t see coming and certainly didn’t invite. Or perhaps it’s the person who bombards you with unsolicited dick pics every time you log onto Grindr, after you’ve pointedly ignored all of their previous messages.
It could also be the gay (or straight) employer you feel obliged to maintain sleazy banter with, worried that if you were to take a stand you might humiliate them and lose your job.
Or – when the line has well and truly been crossed – the poor souls that have passed out on the party drug GHB, only to realise when they ‘come to’ that a person they showed no interest in is in the midst of having sex with them.
There are plenty more examples where these came from.
The gay scene is a hypersexual place — and that’s often liberating, but it can also leave many open to harassment or abuse.
We need to be able to talk frankly about the less-than-perfect culture around harassment that exists within our community without fear of being judged by our fellow queers.
By talking about our experiences we can educate ourselves and others and set our shared social expectations, calling out perpetrators and supporting survivors in the process.
Along with the power of the #MeToo movement, we’re big enough and fabulous enough to deal with it now.