Disturbing allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein are still mounting, as is the support for the #MeToo campaign, and yet, somehow people haven’t yet gotten the message that it is not OK to touch someone without their consent.
Case in point: fans at a recent Harry Styles performance.
— JustLikeAna (@kiwisbaby28) October 22, 2017
The singer took the stage on Saturday in L.A. at a CBS charity event raising funds for breast cancer—but while performing his song “Kiwi,” his fans crossed a line. Social media footage shows Styles singing and dropping to his knees in front of his fans, who immediately reached up to touch the star. At least one appears to grope his crotch. Styles quickly gets up, pushing the hands away from his lap as he continues performing. According to social media reports from the concert, Styles avoided that section of the audience for the rest of his time on stage.
Some outlets described the incident as an “awkward encounter” or the result of “very eager” fans—but let’s all just be better and call this what it is, shall we?
of course the sun would take a situation as serious as sexual assault and call the person doing it a “very eager fan” disgusting
— kennedy misses harry (@harryisabub) October 22, 2017
According to Farrah Khan, the coordinator of Sexual Violence Education and Support at Ryerson University, what happened was absolutely sexual assault because “his genitals were touched and he didn’t consent to it.” To clarify, Ryerson University’s sexual violence policy defines sexual assault as: “Any kind of sexual contact without mutual consent. It can include unwanted kissing, fondling, oral or anal sex, intercourse, or other forms of penetration, or any other unwanted act of a sexual nature.” So yes, this incident fits the criteria.
Fans of Styles were quick to shut down the actions shown in the video and call for everyone to #RespectHarry.
Our fandom has A LOT of growing up to do. What happened tonight was COMPLETELY out of line. Do better. He’s a human being. #RespectHarry
— Harry’s Promo Team (@stylezpromo) October 22, 2017
I wish people could treat Harry the way he treats people, absolutely disgusted #RespectHarry
— Nialler Diaries. (@niallerdiaries) October 22, 2017
Harry getting down on his knees isn’t an open invitation for you to touch him inappropriately, he’s not a fucking object. #RespectHarry
— Harry Updates. (@TheHarryNews) October 22, 2017
it’s not okay to grope men either, its not different and yall are disgusting if you think men can’t be victims of sexual assault too
— savannah seymour (@savannahseymour) October 22, 2017
Khan adds that defining the incident as sexual assault, rather than just fans getting excited, matters for both Styles and others. She also doubts that this is the first time Styles has had to deal with this form of inappropriate, nonconsensual touching.
“It’s important to use the right words and name what something is,” she says. “When we use words that minimize or make sexual violence seem playful, we’re telling the survivor and people reading that sexual violence shouldn’t be taken seriously, especially if it’s done against a man or against a community that we don’t imagine would be sexually assaulted.”
As part of her role at Ryerson, Khan works with young men, doing workshops talking about the concept of masculinity. She says that she often finds that men believe that they’re not allowed to say no to sexual advances, that they should see any type of sexual attention as a good thing and something to be desired. It’s a concept that is now being slowly dismantled, in part by actors like Terry Crews and James Van Der Beek opening up about their fact that they had been sexually assaulted in the past.
“We have to respect the fact that grabbing your genitalia should never be a part of your daily life as a pop star or as a human being on this earth—be it a man or someone of any gender, it’s not OK,” she says.
The same way that we shouldn’t imply that what a woman was wearing caused her assaults, it’s wrong to think that Styles having a lot of young female fans somehow makes him fair game.
“You can be a sex symbol but that doesn’t mean that people have access to your body and can touch you,” says Khan.
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