Why Society Needs To Stop Fetishising Violent Men Like 'Hot Felon'
The Debrief: What kind of message does it send to survivors of physical and sexual abuse?
While women are fighting with every ounce of strength we have to get into board rooms, be taken seriously at work and achieve equal pay, men, it seems, only have to get arrested to find themselves with a high flying career. Yeah, fine, this is something of an overstatement. But it's difficult not to make sweeping generalisations when fuckboys like 'Prison Bae’ – who has allegedly assaulted a woman – not only land a gig modelling at New York Fashion Week walking for Helmut Lang and a contract with St Claire's Modelling Agency, but also have admirers across the world losing their minds over how 'hot' they are.
Mekhi Alante Lucky, whose photos are doing the rounds on social media and what seems like every damn news site this week, was most recently arrested in April 2016 over offences including speeding and driving a stolen vehicle. ‘Oooh’ the articles coo, ‘he's so dreamy’. But according to various reports, he was arrested another five times between then and December 2016 for an array of charges including an alleged assault on a woman. It's shocking to read this in the same sentence a list of his alleged offences alongside a heart eyes emoji and an ‘OMG he is so cute’ comment.
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Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened and he isn't the first 'hot felon' to gain such a mad social media following that he gets hired as an actual model. First, there was Jeremy Meeks. His mugshot went viral after his arrest for gun possession by Stockton Police Department, who later shared it on Facebook in 2014. In a totally bonkers turn of events, women and men everywhere lost their shit over his apparent good looks. Comments on the mugshot ranged from ‘conjugal visit lol’ to ‘I'd cuff him’, and serve as proof that we are guilty as fuck of fetishising violent men. Society just loves a 'bad boy'.
The fact that Meeks, the self-confessed gang member, then landed himself a deal with Gigi Hadid's agent and has been hired by Topman is even more infuriating. He's also rumoured to be dating Chloe Green now, so that's cool. Either his 1.4million Instagram followers either don't mind that his past is unequivocally violent - he literally beat a teenager 'to a pulp' - or they're turning a blind eye just because he happens to have impeccable bone structure. I'm not sure which attitude is more dangerous.
Even more frustrating, is that the 'hottest convict ever' is certainly not the only man with a history of violence to grace catwalks, and be welcomed with open arms by pop culture. Lest we forget human garbage Casey Affleck, who was awarded a goddam Oscar despite very serious sexual harassment allegations being made against him by former colleagues. After producer Amanda White and cinematographer Magdalena Gorks sued him for $2million and $2.5million, the case was settled out of court in 2010.
What kind of message does it send to survivors of physical and sexual abuse, and in fact to society at large, to have a man who allegedly groped a co-worker, repeatedly called women on set 'cows' and told a camera operator to flash their genitals at them win the most coveted award in the film industry?
Fashion and film aren't the only industries that seem to reward violent men – the music world is just as guilty. Think about Chris Brown, who was charged with battery after assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. In 2013, he was accused of pushing a woman over in a club and leaving her needing surgery for torn ligaments in her knee. In 2015 a woman filed a report against Brown accusing him of third-degree assault after he allegedly forcibly and physically removed her from a bus. The list goes on, on and on. It includes many more instances of alleged violence against women and, even, his own manager. Yet, despite his ludicrous history of physical violence being public knowledge, he continues to thrive as a musician and has female fans across the world in his thrall. A quick search of his name on Twitter pulls up endless tweets from women who think he is a 'legend' and 'so hot'. Surely, we know better than to put abusive men on a pedestal? So why are we doing it?
I can never claim to be socially woke bc i still bump chris brown & r kelly and for that I am sorry— lyss (@__AlyssaBrown) September 14, 2017
The dark triad is a combination of three personality traits that research has found many people are weirdly attracted to. Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy, it turns out, are basically a winning formula for sex appeal. So while there may be a scientific reason why people are drawn to dark (in this instance read: violent) men, that doesn't excuse our apparent obsession with them. We are not driven purely by primal lust. We are not slaves to our loins. We can and should choose who we celebrate online and IRL.
I want to make clear that I am not saying people with convictions can't or, indeed, shouldn’t go on to have a career and fulfilling lives. But, when their convictions relate to violence and abuse, and they are then propelled to celebrity status, the message it sends is irresponsible and harmful.
This mindless fetishising of 'hot felons' with abusive and/or violent pasts and celebrity men who have had very serious allegations made against them, only teaches young men that no matter what they do, they're golden. They can physically assault a woman, make sexual advances towards them in a professional environment and belittle them on a daily basis, and still be at the top of their game.
And, worse still, is how all of this could make the women who have experienced violence feel. Let's be clear about how many women we're talking about here: according to the World Health Organisation 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. They have to deal with the fallout, and possibly trauma while watching perpetrators ride off into the sunset, quite literally, carrying an arm full of awards.
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