On Tuesday, after news broke that Chris Brown had been arrested in Paris over rape allegations made by a 24-year-old woman, it was easier to find fans defending him on social media than it was to find condemnation.
People Still Don't Understand What Rape Is: Chris Brown Edition
Vehement support for Brown dominated social media all day, despite his pleading guilty in 2009 to assaulting then-girlfriend, Rihanna; the 5-year restraining order awarded to ex-girlfriend, Karrueche Tran that was granted after Brown repeatedly threatened her; and the fact that he was among several parties sued by a woman last year, who claimed she had been held against her will and raped at Brown's house by rapper Young Lo. The outspoken and unquestioning public defense of Brown is a surprising twist, especially in the midst of the fallout from Surviving R. Kelly.
One of the most disturbingly common opinions was the suggestion that Brown must be innocent because he is simply too sexually attractive to need to commit rape.
It wasn't just the fans saying it either. Brown's friend and collaborator Joyner Lucas wrote in an Instagram post: "Anybody who actually thinks breezy needs to take some p***y got issues. Trust me when I say it doesn’t matter what city, state, country, or continent this n***a goes to, he can literally pick like a flower from a garden of bad bitches who wanna f**k and it’s that simple."
Florida rapper Stitches agreed. "There is no way in the world that Chris Brown has to rape any woman," he said in a home video. "That man can literally pick out of a hundred women at each show. ‘You’re coming home. You’re coming home...’ Whoever makes these fake allegations, you deserve to die."
Since #MeToo went viral in late-2017, discussions around consent, power dynamics and sexual predation have consistently been in the mainstream. Much progress has been made, not just in terms of holding famous abusers accountable, but also in terms of opening up the conversation so everyone can enjoy more safety and autonomy in their personal lives. But Chris Brown's arrest has revealed how many people still don't understand the nature of, and motivations behind, sexual assault.
A rape and sexual abuse support group in the UK characterizes rape as "an act of violence and control." Merced's Valley Crisis Center agrees. "Rape is not about sex," the organization's website states. "Rape is about having power and control over another person. Three out of five rapists are also in consenting sexual relationships. This myth takes the blame off of the rapist and does not hold him accountable for his actions."
The assumption that rape is a crime specific to the less attractive people of the world—something that sexy people simply have no use for—is a dangerous stumbling block for survivors seeking justice. And the myth that desperate men just can't help themselves has been proven to imbue sexual assaulters with an even greater sense of entitlement.
Brown was ultimately released without charge, and fans who rushed to his defense felt vindicated. But if there is a lesson to be learned from this whole sorry situation, it's that myths around sexual assault and predators remain prevalent. As long as people believe that rapists all look and behave like the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, there is still a mountain of work to be done.