"Cougar Rape"

Last night at the American Music Awards Jenny McCarthy presented an award to Justin Bieber. Then she grabbed his butt and forcibly kissed him on the neck.

This might be hard for non-fans like me to remember, but Bieber is actually of age, so this wasn’t a criminal act. It was creepy, though, and not for the reason everyone is saying. All the coverage I’ve seen so far focuses on the age difference:

McCarthy is known for her wacky antics, of course, so she no doubt assumed the grope would be taken as a joke.

She was so confident, in fact, that she posted a picture of herself kissing Justin’s cringing neck, with the title “Cougar rape #poorjustin.”

Still, viewers who watched McCarthy nab Bieber mostly got a little “ick” vibe. After all, McCarthy is literally more than twice Bieber’s age, and though she may have meant her affection playfully, it came off a bit predatory.

Some—like the author of the linked article—pointed out that gender-swapping the incident makes it much more creepy, a double standard that actually favors women for a change. Um… congratulations, Ladies?

Of course, that double standard isn’t really favoring women; it’s just reinforcing the stereotype that older men hitting on young women is creepy but older women hitting on young men is awesome.

And that helps pinpoint the actual problem with McCarthy’s groping of Bieber: it was unwanted and rape-y. Despite McCarthy’s joke about “cougar rape”, no one seems to be focusing on this element of the event except either to play along with the joke or to affect indignation over the use of the word “rape”.

While McCarthy did not commit rape, she was venturing into that territory, and she knew it, which is why she made the joke. As new as I am to the concept, I have at least discerned that one of the underpinnings of rape culture is the subconscious collective belief that women’s bodies exist for men. And it cuts both ways—or should, if we really want to push for equality and a culture of consent.

Jenny McCarthy doesn’t own Justin Bieber’s body, so in the absence of his consent, she should keep her hands off it.