Over the years, the glorifying of male misconduct has made blockbuster hits, boxing champions, sold songs and created celebrities, but it’s time for a different approach to male characterisation.
Recently, social media has seen an influx of women sharing their accounts of sexual harassment through the likes of the #metoo campaign after more and more allegations were made against Harvey Weinstein. While this is a step forward in raising awareness of sexual harassment and abuse directly, it’s also important to target the indirect influences of men acting abusively. And so, whilst the media, movies and novels continue to portray the ever-coveted ‘bad boy’ image, how will the culture of male brutality and abuse against women stop?
“Women do not desire sexual harassment or abusive behaviour, so why characterise men inflicting these actions as successful or appealing?”
The typical ‘bad boys’ image of conjures up a man in power, usually a rebellious character and with no interest in fair treatment of the female protagonist. Think of James Dean, Mr Grey, or nearly any leading male characters in a classic Romantic fiction. Indeed, this over-used character is a glorification of the unattainable man. In conjunction with the conditioning of men from young adolescents to attach the value of their manhood with the objectification of women, the ‘bad boy’ image then becomes a persona many men take on and aim to uphold to attain success. However, it is also the popularity of these male characters that raises a problem.
We’ve seen this fictional sense of a man played out in real life too. From male comedians condoning abusive behaviour by using sexual abuse stories as a punch line, to a man’s success stemming from his offensive actions. Most recently, the rapper XXXtentacion, born Jahseh Onfrey, was charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic assault by strangulation, false imprisonment and witness tampering. Ironically, within the year since these charges were made against him, the rapper’s album propelled to number two in the US charts and number twelve in the UK charts.
This inextricable link between male misconduct and success/popularity harks back to the convict-turned-model Jeremy Meeks. In this instance, it wasn’t only Meek’s looks that had caused his mugshot to become a viral sensation. It was the connotations of mystery, threat and danger he then possessed. Indeed, the media weaved his story into a somewhat fairytale from felon to catwalk model. The desirability created surrounding the ‘bad boys’ seems to place these men on a pedestal, a pedestal due knocking down.
Women that added their personal story/stories to the #metoo campaign were speaking to cause an effect on a much larger issue: rape culture in its entirety. To sustain this movement, the appeal attached to men that have mistreated women caused by this typical yet incorrect ‘bad boy’ image needs reinventing. Women do not desire sexual harassment or abusive behaviour, so why characterise men inflicting these actions as successful or appealing?
Image still from Charli XCX, Boys