If Taylor Swift had really wanted to ruin DJ David Mueller's career, she wouldn't have accused him of sexual assault

Time and time again, women in Hollywood bringing these cases results in flak for them and protection for the men 

Biba Kang
Tuesday 15 August 2017 10:25 BST
Taylor Swift performs "Out of the Woods" at the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California
Taylor Swift performs "Out of the Woods" at the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

This morning news broke that Taylor Swift had won her assault case against DJ David Mueller for a symbolic $1, a case she opened after the ex-radio host sued her for causing him to lose his job after she revealed that he had sexually assaulted her. After an interview, Mueller groped Swift under her skirt during a photo-opp.

Swift’s victory follows the Friday dismissal by a judge of Mueller’s case – he had been suing her for $3m, claiming that her claims of sexually assault were personally motivated to end his career and stunt his salary.

On hearing all of this, I was surprised to find that the first thought to run through my head was: “If you wanted to ruin a man’s career, you would not accuse him of sexual assault.”

After all, we have had it proved to us time and time again that such accusations repeatedly fail to even tarnish the reputation of men in the media.

A key example of this is the celebration of Casey Affleck, who received an Oscar this year after having been accused twice in 2010 of sexual harassment.

Taylor Swift praised after sex assault trial win

While the rhetoric around sexual assault claims continues to suggest that women lie and deceive in order to damage or extort men of high repute, this wilts in the face of the reality that, overwhelmingly, the reputation of these men remains intact despite accusations of such illegal behaviour.

We happily discuss the news of Woody Allen’s as-yet-untitled film, where a teenager has an affair with a man in his twenties, despite the director’s own adoptive daughter claiming that he sexually abused her as a child.

The media is frequently speculating about Johnny Depp’s latest projects, having blithely forgotten about the domestic abuse claims of his ex-wife Amber Heard.

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from all this, it’s that mistreating women does not seriously impede a man’s success.

So why on earth would Taylor Swift accuse David Mueller of groping her in order to ruin his career, as the DJ has implied? On the whole, accusing someone of sexual assault seems to bring women far more flak than it does pay-off.

Fans queue up to see Taylor Swift in court

Swift is in the privileged position of having the resources and the standing to legally pursue her alleged assailant, as she stated this week when she pledged to give money to charities which support victims of sexual assault to hold their abusers to account. But we must remember the lessons we’ve learned from this case when unknown women bring charges against renowned men. Because often it’s these women, and not the men they accuse, who suffer the most when they have their reputations pulled through the mud, their veracity questioned, their “motives” dug into and their sexual history publicly scrutinised.

The disincentives for accusing someone of sexual assault are numerous – you risk being called an attention-seeker, a liar, a slut, devious and manipulative. And let’s remember that the rates of conviction for rape and sexual abuse remain disappointingly low – so even when a person risks their reputation, family life and sometimes even their career to bring a case to court, it’s still unlikely that the person they accuse will end up convicted.

Mueller’s claims, then, were always distinctly implausible, as the recent ruling reflects. For, by and large, there is an alarming acceptance of the abusive or inappropriate behaviour of men towards women in society – and Hollywood in particular is adept at protecting these men and ostracising these women.

We should use the Swift-Mueller case not as an opportunity to think about how sexual assault claims might affect a man’s career, but rather as a chance to reflect upon how rarely such accusations do cause a serious change in attitude towards a public figure. Because there is no denying that successful men often treat women however the hell they like, without having to face the consequences.

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