Show Hide image

Laurie Penny: Charlie Sheen's problem with women

The actor has brutalised the women in his life for years, but the global press is more scandalised by his drug habit.

Those who are experiencing acute psychological and chemical breakdown are endlessly entertaining, especially if they are so overindulged that we don't even have to pity them.

“I am on a drug. It's called Charlie Sheen," said Charlie Sheen, on an American daytime show. "It's not available because if you try it, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body."

It's hard to tell who is more demeaned by the endless coverage of this millionaire sitcom actor's scag-pickled brain slowly dissolving into a soup of fizzing self-regard: the acting profession, TV audiences in general or the global press for being more scandalised by Sheen's drug habit than how
he has brutalised the women in his life for years.

Of course, while Hollywood loves a scandal, violence against women simply isn't scandalous. On the contrary: it is routine.

Slapping the occasional prostitute has long been part of the mythology of the Hollywood "bad boy" and Sheen has earned himself a roguish reputation for shrugging off assault allegations. On one occasion, he accidentally shot his then fiancée Kelly Preston. Never mind, though: apart from his wives, many of the women who suffered at the hands of this giggling wash-up in his sleaze lair were sex workers, so they were probably asking for it.

Before Sheen started denouncing his employers across American news networks, he drew the attention of the press for "cavorting with porn stars". What appeared to shock prim media outlets, however, was not that Sheen had threatened a string of female sex workers but that he had associated with them at all.

It's almost as if we still live in a culture that believes that women who trade on their sexuality in any way are asking to be beaten, raped and murdered. It's almost as if we live in a culture that believes that sex workers - and not the men who abuse them - should be ashamed of themselves.

Good ol' boys

When a celebrity who also happens to be a violent misogynist falls from grace, it is rarely the misogyny that draws comment. Last summer, when Mel Gibson finally tossed off one foaming racist diatribe too many, the entire press chose to ignore the context in which that rant was delivered - namely a terrifying outburst directed at his former partner, the mother of his child. Mike Tyson and other known rapists are treated as good ol' boys. They are portrayed as dangerous, exciting junkies who are not only cool enough to take drugs and smack women about but are wealthy enough to pay for it.

It is clear that, in the world of celebrity, terrorising women, especially if they are younger than you, poorer than you or sleeping with you, does not exclude you from becoming what Sheen deems "a total freakin' rock star from Mars".

When such people are already so chest-pumpingly high on the oxygen of publicity, it is hard to want to give them a single extra column inch. However hilarious their pop-eyed self-destructive benders, though, the violent misogyny of some of our smuggest folk heroes can no longer be dismissed.

Laurie Penny is a contributing editor to the New Statesman. She is the author of five books, most recently Unspeakable Things.

This article first appeared in the 14 March 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Who owns the world?

Getty
Show Hide image

#heterosexualprideday happened, and it’s rather depressing

It may have been a publicity stunt – but some of the responses are still worrying.

Waking up to the news Michael Gove would be running for the Tory premiership, I thought my daily share of bad news was out the way. Seeing "Heterosexual Pride Day" trending on Twitter made me think otherwise.

LGBT Pride Month in the United States is being celebrated throughout June, with many cities across the country celebrating pride events. Pride in London took place last weekend.

But the hashtag began in the US. This post, by @_JackNForTweets, appeared yesterday.

And despite the broad condemnation it elicited, some voiced their support of the hashtag.

The originator of the tweet later gloated about the furore it created.

Before firing off some more vitriol.

The timing, of course, is unsavoury. Not three weeks have passed since the deadly Orlando shooting – the worst in recent US history – in which 49 people were killed at an LGBT nightclub. In response to the attack, commemorative vigils were held around the world. 

Sensitivity to the specifically homophobic nature of the attack has been questioned within the media's coverage of the event. The day after the attack, Owen Jones walked out of Sky News interview.

Despite this, many have voiced their opposition to the hashtag.

Regardless of whether the hashtag was purely designed for clickbait, the more worrying thing is the traction of support it gained.