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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?

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All party leaders except Theresa May and Paul Nuttall sign EU citizen pledge

The Home is Here campaign asks candidates to commit to guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals. 

The leaders of the Tories and Ukip have refused to back a pledge to campaign for the rights of EU citizens signed by all the other mainstream parties. 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson, Green co-leader Caroline Lucas and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood have all signed up to the Home is Here pledge. The campaign asks candidates to commit to guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals.

More than a hundred candidates from different parties, including Labour's Clive Lewis and Jo Stevens, and Ukip's David Dews and Helena Windsor, have signed the pledge. One Tory candidate, Antoinette Sandbach, has signed up. 

Lewis, who is the incumbent MP for Norwich South, and quit the shadow cabinet rather than vote to trigger Article 50, said: "It should shame us all that 3 million people who have built a home in this country are, as a result of Theresa May's posturing, being denied basic guarantees over their right to remain here. 

"We need to end to this situation and send a clear message to EU nationals who make such an amazing contribution to Britain: 'You are welcome here'".

Since the vote for Brexit in June 2016, EU nationals, many of whom have lived in the UK for decades, are facing uncertainty about their future rights in their country of residence.

The Tory Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly said she is in favour of the right to remain, but has refused to commit to this until the same guarantees are received for British citizens living abroad.

However, May's unwillingness to act unilaterally has been blamed for causing widespread ill-feeling in Brussels.

Ukip generally does not sign third party peldges, but its manifesto promises to allow law-abiding EU citizens living in the UK before Article 50 was triggered the right to stay indefinitely.

The Conservatives have been contacted for comment. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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