Penn Badgley Says He Was “Molested” by Gossip Girl Fans, Apologizes
Gossip Girl alum Penn Badgley married Domino Kirke early last year, and now he’s starring in a new series.
Unfortunately, while doing press for this new show, he put his foot in his mouth in the worst way — appearing to make light of people who have been molested.
Penn has come forward and apologized.
Penn Badgley, who played Daniel Humphrey on the legendary CW series, Gossip Girl, is set to star in a new Lifetime series, You.
In this series, he will play a stalker. He was quick to connect that such a predatory fictional character relates to real life predators.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Penn Badgley says that he hopes that his show will help people have “necessary conversations” in the wake of #MeToo.
“I think it’s significant that a show like this is coming out now,” Penn says.
Clearly, he is not equating his show with #MeToo — just drawing an accurate connection.
This is where he begins to put his foot into his mouth, and it’s all about one word choice.
“I think as an actor you can become an object of desire,” Penn says. “Which is something women are already accustomed to more or less around the world.”
He is totally right about that, and it’s good that he acknowledges that this is already the case for countless women.
Then Penn says: “I mean, I don’t want to sound sensationalist, but I’ve literally been molested — just in the literal sense of the word — by many people in the moment. Because that’s what they do.”
Penn also gave a shoutout to Terry Crews as one of the men who came forward with a #MeToo story, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Penn very clearly means one of the literal definitions of molested — meaning to be bothered. He is speaking of people intruding into his life because of his fame.
Folks, especially when you’re discussing #MeToo but really at any time, use whichever word is most accurate and clear for the message that you are trying to convey.
Say that your privacy was violated or your personhood was disrespected or that you were objectified or simply that you were bothered.
Don’t say “molested” when you mean one of those things. Some people, actors included, have actually been molested — groped and worse.
Penn Badgley did not mean to make light of people who have actually been molested, and issued a clarification to Us Weekly.
“The point of my comment was not to confess a personal trauma,” Penn explains.
Penn continues: “I was speaking about the way emotional and physical boundaries are violated for someone in the public eye, who is seen as an object of desire.”
“Depending on so many factors, it can range from conscious abuse to something very unconscious,” he tries to clarify.
“And that is the point I was making, cautiously,” he says. “In the context of a conversation about fanaticism and cultural norms which support manipulative or abusive behavior.”
“These are the same norms which support predatory men, but not exclusively predatory men,” Penn concludes. “They affect, and infect, us all.”
That very cerebral clarification was great, but he could have avoided this entire situation by just making a better choice with his diction the first time around.
But we get it. And Penn is a good person, clearly. As we mentioned, his original interview included a shout-out to Terry Crews’ sexual assault and to the backlash that Crews is currently facing from powerful people in the entertainment industry.
Penn points out that men who have been groped or assaulted face challenges that are different than those that women face, because of societal standards.
“You’re led as a man, particularly, that when it happens you should feel great about it,” Penn says of men who have been sexually assaulted.
To be clear, he is not saying that men have it worse — simply that society treats men differently than it treats women over this issue.
In Crews’ case, people responded that he should have used violence against the predator.
That is a shameful piece of victim-blaming that ignores the consequences that Crews would have faced.
Many other men are simply told that they should be grateful.
“Particularly,” Penn notes. “When it comes from someone who’s feasibly an object of your desire as well.”
In other words, there are men who have been groped or even raped and, because the perpetrator was a woman or even a beautiful woman, they are told that they should feel flattered.