The year 2020 continues to exceed expectations of the disastrous kind. While the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement largely captures both national and global attention, sexual assault allegations continue to surface. According to Page Six, late evening on June 21st, it was reported that actor Ansel Elgort sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl previously in 2014.
The woman accusing him, Gabby, made her accusation on her personal Twitter account. Her claims state that she was 17 at the time and a fan of the actor. She contacted him through social media, and the two eventually met in person. In her twitter post about the incident, she writes that she was in obvious pain and sobbing. Gabby claims she was a virgin at the time of their sexual encounter. Her physical pain and requests to stop were met with Elgort’s rebuttal of needing to “break her in” according to her twitter thread.
As the thread trended on twitter, Elgort released a statement on his personal Instagram page, insisting that her recollection of events was false. However, Elgort admitted that the two shared a “brief, legal, and entirely consensual relationship,” and apologizes for his less than acceptable behavior in the wake of their breakup. While he acknowledges his immature behavior, he does not validate her claims of sexual assault. For those unfamiliar, the New York City age of consent is 17. According to New York law, if a person is at least 17, their relationship to a person older than 18 is still legal while still being a minor.
Ansel Elgort is now in the company of other incredibly famous men who have been accused of engaging in non-consensual activities with minors. His former costar, Kevin Spacey, was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with Broadway legend, Anthony Rapp, when he was 14 and Spacey was 26. Spacey later apologized, citing the incident because of poor drunken behavior.
Fellow actor Dustin Hoffman was accused by multiple women of sexual advances and exposing himself sexually while these women were 17. CNN covered an interview with Hoffman and John Oliver. When Oliver brought up the allegations of the 17-year-old, Hunt, Hoffman immediately rebutted with the statement, “Do you believe this stuff you read?” Oliver replied, “I believe she wrote that, yes.” Hoffman then asks Oliver why and is met with Oliver’s response, “Because there is no point in her lying.” Hoffman then ends with, “Well, there is a point in her not bringing this up for forty years,” Hoffman does release a statement saying that he respects women and feels terrible that he put them in an “uncomfortable situation.”
The commonalities between these three men and many others consist of a soft acknowledgment of poor behavior but never giving validity to their claims of sexual assault. This is a type of evolved, more calculated misogyny. This encompasses the acknowledgment of immaturity, poor judgment, and a lack of clarity or poor recollection. Ansel Elgort acknowledges that he was emotionally inadequate for their relationship, but absolutely refutes his accuser’s claims that he had forceful intercourse with her.
This creates an area of accountability for basic relationship issues. He is humanizing himself in a way. He is making his audience aware that he can take accountability for being a poor boyfriend, thus creating a narrative that in this heroic act of acknowledging emotions, her account of a traumatizing sexual experience is unthinkable. This deflective and humbling tactic is both similar and different to both Spacey’s and Hoffman’s. Spacey chalks up his behavior to a few too many drinks, while Hoffman implies that his accuser isn’t’ credible due to the time lapse between the alleged event and her coming forward.
His exchange with John Oliver includes an irritated statement from Hoffman bluntly stating that Oliver has painted him as guilty with just a few sources and assumptions. These statements contradict his earlier apology of “uncomfortable situations” as if the incident was just an awkward encounter instead of a horrifying experience for a minor or anyone exposed to non-consensual behavior.
While Spacey and Hoffman try to show some accountability, their statements and anger show a lesser performance in a more transparent way than Elgort’s. Elgort’s personal note to fans and peers portrays a more refined pseudo-progressive response to the allegations. Spacey and Hoffman are perhaps more progressive in their performative actions than their peers and elders, but Elgort proves that a confident spin on a sexual assault allegation to push a self-promotional angle is a young man’s game.
Elgort’s accusations are newer than the former two men and have garnered less press. The lack of awareness could be attributed to Elgort’s lack of experience in the industry, a smaller platform, and a knowledge of the specific media atmosphere conducive to apologies and self-reflection. Hoffman and Spacey garnered more widespread coverage, and it begs the question, was Elgort’s half-apology and acknowledgment of emotional immaturity enough to satisfy this society’s standard of accountability and emotional intelligence of men?
Ansel Elgort’s statement issued an apology, not for the claimed non-consensual behavior, but for a breakup faux pas. This is far different than older men’s statements on similar issues. These responses would often feature absolute denial from themselves or a lawyer. Did Ansel Elgort crack the code of simultaneously garnering a faux sense of security in his personal image while simultaneously dismissing his accuser’s experience? Elgort didn’t sweep this under the rug. He tied it up in a neat bow for the media.
The story on the allegation has not been updated since the news broke. While neither side’s story has been corroborated or confirmed, statistically, most women do not lie about sexual assault. A public telling of one’s trauma is incredibly difficult. Survivors who speak out often deal with those invalidating their claims, hateful comments online, and recurring trauma. Gabby continued her thread on twitter condemning those who claimed she was lying for recognition or fame. There is nothing gained by women accusing men of sexual assault.
Despite the global #metoo movement, men are still not being investigated or prosecuted for sexual assault. Neither Hoffman nor Spacey has faced legal consequences. Spacey has been blackballed by Hollywood, but still retains his wealth and privilege. Ansel Elgort moves slightly further away from the willful ignorance of his past cohorts when it comes to inappropriate sexual conduct.
It is 2020, a year where predatory behavior is under the microscope, and the tolerance is at an all-time low. Elgort knows this and crafted a deliberate story to undermine the harassment claims and support his character. This angle presents a more progressive man without the consequences or legal action that follow this modern reckoning.