Shia LaBeouf: Still Weird, Still Worth Compassion

I don’t really get Shia LaBeouf. I’m not entirely sure that anyone “gets” Shia LaBeouf, as his behavior is often self-aggrandizing, sometimes bizarre, and repeatedly unethical (plagiarizing an apology for plagiarism? It’s…almost funny). I make no pretensions to have opinions on performance art, whether LaBeouf is a “real artist” or not, or whether anyone should take the guy seriously in his professional life. If I were to make a personal judgment about my thoughts on him, I’d probably call him kinda weird, a little sketchy, and interested in attention.

None of this matters.

Shia LaBeouf has alleged that he was raped. Let us briefly review the things that are irrelevant to someone’s claim that they have been raped: their past sexual behavior, their location, consenting previously to other behaviors, whether or not they fought back, their gender, what they were wearing (and, although I never thought I would have to specify this, that includes a bag on your head), or even whether or not you’re a likable or otherwise good person.

Now obviously none of us know what happened in a small room behind closed doors, but if feminists are going to say that we need to give rape victims the benefit of the doubt, that we need to be willing to show compassion and support, and that withholding an opinion is siding with the rapist, that means everyone. Everyone regardless of how weird and annoying we find them personally. Everyone regardless of gender. This particular case touches on nearly every issue of consent that feminists have Stated Opinions on: men can be raped, it is rape even if you don’t fight back, it is rape even if you could have fought back, it is rape if there is not consent full stop.

What many people seem to have forgotten in this conversation is that sometimes bad things do happen to bad people. This does not make those bad things good. This does not mean we have to suddenly change our opinion of the bad person. Let’s take a totally different situation: a guy who hits his kids gets robbed. The fact that he hits his kids is irrelevant to the question of whether or not he was robbed and whether or not we should pursue justice for the robber. I believe that rape is a crime that we need to take more seriously and that should be pursued legally when possible. That means I am going to extend some compassion for LaBeouf. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop thinking he’s weird.


Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at

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  1. I completely agree with you and I also think he was sexually assaulted. His art show made me so uncomfortable because I thought surely someone would take advantage of him like that so I was not surprised to hear his allegations.

    Not that I am comparing him to Yoko Ono, but her “Cut Piece” made me uncomfortable too for the same reason.

  2. The Atlantic article was a little confusing until I realized the link is to the 2nd page of a 2-page story. Just scroll down to the bottom and click “page 1” or “single page” to read the whole thing.

    If I’m understanding the story correctly, LaBeouf put himself in a vulnerable position and some vicious predator* took advantage of it to physically assault and rape him. Then the parasites* came out of the woodwork to blame him and not the rapist. How is this different in any essential way than the thousands of other similar stories that occur every week, such as the Oklahoma high school girls in today’s Quickies or the Vassar freshman yesterday?

    Whether LaBeouf was terrible in the 4th Indiana Jones movie (I thought he was adequate) or has done strange things in his personal life is no more relevant than his hair color, choice of automobiles, gender, or whether he was walking down the street at night alone and drunk. Some horrible person did terrible things to him.

    [*] apologies to the real predators and parasites out there who perform essential ecological functions to the benefit (most of the time) to us all.

  3. Good article, Olivia. I’d just like to add that, while it’s surely true that “sometimes bad things do happen to bad people”, and while it’s good to keep that in mind, I’m not convinced that Shia Labeouf is a bad person.

  4. Exactly. But, as donboc pointed out…maybe bad things happen to odd people would be a better way of putting it? I work with survivors of sexual violence. He was raped. I am not comfortable putting rape on a scale of bad to worst. I refuse to question his rape, simply because he put himself in a vulnerable situation. Can a prostitute be raped? A wife? A husband? A dancer? A porn star? A drunk person? Rape = no consent. Period.

  5. It should be open-and-shut, but a lot of men who have been sexually assaulted even deny it to themselves. “Rape”, in their minds, is something that happens to women and gay men. And men are always supposed to want sex, so if you didn’t enjoy sex, it means something’s wrong with you.

    It’s another confusing aspect of rape culture. A lot of internalized victim-blaming.

  6. I have no fucking clue who he is. I don’t watch TV much, I hardly make it to the movies, I don’t follow celebrity anything. Just not my cuppa tea.
    Somebody was raped and they have my support. Everything else is irrelevant.

  7. I also want to add: It is very unlikely that he ever knows about what I wrote above.
    After all I’m just some weird nobody with a internet access. But he’s probably aware that there are people on the net who support him (and I hope that he and other guys who are genuinly interested in supporting male rape victims do notice who supports them and who doesnt’) and I want to add my drop of water to that ocean.
    Which connects with the main reason I write support notes for somebody who will never read them: Other people, other victims of rape of all genders will read them and know that there are at least some people who will not question them to death and who will support them if they come forward.

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