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.