Archive for January 6, 2013

Why Do Female Celebrities Have Unusually High Rates of Self-Reported Sexual Abuse?

January 6, 2013 16 comments

If you look at almost anything long enough, your brain starts seeing patterns- some accidental, some meaningful. The question raised in this post started as a chance observation but morphed in something bigger over the years. In its most basic form, my question is-

Why do so many female celebrities (especially actresses, singers, dancers and other media stars) report being sexually abused as children or teenagers?

Let me be clear.. I am not saying that every single one, or even the majority, of them are lying about less than pleasurable sexual experiences during their childhood or teenage years. But it is hard to ignore that the self-reported incidence for sexual abuse among media-driven celebrities is unusually high. Almost every week one more female celebrity claims hitherto undisclosed sexual abuse as a child or teenager. At this stage, it is easier to keep a list of female celebrities who have not yet claimed that they were sexually abused as kids or teens.

Even the disclosure follows a pattern which goes something like this.. Celebrity ‘X’ claims that her drug habit, other bizarre behavior or eating disorder were due to sexual abuse when she was a child or teenager. The media explode with pseudo-sympathy and interview her about it and she gets some positive attention, until the next female celebrity comes out with a similar story to hog the fleeting spotlight.

So what is the deal? Is there something about the career trajectory of becoming famous in the entertainment industry that makes women especially susceptible to sexual abuse in their younger years?

As many of you know, the entertainment industry tends to attract people with certain personality types. You will rarely find introverts or conservative-minded people in showbiz. People who are looking for a steady paycheck or a ‘white-picket fence’ lifestyle also don’t gravitate towards showbiz. Nor is showbiz filled with ugly or even average-looking people. I think that is therefore fair to say that entertainment industry does attract good-looking people who crave public acclaim and can tolerate a higher than average amount of drama in their personal lives. Even those who don’t make it big in showbiz have very similar personalities to those who get lucky and hit the jackpot.

In a way, people in showbiz are a very specific subset of the general population- but why should it make women in showbiz more susceptible to sexual abuse in their younger years? We have all heard and seen examples of parents who push their kids into showbiz at the expense of their childhood. It is certainly conceivable that the peculiar intersection of dysfunctional family life, highly focused parental ambition and willingness to please do put very attractive girls in their teens at an increased risk of being sexualized.. sometimes against their will. While this explanation works for some of the more well-known cases of sexual abuse in showbiz, especially those publicized in the early to mid-1990s- it cannot account for the deluge of sexual abuse accusations from the late-1990s onwards.

Clearly something beyond conventional showbiz exploitation is behind the epidemic of accusations about previous sexual abuse.

I have a theory that goes something like this.. People in showbiz enter that line of work because they crave public attention and acclaim. You don’t tolerate all the shit in showbiz because you want to make a decent and stable income. It is not a stretch to say that showbiz types are fueled by the desire for more fame and publicity, preferably positive. Given that the celebrity lifestyle and fame has its ups and downs- it is not inconceivable that some might choose to use the victim status and deferential treatment given to female ‘survivors’ of sexual abuse to get a little status bump. In any case, some other celebrity will take the spotlight away from them in a week or two. It is also possible that the events recounted during these confessions of prior sexual abuse are factual, but not as one-sided as the accuser claims.

What do you think? Comments?