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How Kevin Spacey tried to get everyone to ignore his alleged advances on a 14-year-old

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Kevin Spacey reportedly put a 14-year-old boy on a bed and climbed on top of him in 1986, but the actor has managed to shift the focus of the story into one about himself and his sexuality.

Anthony Rapp, an actor who has been working in the industry since he was nine years old, told BuzzFeed about the experience in an article that ran on Sunday. “My stomach churns. I still to this day can’t wrap my head around so many aspects of it. It’s just deeply confusing to me,” Rapp told BuzzFeed about how he feels when he sees Spacey’s career flourishing.

Spacey tweeted out a statement late Sunday night. He said he did not remember the encounter Rapp described and mentioned that it happened 30 years ago. Despite claiming to have no memory of the incident, he excused his behavior by mentioning the possibility that he was drunk. Then, he wrote that although he has had relationships with men and women, “I choose now to live as a gay man.”

There are several problems with this statement, but the most glaring one is that Spacey is trying to divert attention from a story about allegations of sexual harassment and turn it into his official coming out as someone who is attracted to men. And it appears to be working.

Although many news headlines mentioned his advances on Rapp, they often led with Spacey’s coming out. Reuters’ headline focuses on Spacey’s sexuality entirely, despite the fact that the story goes into detail about Rapp’s allegations. It reads, “Actor Kevin Spacey declares he lives life as a gay man.” A New York Daily News headline reads, “Kevin Spacey comes out as gay amid apology to Anthony Rapp for alleged sexual advance.” People Magazine’s headline was similar — “Kevin Spacey comes out as gay after Anthony Rapp alleges the actor made sexual advances toward him at 14.”

In attaching his coming out to a past incident of sexual harassment, Spacey creates a false connection between predatory behavior and being a gay man, as some critics of Spacey’s comments noted.

Ira Madison III wrote for The Daily Beast, “For Spacey to say, ‘if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior,’ implies that when most gay men get drunk, it’s second nature for them to prey on a 14-year-old boy. It calls to mind hateful rhetoric like Anita Bryant’s 1977 Save Our Children campaign, which sought to associate gay men and child predators.”

It’s also a stark reminder of how shocked people are to learn of an actor’s queer sexuality, and how many straight people still consider it more scandalous to learn their favorite actor is gay than to find out he climbed on top of a teenager.

A few celebrities and activists in the LGBTQ community, including Rosie O’Donnell, spoke out against the way Spacey came out.

The wording of Spacey’s statement — “I choose now to live as a gay man” — erases his relationships with women and suggests that people choose their sexuality. The comedian and actor Cameron Esposito was critical of this suggestion.

As critical as the LGBTQ community and Spacey’s fellow actors are of his statement, the connection between sexual harassment and assault of minors and queer men has already been made. When it comes to Spacey’s decision to use his sexuality to shield himself from criticism, the damage has already been done.

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