Alexander: Protect Young Girls in the Entertainment Industry


Claire Peterson

(Graphic by Claire Peterson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By CJ Alexander, Special Projects Managing Editor


We’ve all heard of the iconic pop star Taylor Swift and her incredibly popular songs. Following issues with her record label, the artist decided to re-record her work to regain the rights to her music, including one of her most popular songs “All Too Well.” The song, now 10 minutes long, serves as a grim testament and bitter reminder of her relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal. It captures the pitfalls, red flags and age gap of their three-month stint. Fans of Swift quickly pointed out parallels between Swift’s and their own relationships with older men, in turn revisiting the issue of age-gap relationships.

Some age-gap relationships are no issue, but there’s a stark contrast between a relationship and grooming. At a young age, Swift was groomed and left unprotected from older men, like many other young girls in Hollywood. And the entertainment industry ultimately failed to protect Swift when she needed it the most. This behavior is typical of Hollywood, where grooming and age-gap relationships are normal. But normalizing these types of relationships allows older men to prey upon young girls without backlash or accountability.

We often excuse male actors and entertainers for engaging in grooming behavior because we support their material as consumers. Singer Elvis Presley first met his wife Priscilla when she was 14 years old and he was 24, and believed he could “mold her” into the perfect woman. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has known his current 24-year old girlfriend Camila Morrone since she was 12 years old, when he was 34. Director and writer Woody Allen married his step-daughter Soon-Yi when he was 62 and she was 27, with their relationship starting when she was a freshman in college. And rapper Drake, currently 35 years old, faced backlash for his relationship with model Bella Harris in 2016 when she was 18 years old, having just barely graduated from high school. These are only a few examples that highlight the ongoing prevalence in the entertainment industry.

Unfortunately, the #MeToo movement has not stopped the unacceptable behavior of grooming. Yes, the movement helped people speak up and call out past sexual abuse and even seek justice against those who brought harm to them. However, the problem of grooming in the entertainment industry has continued, albeit under-wraps. 17-year-old actress Millie Bobby Brown first befriended and started texting Drake when she was 14 and he was 32. Most alarmingly, according to Brown, Drake texts her about boyfriends and dating.

Conversely, Swift was 19 years old when she dated singer John Mayer, who was 32 at the time. Their 12-year age-gap demonstrates the failures of the #MeToo movement and how things should be better, but haven’t improved much. Hollywood has failed young girls in the past in protecting them from predatory older men, and continues to do so today.

We cannot change the past abuse and suffering of young girls by older men, but we can change and stop grooming behavior now. We can utilize our power as consumers to stop supporting predatory older men when they engage in grooming behavior. And by using social media to call out predatory behavior, we can also minimize the normalization of age-gap relationships.

And, if these examples have taught us anything, young girls should be offered protection when working with older men in the industry. Young actresses, singers and other entertainers should have outlets, resources and people to rely on within and outside of the industry to help them navigate and stay away from predators. In the past, no one thought better to stop predatory relationships and interfere because men wielded power, money and fame. But in wake of the #MeToo movement, we know better than to allow this to happen.

Hollywood and the entertainment industry is unique in the way that the entire world can see grooming behavior, sexual abuse and predatory men and still do nothing to help the victims. When young girls and women come forward with their experiences and past abuse, Hollywood and the public criticize them instead of helping them. Many invalidate and minimize the abuse suffered by young girls, which consequently prevents others from voicing their own experiences.

Instead of criticizing and discrediting these young girls, Hollywood should have criticized and held older men accountable for preying upon young girls. Allowing grooming behavior and normalizing inappropriate age-gap relationships, shows young girls now and the young girls after them that this type of abuse is okay — and it’s definitely not.


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