The former TV host and actor was a mascot, at best, for a media culture that routinely dehumanized and hypersexualized young women.
By Sophie Gilbert
In the summer of 1999, when I was 16 years old, I remember walking to a train station in West London from a babysitting job when a 40-something man in a Range Rover pulled up, told me he was on television, and then announced to his young son (also in the car) that I was “Daddy’s new girlfriend.” I don’t know who the man was; I didn’t get in the car, not because I was afraid but because I’d just bought Californication for my minidisc player and wanted to listen to the album on the way home. But what he did wasn’t abnormal for the time. This was two years before the 35-year-old TV presenter and radio host Chris Evans (not the actor) married the 18-year-old pop star Billie Piper in Las Vegas, after a months-long relationship that started when he gave the teenager—so young, she hadn’t yet learned to drive—a Ferrari filled with roses. A year later, in 2002, the BBC Radio 1 host Chris Moyles offered, live on air, to take the singer Charlotte Church’s virginity on her 16th birthday, claiming that he could “lead her through the forest of sexuality” now that she was legal.
I’ve often wondered how Millennial women in Britain survived the aughts: not just the incessant fat shaming and the ritualized alcohol abuse, but also the cheerful, open predation that was everywhere in popular culture then. This weekend, the London Times and the TV documentary series Dispatches revealed coordinated allegations that the TV star turned conspiratorial wellness personality Russell Brand had victimized multiple people from 2006 to 2013, including a 16-year-old girl who says he picked her up on the street when he was 30, referred to her as “the child” and cradled her like a baby when he found out she was a virgin, and then later choked her with his penis until she—fearing she would actually suffocate—punched him in the stomach. The dual reports also allege that Brand raped a woman he knew at his home in Los Angeles and attempted to rape another until she screamed so hard that he flew into a rage. (Brand has said he “absolutely refutes” what he describes as “a litany of extremely egregious and aggressive attacks.” [ . . . ]