Cosby, the Freak, and the House of Milan: When is sexual assault not sexual assault?

IS sexual assault by a celebrity the new normal? Must we all now have tales of molestation by famous faces from the past?

Cult gay icon Maggie Kirkpatrick (famous for her role as Joan "The Freak" Ferguson in Prisoner) was convicted of historical child sex assault charges last week, whilst the Bill Cosby rape show continues to play out. Meanwhile, vlogger Stahr Milan has been accused of "molesting" Tahj and King Milan. In their case, the term "molest" has been used to calculated effect; Stahr was the "gay mother" to "children" Tahj and King; these young gay men are holding onto their identity as "children" as if their lives depend on it. But they are no more children than Stahr Milan is a mother.

With huge fanbases, Kirkpatrick and Cosby have benefited from vocal, vociferous defense. And not just from their fans; questioning minds might wonder how anyone could be found guilty of a sexual assault, committed in 1984, and on a psychiatric patient. When the evidence amounts to my word against yours, you have to wonder. Or is it guilt by association a factor? Is Maggie Kirkpatrick guilty because Rolf Harris got away with it for so long? Nevertheless, a jury decided that was the case. Another jury might have decided something else. In the case of Cosby, we hear fewer and fewer voices raised to defend him. In part, this is because so many in the black community hated him even before the allegations came to light. Like Kirkpatrick's, his alleged crimes are also of a historical nature, but the statute of limitations means he can't be tried. There are those who would say that is right and just. Can you remember what you were doing in the '80s (assuming you'd even been born)? How about the 1960s? Veteran Coronation Street actor William Roache faced a lengthy and humiliating trial for crimes allegedly committed fifty years ago. He was found not guilty. How about former British Prime Minister Edward Heath, who faces accusations of child sex abuse? He can't defend himself: he's dead.

The Cosby case is usually framed as a picture of a rich and powerful man taking advantage of defenseless women. I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that, as much as the rich and powerful man part might be true, it's also true to say that rich and powerful men (and women) attract a certain type, people who might play with fire because they hope to get something out of it for themselves. Well, guess what, if you play with fire, sometimes you get burned. Some might say that cashing in 20 or 30 years later, with lucrative book deals and talk show appearances, is coming back for a second bite of the cherry.

The Cosby case casts a long shadow, and it's in its shadow the House of Milan saga blossomed. You can laugh at their self-appointed status as celebrities, but their claim to celebrity status isn't any less valid a claim than that of those these young gay men worship and emulate - the Kardashians and their ilk. In the court of public opinion (read: YouTube), Stahr Milan has been tried and convicted as a paedophile and a rapist. Depending upon whose account you believe, he was having sex with Tahj and King when he was 19-years-old, and they were 16-years-old. The insane babble of online commentators have cast him as a predatory old man (he's now 23-years-old) and the boys as innocent victims. Anyone who's seen one of King's YouTube videos - or his Instagram account - might find that hard to swallow: the boy makes Nicki Minaj look like Mother Theresa. It could well be that Stahr was an older boy who used his position as top dog - or "gay mother" - to get what he wanted. But it's hard not to form the impression that what actually happened was three gay teenage boys, living together unsupervised by responsible adults, ended up having sex, consensually, with two of them doing so (at least in part) in exchange for favours.

When we read about sexual assault and accusations of rape, we're encouraged to think in terms of predatory perpetrators and innocent victims, but often there's more to the tale than meets the eye.

Watch | King Milan makes his initial accusations about abuse by Stahr Milan; Tahj Milan follows up with his own account of what happened; Stahr Milan spends nearly two hours refuting their accusations; and finally, both Stahr and King Milan talk on The Wiley Show about the controversy...


John G said...

It's all very interesting, isn't it? - & as you say, very hard to unpick, with each case very different from the others. The 'Ted Heath Child Murder Sex Cult' thing has an urban legend feel (tho I wouldn't be surprised to learn of lower-level sexual exploitation of youngsters by any powerful person or group). Bill Cosby, knowing he couldn't be charged, I think has made various comments that state or at least strongly imply that he did at least some of those things he's accused of - & in the past has made jokes about drugging women for sex, to say no more. Listening to the accounts of the boys Stahr Milan is said to have abused they seemed to me (I haven't, I confess, listened to all of them) to fall into that murky 'could have fought him off but then I'd've been homeless so I put up with it' territory. As you said he wasn't much older than them. But at the least he put a lot of manipulative pressure on them. I was very surprised Maggie Kirkpatrick got convicted, tho the circumstances were against her: inviting an evidently unstable 14-year-old fan back to her flat 'just for dinner'. I mean, who does that? But you'd've thought presumption of innocence in court would've swung it in her favour. The Roache case was a fiasco, with one woman being asked, 'So what did he do to you in the car, during this sexual assault?' 'I can't remember.' Oh dear!

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