We all remember how squicky we felt when Jared Leto failed to handle criticism for his stereotypical portrayal of a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club. Now, with his upcoming role as the Joker in Suicide Squad, perhaps we should be worrying that his portrayal will be a little too believable.
When you begin to read stories of encounters with Leto from groupies of his band Thirty Seconds to Mars, an alarming pattern emerges. It seems about half the stories state or imply that some aspect of the sexual encounter was non-consensual on the woman’s (or girl’s–several tell stories of him having sex and flirting with girls as young as fifteen) part. I’ll give some examples below, but first I’m putting out a trigger warning. There’s some nasty stuff here.
Just to clarify, this is all based on his victims’ word — he’s never been taken to court over any of this. But there are a lot of women saying similar things, and it all adds up to a disturbing picture.
The most-quoted groupie story, found in this now-famous Tumblr post, is too explicit to quote at length, but the gist is what the victim wrote at the end: “I felt as though I was being raped and not even a “play rape”. In his mind, it seemed like he thought he was fucking raping me. It was very odd.” The victim explains that he would not stop when she said he was hurting her and that at one point she even attempted to stop him by biting him.
This post on a groupie forum collects stories about encounters with Leto and his bandmates. Here are some of the more alarming excerpts:
“i had sex with him when i was fifteen.”
“I lost all respect for Jared Leto after I met too many teenage girls who have been approached by Jared in order to sleep with them, he’s just another ‘rockstar’ who lets his ego get to his head so he can take advantage of young girls. He even hit on my 15 year old best friend. He’s no better than Roman Polanski in my eyes.”
From a long post by a woman who began having sex with Leto when she was seventeen: “I can say Jared was my first for many sexual experiences and I wholeheartedly regret it nowadays. He was very pushy into coercing me to do sexual acts with him and he was quite rough and forceful. Once he was unnecessarily rough and when I told him it hurt he didn’t stop – he never did anything slowly or for my pleasure . . . And NO, he never asked me if I was ever ok or comfortable with anything he wanted to do, simply because he is not the person to care. So having spent time with him I couldn’t say he’s into S&M or that he’s a sadist and enjoys hurting women . . . it just will always hurt whenever I see Jared Leto on tv or in a magazine, I just see the man who took advantage of my innocence and pressured me into things sexually that I’d never done and wasn’t ready to do at that time.”
Stories of his flirting with the inappropriately aged and choking non-consenting women abound. Why do we continue to give this man our attention and our praise when not only is he creepy, but there are many women for whom the sight of his face is a trigger for their worst memories?
The general unwillingness to acknowledge or believe Leto’s victims and our continued celebration of the man are symptoms of our rape culture. Woody Allen continues to win Oscars despite having raped his own daughter; Roman Polanski is back to movie-making after fleeing justice in the face of a statutory rape conviction; Bill Murray and Sean Penn both abused their ex-wives. How many people you know are aware that John Lennon regularly beat women? Talent, male genitalia, and white skin should not be get-out-of-jail-free cards for abuse. This is a friendly reminder that some of our best-loved celebrities are among the worst offenders in a system that uses violence and intimidation to maintain women’s position as second-class citizens.