The openly gay Star Trek actor has long been a progressive champion on social media.
Marilyn Drew Necci | November 14, 2017
This story has been updated as of 12:55 PM.
George Takei is the latest male Hollywood star to be accused of sexual assault. On Friday, the Hollywood Reporter broke the story of former model Scott R. Brunton, who says that Takei took advantage of him in a vulnerable state back in 1981, when Brunton was in his early 20s and Takei was in his mid-40s.
Brunton relates having drinks with Takei at Takei’s home, and refers to feeling “very disoriented and dizzy” after his second drink. “I must have passed out,” he says. Does anyone else find themselves thinking of Rohypnol symptoms right now? Just saying.
Brunton’s narrative continues. “The next thing I remember I was coming to and he had my pants down around my ankles and he was groping my crotch and trying to get my underwear off and feeling me up at the same time, trying to get his hands down my underwear.” Brunton told Takei he wasn’t into what was happening. “He goes, ‘You need to relax. I am just trying to make you comfortable. Get comfortable.’ And I said, ‘No. I don’t want to do this.’”
This story follows hot on the heels of Kevin Spacey’s recent accusations, which began with actor Anthony Rapp’s story of Spacey making sexual advances when Rapp was just 14 and has now led to accusations from 15 people. Spacey had long been rumored to be gay but never openly confirmed the fact until his response to Rapp’s initial accusations, leading many to see Spacey as attempting to distract from his misconduct by “hiding under the rainbow,” in the words of Wanda Sykes.
Spacey’s repeated assaults may have come to light only recently, but they were enough of an open secret amongst the media industry for TV show Difficult People to turn it into a running joke. However, it’s much more surprising and disquieting to hear this sort of thing about George Takei. The Star Trek actor has long been openly gay, and has used his fame in recent years to advance his progressive social views through social media, notably criticizing those who defended Donald Trump after his references to assaulting women (the whole “grab them by the pussy” thing. I know, gross).
Therefore, accusations like those of Brunton might seem totally out of character with what we know of Takei. Indeed, he reacted by expressing shock and bewilderment in a facebook post responding to the allegations. “Those that know me understand that non-consensual acts are so antithetical to my values and my practices, the very idea that someone would accuse me of this is quite personally painful,” Takei said. He denied that the incident took place, and of Brunton, said, “I have wracked my brain to ask if I remember Mr. Brunton, and I cannot say I do.”
Regardless of whether he remembers Brunton, or whether this sort of thing is in character for Takei, recent words of Takei’s own make Brunton’s accusations at least worth considering. Specifically, we refer to a recent clip from the Howard Stern show–recent enough that the conversation initially occurred in response to a question from Stern about the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Stern asks, “Did you ever grab anybody by the cock against their will?” Takei responds after a pause by saying “Uhhhh…” Stern pursues the line of inquiry. “Well they were different times, you never sexually harassed anybody — have you?” Takei responds by saying, “Some people that are kind of, um, um, skittish. Or maybe, uh…afraid. And you’re trying to persuade.”
Eventually, Stern and co-host Robin Quivers turn the discussion towards harassment specifically at work, and Takei mentions that he never did this in an employment context. “It was either at my home, they came to my home…” he starts. “So what do you mean?” Stern asks. “There’d be some guy who was hesitating to have sex with you, and then you gave them a gentle squeeze on the balls or something?” “More than a gentle,” Takei responds with a chuckle. “But it didn’t involve power over the other,” he says, attempting to mitigate the acts he’s describing.
It’s not entirely clear here that Takei means power in terms of an employer over an employee, but that’s the implication. And of course, he didn’t have employer-associated power over Brunton in Brunton’s story, either. But does that make what Takei describes in the Stern Show clip acceptable? And is there really much difference between his hypothetical description to Stern and what Brunton describes in specific detail in his own story?
At this point, nothing has been proven in a court of law, and chances are, this story will never play out in such a fashion–one would think the statute of limitations has run out at this point, if nothing else. However, Takei’s protestations of innocence ring a little less true in light of the words he himself said so recently.
What we’re left with in the end is another story like so many coming out of Hollywood these days, involving both gay men like Takei and Spacey and straight men like Weinstein and Louis CK. It’s another story of men abusing their high-profile status in sexual situations, and manipulating younger, less powerful people towards their own unethical ends. And it’s incredibly depressing to watch it all play out, particularly in the case of a high-profile progressive champion like Takei.
UPDATE: Takei has released a statement in response to the Howard Stern audio, which reads: “Many have raised concern over a back-and-forth between Howard Stern and myself, where we joked about me touching men during my Star Trek days 50 years ago. Out of context, I agree that the joke was distasteful, and I’m very sorry he and I made fun out of a serious matter. For decades, I have played the part of a “naughty gay grandpa” when I visit Howard’s show, a caricature I now regret.
“But I want to be clear: I have never forced myself upon someone during a date. Sometimes my dates were the initiators, and sometimes I was. It was always by mutual consent. I see now that that it has come across poorly in the awkward sketch, and I apologize for playing along with Howard’s insinuation. Non-consensual acts are anathema to me and my personal code of conduct, and I would never do something against anyone’s will, period.”
So maybe things aren’t as bad as they initially looked. What do you think? Feel free to let us know on Facebook, or in the comments below.
Photo via Facebook.