Relax, Will Smith is not a homophobe

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Courtesy | Walmart

While doing press in Moscow last week to promote “Men in Black 3,” actor Will Smith slapped a reporter from Ukrainian television channel 1+1. Smith got upset when the reporter tried to kiss him on the mouth.

As with anything a celebrity of Smith’s stature does, the story got thrown around the world. Most outlets reported it with shock that Mr. Nice Guy could snap like that, which is troubling. But the commenters on the various posts around the web went crazy claiming that Smith was a homophobe. Towerload has a great write up about the public’s reactions.

The crux of the homophobia cry was that Smith slapped the reporter. People wondered if that “violent” reaction happened because the reporter was male. They also questioned if this slip gave a glimpse into the darkest, angriest and most homophobic reaches of his soul.  I, of course, find issue with this idea; Smith’s reaction was not violent, not a slip and not homophobic.

I embedded the YouTube clip of incident above. I would like you to watch the clip and honestly argue that Smith’s slap was meant to harm the reporter in any way. In order for the contact to be violent, it had to have some malice behind it, according to the World Health Organization.

That slap was nothing more a halfhearted, reactionary, adrenaline induced twitch in reaction to being touched in a way he didn’t want. That hardly constitutes “violence,” let alone a “slip” in his façade. But most importantly, it’s not homophobic.

Although it was the attempted kiss on the lips that made Smith angry, the reporter kissed him on the cheek twice prior. When the kissing was light-hearted, Smith was light-hearted. But once the reporter over stepped and went in for the traditionally more romantic mouth kiss, Smith reacted in a way that made it clear he did not consent.

Since when is it acceptable for a person to kiss another person without consent? Just a few weeks back, a special needs six-year-old kid in Colorado was suspended from school for singing “I’m sexy and I know it,” from LMFAO’s song of the same name to a fellow female student. If a special needs child gets suspended from school for annoying a little girl then why wouldn’t we hold an adult man to a similarly scaled reaction for his behavior?

I would bet that if this reporter tried to kiss Jada Pinkett-Smith and she reacted in the same way, we would be calling the reporter a creep. We’d praise Pinkett-Smith for standing up for herself and being a strong woman but because this interaction was guy on guy, the connotation changes.

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When it’s guy on girl inappropriate sexual behavior, people always side with the woman because according to our societal tropes guys are predators who need to be contained. When it’s girl on girl inappropriate sexual behavior, it’s seen as friendly and non-sexual; think Diana Ross slapping Lil’ Kim’s titty on the VMA’s in 1999. When it’s girl on guy, we generally assume that the guy wanted it. But when it’s guy on guy, there’s generally a perceived sexual and predatory/violent connotation, which might not actually exist.

In our culture, we have a tendency to look at men as dumb, sex crazed and violent machines that must be civilized by women. Once they’ve been domesticated, there’s always the threat that they might – at any time – revert to their natural animalistic state. This is untrue, of course.

The real truth is that men, like women, do not like having their personal space invaded. For every angry, blonde ingénue splashing water in the face of the creepy movie director, there is a young, handsome guy slapping a reporter for getting a little too fresh.

Having said all that, I’m not convinced that he would have slapped a female reporter but that is a different situation. In our culture, is absolutely not acceptable to hit women. Therefore no matter how angry he got, Smith would probably have held the backhand. But even that doesn’t prove he’s homophobic. At worst it suggests a lack of comfort with male on male sexual touching, which we already knew from his drastic reaction to Jim Carey trying to plant one on him at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards.

You can’t just run around calling guys homophobes because they refuse to let someone touch or kiss on them. If letting a guy French kiss you against your will is the only way for a straight guy to prove he’s not homophobic then clearly we’re doing something wrong.

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