Black Men Deserve Protection From Assault, Too

Micheal Rainey Jr. (left) and mentor 50 Cent (right)/ photo from Rainey’s Instagram

by Aziah Siid

In 2006, a Black woman by the name of Tarana Burke made history when she launched the hashtag  #MeToo, calling out men for sexually assaulting or abusing women, particularly in the entertainment industry. That dynamic was reversed this week when the star of the TV series “Power Book II” was apparently groped, on camera, during a livestream event. 

Actor Michael Rainey Jr., 23,  said on social media Monday that he is “still in shock” and doesn’t “fully know how to process what happened” during his appearance Sunday with New York streamer Tylil James.

“This is an unfortunate situation that I do not condone in any way, I can’t take it lightly because I know I would be in serious trouble if roles were reversed,” Rainey wrote on Instagram. “Sexual assault is never okay, regardless of gender status… I can’t take it lightly because I know I would be in serious trouble if the roles were reversed.”

But rapper 50 Cent, who produces the series, downplayed the incident in a now-deleted Instagram post. 

“Wait sexual assault 😟 from a male perspective this was an aggressive advance. LOL,” the rapper, whose real name is Curtis Jackson III, wrote, according to a screenshot shared by Complex. “HE’s fine no charges are being pressed. 🤷🏽‍♂️.”  

In a clip of the incident that was circulated across social media, viewers see a woman walk into the frame. She appears to grab Rainey’s crotch before walking away. The young actor looks visibly awkward and uncomfortable.

The woman was later identified as James’ sister. 

James also took to Instagram the following day to directly address the incident. 

“After the actions that occurred during my stream last night I would like to sincerely Apologize to Michael and his family for what took place,” James wrote. “My little sister was completely wrong and out of line. What she did was very inappropriate and unacceptable. I am truly embarrassed and disgusted by her actions. I completely respect whatever direction Michael [wants] to go in this situation.”

According to National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, perpetrators of rape and unwanted sexual contact against male victims were mostly other men. One in four men report experiencing some form of unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime.

Black Men Deserve Respect, Too

Rainey is not the first high-profile Black male to speak up against his experience with sexual assault. 

In 2017, actor and comedian Terry Crews publicly accused Adam Venit, a powerful Hollywood agent, of groping him. Crews said he was inspired by women who came forward after The New York Times first reported that film producer Harvey Weinstein had sexually assaulted them.

Crews settled a lawsuit against Venit and his agency, WME. After Crews went public, Venit was suspended and later forced out of the agency. 

As reported by Vanity Fair, Crews noted the unique circumstances for male sexual assault victims: they can both benefit and be harmed by narratives about masculinity and sexual politics. Crews said some people seemed quicker to believe his claims against Venit because he is a man, while others dismissed his allegations or blamed Crews for the incident.