The Brad Pitt Defence

Every time there’s a discussion of what to do about men harassing women someone jumps up to proclaim: “Women never call it harassment if a good-looking man cracks on to them. You’re only a creeper if the woman doesn’t find you attractive.” I have addressed the second half of this argument at length here.

However, I did not address what I think of as the Brad Pitt defence. I.e. “If I was Brad Pitt you wouldn’t call this harassment!”

This argument drives me nuts. Here’s why.

Newsflash: Not everyone thinks Brad Pitt is hot.

I don’t. The idea that there’s a universally agreed standard of good looking is crap. Sure, many women seem to think George Clooney is gorgeous. But I have friends who think he looks like a smarmy creep. And shocking yet true: there are women who do not think Idris Elba is divine. I know, right?

Second newsflash: Thinking someone looks hot in the abstract does not mean you’ll find them attractive in real life.

A friend of mine had a huge crush for many years on a prominent cricketer. She was a journalist and one day she got to interview him IN REAL LIFE! Dream come true, right? Not so much. Within seconds he was hitting on her in a really creepy way. He made her skin crawl. He was awful!

There is often little connection between who you find attractive in real life and who you think looks great in a photo or on the silver screen. For me sense of humour is key. If I met Mr. Elba and he had no sense of humour? That would be the end of that little crush.

Then there’s the hard-to-describe physicality: the way the person moves, the way they smile, their scent. All of which has not much to do with what they look like in a photograph.

In real life some of the most repulsive men I’ve had the misfortune to interact with have been conventionally good looking. These were men who assumed all they have to do to get any woman into their bed is to snap their fingers. Often guys like that are not used to hearing the word “no” and react very badly to hearing it.

So, yes, there are good-looking men who can and do harass. There are good-looking men who can and do rape.

Of course, what I find most ironic about the Brad Pitt defence is that study after study after study shows that it is men—straight and gay—who are far more concerned about good looks, not women. It’s men who are far more likely to date a woman (or man) purely because they’re hot, not women.


  1. Susan H. on #

    After all, Ted Bundy was considered a good looking guy–and look at what he did!

  2. tigtog on #

    Yes! I’m so sick of this argument, and they never seem to believe us when we challenge it. Good looks simply are not a get-out-of-inappropriateness-free card, especially when, as you mention, it’s usually bundled with their expectation that their target should be grateful for their attention.

  3. Justine on #

    Susan H.: Yes, indeed. Also: *shudder*. I try not to think about Ted Bundy.

    tigtog: It really does drive me nuts. I have a suspicion that some guys are so adamant about this because they they judge women purely by their looks so assume that we’re all doing the exact same thing.

  4. Jonathon Side on #

    Given the self-centred nature of our society, I would think that good looking folk would be just as likely to harrass, if not more. At least, the ones who have let themselves be given an easy ride through life based on their looks, the ones who believe the world revolves around them.

    But an odd thought occurs to me about the people who use this defense. What if part of their thinking comes from misunderstanding things like battered woman syndrome? And so they assume that there is some quality that other men have that keeps those women around, despite the abuse.

  5. Joanna on #

    It was Warnie wasn’t it!?! Creepy! Just don’t say it was Glenn McGrath ‘cos I love him and couldn’t handle the disappointment! 🙁

  6. Justine on #

    Jonathan Side: Sounds like a good theory. Though I suspect there are many different explanations for this stupid theory.

    Joanna: It was neither Warnie nor McGrath. It was not an Australian.

  7. Joanna on #

    Whew!! So glad it wasn’t Ooh Aah! 🙂

  8. Jonathon Side on #

    I’m sure there are many theories and reasons for that kind of crap. But I guess the root of it all is a refusal to look at themselves, and instead they place the blame on other things.

  9. Rachel on #

    I totally believe that personality affects attraction. As you said: it’s the difference between judging a photo or a person standing before you. And then there’s the story you mentioned when your friend’s handsome celebrity crush turned out to be really creepy. Does she still find him appealing or does she shudder now when she sees his face? Maybe some women give the impression that they’re only creeped out by unattractive men…because harassment isn’t attractive. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have never had a situation in which a guy makes me feel uncomfortable and/or unsafe and yet I’m preoccupied by his dreamy looks. Doesn’t mean handsome guys never harass women, but the act of harassing immediately makes them less attractive.

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