The accusations of sexual harassment—including allegations which appear to describe the grooming of a teenage boy—leveled against John Weaver, co-founder of The Lincoln Project, represent yet another tragic reminder of a reality which has long gone underreported even as far too many people have lived it: 1) sexual abuse and exploitation are perpetrated in all areas and walks of life and 2) men and boys are far from immune to being victimized by it.
According to reporting from The New York Times, with stories that echo strains of the abusive power-leveraging conduct of other influential men such as Harvey Weinstein, 21 men have come forward to explain how John Weaver attempted to use his resources and connections to solicit sex from them. While the details of each story differ, what they all hold in common is an older and influential man attempting to wield his power and connections as a way to feed his own sexual demand.
It is sexual exploitation, plain and simple, when a human being attempts to leverage a position of power against another human being as a means for procuring sex.
Sometimes it can look like an adult manipulating and abusing children, such as the Oregon mom who allegedly used Snapchat to groom and rape a 14-year-old boy who was peers with her own child. Other times—using the instances involving Jared Porter, John Weaver, Harvey Weinstein, and what happened to Terry Crews as just a few examples—it can look like a well-connected professional attempting to use their position of influence to manipulate another adult who is attempting to get work and/or advance in their field of interest.
There is complex intersectionality baked into the interconnected global web of sexual abuse and exploitation, which is why we believe the entire spectrum of oppression must be addressed if we hope to identify and solve the root problems rather than just addressing a few of the symptoms. When it comes to combating all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation, if we are to realize long-term success, we must address the demand which animates every facet of the exploitative system. We must make it clear—as a society—that anyone leveraging their power to demand sex will be held to account. No matter how powerful the perpetrator is and no matter who their targets are.
Whether any specific criminal law was broken by John Weaver is irrelevant to the broader point: we continue to reap the consequences of a society wherein destructive sexual demand—often that of older and wealthier men, in particular—has too long gone ignored, unchallenged, and even protected. This has led to myriad harms being perpetrated against not only women and girls but also, as we are reminded by these accusations against John Weaver, against men and boys.
For far too long, women have suffered from sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation of this nature. At the same time, for far too long, men have also suffered from sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation of this nature.
Men and boys who have survived sexual abuse and exploitation should not be left in the shadows. Enough is enough. Especially when even one instance is too much.
We believe that both women and men deserve justice and a more just society, and we hope that the truth about John Weaver’s actions coming to light will mean more people becoming aware of the sexual exploitation of boys and men and, ultimately, being a part of building a world free from all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation.