SFGN posted an article online last week titled “Wilton Manors Commissioner Gary Resnick Accused of Sexual Misconduct.”
It revealed that “the owner of Johnsons, a strip club in Wilton Manors, has accused City Commissioner Gary Resnick of using his position to get away with inappropriate sexual conduct during a June 28, 2017 business meeting at Resnick’s home. At the time, Resnick was the Mayor of Wilton Manors.”
Area residents and neighbors started commenting on this online article. These comments are important. They reveal some very toxic tenants within the culture of our community. People lost no time in victim shaming and judging Matt for his career in adult entertainment and even jumped to allege that Matt himself is a sex worker; whether or not Mr. Colunga engages in sex work, I neither know, nor care.
It’s irrelevant to him coming forward with his experience of sexual abuse. Commenters on the story all but said that Matt was asking for it by wearing a short skirt and being such a loose woman of the night...
Look, it’s no secret to any LGBTQN+ community member in South Florida that sex, slut, and body shaming thrives within our supposedly progressive and sexually-liberated rainbow family.
In addition, most of us are painfully aware that classism runs deep in our community as we watch folks go into debt (or jail) as they struggle to live in the reality that wealth is necessary to be all that you can be in the LGBTQN+ community; it’s particularly necessary for the success and well-being of gay men. We can do better, y’all. We can also do more than one thing at a time. We can believe Matt and not pass a guilty sentence on Commissioner Resnick.
In response to these comments, I’d like to set the record straight (definitely no pun intended). Sex workers can be sexually assaulted, especially when their ability to consent is taken away by people with the power to hurt or support their business. What you wear (or don't wear) does NOT give people the right to sexually harass or assault you — even strip clubs have rules that exist to protect the health and safety of their workers.
Just because Matt appears to be a strong, fit guy with the ability to "stop" his attacker, that does not shift responsibility for the sexual assault from the attacker onto the victim/survivor. The decision to outright DISBELIEVE someone coming forward to say they were sexually assaulted flies in the face of everything we supposedly learned from the #MeToo Movement and #Ibelieveyou efforts.
Remember that whole Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh thing? Believing sexual assault survivors does not mean passing a guilty sentence on Resnick. It means creating a place where people feel safe to come forward about sexual assault/harassment and know they will NOT be told they are not believed because of the clothes they wear, work they do, or the privilege they have/don't have. It’s creating a community where one’s position of power and authority does not make them immune from the consequences of their action, nor gives them a license to harm others as they do whatever gets their rocks off.
Stop telling survivors of sexual assault or harassment how they should react and start telling people in power how to act. Matt doesn’t have to press charges or call for anyone’s resignation to legitimize his story.
Perhaps his goal is just to create a safer climate in which survivors of sexual misconduct may come forward to tell their stories. Maybe he just wants us to acknowledge the sexual abuse going on in our own gay community and do something about it.
If you’re someone’s boss, don’t hit on them or try to engage in sexual activity with them. Full stop. If you’re someone’s elected representative, don’t offer them massages or even attempt to get consent for sexual activity with them. Full stop. If you are someone’s professor, don’t ask a student out on a date. Full Stop. When you are in a position of power over someone, you can never remove that power dynamic from the situation.
Your power to shape their economic future, fire them, or fail them… well, it makes it almost impossible to tell your boss to stop propositioning you, say no to a date with your professor, or refuse a massage from your Commissioner as a business owner. Your power takes away another’s full ability to consent.
Matt didn’t have to share his story. He was/is brave to do so. It says a lot about him.
You don’t have to believe sexual assault and harassment survivors when they come forward. But whether you do or not — it says a lot about you. If you’re feeling convicted, don’t feel bad. Do something about it. Honor survivors with action. Seek conversations with leaders in the movements aiming to make this world a better place and society more egalitarian. Together we can do this. We can be better.
Bryan CA Wilson
Executive Director, Pride Center West Texas
Entrepreneur Consultant, 4 A New Dawn