Luke Bryan stood fellow American Idol judge Katy Perry after she planted an unrequested kiss on contestant Benjamin Glaze. The incident garnered significant attention and brought to light issues related to gender inequality in the midst of the #metoo movement. Following the kiss, claims of Perry committing sexual harassment ignited. But Bryan defended Perry over the issue. This surprised some of his fans but it really shouldn’t. Here is why.
The Katy Perry Kiss
For those unfamiliar with the story, the incident unfolded as follows: 20-year old Benjamin Glaze, a cashier from Oklahoma, was in front of the three judges for his audition. He told the panel that he enjoyed his work as a cashier because it allowed him to meet “cute girls.” Luke Bryan asked him, “Have you kissed a girl and liked it?” Glaze responded that he had not. Perry decided to offer him the chance and summoned him over, then turned her head for him to kiss her cheek. “He didn’t even make the smush sound!” she complained, prompting Glaze to try again. When he did, she turned her head and surprised him by planting a kiss on his lips.
But unfortunately, Glaze did not have the reaction Perry expected. Instead of being thrilled that Katy Perry was his first kiss, Glaze was altogether bothered.
Following the incident, the New York Times interviewed Glaze and quoted him as saying, “I was a tad bit uncomfortable. I wanted to save it for my first relationship, I wanted it to be special.”
“Would I have done it if she said, ‘Would you kiss me?’ No, I would have said no,” he continued. “I know a lot of guys would be like, ‘Heck yeah!’ But for me, I was raised in a conservative family and I was uncomfortable immediately. I wanted my first kiss to be special.”
Actually, he was so uncomfortable that he literally fell down after she did it and immediately yelled, “Katy, NO!” And what added to the controversy was how candid he was with the judges before the kiss occurred. When Luke Bryan asked about his first kiss experience, Glaze said, “I have never been in a relationship and I can’t kiss a girl without being in a relationship.” So when Perry ordered him to come over, she had full awareness that he had saved that experience for a special girl. Besides that, he was more than a little reluctant to go to the judge’s table.
The American Idol Aftermath
Following the airing of the Glaze’s audition, social media and news outlets immediately began reporting about the nonconsensual nature of the kiss. After all, we are all now living in the post-Weinstein #metoo era. And the current client being what it is, many people cried foul and claimed that Perry sexually harassed Glaze.
A few days after the firestorm, Gaze released a statement on Instagram in which he denied sexual harassment. “I am not complaining about the kiss, I am very honored and thankful to have been apart of American Idol…I do wish I would have performed better in the moment. I should have picked another song to sing and calmed myself down regardless of the kiss. I should have been able to perform under pressure. I do not think I was sexually harassed by Katy Perry and I am thankful for the judges comments and critiques.”
Bryan also jumped on that bandwagon and defended his fellow American Idol judge. People reported the comments Luke Bryan made on The Morning Show.
“It’s unfortunate that stuff like that turns into a story that big,” the “Kill The Lights” singer said. “I watched an actual interview where Ben, the kid that was involved, said that he was cool with everything.”
He added, “I gotta back Katy on that. She’s in there working hard and making fun TV.”
Luke Bryan Implicated
There are several possibilities as to why Luke Bryan defended Katy Perry. The most obvious is that he just didn’t think the kiss was a big deal. But even that has several holes. Because let’s be honest about gender politics. If Glaze was a woman, and Katy Perry a man, she would likely be looking for a new job right now. Nonconsensual kissing is almost by definition sexual harassment, especially when one considers Perry’s position of authority. So why would Bryan view this as not a big thing?
For one, Luke Bryan would have to implicate himself in the scandal. Because while Katy Perry was demanding that Benjamin Glaze come kiss her, despite his reluctance, Luke Bryan had his phone out, seemingly to video the event. And after the kiss, he fist-bumped Perry in some sort of locker room salute. So he cannot require that Perry apologize without also acknowledging his own role in both encouraging and lauding the event (at least, one assumes he would not be such the hypocrite).
Consider it this way. Go back to the assumption that a male judge non-consensually kissed a female contestant, and then include the detail that another male was getting video of it going down. Would not that person have at least a similar level of culpability? So Bryan must be nonchalant in order to exonerate himself.
Another Version of Bro Country
But here is another facet of the issue. Luke Bryan himself is widely regarded as the “Father of Bro Country.” This is a branch of country music in which early-adult and middle-aged white guys sing about endless keg parties and nameless summer flings. Bryan has a distinct layer of sexism in his music, as women are often highly objectified. Their role in his music is to satisfy male lust and desire. So given how obtuse he is about conventional sexism, it hardly seems surprising that he would be either unwilling or unable to extend concern about sexual politics of a more nonconventional type.
All-in-all, little else besides social media arguments has resulted from the kiss. Katy Perry is continuing to judge and Glaze has said his peace on the matter. And Luke Bryan‘s defense is altogether expected. But at least the country is now having a more robust conversation regarding consent, gender, and power.
You can watch the kiss in the video below and then let us know your thoughts.