Why ‘Pranks’ Involving Grabbing Women Are No Laughing Matter

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·Contributing Writer
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It’s really not OK to touch strangers without their permission. (Photo: AKM-GSI)
It’s really not OK to touch strangers without their permission. (Photo: AKM-GSI)

First it was Gigi Hadid in Milan, and this week, unfortunately, it’s Kim Kardashian in Paris.

“Celebrity prankster” Vitalii Sediuk struck again on Wednesday when he attempted to kiss the reality star’s rear before being swiftly tackled by her security guard, Pascal Duvier. Sediuk told the Associated Press his act was a protest “to popularize natural beauty among teenage girls.”

But it wasn’t Kardashian’s first encounter with Sediuk; two years ago, he attacked the mother of two during Paris Fashion Week, attempting to knock her to the ground as she exited the Balmain show with her husband and mother.

Now, according to TMZ, she’s planning on filing a police report and wants a restraining order because she “considers the guy a constant threat to herself and others, who won’t stop until he pays the price.”

Photo: AKM-GSI
Photo: AKM-GSI

Kardashian might be super famous, but that’s no reason why she — or any celebrity, for that matter — should have to feel unsafe. And that’s what’s most disheartening about what’s gone on this month with Sediuk, who is banned from the United States after he targeted Brad Pitt at the Hollywood premiere of Maleficent. These incidents aren’t funny antics or “pranks,” but disturbing violations of women’s autonomy and identity, attempts to dismantle the apparently still radical idea that a woman has the right to dictate what does and does not happen to her body and who is allowed to have access to her body in any way.

Sediuk being pulled away by security guards after climing under Ferrera's dress. (Photo: Getty Images)
Sediuk being pulled away by security guards after climing under Ferrera's dress. (Photo: Getty Images)

Back in 2014, Sediuk attempted to crawl under America Ferrera’s dress at the Cannes Film Festival. The video of the incident is one of the most troubling things I have ever seen, as Ferrera maintains total unflinching professionalism in the face of what must have been a frightening and violating encounter. You can see Ferrera’s co-stars ask her if she is OK once Sediuk has been cleared from the scene; through the flawless smile she presents in response to the photographers there to take her picture, she offers them a hint of a nod of reassurance.

Photo: X17 Online
Photo: X17 Online

The look on Ferrara’s face is one I have seen and known on too many women, myself included, the look of wanting to be OK despite the fact that you’ve been confronted with a crushing end to the illusion that you might be safe living your daily life in the body of a woman. Ferrera’s face — like Hadid’s elbow and Kardashian’s tweet of thanks to her bodyguard (she called him a “G”) — are all reminders of the fact that women are constantly denied agency over their own lives and bodies.

When celebrities deal with instances such as these, this problem is simultaneously underscored and heightened: Celebrities already see their image commodified, their names turned into brands that people feel entitled to owning a part of — or at least touching a part of. Some people see their presence in the public eye as a negation of their entitlement to privacy, including that of their own bodies.

And this is an experience echoed in so many women, regardless of level of fame, too. It happens to women every day as they are catcalled — and then asked what they were wearing. It happens to women every day as they are sexually assaulted — and then asked what they were wearing. It happens to women every day as they are the victims of domestic violence, including both physical and emotional abuse, and made to believe that someone else has the right to deny them of their agency, that someone else has the right to harm their bodies and control their lives, and that they would be wrong to think otherwise. Because, fundamentally, their lives aren’t their own but a frivolous accessory to the body that men feel is theirs.

And when we dismiss Sediuk as a prankster, and his attacks on celebrity women as funny, what we are essentially telling all women is that they don’t own their own bodies.

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