Why Do Famous Men Keep Getting Away With Violence Against Women?

Being rich and famous shouldn’t absolve you.


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For the first time in over twenty years, Dre was forced to address his violence against women, including beating music journalist Dee Barnes in 1992, and allegedly physically abusing fiancée Michel’le during their six-year relationship. The mogul made a statement in Rolling Stone, then later a formal public apology that was supported in another statement by Apple (which bought his company Beats Electronics last year for $3 billion). Now, a few weeks later, the hullabaloo has mostly died out.

There’s a question that must be asked in the wake of the controversy, now mostly forgotten in light of the success of “Straight Outta Compton.” Why did it take 20 years for Dre to have to reckon with his violent history? Twenty years during which he went from a successful rapper to an entrepreneur, and the second wealthiest rapper in the industry. This isn’t to say that Dre doesn’t deserve his success because of his past, but his success does speak to an ongoing trend in the celebrity landscape — famous men who consistently get away with violence and abuse.

There is a shockingly long list of male celebrities in the music, film, and sports worlds whose abusive pasts are regarded as hardly a blemish on their thriving careers.

In 1987, Sean Penn infamously tortured then-wife Madonna for nine hours. He tied her to a chair, threatened to cut off her hair, forced her to perform degrading sexual acts, and beat her with a baseball bat. Since then, the 55-year-old actor and director has gone on to star in dozens of critically-acclaimed movies, won two Academy Awards, and become a champion of numerous political and social causes. His violent past is a shocking, but hardly talked about.

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And it’s not just Penn, of course, who managed to gain respect, praise, and a successful career despite a horribly abusive past. Sean Connery has openly advocated slapping around women. Bill Murray was accused by ex-wife Jennifer Murray of ongoing domestic violence during their marriage — she claimed that he once told her she was “lucky he didn’t kill her.” Charlie Sheen plead guilty to attacking ex-wife Brooke Mueller, who claimed he threatened her with a knife.

And the list goes on: Eminem, Semyon VarlamovMichael FassbenderJosh Brolin, Gary Oldman, John LennonNicolas CageSean Bean, Brandon Marshall… All men who have been accused and/or charged with domestic violence by girlfriends and spouses. All men whose careers and reputations (for the most part) have remained intact.