During a recent Twitter Q&A, Demi Lovato gleefully shared the "funniest prank" she'd ever pulled.
She wasn't quite prepared for the reaction though.
The singer behind such hits as "Skyscraper" and "Cool for the Summer" (my personal favorites) has always been frank and honest in the way she talks about everything from sexuality to beauty standards to mental health. That's awesome!
But when answering a fan's question about the greatest prank she's every played, Lovato steered into very uncomfortable territory. Writing about a trick she pulled on Max, a member of her security staff, Lovato showed some serious insensitivity.
"I hired a lady of the night in Vegas and sent her to Max's hotel room to surprise him," Lovato wrote in a now-deleted tweet. "She walked into his room without permission and grabbed him in his 'area' and he freaked the fuck out hahahahahaha."
Screenshot via Twitter.
Lovato's joke immediately drew a negative reaction, with Twitter users referring to the prank as "disgusting" and appropriately labeling it as an example of sexual harassment, which is especially salient considering that Max works for Lovato.
Lovato's prank was wrong, and it highlights two serious problems about how our society views instances of sexual misconduct.
First, Lovato's joke suggests that it's OK, even funny, to touch men inappropriately. And the idea that it's "just a joke" unintentionally furthers the stigma of being a male sexual assault survivor. While no one's laying the blame squarely on Lovato, the fact that this wasn't something she considered before posting it to her millions of fans shows just how much of a problem this is in American society, even as the #MeToo movement surges forward.
Second, the prank was demeaning to the sex worker Lovato hired. Not only did she lead the woman to a dangerous situation — she sent "the lady of the night" into Max's room without giving him any warning — but to use sex workers as punch lines to pranks is both humiliating and dehumanizing.
Lovato was mad at first but apologized soon after.
It sucks to be called out. And if it's ever happened to you, you know that the first response usually isn't calm acceptance but a kind of righteous indignation that makes it impossible to see other viewpoints.
"I swear, I could tweet something about craving jellybeans and it would offend someone," Lovato wrote soon after she began experiencing backlash.
But then her tone softened. Conceding that she'd made a "simple mistake" (agree to disagree), Lovato suggested that fans who don't think she takes abuse seriously check out her song "Warrior."
Shortly after, Lovato apologized to everyone she may have inadvertently hurt, and while "if anyone was offended" apologies are not the most ideal kind of apologies, it's a start.
The silver lining to this story is that Lovato's fans are calling out behavior that would have been seen as normal as recently as last year.
It's clear that all of us have some reflecting and learning to do in order to make sure that sexual misconduct and violence are taken seriously. Especially those whose public personas influence millions of people.