Chris Noth sexual assault allegations: The worst part is, are we even surprised?
Actress, writer and director Zoe Lister-Jones has added her own experience to a growing list of women accusing Chris Noth of inappropriate sexual behaviour, calling him “a sexual predator”
*Please note this article contains descriptions of sexual violence that readers might find upsetting*
My predominant emotion reading the sexual assault allegations against And Just Like That’s Chris Noth was… exhaustion.
This plotline – turns out this famous, long-standing white male celebrity is probably a complete creep – has been so overplayed by now that I’ve seen it before, I know how this one ends.
He’ll deny any responsibility while vaguely acknowledging a “lack of respect”, probably alluding to his “youth” and “lessons learned”. Even in his preliminary statement last night, Noth’s expression of “no means no” harks back to a different age when gender and consent binary things. He’ll recede from the spotlight for a few months (if the coverage gets really bad maybe check into rehab for sex addiction) and then start to pop up as a guest star on a few TV shows, maybe even bag a movie break in two years’ time when he’ll give a “vulnerable” and “exposing” interview to GQ (it’s always GQ).
The women on the other hand? They’ll fade away, after being on the receiving end of a hounding press core and plenty of hate mail from Noth’s fan club.
Accusations of sexual assault
But it’s not an exhaustively overplayed plotline. I have to remind myself, these are real stories, real women.
Given the pseudonyms Zoe and Lily, two women who do not know each other came forward months apart to The Hollywood Reporter this year, describing eerily similar sexual assaults committed by Noth over a decade apart.
Zoe, who was 22 in 2004 and Noth 49, said he used to flirt with her at work and leave voicemails on her office phone. One day, she said she was returning a book he had loaned her to his apartment when he kissed her. She explained she was going to a friend’s but he grabbed her, brought her to his bedroom and began raping her from behind while facing a mirror. She said she shouted stop.
The experience was so violent that she was bleeding afterwards and, frightened by her appearance, a friend brought her to hospital. There, she told staff she had been assaulted but refused to name her attacker to police. She later sought rape crisis counselling and her story has been backed up by her friend, her boss, whom she told that Noth had assaulted her, and the UCLA Rape Crisis Centre.
Lily was 25 when she met Noth in 2015 while working in a club. He asked her out to dinner but the kitchen had already closed and instead they drank wine at the bar before Noth suggested a whiskey in his nearby apartment. Once there, it became obvious Noth wanted more and things progressed quickly until she said he was having sex with her from behind in front of a mirror. “I was kind of crying as it happened,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
She rang a friend on the way home, telling her that he had had sex with her “pretty forcibly”. Her friend describes her as “ hysterical” on the phone and tried to convince her to go to the police. The next day, Noth left a voicemail on Lily’s phone that the friend heard and described it as “‘I know I did something bad, but I’m trying to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal.’” He continued calling but she kept putting him off, refusing to meet until he gave up.
Noth, who is married to Tara Wilson since 2012 and shares two children with her, claimed that both interactions were consensual and questioned the timing of these stories coming out. “No always means no – that is a line I did not cross,” his brief statement read.
Noth’s history of inappropriate behaviour
This isn’t the first time allegations of a sexual nature have been made against Noth.
As Instagram account Diet Prada points out, his ex-girlfriend, model Beverley Johnson whom he dated from 1990 to 1995, filed an abusive lawsuit against him in 2009, claiming that he beat her and threatened to disfigure her dog. “Believe women (the first time)”, Diet Prada captioned the post.
Adding her voice to the growing chorus, Lister-Jones last night posted of her experience working on Law & Order: Criminal Intent when Noth returned from the SATC final season in 2005. “He was drunk on set. During my interrogation scene, he had a 22 oz. of beer under the table that he would drink in between takes.”
Clearly, he already had levelled up to the white-male-celebrity immunity that allowed him to be so unprofessional that he could not only come to work intoxicated but also continue to drink throughout his time there. In order for that to happen there had to be some level of knowledge and acceptance from Law & Order‘s production team, itself a well-established brand. But where there’s power there’s often also a deep-seated fear of losing that power. It’s not a difficult leap to imagine he might have been defended from more than just complaints about his alcoholism.
During the same scene, Lister-Jones also said he leaned into her neck and whispered “You smell good”. This wasn’t Lister-Jones’ first experience with Noth either. She had met him previously while working in New York’s nightclub scene and witnessed him being “sexually inappropriate” with female members of staff. “I didn’t say anything. My friend at the club never said anything. It’s so rare that we do,” she wrote on Instagram.
Through all of this, Chris Noth has had a successful and enduring television career. He’s starred in some of the biggest and longest-running TV series’ of the last three decades, from Sex and the City to The Good Wife to Law & Order. He has been very employable.
Part of the reason that sexual predators have been able to operate and flourish is because we have become numb to such behaviour. We have come to expect it and with expectation comes a level of acceptance. Not just individually, but collectively as a culture. The risk of stepping out is far greater than the threat of living in silence, as is the risk of acting on someone’s word rather than accepting the status quo and so it perpetuates. We choose exhaustion over fury, cold water over flames.
But it’s about time that hell hath no fury than a woman scorned. I’d like to see that. I’d like to feel that.
You can contact the Rape Crisis Centre National 24-Hour Helpline at 1800 778 888, at any time of day or night. They offer a free and confidential listening and support service for anyone who has been raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed or sexually abused at any time in their lives.