Stan Lee, the legendary comics writer behind Spider-Man, the X-Men, and more Marvel icons, has been accused of sexual misconduct by several home nurses who used to work for the 95-year-old. The allegations are upsetting, especially since Lee is a beloved figure in the geek community, but, as with all issues involving sexual harassment, they deserve to be taken seriously.
The Daily Mail, a UK tabloid with dubious ethics and a knack for getting sordid scoops, broke the news on Tuesday, reporting that Lee allegedly groped young female nurses who were working at his home and asked them to perform sexual acts on him. The paper cites a source close to the situation, and writes that a rep for the nursing company, which wasn’t named so as to not identify the anonymous accusers, confirmed that its employees had complained about Lee’s behavior.
“‘He doesn’t seem to care what people think of him, he’s lost his filter,” the source said. “There has been a stream of young nurses coming to his house in West Hollywood and he has been sexually harassing them. He finds it funny.”
Lee no longer employs that nursing company, and the one he currently uses has no complaints, according to The Daily Mail.
Lee’s people categorically deny the allegations, and his attorney Tom Lallas sent a cease and desist letter to the nursing company on December 20.
“Mr. Lee categorically denies these false and despicable allegations and he fully intends to fight to protect his stellar good name and impeccable character,” he said in a statement, noting that no civil case has been filed. “Mr. Lee will not be extorted or blackmailed, and will pay no money to anyone because he has done absolutely nothing wrong.”
False allegations are rare, but they do exist, and Lee was recently taken advantage of in late December when somebody forged a check to buy an $850,000 condo with his money; so, he has been exploited before.
It’s important to take these allegations seriously. The Daily Mail isn’t the most reputable outlet, but accusations of sexual misconduct are too complicated and serious to write-off because of the news source. Many of the “holes” in the story, for lack of a better word, aren’t so much failures of reporting as they are symptoms of how delicate these issues are, and how hard it is to come forward with allegations against a powerful man.
Hard evidence in cases like this rarely exists, creating a “he said, she said” situation, even when it’s “he said, she said, she said, she said…” It’s only been recently, in the past year or so, that these accusations have generally been taken seriously. Even so, making an accusation against a culturally powerful man opens the accuser up to backlash, as people rush to defend a celebrity and disparage and discredit the accusers. That Lee’s accusers haven’t been identified is understandable in this light.
In the wake of the New York Times’s bombshell reporting on Harvey Weinstein’s grotesque misdeeds, a series of pop culture heroes have fallen to serious sexual harassment and abuse allegations. It sucks, as a fan, to see creators you looked up to reveal themselves to be sexual predators or harassers — so it’s no surprise that news that the man who literally created some of pop culture’s greatest heroes has been accused of sexual misconduct. But, that’s no excuse. Neither is age — some of Lee’s defenders on Twitter are already asking people to give him a break because he’s 95 years old. Age isn’t a free pass for committing a sexual crime.
None of this is to say that Lee is guilty, without a shadow of a doubt, As mentioned before, false allegations are rare, but they do exist. This is just a sad (and sadly necessary) reminder that sexual assault allegations are complicated and gravely serious, and that fans of the Generalissimo shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the charges these women have reportedly leveled against Lee.