Content warning: This post includes discussion of sexual assault.
The 64th Annual Grammy Awards, held on April 3, included both wins and losses for many of Gen Z’s favorite artists — but there was one moment that left fans of Gen Z pop superstar Olivia Rodrigo particularly displeased. Rodrigo was photographed speaking to Jared Leto, Morbius star and a notorious method actor known for films like House of Gucci, as well as for being the frontman of rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars.
According to Newsweek, fans of Rodrigo, who is 18, were in uproar on Twitter over the photographed moment, tweeting comments like “OLIVIA RUN!” and “STAY AWAY FROM HER!” This response was not solely based on personal disdain for Leto, however; many pointed to Leto’s past allegations of sexual misconduct as a reason for their discomfort with the image of him speaking to a prominent teenage girl. Neither Leto nor Rodrigo have publicly commented on the online backlash to the photos.
Leto has been similarly called out by celebrities in the past: In 2018, Dylan Sprouse accused Leto of predatory behavior online, asking, “now that you’ve slid into the dm’s of every female model aged 18-25, what would you say your success rate is?” In a since-deleted tweet, director James Gunn reportedly responded, “He starts at 18 on the Internet?” according to Screenshot Media.
Many pointed to Leto’s past allegations of sexual misconduct as a reason for their discomfort with the image of him speaking to a prominent teenage girl.
Accusations against Leto stretch back to the early 2000s, however. In 2005, an anonymous source told the New York Post that Leto allegedly has an affinity for younger women and would often text underage girls. “He’s a serial texter. He is constantly texting these 16- and 17-year-old girls. It’s really kind of creepy,” the source said.
This claim isn’t the only account of recrimination against Leto. Some former fans have recounted their alleged sexual experiences with Leto, claiming that not all of these intimate allegations were consensual.
In a since-deleted message board about rape allegations against Leto specifically, an anonymous source alleged Leto molested her, according to Kulture Hub. In her claim, the woman noted that she was only 17 at the time. In the user’s comment, as reported by Kulture Hub, she wrote, “I think he got pleasure out of hurting me, in retrospect, but I was too young and didn’t know that then.”
Intimidation, not listening to a partner during sex, and any form of or coercion can still be considered sexual assault or harassment.
While pain can be a kink for some people, it’s important that all parties consent to every act and feel comfortable enough to back out of any sexual or romantic act, without feeling vilified for doing so. Intimidation, not listening to a partner during sex, and any form of or coercion can still be considered sexual assault or harassment, because it undermines your right over your own body. RAINN notes that even after copulation, sexual assault survivors can seek legal help, because being convinced to consent to any sexual act is still considered rape, and if a sexual encounter felt like rape, then it’s considered rape.
This woman’s story is only one of many prevailing claims against Leto. In 2013, another user published a lengthy post about a similar scenario with Leto. In her post, the woman accused Leto of pedophilia.
Echoing the aforementioned claims, this user’s accusations hold some striking similarities: “I met Jared Leto when I was 17 (a naive innocent girl) on one of his movie sets in Brooklyn, when he was turning 34,” the user claimed. Later in her post, she detailed how she would often meet Leto at hotels near Gramercy Park in New York. Though 17 is the official age of consent in New York, the user claimed that Leto told her to verbally tell him that she was 14 or 15. The commenter added, “He was very pushy into coercing me to do sexual acts with him and he was quite rough and forceful.”
Though 17 is the official age of consent in New York, the user claimed that Leto told her to verbally tell him that she was 14 or 15.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office on Women’s Health (OWH), sexual coercion can include physical and non-physical tactics to convince a person into sexual activities that they wouldn’t otherwise consent to. Likewise, the OWH notes that sexual coercion also encompasses being repeatedly asked to take part in a sexual activity, as well as deceitful promises that the abuser will stop if the victim is uncomfortable.
The Guardian reports that survivors of sexual coercion are often oblivious to this crime because of normalized power dynamics that explain coercion away as a misunderstanding, which can severely alter a person’s relationship with sex itself. Beyond these latent emotional and mental effects, sexual coercion infringes on a person’s consent and trust.
The author of the 2013 post alleged that this sexual assault wasn’t a singular event. She claimed that Leto continued to have nonconsensual intercourse with her from the time she was 17 to the time she was 21. “I’m 26 now and I learned from it, I don’t ever want to be treated like that by any man. It just will always hurt whenever I see [Leto] on tv or in a magazine, I just see the man who took advantage of my innocence and pressured me into things sexually that I’d never done and wasn’t ready to do at that time,” the user wrote.
Leto’s status as a man in power may sweep these accusations under the rug again unless these claims are further investigated, breaking the pattern of silencing survivors who come forward.
Leto isn’t new to controversy. He is notorious for his extreme “method acting” in order to prepare for his roles in movies like Morbius and Suicide Squad. According to The Wrap, just a few examples of Leto’s method acting include his claims to have snorted pasta sauce to play Paolo Gucci in House of Gucci and dropping extreme amounts of weight for other roles in Dallas Buyers Club and Requiem for a Dream.
Gizmodo reported that Leto attempted to debunk rumors that he gifted used condoms to his Suicide Squad co-stars. Despite the fact that Leto himself said that he gave used condoms to his fellow cast members, Leto told Entertainment Weekly that his previous statements were a joke. He and the rest of Thirty Seconds To Mars also made headlines in 2019 for allegedly starting a cult called the Echelon, though he later told the New York Times that he was joking.
While claims about Leto’s sexual misconduct have been omnipresent in online forums for the last 20 years, the Grammys photo of Leto with Olivia Rodrigo have redirected scrutiny to these allegations. Leto’s status as a man in power may sweep these accusations under the rug again unless these claims are further investigated, breaking the pattern of silencing survivors who come forward. In the meantime, everyone can contribute to a safer community by taking accusations seriously, avoiding blaming survivors, and learning how to better support survivors through resources provided by organizations like the NSVRC and RAINN.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.